3 Reasons Why You Are ‘Meh’ About This Year’s Midterm Elections

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(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)

You probably don’t care about the election taking place next week. Well, you do care, but not that much. Admit it.

You’re not alone. In less than week, voters across the country will hit the polls. In Washington, all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and 36 seats in the Senate are up for grabs.

The Republicans have a very good shot at taking over Congress, which would seriously threaten the president’s agenda and would likely prolong gridlock in Washington through the next election cycle. Or the Democrats may keep a slim margin in the Senate and their party’s hopes alive for the changes they want.

Not only that, important issues will be coming up during the next two years: immigration reform, tax reform, deficit reduction, changes to our healthcare law and the minimum wage. These are all issues that affect you and me as small-business owners.

Meh. We don’t care. Why is that? Read More…

Why Victoria Beckham Is Not A Successful Entrepreneur

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Did you hear? Victoria Beckham, former Spice Girl, wife of the famous soccer star and owner of a successful fashion business has been named the UK’s Entrepreneur of the Year by Management Today, a respected British magazine.

In what seems like more of a defense of their choice than praise for the winner, the magazine’s editor, wrote: “She is what she is. And what Mrs. Beckham is has created a company that is both real and wildly successful. Philip Beresford, who compiles the MT Top 100, is the author of the Rich List, and you don’t pull the sequined wool over his eyes. Her numbers are impressive. I, for one, rather warmed to her admission that ‘first time around I felt famous, but now I feel successful.'” Yeah, I’m sure he felt something warm.

As you can imagine, the choice has been controversial. Some I know think it’s nothing more than a PR stunt while others are fully supportive. In the latter camp, a Forbes contributorgushed: “Since she opened her fashion boutique in London’s Mayfair five years ago, turnover has grown from 1m to 30m. Having started out with just three members of staff, she’s now employing 100. Sales growth of 2,900% and employment growth of more than 3,200% is hardly to be sniffed at–nor is it the kind of performance that can be generated by the sparkle of celebrity alone. Rather, hard-nosed fashion industry insiders–hardly likely to be swayed by Beckham’s pop music years or the identity of her husband–consistently praise the quality of her collections. Moreover, she has parlayed that flair for design into business success, displaying considerable acumen. Nor should we overlook Beckham’s work ethic–whatever you think about the Spice Girls’ music, the band was renowned for putting in the hours and Posh Spice, as Beckham was famously nicknamed, appears never to have lost the habit.” Read More…

A Crucial Election Year for Business Owners and Cat Lovers

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(This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post)

In the tiny Alaskan town of Talkeetna, Mayor Stubbs presides. He is, in human terms, about 100 years old. He is a cat. And he has been Mayor of this town for 16 years. Isn’t that adorable? It is adorable. And I’m sure if you’re a resident of Talkeetna, having a cat as Mayor has little impact on the town’s operations. I’m guessing that the issues there are pretty much the same each year: how to stay warm and not get eaten by bears. So why not have a cat as your mayor?

November is approaching and the public’s interest in the mid-term national elections seems very blasé. In D.C., control of both the House and the Senate may end up with the Republicans, but if such were to happen their majority would be slim. The Affordable Care Act will not be repealed. Major legislation, such as tax and immigration reform does have a shot of moving forward. But forcing a government shutdown over rising debts is not politically palatable as the 2016 presidential elections loom. Gridlock in D.C. will likely continue.

However, this election is crucial to business owners and cat lovers too. Sorry, cat-lovers: I’m not seeing any cats on the ballot next month. But Mayor Stubbs is a symbol. He represents the importance of this year’s local referendums. Issues that have a tremendous affect on both your family and your business. And here’s why. Read More…

The PPA Is Right About UberX

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(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)

Thank you, Uber, for teaching our city a lesson.

Just this past week two friends of mine were out to dinner in South Philadelphia and needed a cab ride home. It was late. The restaurant was off a main road. There were no cabs around. One of my friends knew all this, so as he finished up the meal he did a very, very “bad” thing. He pulled up the Philadelphia Uber app on his iPhone and ordered an UberX vehicle. And here’s what happened.

The app was easy to use. The app worked fast. The app identified a vehicle for them. They tracked the progress of the car using the app’s GPS service. The car arrived within 10 minutes of being ordered. The car was clean. The driver was nice. He drove them to their destination. They securely paid with one click using the app. They got home safely.

