A weekly roundup of small-business developments.
What?s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.
The Big Story: Four More Years
At his inauguration, President Obama delivers a rallying cry for active government. Rick Newman says the president has given a gift to the stock market. This blogger believes that the speech made things a lot more certain for small businesses. Here?s the whole speech in just three minutes. These are 22 of the most fabulous Beyonc? moments from the inauguration (and one that?s not-so-fabulous). The president?s daughters seemed to enjoy the day, too.
Finance: Bank of America Hires 1,000 Bankers
Investment professionals are anticipating an influx of income and growth-hungry mom-and-pop ?retail? investors. Bank of America reached its goal of hiring 1,000 small-business bankers and extended nearly $8.7 billion in new credit to small businesses in 2012. Companies are keeping stockpiles of foreign cash in the United States. Erik Sherman says you should be wary of any Web site that claims to enable crowdfunded public offerings.
The Economy: $1 Trillion In Profits
General Electric?s earnings rise and overall corporate profits are now projected to be $1 trillion this year. But how good can things be if Google?s co-founder is still taking the subway? Weekly jobless claims dropped to a five-year low. The architecture billings index went up for the fifth straight month, and truck tonnage jumped 2.8 percent in December. Existing home sales shrank, but Bill McBride says it?s a solid report. Manufacturing activity contracts again in Richmond and in Kansas City (pdf). Blockbuster plans to close 300 stores. A quarterly survey finds that small-business confidence continues to hold steady but a Chamber of Commerce survey finds 53 percent of small businesses have not hired in the past year and 64 percent plan to keep the same number of employees in 2013. The International Monetary Fund thinks the United States economy is slowing down.
Tweet of the Week
@michaelianblack: Blockbuster still has 300 stores?
The Budget: Cats!
The House votes to extend the debt ceiling to May 19. Larry Summers says the government should worry less about deficits and more about unemployment. Jeff Miller tells us how to spot pop economists. A New Zealand economist wants to eradicate the country?s cats.
On The Road: Dreamliner Nightmares
Boeing?s unions blame the 787 Dreamliner woes on outsourcing. Southwest Airlines introduces a $40 fee. Capital One introduces a LinkedIn group for business travelers. Chicago?s hotel occupancy rate is back to pre-recession levels. A former road warrior delivers tips on cutting business travel expenses (and this road warrior almost becomes a former road warrior).
Your Employees: As Happy As Google
Yahoo is trying to lure back some former employees (suggestion: hire these awesome people instead). A marketing and advertising firm embraces quirkiness and manages to increase its growth. This is how to let employees know they?re appreciated and how to make your office as happy as Google?s. Emmanuel Banks explains how to make your Mac work space more productive. Here are a few tips for your employees to be more productive when working from home. Cash appears to be leaking out of 401(k) plans at an alarming rate. An 11-year-old girl shatters climbing records.
Managing: Losing Your Passion?
Brian Lee explains why you should never give up on becoming an entrepreneur, and Brad Farris has some thoughts on what business owners should do when they lose their passion. Ken Gaebler believes that investing in public relations boosts a company?s chances of getting acquired: ?P.R. works because you?re not saying, ?I?m great?; instead, it?s a respected outsider saying, ?They are great,? which is much more convincing.? Here?s how to achieve business success based on the Martha Rules. A bunch of high-profile entrepreneurs reveal what?s in the refrigerator.
Start-Ups: Why M.B.A.?s Fail
When looking for people to join your start-up?s board of directors, Mahendra Ramsinghani says not to let laziness and bias trump diversity. These three start-ups are trying to help you sleep. A new venture will mine asteroids. John Greathouse says there are five reasons M.B.A.?s fail at start-up. Steve Woodruff recommends five books for business starters. This is how one start-up spends its money.
