A weekly roundup of small-business developments.
What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.
The Economy: Big Bird Wants Out
Small-business confidence remains at recessionary levels. Wholesale sales and inventories (pdf) are soft. The International Monetary Fund lowers its global growth forecast. Both imports and exports were weak in August. However, machine-tool orders rebounded, and the Federal Reserve reports that the economy “expanded modestly” in September. A team of investment professionals believes that a fiscal cliff solution will be reached. David Rothkopf wonders if world leaders understand the third industrial revolution that’s taking place. Neil Irwin explains what’s really going on. Shale gas could lower manufacturing costs. Meanwhile, there was a vice-presidential debate, and Big Bird just wants out.
The Data: To Trust or Not?
For each job available, there are three and a half people looking for work, and Lance Roberts wonders if the unemployment rate is 7.8 percent or 22 percent. Bill McBride demystifies how the rate is computed: “Most of the decline in the overall participation rate has been due to changing demographics.” Mark Thoma believes we can trust the data. Meanwhile, no one knows why a single mysterious computer program that placed orders (and then subsequently canceled them) made up 4 percent of all stock market quote traffic last week.
Your People: Tracking Employee Hours?
Brad Farris answers the big question: what to pay employees. Here are five tips for paying part-timers. The Evil HR Lady explains why tracking employee hours is dumb. Kevin Kruse says the Taj Hotels have five ways to recognize employees. Here are a few ways to nurture creativity. Sajjad Masud believes there are five characteristics to look for when hiring talent. A study concludes that there is no evidence that increasing the employment of older people reduces job opportunities or wage rates for younger people. Are your unpaid interns suffering? Here are five things entrepreneurs can learn from art students. And wait, is this really a university for monsters?
Starting Up: The Making of K-Pop
A new platform provides tools for young people to set up a business. YouTube adds 50 new channels, including hip-hop choices from Russell Simmons and Jay-Z. John Seabrook looks at cultural technology and explains the making of K-Pop and the “Gangnam Style” craze. A start-up offers failed entrepreneurs a million-dollar signing bonus. Hermione Way wonders whether you can have a start-up and still be sexy. Stella Fayman explains why fake it until you become it should be every entrepreneur’s mantra. Here’s the secret to getting paid to do what you love. Rieva Lesonsky shares tips on starting a business without losing your shirt.
Marketing: It’s All About Image
These are six things your customers won’t tell you — unless you ask. Some franchises are incorporating the election into their marketing. Pamela Wilson explains the business of images. A new technology can recognize and grab information from products that appear in online images and video so they can be offered for sale. Stephanie Miles shares five ways small businesses can expand their e-mail marketing lists. Stephen Shoff says that a good e-mail marketing tool can make it easier to follow best practices. And Sonia Thomas shares her e-mail marketing tips. This infographic describes the needs of online shoppers. James Gardner takes a look at the conversion rates of eight small-business landing pages.
Social Media: Ask a Teenager
Online reputation management is important to non-Internet businesses, too. Here are four easy ways to monitor what’s being said about you online. Matt Owen gives tips for optimizing LinkedIn’s new company pages. A team of search engine optimization consultants makes predictions for 2013. There are three types of social businesses. Terri Cettina explains how teenagers can help with social media marketing: “If you’re using social media for your business, you’ll look more knowledgeable if you know the latest abbreviations and language. Have a teenager point out important online phrases and conventions.” A social media expert says your business will suffer if you ignore the iPhone.
Management: The Scent of a Business
Lisa Evans says lavender is one of six scents that can transform your mood and productivity. Christopher Walken reads Honey Boo Boo. A life-changing experience led this chef to look for efficiencies. Jon Stow has a story on how not to run a business. A new season of Project Grow starts off with how to make a million this year. Gil Garcia shares his experiences at the Boulder Outdoor Survival School.
