You’re the Boss Blog: A Weekly Roundup of Small-Business News

What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.

The Big Story: A Healthy Debate

As annual health care costs for a family of four reportedly top $20,000, the Supreme Court wraps up three days of health insurance debate and seems split over striking down the overhaul. Dr. Aaron E. Carroll says that reform could survive the loss of the individual mandate. Ezra Klein says we can’t afford another 18 years of health care drift. Small-business groups argue both sides of the law, and a small-business lobby spends a million dollars assaulting it. Madison Park and Elizabeth Landau reveal lesser known effects of the bill. Take this quiz to find out how much you know about reform. Health tips: too much sitting can kill you but eating lots of chocolate can help you lose weight.

The Economy: To Ease or Not to Ease

The Federal Reserve chief, Ben S. Bernanke, ponders more easing, saying the job market is still weak. The Philadelphia Fed’s Charles Plosser says he doesn’t see any need for additional stimulus. A shareholder group says the underlying causes of the financial crisis are not being addressed. Caroline Baum says four numbers are adding up to an American debt disaster. Two surveys, of chief executives and business owners, reveal cautious optimism. The Senate approves an extension of federal highway funding.

The Data: Housing Turnaround?

House prices have sunk back to 2003 levels. Pending home sales eased in February. Barry Ritholtz is stumped by the insistence that a turnaround in housing is upon us: “It simply is not in the data.” However, Toll Brothers reports that orders are up significantly. Corporate profits approach a cyclical high. Durable goods and truck tonnage increased in February, but consumer confidence fell. March auto sales are expected to hit a five-year high. Mark Perry says that the cost per mile of driving a car, adjusted for inflation and increased vehicle efficiency, is 28 percent less than in 1980. Rail traffic continues to send cautionary signals. Student loans worth $270 billion are at least 30 days delinquent.

Start-Up: Y Combinator’s Top 10

The JOBS Act is approved and with its passage, Steve Case and others look forward to a less-regulated start-up world. Unfortunately, some think the act will benefit financial criminals. This week’s celebrity start-up: Jessica Alba raises $27 million. A social video start-up draws big names. John Furrier explains how a start-up powered “The Hunger Games” into a global social phenomenon. A service called FounderDating helps tech entrepreneurs meet their ideal start-up match. Erik Sherman tells start-ups that cool products aren’t enough: “A hot mobile app that gets attention does not a company make. A better way: Build what people want and find a way to make it pay.” Here are the 10 most successful Y Combinator start-ups. A new report finds that women are starting businesses (pdf) at a rate exceeding the national average. Nick Hughes says there are five essential start-up talents, including adaptability: “Nothing in a start-up ever goes as planned, and thus, start-up founders must be able to adapt to changing circumstances.”

People: Job Openings

Amazingly, Ron Burgundy’s back. And yes, people really are amazing. Jeff Sass asks parents if they’re raising entrepreneurs: “You need to be the entrepreneur of yourself. You are the start-up. These are the lessons I am trying to practice myself, and instill upon my kids, all in their 20s. This is their world.” Here are the 50 highest-paying careers. A business owner says he has job openings but no one wants them. Tony Bradley says this of employers who are demanding that people surrender their Facebook credentials as a condition of being hired: “The practice is simply ludicrous, so don’t be one of those employers.” A dog is very excited to see a returning soldier.

Management: Tracking Gordon Ramsay

In this audio, Rich Killian and an accountant discuss the accounting mistakes small-business owners make. Ever wonder how Facebook managed 3,000 twenty-somethings into a $100 billion company? You should never pay full price for these 25 things. Barry Glassman says that not all business growth is good: “I think that all too often successful business owners eventually lose sight of why they started their business in the first place, trading off those values for the sake of growth itself.” Howard Owens says newspaper pay walls create opportunities for local entrepreneurs. An infographic charts  Gordon Ramsay’s successes and failures. Jason Cohen explains how perfect pricing got him 1,500 sales in two days. Batman is pulled over by the police.

