A weekly roundup of small-business developments.
What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.
First of all, Justin’s fine. Just fine.
The Economy: A New Head Is Named
The president names Alan Krueger the new head of his Council of Economic Advisers. Brian Proffitt says he may be good for small businesses. The American Small Business League writes him an open letter. Jared Bernstein likes him, too (but then again he thinks the stimulus worked). Many expect Mr. Krueger to push for more stimulus.
The Deficit: A National Debt Primer
Brad Plumer say it’s not too late to do nothing. Brad DeLong argues for keeping spending low. John Steele Gordon gives us a short primer on the national debt that concludes: “If the country can experience G.D.P. growth equal to what we had in the 1990s, the debt-to-G.D.P. ratio would drop, in just a decade, to 56.7 percent, about where it was in 2000.” The Economist Mom wants the “super” committee to raise taxes. Ramesh Ponnuru wants to lower them.
The Data: Too Many Buts, Not Enough Jobs
The unemployment rate stays the same as the government reports no new jobs were created. But A.D.P. says 91,000 jobs were added in August. But small-business hiring slowed in August. And employees worked fewer hours and received less money. Consumer spending and income jumped in July. But consumer confidence fell to a two-year low. Home prices continued their double dip. But bank lending increased. Pending home sales slipped in July but are up sharply from a year ago. Texas manufacturing activity was unchanged in August. Ford’s sales rose 11 percent. Hurricane Irene could cost insurers up to $3 billion (and washed up a monster!).
The Economy: A Little Optimism, a Lot of Paper Clips
Brett Arends says American companies are now more leveraged than at any time since the Great Depression — and then gives us 10 reasons to be optimistic. Small businesses may be rebounding, according to one survey. Retail employment rises in two-thirds of metropolitan areas. Brian Wesbury says stocks are undervalued (pdf) by 65 percent. Mark Perry contributes a roundup of positive economic news and reports that three-year inflation is the lowest in 54 years. A study finds small-business bankruptcy numbers are down. The American paper-clip market is huge. And here’s the very best news of all!
Starting Up: Boomers to the Rescue
A new report finds that the No. 1 reason start-ups fail is because they scale prematurely. Baby boomers account for 84 percent of new businesses, and one of them decides to scrap retirement for the start-up life. Start-up activity among unemployed managers and executives in the first half of 2011 fell to its lowest level on record. More than one million self-employed Americans are no longer in business almost four years after the last recession began. Ryan O’Reilly says the start-up visa could help. A start-up automates the process of starting up. Monica Rogati sequences the DNA of a start-up. Microsoft hosts a mega start-up event.
Red Tape Update: Obama’s Ozone
The House majority leader, Eric Cantor, lays out his party’s antitax and antiregulation agenda for the fall. Or was that Barack Obama’s agenda? Representative Sam Graves says the White House regulatory review is “appreciated, but doesn’t go far enough.” Hayden Murray says the E.P.A. chokes business. But not all small businesses believe they are over-regulated and over-taxed. Megan McArdle writes about the death of a D.C. tavern: “Punishing a restaurant owner for a liquor license violation with an open-ended maybe-we’ll-give-you-a-license-maybe-we-won’t delay is equivalent to giving someone the death penalty for a parking violation. Moreover, it punishes the neighbors and the employees right along with the owner.” Scammers are posing as FEMA reps. James W. Lucas reminds us that “the Federal Register for 2010 is over 81,000 pages long, a 19 percent increase in one year.” California legislators take aim at baby sitters. The N.L.R.B. issues a union-friendly regulation. A tax expert offers the best way for the owner of a corporation to claim a home-office tax deduction.
Marketing: E-Mail and Daily Deals Decline
E-mail marketing was down 14.3 percent year-over-year and George Bilbrey reports that spam also declined. The Atlantic reports that people seem to be getting sick of daily deals with traffic slipping for both Groupon and LivingSocial. Facebook and Yelp are dumping their daily deals. Laurie McCabe explains how to maximize our Twitter event hashtags. Rene LeMerle offers seven tips for better Twitter marketing. Evan Carmichael lists 50 top social media blogs. Lewis Howes explains how to convert Web traffic into customers. Here are four mistakes of the search-engine optimization novice. A cool graphic suggests small businesses must optimize or die. Check out this webinar on how to create engaging content to generate leads. In this video, John Jantsch explains how to succeed online. Google announces an effort to help companies do business online. Women click Facebook ads more than men. Eighty percent of consumers report that they have changed their minds about a purchase after reading a thumbs-down report. Scott McKain says that publicity is not the same as marketing.
