A weekly roundup of small-business developments.
What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.
The Big Story: The Olympics and Small Business
London’s games are a “disaster” for small businesses. Sports fans attending the games were told on Sunday to avoid nonurgent text messages and Twitter posts during the events because overloading of data networks was affecting television coverage. These were the 25 most absurd moments of the opening ceremony. Brent Rose says that technology is making the Olympics worse. Jason Fell learned three social media lessons from the Olympics. This blogger learned a lot about business from the British. Gwen Moran offers some Olympic training tips to coach your employees to greatness. London’s mayor gets stuck on a zipline. Aly Raisman’s parents are awesome. City Hall workers in Los Angeles are urged to watch less of the games. This infographic sums up the games’ finances.
The Economy 1: Doing Just Fine
Texas factory activity (pdf) continued to increase in July. Personal and disposable income also increased, and although consumer spending was flat, consumer confidence rose. Chrysler reported a healthy second-quarter profit; General Motors did not. Home prices are going up. June construction spending rose. Weekly unemployment claims increased to 365,000, but companies added 163,000 more jobs in July and 200,000 trucking jobs are still vacant. An economics student says the United States is clearly one of the best countries in which to do business. A study finds that recessions lead to increased entrepreneurship. American manufacturers are more upbeat about the domestic economy than the global economy. Some economists feel that Washington may be inching back from the cliff. Ami Kassar celebrates those helping small businesses. Mark Perry says the private sector really is doing just fine. And it’s official: Americans love small businesses!
The Economy 2: Not Doing So Fine
Kathleen Madigan concludes that 2012 has been a big disappointment. Corporate profits are stagnating. A key manufacturing index “remains terrible.” Global manufacturing weakens further but the Federal Reserve decides to take no action (for now). The government’s debt now exceeds our gross domestic product, and euro zone debt hits record highs. An index shows the economic confidence of entrepreneurs slipping. And with weak employment and compensation growth, many small-business owners are holding back on hiring.
Social Media: Introducing the Cashtag
Jay Bauer says that not tracking social media return on investment is your fault. Ever wonder what makes something go viral on the Internet? (It’s anger!) Twitter introduces the “cashtag” and passes 500 million users (with Jakarta the world’s “biggest tweeting” city). An Internet prankster wages a successful campaign to draw a rap star to Alaska. A plastic surgeon drives his business with social media. Stephanie Sammons suggests seven ways to build blog traffic using LinkedIn.
Management: Credibility Killers
Curt Schilling tries to explain what went wrong. Tim Berry names three credibility killers in business plans. When it comes to referrals, Yvonne DiVita says there are a few things you should never do. Alyson Stanfield says to beware of saying, “I am not.” A research firm finds that small businesses often choose not to grow. Emily Suess says there are five ways to inspire trust in your customers, including, give them “something for nothing.” An entrepreneur turns wedding photos from smartphones into a business. Abigail Tracy explains how to beat the retail giants. The Economist reports on the challenges of the shipping industry. These are the best food and beverage ideas this year. These are the worst franchises to buy in 2012. And here are five legal mistakes to avoid. Chick-fil-A got a lot of free publicity.
Your People: Why Aren’t You Delegating?
J.C. Penney plans to get rid of its checkout counters and clerks. Amy Gallo asks, Why aren’t you delegating? Steve Cooper believes you will make more money if you make your employees happy. This infographic shows how Etsy turns artists into entrepreneurs and outsourcer Elance reports an upswing in the “creative economy.” Levi Newman explains how being a Debbie Downer can hurt your career. Employee ranking systems fall out of favor at many companies.
Marketing: Collecting Leads
Here are 12 simple ways to collect leads online, 10 niche social platforms to generate new leads and six creative small-business promotional items. Small businesses are using more gaming principles to help their marketing. Frank Reed explains how mobile marketing can add to consumer trust and warns: “Until marketers think about mobile as a regularly used and effective channel they will continue to silo it.” Here are five defenses against poor word-of-mouth. Matthew Needham says to get more clients you have to keep existing customers engaged.
Sales: 50 Reasons to Buy From You
These six things will kill your next sale. David Newman offers 50 reasons people should buy from you. Marcus Sheridan says there are 50 benefits to blogging, including: “You’ll find those in sales become much better at their job when they blog. Don’t believe me? Write about a subject for the next hour and then go explain that subject to a friend or client and see just how easily the words and thoughts flow.” Justin Beck offers five tips for selling to the new power generation.