Sales and Marketing: Sometimes, the Customer Is an Idiot

Drew McLellan explains how packaging can help you sell in a new way. Social customer relationship management is off to a strong 2012. But Neil Davey wonders if C.R.M. is failing our businesses. Kelley Robertson says customers can be idiots. Carolyn Higgins questions whether Facebook “likes” are good for business. Here are five hyperlocal marketing channels to consider. Nichole Kelly shares five tips for moving social media leads into the sales funnel. Matt Heinz explains why most end-of-the-month sales promotions backfire: “Smart reps will sit on those deals until the end when you regularly spike their compensation in an attempt to squeeze as many new sales out of the last week.” LinkedIn use by small-business owners is up, and Twitter use is down. Lee Polevoi offers five tips for building customer loyalty.

Around the Country: The Power of ‘Zoo Poo’

One map shows the most influential media outlets by state while another reveals how much wind states are generating. Texas manufacturing activity continued to increase while Chicago’s economic activity (pdf) remains average. Kansas City’s (pdf) growth moderated. New Jerseyans try to figure out what’s causing a strange glow in the sky. Subway can’t make $5 sandwiches in San Francisco because of the minimum wage. The Arizona Small Business Association has announced an “amAZing Small Business Video Contest.” Led by North Dakota (8.1 percent) state personal income rose an average of 5.1 percent in 2011 after rising 3.7 percent in 2010. In Denver, a motorized rickshaw shows off the power of “zoo poo.” Laura Leites updates her list of coming awards and contests for small businesses. And whether you’re an engineer, an entrepreneur or simply a creative thinker, consider putting your ideas to the test by entering one of these competitions.

Around the World: Headaches

Rising Chinese wages are becoming a headache for American companies. An amazing opera/pop duo appears in England while Queen Elizabeth surprises a wedding party. The American economy is pushing small businesses to look abroad. A new study reveals that American and European chief executives are concerned about political and economic risks, while their Asian counterparts focus more on innovation and human capital. A trading company introduces a global platform aimed at small and medium businesses.

Finance: Attack of the Cash Mobs

Bank of America rolls out a small-business 401(k). Wells Fargo is raising rates on some business owners. American Express enables eligible customers and merchants to advertise on Twitter. Brother International announces five winning applicants for its small-business grant program. Wallet-toting activists spend money at the first International Cash Mob day. A mobile Web site creator for small businesses raises $6 million.

Boss of the Week

Gilad Elbaz, the founder of Factual and an investor in 30 other start-ups, may be the most influential inventor in the booming business of data collection and analysis.

Technology: What’s on Mr. Burns’s iPad

Paul Mah reviews the new Asus Eee Slate B121 tablet. A new design for inverters could lower the cost of solar power. A little company announces a big breakthrough for electric vehicle batteries. Small-business owners are figuring out QR codes. Drew Olanoff explains why he has no interest in owning the new iPad, but Mr. Burns likes it and these guys do some magical things with it. Anne Perez is impressed by Starbucks’ use of technology. Eddie Ringle explains why Web apps might beat out native apps for mobile devices. A new type of plastic can repair itself .

The Week’s Bests

Motivation Strategies. Mikey Rox lists 25 ways to motivate yourself, including “prepare the night before”: “Being prepared is an essential component to motivation because it cuts down on the anxiety you may feel when diving in. If you have small things that can be done in advance of a big workday, do them the night before. When you wake up, those menial tasks will be complete, so you can head straight into the heavy stuff.”

Analysis of Body Language. Marie Stempinski says body language is big in business: “Handshakes are especially important for women in the business world. … Too many women — most of whom are otherwise self-assured and competent — feel uncomfortable firmly squeezing another person’s hand. If you have this problem, practice on a friend or family member until a strong handshake comes naturally to you.”

Way to Pay Vendors. Hans Steege explains how to make vendors love you: “Pay early. How much interest are you making by paying in 30 days instead of 20? In 90 days instead of 70? Do you really need to hang on to that money for those few extra days, or would your cash flow be fine if you paid a bit early? If you can swing it, pay early. Nobody ever does it. Ever. You will stand out, and your vendors will love you. Establish a history as a prompt payer, and chances are that fabricator will be more likely to rush through that job when you need it.”

Today’s Question: How quickly do you pay your vendors? How quickly do you like people to pay you?

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.

Source: NY Times

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