Social Media: Bait and Switch
The clients of this social media consultant can?t even log on to Facebook, and here are 26 tips for getting started with social media marketing. Deb Donston-Miller suggests five ways social media makes business-to-business sense. This is how Threadless, Home Depot, and Amex managed to get groups of fans talking. Twitter experiences technical problems and releases a video sharing app. Here?s how to track the most popular Twitter hashtags. Google plans improvements to its image searching, and Facebook?s first intern is leading a small-business revolution. Nothing makes Derek Johnson angrier than seeing a text-message marketing campaign pull the old bait-and-switch on consumers. These are the five biggest misconceptions about using Instagram for business (but be careful: restaurants are cracking down on Instagrammers). And for some reason, the Library of Congress is archiving America?s tweets. Owen gets on SportsCenter.
Marketing: After the Sale
Here?s why you need to make content marketing a priority, and Heidi Cohen suggests nine content-marketing tactics. A webinar will discuss the seven marketing habits of today?s highly successful small and midsize businesses. Here are four tricks to attract new clients with your business cards. J. David Green explains how technology on the trade show floor can help your sales team work smarter and sell more. Ken Sundheim explains how search engine optimization almost killed his business. Charlotte Varela asks if you are helping your customers after they buy from you.
Target can teach you the benefits of introducing brands online instead of in stores. ?Show-rooming? shoppers have been a good thing for eBay. Yelp is adding health inspection grades to its site. A bear uses a washing machine. A new marketplace helps retailers find spaces offering short-term leases. This week retailers can start charging their customers for credit card fees. The Panera Bread Foundation opens a new community cafe with no cash registers or prices.
Around The Country: Sparking Entrepreneurs
A flexible work company plans to add more than 20 locations in the Los Angeles area in 2013. The owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars offers $1 million to ?spark? entrepreneurs. A new tech rap video promotes entrepreneurship. Small businesses are big in Montana. Startup Weekend is coming to Evansville, Ind.
Around The World: 3D Clothes
Spanish banks are facing big challenges. Coca-Cola pledges $100,000 for projects by young people. In the United Kingdom, the prime minister wants a global crackdown on corporate tax cheats, a record-breaking number of Britons are now at work, and Prince Harry abandons an interview for ice cream. A Dell executive says small businesses should consider exporting to Brazil. In Paris, 3D printed clothing hits Fashion Week, and a Dutch architecture firm plans to print a house. This is the world?s poorest president.
Red Tape: Five Legal Myths
A new e-guide from Microsoft demystifies the process of pursuing contracts with the government and other large enterprises. Pete Wise lists five legal myths small-business owners should avoid, including: ?I don?t need a lawyer.? Entrepreneurs plan a road trip to talk up immigration reform. Women entrepreneurs will have greater access to federal contracts. Bill Murphy Jr. lists four ways women in combat will change business. Michael Keating discusses the opportunities in the government market.
Technology: Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs
Microsoft considers taking a big stake in a Dell buyout. Chris Luo says big data and software as a service will become relevant for small businesses in 2013. Ashton Kutcher will appear at MacWorld as Steve Jobs (which may help him get an invite to one of these dinners). Apple takes a beating on Wall Street. Paul Greenberg announces the best customer relations management applications for 2013. Liquids bounce off this clothing material. Robert LeCount gives advice for picking the right technology for your business. A yearlong competition challenges the best technology minds to develop solutions that address issues in health care, education and sustainability. Brother introduces a contest aimed at small businesses.
The Week?s Bests
Freshdesk?s marketing and communications manager, Sairam Krishnan, explains how his company finds and keeps customer service representatives: ?Test their culture fit. Every company has a slightly different way of doing business. At Freshdesk, we frown upon bureaucracy and hierarchy. We put our customer service candidates in situations where they have to interact with a few senior employees of the company. These interactions, usually spontaneous and casual, help the team evaluate the candidate?s personality and fit with our customer service-centered culture.?
Megan Totka shares tips for building a socially conscious business: ?Set an example. While it is great to encourage employees to volunteer, and even provide incentives, the best way to get everyone in your company fired up for service is by getting out there and participating yourself. Do more than simply embrace the idea of service; make the service happen.?
This Week?s Question: Do you consider your business socially conscious?
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.