This Week in Small Business: Hu, Health Care and Why We’re (Still) Not Hiring
by Gene Marks
January 24, 2011
New York Times' Small Business Blog:
What's affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.
DOING BUSINESS WITH CHINA China's President Hu visits Washington and says his country is not a military threat. Harry Reid gives him a warm welcome. Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal wonders if China's inflation is going to skyrocket. The Brookings Institution wonders if we can sustain cooperation. China's lending hits new heights. A Washington Post article suggests China has a plan for providing American jobs. An investment banker paints a "troubling portrait of China's economy and financial system." A Wisconsin company learns the ups and downs of doing business in China.
THE NEW DEAL IS REPEAL The House votes to repeal the health care law. But Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services secretary, says the health care overhaul is right on schedule. Andrew Sullivan calls it a symbolic vote. Six more states join the health care lawsuit. A group of law professors defend the individual mandate. Doctors are depressed over the whole thing. Pennsylvania offers a preview of its state health care exchange. Experts say health care reform is not a job killer. The Weekly Standard's Jeffrey Anderson says the bill would funnel $1 trillion from American taxpayers: "ObamaCare is a financial boon for insurers, who merely have to agree to stop operating as genuinely private businesses to receive their (taxpayer-funded) payouts." A Discover survey finds that more than half of small-business owners want the health care bill repealed. A small-business group agrees. The health care tax credit leaves this small-business owner disappointed (and this one, too). More small-business owners in Florida are offering health insurance.
REGULATORS UNDER SCRUTINY Obama announces a review of "excessive" regulations. Forbes's Brian Wingfield says the president is opening himself up to at least two critiques. Jacob Levy, a professor, predicts "that almost no regulations will actually be repealed as a result of this, except in cases of conflict or redundancy with other regulations." Regulators approve the Comcast-NBC Universal merger. A popular taco truck battles New York City regulations. The Justice Department collected more than $1 billion in criminal penalties last year in cases related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
WHY WE'RE (STILL) NOT HIRING Many bloggers are discussing the lack of job growth in the United States. Some think it's because there are too many slacker goofballs. Or maybe there just aren't enough good-looking people. Jeffrey Leonard, writing for Washington Monthly, says the reason small businesses are struggling to hire people is a "parasitic" practice by large companies: "On March 31, 2010, Cisco Systems announced to its small-business suppliers that as a rule (they) would wait 60 days after receipt of an invoice before cutting a check. The reason Cisco gave for this new policy was not that it was hard up: the company has nearly $39 billion of cash on its balance sheet, and in the third quarter of 2010 alone it spent $2.7 billion to repurchase its own shares. Rather, the corporation explained that it had been ‘benchmarking against our technology peers' and found a precedent for ‘new payment terms.' In other words: Everyone is doing it, so we are too."
SOME MAKE MONEY, SOME DON'T Bank earnings are mixed. Ebay makes money. Emerging markets showed growth in the fourth quarter. Hotels, ports and airports all had increased activity in December. Chevrolet's sales to small businesses soar. Last year was the second worst for home construction. Apple's top iPhone app is made by a 14-year-old, and, man, can this kid dance (about 1:30 in).
CHEEZBURGER, CHEEZBURGER, CHEEZBURGER Venture capitalist funding continues to dry up, and clean technology businesses suffer. But Internet content provider Cheezburger Network raises $30 million. Citibank offers free checking to small-business customers. Goldman Sachs gives a gift to 10,000 small businesses (or, at least the first 200). Prof. Stephen Bainbridge blames Sarbanes-Oxley for the decline in competitiveness of capital markets in the United States.
PHEW! The threat to not increase our government's debt ceiling is like playing with fire, says Senator Schumer. Moody's and S.&P. warn about the U.S. credit rating. But economist Bob McTeer thinks they're out of line. And what a relief - S.&P. thinks it's unlikely the United States will default on its debt.
