A weekly roundup of small-business developments.
What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.
The Economy: Increased Tonnage
Growth fails to meet expectations. Orders for durable goods plunged 5.7 percent in March and recent factory data is indicating slowing growth. Charles Hugh-Smith laments the decline of small business. New residential home sales (pdf) increased in March, and there has been positive momentum for architecture billings. But existing home sales fell unexpectedly. Trucking tonnage increased again, but vehicle miles driven hit another post-crisis low. The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond said manufacturing activity pulled back in its district and Kansas City reported the same in its region (pdf). One study said that small-business owners remained mixed on the state of the economy and their growth outlook. Here’s an updated state of the economy.
Washington: Online Sales Tax
The Senate votes for an online sales tax, but eBay says it is unfair to some small businesses — and it may be too late for others. A small but growing number of American corporations, operating in businesses as diverse as private prisons, billboards and casinos, are making an aggressive move to reduce — or even eliminate — their federal tax bills. A survey from Sage finds small businesses struggling with the complexity of tax regulations and code. Republicans advance a bill to prepare for another debt-ceiling fight. The sequestration budget cuts cause air travel delays and the furlough of 89,000 Internal Revenue Service employees (but the Justice Department is fine). A Chinese mother sues the Federal Reserve over her shrinking cash (this infographic explains how the central banking system really works). The economy will get a boost in July when the government recalculates gross domestic product. The president celebrates young inventors at a White House science fair, and a Pew study says American teenagers are doing better on science tests than the public realizes.
Entrepreneurs: Lessons Learned
Brian Cauble shares 50 lessons he’s learned as an entrepreneur, including: “If you don’t figure out your sales, you will fail.” Rosie Percy says self-employment is on the rise. Saint Louis University’s Center for Entrepreneurship names its first “diamond in the rough” student entrepreneur, and the Western Pennsylvania Small Business Administration names its (reluctant) young entrepreneur of the year. The Wharton Business Plan Competition went to a pair of M.B.A. students who created Zenkars, an online used car dealer that aims to connect wholesale buyers with individual customers, and the grand prize winner of the University of California, Berkeley, Start-up Competition was Resido Medical, which has developed a small wearable device for patients with essential tremor.
Management: Profit by Quitting
Joe Taylor Jr. reports on the secrets of century-old businesses. Lisa J. Jackson suggests celebrating when you hit goals and milestones. Greg Digneo argues that quitting may be the most profitable thing you do this year. A UPS Store owner explains how her business works. Jason Fell explains how to be more like Steve Jobs. A new book says nice companies finish first. A Portland rap legend, Cool Nutz, discusses the secrets of his success. A manufacturing chief executive shares the seven skills of a “lean leader.” Here are 10 quotes that inspire business leaders, and these 27 successful people reveal the things they can’t live without.
Finance: Shake It
Greg Kumparak explains what is needed to raise a million bucks. A Kickstarter project aims to raise $155,000 for a cellphone that can be recharged by shaking it, and another company gets $5.9 million to create a “Kickstarter for people.” Investors sink $30 million into a 3-D printing company. Bryan Goldberg feels some chief executives like to raise money just for the sake of it. Milton Berle’s joke files go up for sale. The 15-year fixed mortgage rate hits a low. American Express Open introduces a tool to help small businesses simplify expense tracking. A financing firm announces an $82 million credit line to finance small businesses. Boston Beer expands its microlending and coaching program. Here is why big corporations are supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
People: 6,297 Chinese Restaurants
A National Public Radio report explains how young adults with autism can thrive in high-tech jobs. These are the worst jobs of 2013. Adriana Gardella’s business group debates whether employees can be rehabilitated (even if they bite people?). Martin Zabell reports on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on small businesses, and Sarah Green says much has been learned about communicating with employees in an emergency. Miranda Marquit writes about ways to protect yourself when you fire someone. A study finds more than two-thirds of small-business owners support increasing the federal minimum wage, and a Staples survey reveals that the boss is probably not the most trusted person in your company. After a bad quarter, I.B.M.’s chief executive urges employees to act faster. This guy has eaten in 6,297 Chinese restaurants in the United States and Canada.