Start-Ups: The Older Crowd Jumps In
Start-ups run by the 55-and-older crowd increase, and AARP wants even more. Here are the six personalities every start-up needs to thrive. A new film production company is seeking money. The Internal Revenue Service gives tips for start-ups. Small-business borrowing falls in June but Chase is ranked among the top small-business lenders. Box, an enterprise cloud storage company, nets $125 million in financing.
Around the Country: Disaster Area
Half of the United States’ counties are now drought disaster areas, and the Mississippi River’s low-water levels are affecting the economy. San Bernardino, Calif., files for bankruptcy and a court lets Stockton, Calif., cut its retiree health care payments. Zombies run amok in New York City. In Philadelphia, two entrepreneurs offer a cheaper way to send money to Latin America, the city government looks to spend $120 million on technology and a distracted talker falls onto the subway tracks. Tech start-ups sprout in “Silicon Prairie.” Rob Pitingolo says the small-business culture in Portland, Ore., is “just out-of-control good.” San Francisco is embracing the pop-up for neighborhood revitalization. A Detroit boy sells snacks to save the Motor City.
Around the World: Lights Out
More than 670 million people lose power in India but (phew!) the call centers stay open. And these are the people who keep the lights on here. Japanese industrial production falls for the third consecutive month. The Economist says Europe has a “chronic failure to encourage ambitious entrepreneurs.” Twenty-three crucial days lie ahead for Greece. The euro zone’s retail sales sink for the ninth month, and euro-area economic confidence drops more than expected. The citizens of Warsaw freeze for 60 seconds. A “Silicon Valley” emerges on the West Bank (somebody tell Mitt Romney). An Australian billionaire plans a real-life Jurassic Park.
Red Tape: Stiffed by the Candidates
The United States government wants your comments on burdensome regulations. This chart shows the growth of the Federal Register. The House passes the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act and votes to extend the Bush-era tax rates. The Postal Service is set to default on retiree payments. A bunch of former presidential candidates stiff their small-business customers. Small-business owners slam Mitt Romney! Small-business owners slam Barack Obama! A webinar on Aug. 8 will explain what the JOBS Act means for your business.
Technology: Mobile Payments
Apple’s iPad owns 85 percent of the tablet market. Android’s smartphone market share declines. Square is winning the mobile payments race. Dropbox is hacked. These are nine of the best low-cost or free alternatives to Microsoft Office. Microsoft revamps Hotmail. A new company helps translate apps for a worldwide audience. These are the best ultraportable laptops of 2012.
Tweets of the Week
Your competitors love it when you tell a customer, “I can’t do that.”
Some companies don’t need competitors. They have themselves.
This Week’s Bests
Rosabeth Moss Kanter says there are 10 reasons that winners keep winning, including a “positive culture of mutual respect”: “For anyone who plays on a team, winning makes it easier to respect and listen to one another, because after all, if you win together, then the presumption is that everyone is a good player. Winners can maintain high aspirations and act generously toward others. Losers are more likely to blame others and disdain them as mediocre, creating a culture of finger-pointing and infighting.”
Hannah Betts says that to succeed in business you should try being a feminist and a flirt: “Elizabeth I ensured that flirtation became her reign’s chief metaphor, creating a language within which her authority could flourish. In remaining single, she at once maintained control over her throne and created a situation in which she could be paid court to as everybody’s mistress, in Britain and beyond. For almost 50 years she ruled with this winning conflation of charm and policy, continuing to camp up her faerie queen femininity until the end. At the age of 64, she could be found ginger-wigged, gauzy-frocked, flashing her snowy bosom at the French ambassador, poised despite her ‘very aged’ face and tombstone teeth.”
Jeff Esposito suggests three things your small business can learn from a petting zoo, including: “Engagement Is key. If you’ve ever been to a petting zoo, you probably know that customers are very interactive with the attraction and the employees. This type of personal engagement helps keep these establishments in their customers’ memories. The question is, how can you continue this level of engagement with your customers? … Making your customers feel like they are valued and wanted will let them know you care.”
Today’s Question: Will Chick-fil-A sell more or fewer sandwiches because of the controversy?