Here’s a Round-Up of Small Business Surveys That’ll Cheer You Up

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(This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post)

A deadly Ebola epidemic threatens our country and the world. A growing nation of terrorists are targeting the U.S. A new report warns of an imminent and devastating earthquake in the Bay Area. Russia and China sign partnership deals and separately continue to build their militaries and intimidate their neighbors, Iran gets closer to becoming a nuclear state. Global warming may soon be melting our faces. Amanda Bynes may not be well. The country’s most sensitive financial and military data is quietly and quickly breached by our enemies. Our European allies spiral towards another recessionary slowdown. The stock market drops 6 percent in just 30 days. Man, I’m getting depressed just writing this!

So let’s all agree: it’s not been a great month. But hold on.

There is some good news. There is one group of people out there feeling successful and optimistic, even in the midst of all these alarming events. Who are these naïve, yet hearty souls? Why, it’s small business owners! Don’t believe me? Then believe the data. Because just in this past month, along with all the bad news, there have been no less than eight surveys that, for the most part, all say the same thing: small business owners are feeling pretty darn good. And as a public service to you, I’ve rounded them up here just to prove it. Read More…

Today, Apple Raises The Minimum Wage

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

I feel kind of bad. I just ordered three coffees at a Starbucks and didn’t leave a tip in the tip jar.

Do you ever tip the barista at Starbucks? You should. Many don’t make a high wage and tips are very important to them (the average Starbucks employee does make about$9.32 an hour which is a little more than the $7.25 per hour minimum wage). Do you leave a tip for housekeeping when you stay at a hotel? You should do that too. Do you stick any money in the ‘tip jar’ at the local shop or eatery? When you go to a restaurant, do you tip 15%? 20%? Are you bad at math like me and are just sometimes not sure? There are millions of people who are working for minimum wage (and oftentimes less if you’re in the restaurant industry) who need those tips to survive. And in many cases we just don’t tip enough (some, sadly don’t tip at all).

There are reasons for this of course. But for most of us the reason why we don’t tip the barista, leave cash in the tip jar or a $10 bill for housekeeping is because…we have no cash. We’re using credit cards (and yes Starbucks’ excellent app does enable for tipping, but like most customers I don’t use it). However, that’s going to change. And the change starts today. Today Apple AAPL +1.67% releases Apple Pay, the mobile payment service you’ve heard of by now that will soon make it simple for you and me to pay for just about anything by using the iPhone (or in my case my Samsung S4, because Google Wallet, which already uses the same technology, will be keeping up). I recently wrote about how Apple Pay will kill the credit card. That will happen. But it will also have a big impact on the minimum wage debate. How? Read More…

Four Lines of Political B.S. That Make Philly Voters Swoon

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(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)

Got an election coming up? Running for political office in the city of Philadelphia? Or maybe you’re running for a state or local office that requires votes from Philadelphians?

Relax! I’ve got you covered. There’s still plenty of time to win. All you need to do is say the right things.

It doesn’t even have to be what’s right for the city in the long run. Just focus on the short term. Your job is not to make tough decisions and lead. Your job is to just to get elected, OK? That means you must study the polls and just tell the mob what they want to hear so they’ll vote for you. So what do you need to tell them? Here are a few core messages that are guaranteed winners. Read More…

The Two Heads You Need To Succeed

Want to start and then grow your new business?  Of course you do.  And of course you know about all the things you’ll need.  Passion.  Hard work.  A great idea.  Good people.  Excellent advisors.  Capital.  Yes these are all very important things that every aspiring entrepreneur must have. But more important than all of these things is something else:  you need two heads.

Relax.  No one’s telling you to grow two heads, even if that were possible.  But you will need two heads to really succeed.  Figuratively.  Just ask Glen Dobi of Dobi & Associates, an international distributor that buys and sells excess and obsolete inventory and a recent member of the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately held companies.  An accountant by nature, Dobi found himself out of a job in 2000 and, with his wife, started his company with nothing and has grown it into a $14 million business.  “We’re good at the high volume stuff,” he says proudly.  Dobi’s also good at two other things:  accounting and sales.  He’s got a head for both.  And he needs both heads.

