NYT: This Week in Small Business: Pet Supplies!

(This post originally appeared in the New York Times)

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

The Big Story: Things Are Tough

More than a third of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, poverty is on track to be the highest since the 1960s and 75 percent of people at retirement age have accumulated less than $30,000 in savings. The global economy is reportedly in its worst shape since 2009 and the current drought here could cause global unrest. The recession claimed 170,000 small businesses in two years, and Andrew Sullivan wonders if Malcolm Gladwell caused it. A professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who is also a senior scholar at New York’s Levy Economics Institute of Bard College saysthieves have taken over the financial system. Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers feel that the economic policy debate is a sham (and one side is to blame). McDonald’s reports slower sales. Cisco cuts 1,300 jobs. This is notwhat Ben S. Bernanke predicted five years ago. Even Tony Robbins is feeling the heat!

The Data: The Energy Stimulus

The economy seems to be losing the momentum it had. Manufacturing activity in both the Midwest (pdf) and the Central Atlantic regions remains tepid. A widely followed index indicates the weakest improvement in manufacturing conditions in 19 months, and new home sales dropped significantly. Durable goods orders, excluding transportation and defense, are down. Rail trafficslows. But a bright spot is the energy sector which delivers an economic stimulus of almost $1 billion every day. Remodelers are forecasting a positive outlook. Other than mortgage delinquencies, Russell Investments sayseconomic indicators are in their typical range. And the sale of pet suppliesdefies the economy.

Starting Up: Disruption

Alyson Shontell says these are the 11 most disruptive start-ups. Ben Horowitz explains why a tiny start-up was worth $1.26 billion. These four New York Citystart-ups are reshaping small business. Rieva Lesonsky writes about taking your start-up global. Lauren Drell reports on what founders wish they knewbefore they started. A crowd-funding company introduces a Facebook game in which real start-ups like AirBnB, Etsy, and Pinterest compete for a player’s virtual investment. Tech start-ups are making millions off the presidential campaign. A maker of workplace collaboration tools raises $28 million. Columbia University opens an entrepreneurship lab.

Management: Don’t Be Batman

Did Jack Gilchrist build this? Dave Roberts says the “OODA Loop” helps managers make decisions and act on them using a four-stage model: observation, orientation, decision and action. Susan Payton says yoga teaches10 things about small-business ownership. Two ways to cut costs in your business: don’t be Batman and follow Arie Hefter’s cost-cutting advice, including: “telecommuting can be a great way to both cut costs and, for the right workers, increase efficiency overall.” Melanie Williams says there are eight signs of a cowardly leader. A consulting firm says these are 10 surefireways to destroy your business. Here is how to find your next great business idea. Karl Stark and Bill Stewart suggest three ways to get more time. Jane Porter suggests nine routine tasks you should eliminate from your workday. Mike Michalowicz says there were five ways our colonial forebears kept stress at bay.

Your People: Say What You Pay

Experts advise that when a sexual harassment accusation flies you should investigate and discipline right away (this husband should be investigated forharassing his wife). Research shows that you should be open about what you pay your employees: “Remember what matters to your employees isn’t that their pay be equal but that the system for awarding it seems fair.” David Beckham surprises a few fans.

Marketing: The Circles

Angely Grecia shares eight networking tips for shy business owners, including “Stop checking your mobile every minute.” Anne-Sophie Reinhardt teaches how an introvert can survive big conferences: “Remember the mantra: Nobody belongs here more than me.” Andy Sernovitz reveals the biggest cluethat will warn you that a conference is going to be awful. Scott Steinberg offersfive high tech trends for small-business marketing. The last of Brad Smith’s three easy ways to create customer loyalty is “content marketing,” which he says is part art and part science. Sonia Simone wants you to protect your business’s greatest asset: your audience. Seth Godin explains the circles of marketing (it’s about more than just hype).

Social Media: Hard Truths

Here’s how to get Google to index your new Web site and blog quickly. Tim Berry tells Jim Blasingame how to integrate social media into a business plan. Twenty transaction marketing players are vying to create “a synergistic mash of loyalty programs, offers, reputation management and the ‘big data’ sets that can analyze behavior and target specific customers.” Twitter goes down(again). Jeff Bullas shares 72 social media facts for 2012. Whitney Hoffman suggests 10 social media hard truths (it’s no longer a fad). Ashley Neal talks about going local with her small-business blogging. Small businesses are embracing F-Commerce.

Around The Country: Are Contests Worth It?