Going Green: Electric Cars
Earth Day is celebrated, but the government’s investment in electric cars is not doing well — even in the country’s top 10 green car markets. The world’s “greenest commercial building” opens in Seattle. An energy company introduces a program in Ohio that offers electricity and natural gas to small businesses at a fixed rate. Office Depot reports that 20 percent of small and midsize businesses are greener than last year.
Around the Country: Luring Companies
Rick Perry tries to lure companies from Illinois. A national conference aims to help female veterans accelerate the growth of their small businesses and create jobs. Meanwhile, some women are cashing in on the North Dakota oil boom. Las Vegas taxis bilked passengers out of $15 million last year. Many Americans are breathing cleaner air. Catherine Rampell says New York may be more affordable than you think. A guy rides the tallest bike in Los Angeles, and NASA announces its 2012 small-business industry awards.
Around the World: No Triple Dip
World steel output ticked up during March, but Markos Kaminis is alarmed by the economic data from overseas. German private sector output declined for the first time since November but Britain escaped a triple-dip recession. Chinese stocks slumped the most in weeks as manufacturing slowed. This is how much food $5 buys around the world. A provider of language tools reports that business English proficiency scores have increased strikingly. Adam Dawood thinks Pakistan may be the next frontier for entrepreneurs: “The Internet industry in Pakistan is at an extremely exciting point, and the outlook for local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists is strong in the mid- to long run.” These are five global trading tips for small businesses.
Marketing: No Tricks
Kristin Zaslavsky warns that when sending e-mails not to “trick your clients or potential clients.” Brian Carroll lists four steps for sending e-mails that 85 percent of business-to-business businesses probably are not taking. This is how to use webinars as an e-marketing tool. Ben Bland has a few thoughts on how to write good proposals for tendered projects. Doug Kessler reveals four truths about his content-marketing clients, including “too many content-marketing clients don’t understand their own business.” There are eight types of content every business should consider publishing and five branding mistakes that will cripple your business. Vincenzo Ravina shares seven tips for generating leads at a trade show or conference — without attending. Nicole Crozier explains why marketing is your most important system. Shelly Kramer explains how smartphones can maximize sales, and here is what shoppers really want from mobile. This is why baseball is awesome.
Social Media: Quitting Facebook
A hacked Twitter post sinks the stock market, but new supercomputers could generate warnings of future impending crashes. Here are 25 social media influencers who should not be ignored. Publishing the right post at the right time is one of Brian Michaelson’s four tips to help engage Facebook users. Tina Hamilton explains how a small business can find love on Yelp!, and Harrison Ford refuses to answer questions about “Star Wars.” Sarah McLaughlin gives advice for making your blog post interesting regardless of the subject. A couple of Emerson College students use Facebook to raise $500,000 for a Boston Marathon charity. Ronni Ann Hall is trying to free herself from Facebook.
Technology: Kill the Password
These five Android apps will lessen the stress of the daily commute. These 26 mobile apps will improve your business and networking. These eight must-have apps will run your small business anywhere, and these are the top five software programs for a small business. The “Microsoft Princess” will make an appearance at a conference in May. (Will she make the “start” button magically reappear?). A study from Carbonite finds most small-business owners are not taking full advantage of the cloud. Google joins a PayPal-backed effort to kill the password. These are the new features of the Samsung Galaxy S4. A cool magnetic putty can absorb objects, and laser sensors can automatically fertilize the crops that need it most. This photo app will make your wife or husband look gorgeous. Contactually releases a new version of its powerful relationship-building application. And you all know General Petersen from I.T., right?
Tweet of the Week
The Week’s Best Quotes
David Wessel shares seven lessons for fixing an economy, including: “A financial crisis is about economics, not morality. There’s a temptation to preach after so many people make so many mistakes: Avoid the sins that created the crisis. Punish the perpetrators. Pursue the economic rectitude of thrift. In the long run, that’s surely right. But in the immediate aftermath of a financial mega-shock, if everyone simultaneously reduces debts, the economy will keep contracting. There’s a strong case for encouraging borrowing and spending in the immediate aftermath of a financial crisis and for temporarily putting aside the fear that doing so might lead people to sin more in the future.”
Charles Kane says that the best place to introduce your start-up is either in Silicon Valley or the Boston area: “They remain the hottest centers of entrepreneurship and venture capital, so you’ll be in an inherently supportive ecosystem where entrepreneurship is as natural as drinking water.”
This Week’s Question: Do you think you understand your own business?