Successful entrepreneurs like Dobi have to be accountants.  They have to have a head for numbers.  They like to do math.  They use resources like Staples to make sure there’s technology to help them stay on top of their numbers.   He can buy a pallet of seemingly obsolete materials because he knows there’s a few items there he can sell for enough profit to make up the cost of the entire pallet, and provide a profit.  He admits he’s a numbers person.  “We fully disclose our profit/loss every month, by department to everyone. We share the sales weekly. We open the books up and look closely at how each department did compared to their budget.”  Business is all about numbers.  Calculating profits on every sale.  Knowing how many chargeable hours you have.  Understanding which products or services are most profitable and which are not.

Understanding the lowest possible price you can quote a product and still make a profit.  Looking at monthly income statements and sales reports.  Why do venture capitalists all seem to come from Stanford?  Why do so many bankers have MBA’s?  It’s because they’re trained to look at numbers, to evaluate key ratios, to benchmark the performance of their clients and investments against others.  Business is math.  “Know where you are in terms of P&L,” Dobi advises. “And bring over that budgeting process as well as some of the strategic planning.” Of course you can still succeed if you’re not good at math.  But you have a better chance of growing if you have a head for numbers.  That’s the first head.

The second is something else: sales.  Dobi’s background may be accounting but he would never be where he is today without being a great salesman too.  “I’m projecting $14 million in sales this year, with eight employees, and that’s up from five employees and $3 million in sales two or three years ago,” Dobi says.  He has a new product line that he thinks could generate an additional $10-20 million in additional sales within five years.  Sales, sales, sales!  Who’s the next customer?  Where’s the next deal?  How can we close more business?  That’s what is always being asked.  When you start your own company you can’t afford to hire sales people.  You’ll have to do this on your own.  Dobi learned this early on.  Selling is something that every entrepreneur must master.  And the job never ends.  Even today, Dobi is helping to sell new products to larger customers, selling the benefits of his company to prospective employees and selling his vision to his team.  Bill Gates at Microsoft was a programmer at heart, but he learned to be an excellent salesman.  All great business people have to be.

Passion, hard work, great ideas, capital…that’s all great.  But in the end its customers and cash that will prove your success.  You need to be a good salesman.  You need to be a good accountant.  You need both those heads.

Check out the Staples Small Business Center with tips, deals and products to help make more happen at your small business every day.

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This Roundup Of Small Business Surveys Will Make You Feel Better

A deadly Ebola epidemic threatens our country and the world. A growing nation of terrorists are targeting the U.S. A new report warns of an imminent and devastating earthquake in the Bay Area. Russia and China sign partnership deals and separately continue to build their militaries and intimidate their neighbors. Iran gets closer to becoming a nuclear state. Global warming may soon be melting our faces. Amanda Bynes may not be well. The country’s most sensitive financial and military data is quietly and quickly breached by our enemies. Our European allies spiral towards another recessionary slowdown. The stock market drops 6% in just 30 days. Man, I’m getting depressed just writing this!

So let’s all agree: It’s not been a great month. But hold on.

There is some good news. There is one group of people out there feeling successful andoptimistic, even in the midst of all these alarming events. Who are these nave, yet hearty souls? Why, it’s small business owners! Don’t believe me? Then believe the data. Because just in this past month, along with all the bad news, there have been no less than eight surveys that, for the most part, all say the same thing: Small business owners are feeling pretty darn good. And as a public service to you, I’ve rounded them up here just to prove it: Read More…

How Marriott and AT&T Use Technology To Steal From Their Customers

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

I like to write about the latest tools and technologies that can help business owners like myself do things quicker and better. But sometimes I come across stories about how technology is used for the wrong reasons. And unfortunately this past week two stories emerged featuring two large, well-known and well-respected American companies that did just that. One was fined by the FCC. Another settled and has to pay millions.  Both effectively stole from their customers.

Hotel chain Marriott International was fined $600,000 by the Federal Communications Commission for illegally deploying “jamming” technology to force their guests and conference-goers to use the in-house Wi-Fi at its Opryland Hotel in Nashville. You’ve been in this situation before, right? You want to get online at a conference but the hotel’s service at the conference facility is so exorbitantly priced ($250-$1,000 at the Gaylord Opryland for example) that you just use your phone’s data connection as a hotspot for yourself and your group, effectively circumventing the hotel’s Wi-Fi service. But not at the Gaylord Opryland! Apparently (and not allegedly, because this is fact according to the FCC) the hotel’s employees used jamming tools (I’m guessing something like wifijammer or wifikill, or any other of the vast array of apps available to the high-school-level-hacker) to stop their guests and conference-goers from using an outside connection. Read More…

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