Management: Why Customer Service Is Important
Inc. releases its list of fast-growing companies. Score shares 10 mistakes that hurt small businesses, including “heavy dependence on just one of anything.” Tony Johnson suggests 10 ways to make money from home. A new service lets 7-Eleven customers pay online bills with cash. Startups.com’s founder will inspire you. Office Depot announces the finalists for its official small business of Nascar contest. Isabelle Mercier Turcotte lists eight rules guaranteed to increase your sales. Infusionsoft’s chief executive says customer service is important to a small business.
Ideas: The $11 Bottle of Water
The world’s seven billionth person is on the way. A pedal-equipped school bus is powered by kids. Future Fords may run on the cloud. Eric Ries says ideas are overrated: “We still believe that entrepreneurial success is about being in the right place at the right time with the right idea. But there’s no empirical evidence that’s true.” An online florist announces a name the bouquet contest. A restaurant offers a menu for bottled water.
Your People: Maybe It Is Rocket Science
An astrophysicist in Illinois figures out how to board an airplane. Doug Davidoff says the most important thing to remember when hiring salespeople is to “stop sounding like every other company that treats salespeople like a commodity.” The Evil HR Lady warns against making someone salaried to avoid overtime payments. A recent survey finds that only 9 percent of corporate travel managers will reimburse for goodies from in-room minibars, (and 4 percent said they reimburse for the costs of in-room movies and other entertainment). Lifehacker’s Alan Henry lists the best credit cards for travel rewards. The “Catch Me If You Can” guy explains how to avoid check fraud.
Around the States: Amazing Business Owners in Joplin
In Wisconsin, there’s a rash of restaurant failures. FEMA’s Dan Stoneking meets some amazing business owners in Joplin, Mo. Gov. Jerry Brown reveals a $1 billion tax relief plan for California businesses. Washington’s Economic Partnership presents its 2011 Small Business Awards.
Around the World: A Dutch Treat
Michael Pettis predicts, “Chinese growth will begin to slow sharply by 2013-14.” Willis Wee reports on the amazing start-up scene in India: “Many of these folks are very technically gifted, showing that there is a reason why Bangalore is called the Silicon Valley of India.” The Dutch National Wheelchair Basketball team shows what perseverance is all about.
Technology: Do QR Codes Work?
Hey fellow geeks: you be the judge. A Pittsburgh Marriott bans phones. Skype introduces a new phone adapter for home offices. Growing numbers of small businesses cut costs with server virtualization. Scott Rankin explains how to tell if tablet computers are right for your business. Dell offers hosted applications for small businesses. Joan Voight wonders if QR codes work for us.
The Week Ahead: Obama’s Speech
After some bickering, President Obama plans a major speech on jobs and the economy. Congress returns from its August recess. Wall Street will be watching the release of the purchasing managers’ Index, weekly unemployment claims, and trade balance data.
This Week’s Bests
Way to Find an Edge: Julien Smith argues that the secret to your success may be to act more like you’re criminally insane: “If you are looking for an edge and you can’t find one, ask yourself what you would do if you were a criminal, or a sociopath, or had delusions of grandeur, didn’t think you could fail, or that there would be no negative consequences.”
Reason to Watch ‘Glee’: James Miller describes the entrepreneurship of “Glee”: “It is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of providing a good or service that is in high demand. For those like myself who have a keen interest in pop music, the producers do a phenomenal job bringing out the best in the songs they cover.”
Reason to Keep Things Simple: Joseph Putnam thinks we may be giving our customers too many choices: “Google is the number one visited site on the Internet, yet they’re still able to limit their home page to a single action. … They don’t distract visitors with other options. Once you land on the site, you just have to decide one thing: What am I going to search for today? How’s that for not giving customers too many choices?”
This Week’s Question: Have you tried limiting the choices you offer your customers?