A weekly roundup of small-business developments.
What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.
The argument for austerity takes a big hit, and the two economists at the center of the debate respond. Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank and a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his “efforts to combat global poverty,” discusses lending without collateral and how business ideas are generated.
Boston: Reddit on the Case
Michael Sivy explains what the Boston bombing means for the economy and the stock market. There are many stories of businesses stepping up to help. The calamity reveals the value of social media, and an entrepreneur beats the conspiracy-theory “kooks” at their own game. Reddit readers did not solve the bombing, but entrepreneurs did introduce EvidenceUpload.org to aid the investigation. Boston restaurants rallied to the cause.
The Economy: Apple, Gold and Cupcakes
Apple’s stock price falls. The price of gold crashes. And so does the market for expensive cupcakes. Rising costs put the squeeze on builder confidence in April. A Kauffman Foundation report finds that entrepreneurial activity declined in 2012 and that millennials are the least entrepreneurial generation. Port traffic in the Los Angeles area decreased. But conditions in the New York metropolitan (pdf) region improved, and housing starts and industrial production moved up. Crucial measures showed low inflation in March and the Federal Reserve reported moderate growth across the country. Paul Ryan says the G.O.P. has no plans to create a budget-deal panel with Senate Democrats. Twelve million Americans say they believe lizard people run the country.
Start-Up: The Strangest Start-Up
CorruptTour may be the strangest start-up in travel. Steve Blank says the lean start-up “changes everything” and teams up with Google to create a five-week course for entrepreneurs. A tiny news start-up wins a Pulitzer. John Stanfield says every start-up should be familiar with this tax term: 83b election. A teenager auctions off 10 percent of her future earnings to start a Web site. A peer-to-peer airport car rental start-up raises $5.5 million.
Ideas: Let It Rot
A gas station in Germany offers haircuts while filling the tank. Peter Thiel’s latest investments include better search and cellular nanotechnology. Here are 10 ideas in retailing from the last 12 months. Investments in clean energy hit a four-year low. Google’s first BufferBox appears in San Francisco. Will Knight says autonomous vehicles will remain a fantasy for years, and Icelanders make poisonous shark meat edible by letting it rot for six months.
Management: Looking Sharp
These YouTube videos will teach you how to look sharp. Les McKeown says there are three things all great leaders know about themselves. If you want to know how to rocket to the top of an industry, you may want to consider the “Macklemore Effect.” A new research report reveals the latest trends in corporate social responsibility. Cameron Herold shares the key to leading highly productive meetings, and Karol K. discusses the art of complaining about your business. Andrea Johnson explains how reversing the funnel increased sales by 14 percent for a sales-incentive company, and Alina Dizik says you should ask 10 questions before determining your target market.
People: Rude and Unprofessional
Erika Andersen explains how some companies lose their best employees at “hello.” McDonald’s tries to change its image of “rude, unprofessional employees.” A retail chain of arts-and-crafts stores in Oklahoma raises its full-time employees’ minimum wage to $14 per hour. The chairman of US Airways sends a message to employees to explain why he earned $5.5 million in 2012. Here are 20 ways to manage a dysfunctional team. Allison Rice wonders if telecommuting will become a “flash in the pan,” and Samuel Bacharach offers four reasons employees resist change. Here’s what to do about the bully in your workplace.
Around the Country: Colorado’s Entrepreneurs
Coming to New York: TechCrunch’s popular Disrupt conference and a $125,000 Business Innovation challenge. You can be one of three women to win a $3,000 grant for your work. A business-to-business networking expo is scheduled for Tucson this week, and the Downtown Sacramento Partnership is running a contest that will give the winner free rent for a year. Even though Philadelphia area economic activity is steady, the city’s mayor discusses selling assets to stave off bankruptcy. Philadelphia holds its annual Tech Week. Sales of small businesses are up in Tulsa, Okla., and a business tax cut is proposed in Texas. A campaign in Colorado spotlights entrepreneurs powering the state’s economy. These are the wealthiest subway stops in New York City.
Around the World: Disappointing Growth
Ford expects 40 percent of its sales will occur in China by the end of the decade. Ansuya Harjani says China’s disappointing economic growth (7.7 percent in the first quarter!) is “leading to a loss of confidence.” Meanwhile, it is revealed that almost 2 percent of world trade comes from counterfeit Chinese goods. Elliott Auckland says storm clouds are gathering in Moscow. This is the global gross domestic product outlook in one huge map. São Paulo is named the most attractive Latin American city for investment. Britain’s jobless rate rises.