Around the Country: Gas Prices
Florida and California dominate the list of the 10 weakest markets. Brad Plumer explains why California’s gas prices are going haywire. Here’s how to prepare for Small Business Saturday. In Pennsylvania, the Internal Revenue Service and state troopers raid 197 video poker locations. The 2012 wife-carrying champion is announced. A new General Motors tech center in Michigan will employ 1,500. A restaurant group in Massachusetts says that a pending bill will put a chokehold on small businesses. EBay unveils same-day delivery. Here are 10 American industries with surprisingly poor prospects.
Around the World: The Price of Eggs in Mexico
A new report from the World Bank looks at whether entrepreneurship can be taught in poor countries. Valeria Maltoni says happiness is the world’s best brand. Mexicans are coping with egg shortages and price spikes. Growth in Britain is the fastest in five years but industrial output falls. Prank signs show up on London’s Underground. A group argues that Britons should work a four-day week: “We would all be happier and healthier if we spent more time outdoors, taking up ‘gardening leave.’” Iraq could become the world’s second biggest oil exporter. This is how a Chilean start-up initiative is changing Latin America. A Paris-based music streaming company raises $130 million.
Cash Flow: Is Google a Better Bank?
Google introduces a credit card for small businesses, and Martha White wonders if companies like Google and Wal-Mart can provide a better banking experience than actual banks. Most venture capital money flowed into the same funds last quarter. Kevin Kaiser offers some tips on managing your new office space. A woman gets a $15 quadrillion phone bill.
Red Tape: The Chaos of Online Sales Tax
Lou Carlozo explains what the end of tax-free online shopping would mean for small businesses. Jim Tierney says online sales taxes would create e-commerce chaos, but a business owner believes that they would restore competitive balance. Your tax filing extensions have run out! New York State has the worst tax climate (pdf) in the country. The Small Business Administration’s loan dollars in the 2012 fiscal year reached their second highest total ever. The Obama administration gives $20 million to 10 public-private partnerships to support American manufacturing and encourage investment. Olive Garden’s owner puts President Obama’s health care law to the test. A District of Columbia board approves forcing small businesses into its health exchange. NASA is gung-ho about small business. Al Gore cashes in on green tech.
Technology: The iPhone Is a Miracle
PC shipments are set to decline for the first time in 11 years, and one analyst thinks Hewlett-Packard’s stock is worth negative $2 a share. Groupon introduces a point of sale system for restaurants, and the retailer Urban Outfitters says it will never buy a cash register again. Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others join forces to start a new resource for Web standards. A new report finds that two-thirds of small-business mobile-device users believe their companies would lose competitive ground without them. Apple is expecting to ship 10 million iPad minis. Farhad Manjoo of Slate thinks the iPhone 5 “is a miracle.” Allen Gannett explains what big data can mean for small businesses. Verizon introduces a new tool to accelerate productivity for small and medium businesses. Microsoft will introduce Office 2013 for both iOS and Android. A cloud-based operating system is in the works. Natural gas trucks are gaining momentum. Here’s how to set up free text-message alerts when your Web site goes down. Polycom is trying to build a better conference call. Autos become the center of innovation. A life-altering way to make a grilled cheese sandwich is invented.
Tweets of The Week
@ConnectedStrat Busy people get things done. Busy people don’t use being busy as an excuse for delays, non-responses dropped balls.
When you tell people it’s your way or the highway the highway starts looking pretty darn good.
Hire someone who understands what culture you’re trying to build
Bests of the Week
Eric Pangburn explains why you aren’t born great – and why that’s O.K. “When you understand that failure is your own fault, it’s easy to get depressed about it – but that’s not the real lesson here. … Rejection can be a great tool for self-improvement. Think of rejection as a form of free education. Whenever something you wrote gets rejected by a client or by a blog owner, ask why. Sometimes they’ll provide their reasons; sometimes you’ll be left to figure it out by yourself.”
Alice Walker says to go to the places that scare you. “If you want to have a life that is worth living, a life that expresses your deepest feelings and emotions, and cares and dreams, you have to fight for it. You have to go wherever you need to go, and you have to be wherever you need to be, and place yourself there against the forces that would distort you and destroy you.”
This Week’s Question: How would an online sales tax affect you?