OMG, CAN WE GO ON? The world was stunned this week as both Regis and Hannah Montana ended their long TV reigns. Oh, and some guy named Steve Jobs announced a leave of absence, which only affects ... an entire industry. Slate's Farhad Manjoo doesn't think he will return because he has nothing left to accomplish. Apple's earnings are through the roof. David Etherington at Gigaom gives us the current succession picture.
FIVES AND SIXES Online payroll service SurePayroll offers five ways for small businesses to save money. Kip Bodnar, a Hubspot.com blogger, says six mistakes will make your Web site look like a 1970s kitchen. Echoconsultancy.com's Patricio Robles says to avoid these five clients like the plague.
BETTER WIPE OFF THAT GRIN Kraft says it can scan a customer's face and know what to feed the person. NPR reports on how some restaurants are trying to speed up their service. Research firm Forrester reveals what customers expect in 2011. Whitney Hess, a user-experience designer, explains what marketers can learn from Nationwide Insurance's TV campaign.
IMPROVING OUR GAME Newswire launches a "PR toolkit" for entrepreneurs. Seth Godin says don't worry about starting with a big splash. Sage Lewis talks about search-engine optimization. Thomas Davis writes about why he doesn't use Google Analytics. Sherice Jacob lists her top 10 ways to get e-mail subscribers. Jim Scott urges us to fall in love again if we want to succeed. Sully gives great marketing advice to Major League Baseball (and anyone else looking to sell to people who are too young for Cialis and Flomax). A new study says that customers with last names beginning in R through Z buy products first. Bloomberg Businessweek's Ben Steverman explains what's behind H&R Block's free offer.
DRINK UP Virginia considers a bill allowing businesses to put logos on license plates. Lifehacker explains how to publish a book on Kindle. Starbucks rolls out an even bigger cup of coffee. And speaking of drinks, two sisters in Arizona start a micro vodka distillery: "The Klemp sisters wanted to make vodka because the spirit is already popular. And while the mainstream market is filled with near-countless brands and flavors, the microdistilled vodka trend is just taking off." I nominate Betty White to be their sponsor.
TECHNOLOGY MAKES A SPLASH The mobile app market, it is estimated, will reach $25 billion by 2015. Bandwith.com and Verizon sign an agreement that will have a significant impact on how businesses use Voice over Internet Protocol. Liz Eversoll, vice president of software sales at CDW, offers four tips for buying small-business software. Dell evolves into a technology service provider. PCWorld offers great ways to make your company seem bigger. Zoho plans an online accounting system for small businesses. A girl demonstrates the dangers of texting.
MISCELLANEOUS A recent survey by the American Small Business Travelers Alliance finds that we prefer booking our flights directly on airline Web sites. This guy found an even better way. Payex introduces a redesigned small-business advice blog. Bschool.com lists 50 excellent lectures for the small-business owner. Robert Wood, a tax lawyer, explains the importance of getting a tax opinion. Google prepares to compete with the start-up that said no to $6 billion.
THIS WEEK'S AWARDS
BEST WAY TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA A Dumb Little Man offers great ways to make powerful connections through social media. Example: "Listen: Ever go to a book signing when you haven't read the author's book? Interviewed for a job without researching what the company did? Of course not, so why would you expect to start building a new relationship with someone without knowing more about them on a personal level? This may be one of the most crucial steps to connecting with others, so do it right."
BEST DESCRIPTION OF WORTH A company's worth (like Facebook) is entirely different from its valuation, according to Ben Brooks, a small-business owner and consultant: "I am not one of those venture capital naysayers - there are plenty of great reasons to seek venture capital so that you can get your company going. What I am against is pretending that popularity and profit are equals."
BEST WAY TO IMPROVE YOUR PROSPECTING Kendra Lee, a technology marketer, explains how to fix your prospecting in a single day. Example: "Things change. Sometimes projects don't go as expected. Unless you burned the bridge by being rude or unprofessional with a lost prospect, this could be a hidden gold mine for you. Follow up with these contacts at least every six months."
Is your company really worth what you think it is?
Gene Marks owns the Marks Group, a consulting firm based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., that helps clients with customer relationship management. You can follow him on Twitter.