Red Tape: A Huge Train Wreck
Mark J. Kohler explains how incorporation in Delaware or Nevada can hurt you. This is what the “Gang of Eight” immigration proposal would mean for entrepreneurs. A Louisiana senator wins an award for her dedication to small businesses. Senator Max Baucus says he fears President Obama’s health care overhaul is headed for a “huge train wreck” — but Ezra Klein isn’t buying it.
Taxes: More Audits
The Internal Revenue Service plans more audits of small-business owners, and secret data shows clusters of likely tax cheats in California, Texas, Georgia and Maryland. The government imposes an annual reporting cost of more than $180 billion on the American people, but these five charts will make you feel better about paying your taxes. Some business groups are backpedaling on tax reform, and these are the best and worst state tax systems for entrepreneurship and small businesses.
Cash Flow: Shipping Costs
Juergen Kneifel suggests terms business owners should know. Here are five ways to reduce shipping costs. Maryalene LaPonsie says there are three steps for small-business forecasting, and here is how to become a QuickBooks power user. Bradley Derringer believes accounting software improves your carbon footprint.
Finance: Cocaine and the Crisis
Citigroup’s profit rises 30 percent and Goldman Sachs earns $2.2 billion in the first quarter, but Bank of America’s revenue drops. Britain’s former drug czar says cocaine use by bankers caused the world financial crisis. The American Bankers Association offers tips to help small-business owners enhance their current banking relationships. A new survey shows bank risk managers are optimistic about small-business lending. Ashton Kutcher makes another investment.
Online: Design of the Year
A webinar on Tuesday will cover best practices for landing pages. Chuck Hemann suggests five steps to build a digital analytics function. Eric Schmidt thinks the Facebook Home Android modification is “fantastic.” Becky McCray names an almost-useful QR code. A simple government Web site earns the title of best design of the year.
Social Media: What’s a Facebook Fan Worth?
A study concludes that Facebook fans are worth $174.17 apiece. Jeff Bullas says social media is better “than your granny.” One study shows small businesses are finding return on investment in social media (but struggling with Facebook), while another study concludes that social media is a bust for small businesses. Here are a few ways to measure social media marketing, and if you have just four minutes you can learn how to extend the reach of your e-mail. Twitter allows advertisers to target specific words used in tweets, and Paula Eder says retweeting adds traffic and saves time. Lucy Thornton suggests 41 marketing ideas for your Twitter account, including “post a photo of the view out of your window right now.” Elaine Lindsay explains how to use Google Plus Hangouts to generate content.
Technology: Is Your Cash Register Obsolete?
Microsoft is reportedly developing a smartwatch, is ready to compete head-on with Amazon’s Web Services and makes more money off mobile handset sales than Google. But American teenagers still want an iPhone for their next smartphone. Gina Chon says to blame your mobile-phone company and the government for dropped calls. A report from Symantec finds small businesses are being battered by cybercrime. Chris Murphy says an app is not a mobile strategy. Google’s applications suffer a partial failure, a technical problem in Pennsylvania gives taxpayers a day’s reprieve and over 700 American Airlines flights are canceled after a computer system fails. Brian Patrick Eha wonders if Nebula One is reinventing cloud computing for businesses. Carla Turchetti asks whether your cash register is obsolete.
Tweet of the Week
@tompapa – This is a good week to stay under the covers.
The Week’s Bests
Joe Weisenthal says everyone should be thrilled by the gold crash: “The huge corpus of economic research, which has informed the U.S.’s efforts to stimulate the economy, is not a pile of garbage. You can do a lot without blowing things up, as the gold bugs claimed would happen. And more broadly, this represents a breaking of the fever, and perhaps a return to thinking that humans aren’t such a horrible disappointment.”
Leslie Young explains what a good boss should be doing: “A good boss will not be smug and complacent with their performance. There is always room to grow and even bosses have something they can always do better. Being a leader entails a lot of responsibility and a good boss knows that they are accountable to the customers and the employees should something go wrong. Bad bosses are overconfident and think that they know everything there is to know. Good bosses think otherwise.”
This Week’s Question: Do you consider yourself a good boss?
Gene Marks owns the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. You can follow him on Twitter.