What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.
The Economy 1: A Rare Consensus
Paul Kedrosky provides a great historical analysis of small-business complaints by presidential term. Short sales rise the most since 2006. The bond market indicator, which has predicted every recession since 1970, shows that the economy has about a 60 percent chance of contracting within 12 months. Kash Mansori says we are currently going through “a deeply unfortunate and harmful bout of fiscal contraction … right when we should be doing exactly the opposite.” But Lou Basense offers two charts to dispel recession fears. A rare bipartisan consensus: all parties agree that the deficit panel is doing too much of its work in secret. Robert Reich lists the seven biggest economic lies. David Leonhardt concludes that annual data may be less reliable in some ways than monthly data.
The Economy 2: Jobs
The jobs council tells the president we need more jobs. President Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan is blocked by the Senate. We continue to struggle to attract critical-skill employees. Hale Stewart explains where jobs are being created. American manufacturing payrolls surpass $500 billion. A new report says that four out of five small-business owners will maintain or reduce their number of full-time employees over the next six months. Some feel that the decision to add even one person to the payroll is a huge leap of faith for a small company. Dana Blankenhorn explains why unemployment is not here to stay: “Let’s start with the economy. It’s going to grow. Global demand continues rocketing upward, and that rising tide is going to lift a lot of boats.” Weekly unemployment claims are at 404,000.
The Data: No Pulse?
Small-business confidence improves. Existing-home inventory continues to decline. The Cass Freight Index shows strong gains. Household income declined more in the two years after the recession ended than it did during the recession. The pulse of commerce is deemed “alarming” (but a new Superman may save the day). Orders for machine tools and equipment are up significantly. Our trade deficit is unchanged. September retail sales are up thanks to the auto industry.
Marketing: Ignoring Customers on Twitter
Chris Newton suggests four things to do immediately when sales start drying up. Corbett Barr says there is a question you have to answer to get people to visit your blog. Some highly trafficked Web sites promise that they won’t, but they still reveal personal data. Lauren Fisher gives 10 examples of companies that have succeeded with social media. A lot of companies ignore customer complaints on Twitter. Diana Pohly offers five powerful questions for customer-satisfaction research. A new service helps consumers create free QR codes so that businesses can link customers to social media pages, coupons or store information. Thursday Bram explains why connections are the most powerful asset in a freelancer’s business.
Around the World: The Best Country to Do Business In Is …
Canada is No. 1. A mountain biker gets blindsided in Africa. Italy may weigh drug tests for stock traders. China’s small firms face a grim outlook. And talk about a tough credit market for small businesses. The tomato market in India offers a great example of a number of economic concepts. Here’s where to apply to Startup Chile. And to our friends in Britain, I know things look bleak, but with kids like Sophia Grace your future is bright!
Around the Country: At Least There’s One Winner in Boston
North Dakota sets more oil records. Mikal E. Belicove says he believes that cities should market their problems to entrepreneurs. Thirty-nine percent of the workers in Orange County, Calif., make more than $100,000. Geoff Williams asks if the N.B.A. lockout will hurt small businesses. America’s favorite small business wins a $75,000 prize package. Little Sprouts is Boston’s Small Business of the Year. San Diego is the luckiest town in America.
Red Tape Update: The S.B.A. Through History
The House approves trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Federal Reserve oversight of nonbank financial companies is weighed. Only eight of the Forbes 400 say they are willing to pay more taxes. Here’s a new infographic history of the Small Business Administration. Congressman Graves says that the proposed interference of a critical GPS signal will cost American small businesses.
Start-Up: Don’t Occupy Wall Street
Carol Tice says don’t occupy Wall Street, just start a business. Four buddies start a business to show what love is all about. A new company says it can energize egg cells to improve fertility. Mark Evans lists the 10 realities of working for a start-up, including, “Don’t expect a big piece of the pie. Unless you’re a founder or an early, early employee, you will, at best, get a minuscule piece of the equity pie.” A new biotech company lands $42 million to create new cancer drugs. A start-up claims it can make fuel out of thin air. Joe Chung explains how not to start a start-up: “Don’t do something you know 20 other start-ups are already doing. This is just simple math.” A start-up tries to extract the financial pain of dental visits.