Voting ends next week for the top small-business influencers. Frontier Communications introduces a social media all-star contest for small businesses. Jason Keith wonders if small-business contests are a waste of time or worth the money. A Boston-based nonprofit is expanding its programmingwith a “StreetWise MBA” course in October. A California city deals with the aftermath of bankruptcy. The heat wave takes its toll on small businesses. A new travel community helps entrepreneurs avoid expensive hotels. These 11 metropolitan areas have more than 100,000 small businesses and these citieshave bigger economies than entire countries.

Around The World: China’s Perfect Storm

Economists say Europe is sleepwalking toward disaster. Germany faces its own recession. Amid the mayor’s Olympic welcome, Amazon makes a big expansion and offers a tuition benefit aimed at its lowest-paid employees (and Jeff Bezos supports gay marriage). But Britain remains in recession. China’smanufacturing contracts at a slower pace, and Steve Sherfy believes the country is undergoing a perfect storm of market growth. As costs rise in China,technology lures factories back to America. People in these countries have moved $21 trillion to offshore tax havens. A cash-strapped Argentine townpays employees by raffle. Dina Kyriakidou reports on the lessons learned by a Greek shrimp farm. A South Korean man claims his dog gave birth to a cat.

Red Tape: The Price of Reform

The Congressional Budget Office reaffirms that health care reform will reducethe deficit — but business owners may pay $4 billion more in taxes. A Deloitte study finds that one in 10 employers plan to drop health insurance. An Internet sales tax bill picks up speed in Congress and its supporters say it’s good for consumers. Here’s a helpful guide for using the federal businessopportunities Web site. And if you’re looking for a new accountant here are a few things to consider. An Internal Revenue Service watchdog concludes that small-business audits often find no more taxes due.

Technology: Wanna Hang Out?

Meghan Peters teaches how to host a Google+ hangout. Brian Lane explains how manufacturing is going mobile. “Skimmers” used to rob automated teller machines are getting thinner. Google announces the winners of its 2012 science fair and looks for partners to help build its cloud platform. George Crump says that one way to avoid cloud outages is to consider an “on-ramping solution.” Celebrities explain what life will be like in the future and read mean tweets about themselves. Apple releases a new operating system. Small businesses dominate the mobile app market. Ramon Ray explains whatMicrosoft’s purchase of Yammer means for small businesses. Microsoft’s Cindy Bates suggests three ways around tough tech challenges.

Tweets of the Week

@larrywinget: You don’t have a money problem, you have a priority problem. Get your priorities right and your money will get right.

@duncanbrodie: Things Not To Do When Managing: Assume that everyone is motivated by the same things as you

@TheEllenShow: What did the coach tell the runner who was afraid of hurdles? Get over it.

@cspenn: Remember the good old days when Twitter being down wasn’t news?

The Week’s Bests

Evangelos Simoudis says that we need to be more customer centric: “Companies that don’t start planning on how to become customer centric and how to achieve this goal by integrating all their customer-related data and systems in order to provide a consistent and unified message across all their interaction channels will find themselves at a considerable disadvantage over the next five or so years.”

Kyle Wiens won’t hire people who use poor grammar: “Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English. I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts. I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important.”

Jon Stow is not a fan of amateurism: “Even some businesses with Web sites don’t utilize the domain for e-mail. An example would be reallywhizzyflorists.com advertising an e-mail address such as reallywhizzyflorists@yahoo.com. It doesn’t sit right. To quote John McEnroe ‘You cannot be serious.’”

This Week’s Question: Are you open about what you pay your employees?

Gene Marks owns the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. You can follow him onTwitter.

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About quickerbetterwiserblog

Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small business owner. Gene writes 2 columns/week for The New York Times focusing on issues affecting the small business community. He also writes weekly columns in Forbes and The Huffington Post. His columns are read by millions of small and medium sized business owners around the country. Gene has interviewed celebrity business owners such as Donald Trump and Gene Simmons. Nationally, Gene frequently appears on FOX Business, FOX News, Bloomberg and CNBC discussing matters affecting the business community. Gene also appears quarterly on MSNBC’s “Your Business” program and weekly on various TV outlets in the Philadelphia area. In addition, Gene has appeared as a guest on numerous radio talk shows including The Sean Hannity Radio Show. Gene speaks at industry events throughout the year helping business owners, executives and managers understand the political, economic and technological trends that will affect their companies so they can make profitable decisions. Gene has written five books on business management, specifically geared towards small and medium sized companies. His most recent is In God We Trust, Everyone Else Pays Cash— Simple Lessons from Smart Business People (Create Space, 2010). And Gene is a small business owner. Gene owns and operates the Marks Group PC, a highly successful ten-person firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium sized businesses. The Marks Group PC, launched in 1994, has grown to help more than 600 companies and thousands of individuals throughout the country. Follow him on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In.

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