According to the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the company, the driver, and I guess my friends if you want to really stretch it, broke the law. Read More…

How A Shared Hatred of Visa and MasterCard Benefits Visa and MasterCard

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

NYSE:VI thought with the introduction of Apple AAPL +0.01% Pay we would finally see the end of the credit card. Now I’m having my doubts. There are too many players fighting with each other and this is causing too much uncertainty. They all want a piece of the processing pie.  They all want to defeat Visa V +0.17% and MasterCard MA +0.31%.

Visa and Mastercard together control about 85% of the multi-trillion dollar global credit card processing market volume, according to a 2010 study. Both companies’ processing volume grew by more than 10% in just this past quarter. Many hate this.  ““Some people say the merchants and the card brands have a love-hate relationship,” says James Wester, research director for payment strategies at IDC says in this report. “But if you ask the merchants, they’ll say it’s just a hate-hate relationship.” At the most fundamental level, retailers have been fighting to reduce the fees they pay on credit card purchases, typically about 2% per transaction, or some $41 billion in total in 2012, according to one study. They also want to be freed from restrictive terms around accepting various kinds of cards.” Read More…

Ten Things I Learned From Three Inc. 5000 Companies

I’ve been running my ten person company for twenty years. We’re doing fine, but I’m not on the list of Inc.’s 5000 Fastest Growing Companies. However, I know three business owners who are, thanks to Staples. Staples is highlighting businesses on Inc. 5,000’s list to show us how they make more happen every day. And you know what, I’ve learned from them.

Glen Dobi is one. He runs Dobi & Associates, an international distributor of closed out goods. And so is David Campbell, whose firm Boxman Studios, develops, designs and deploys custom containers. And there’s Aviva Weiss, who owns Form and Function, a maker of educational products and playthings for special needs children. These are three successful, hardworking and smart entrepreneurs who I recently got to know. They don’t have all the answers for successfully growing your business. But they’re figured a lot of things out. And they’ve learned a few good lessons too. Here are ten that I took away.

• Don’t make hires unless they’re the right fit for your company. In a small business you’ll be working very closely with your employees. They’ll be working closely with each other. Make sure you’re bringing in someone that adapt to your company’s culture.

• Know your P&L. You need to be an accountant. You need to know math. You need to get reports daily and weekly. Numbers are very important to any successful business owner. Have metrics. Get your financials done. Stay on top of your numbers. Get the best financial software and products, which a store like Staples offers.

• Have good partners and advisors. If you’re going to grow past the startup stage you’ll need capital. And banks have it. Find a good local banker and develop a relationship with him or her. You’ll not only get expert advice from someone with a financial background but a good banker will introduce you to their community of professionals, partners and prospective customers. Consider also partnering with a local Small Business Development Center too. Or SCORE. Get close to a CPA or an attorney. These are people and organizations that exist to provide resources to help you grow.

• Talk to similar sized business owners. Join a networking group like Vistage or EO. Go to your Chamber of Commerce events. Get to know others who run businesses no matter what industry they’re in. The challenges are the same. And it’s nice to discover that others are grappling with the same problems you have. You may even get some help figuring out a few.

• Look for problems, don’t avoid them. Many business owners, being optimists, avoid hearing about the bad. Being positive is important of course. But you can’t run away from your problems. And the most successful ones are problem solvers. They seek out the issues and work to resolve them. And they also know that for every problem solved, there’ll be ten more waiting in the wings.

• Get feedback often. Survey your customers. Sit down with your employees. Bring in a consultant or an advisor. You don’t even know what you’re doing right or wrong most of the time because you’re so busy just running your company. It’s extremely helpful to get someone else’s perspective. And if you keep your mind open, you’ll find that some of these observations may significantly change how you’re running your business.

• Create a positive work environment. No one wants to spend ten hours a day in a miserable place. You want what’s best for your current employees. And you’ll want to always attract talented new people. To do this you need to demonstrate why your company is better to work at than anywhere else. The result will be happier people and a better attitude towards your customers.

• Recognize your talents, let others do the rest. You can’t do it all. You won’t be able to micromanage your way to success. The only way is to empower your people to do what they do so you can do what you do. Focus on what you do best and give others the chance to do what they do best. Everyone will profit.

• Have a plan. Or a mission. Or a goal. It can be one year or three years away. But have one. That way you’ve got something tangible to work for. A direction. A reason for doing what you’re doing. You won’t be able to do it all. And there will be many roads you can travel. Pick one and create your goals. Having a plan will keep you focused on what’s important and help you avoid things that will distract you from reaching your goals.

• Enjoy what you do. Profits are important but they shouldn’t be the driving motivation behind your business. There are plenty of ways in this world to make money. But life is short and you’ll be working hard. So you better have passion. And you better have fun. Because otherwise, is this really worth it?

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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