Finance: Big Businesses Helping Little Businesses
The Startup America Partnership introduces its Startup-Corporate Connection Program. Joshua Kurlantzick gives examples of how big businesses help small businesses. Google and Twitter join the Small Business Saturday movement. Anne Lowrey explains why President Obama’s $30 billion small-business loan program flopped. Gary Honig explains what a signature loan is (and how to get one). Venture capital takes a dive to an eight-year low (and this guy takes an even scarier dive). Here are 15 venture capitalists worth knowing. Celebrity investors can be risky for small businesses.
An upcoming “trend school” explains why Gen Y types are inspiring the rise of “intelligent taste” (well, not all of them are intelligent). Opportunities in oil and natural gas have rarely been so bountiful. Swallowable perfume emits fragrance from the skin. Qwikster is now deadster and the Allbusiness.com gang shares lessons learned from the Netflix disaster. Edward Hess identifies nine challenges growing businesses face and offers tips on how to tackle them. Tara “Missrogue” Hunt shares 10 mistakes she’s made so you don’t have to. David Butcher shares best practices for parcel shipping. A pub on wheels starts a trend. And would someone please feed these cats?
Technology: BlackBerry Has a Tough Week
More headaches for BlackBerry. Box.net closes a financing round worth $81 million. Is Facebook’s iPad app a flop? More small businesses are using mobile devices to streamline operations. Airlines rush to add Wi-Fi. A new company combines document management, faxing and e-signatures. PayPal wants to become the Web payment system to rule them all. IBM introduces a new portfolio of cloud offerings. Apple’s iCloud has its debut. Lemon.com lets you store and organize your receipts in the cloud. A new electric car gets good mileage. Microsoft reports a large drop in e-mail spam. Facebook acquires a Q&A service. In any 48-hour period in 2010, more data was created than had been created by all of humanity in the previous 30,000 years (but do we need all of this data?) Here are 11 tech tools for your start-up. Abu Dhabi has developed a life-size robot that could take the place of human workers.
The Week Ahead: Inflation and Housing
New data on consumer and producer prices will tell us where inflation is heading. The New York and Philadelphia Feds give us their takes on the local economies. In real estate: look for the latest in building permits and existing-home sales. Also, it’s National Save for Retirement Week.
The Week’s Bests
Hiring Strategy: Cezary Pietrzak explains how to find talent for your start-up, including choosing people who are comfortable doing anything: “In a small company, there are too many roles and too few people to fill them, so someone has to step in and get the job done. We like people who are well rounded and can excel in more ways than one, even if it means doing grunt work. As one famous angel investor put it, hire for talent, not skill, and make sure that this talent can be generalized across a wide range of initiatives.”
Way to Woo an Audience: Jessica Levco says you should woo an audience like Rahm Emanuel: “Watch your body language. He was poised and relaxed throughout the event. Whether leaning forward in his chair or tilting his head toward the person speaking, he didn’t fidget or fiddle. Watching him shake hands with the panelists after the event was equally impressive. He might send you a dead fish, but you’ll never catch ‘Rahmbo’ giving a person a dead-fish handshake.”
Move Beyond The Budget: Brad Power says stop budgeting, start improving: “The typical approaches of budget cuts and layoffs usually don’t result in sustained changes to their cost structure — the costs creep back. Instead, companies must make fundamental changes to the way they work — how they market and sell, handle orders, bill for those orders, manufacture and distribute their goods, and serve customers after the sale. If they remove waste, errors, and time from these processes, they will get cost efficiency as a byproduct.”
This Week’s Question: After the last three years, do you still have waste to remove and efficiencies to gain?