NYT: This Week in Small Business: They’re Talking About Us!

(This post originally appeared on the New York Times)

The Debate: Small Businesses Front and Center

The first presidential debate favored Governor Romney, and small businesses were front and center. Stocks rallied the next day. Unfortunately, too many people were playing drinking games to pay attention. But these are five good takeaways from the night. And here’s one issue the candidates missed.

The Fiscal Cliff: Fears Grow

Fears begin to build about the looming cliff, and some people are concerned itmay impede job growth. Americans may see smaller paychecks next year as payroll tax breaks expire. Senate leaders work on a plan to avoid mandatory cuts. A group offers a $2 trillion alternative. Rick Newman advises on how to prepare. Dana Blankenhorn says the real fiscal cliff is economic growth: “So let’s assume we’re all about to be made happy, with faster growth, and lower unemployment starting to push up wages. What happens, then, to the government’s costs for borrowing new money? It goes up. And small increases in interest rates make for a big change in costs, when calculated as a percentage. It’s simple math.” Chairman Bernanke answers five questions. ThePostal Service defaults again.

The Economy: Slow Growth, Rising Stress

The unemployment rate falls to 7.8 percent, and ADP says companies added 162,000 jobs to payrolls. Jack Welch says the president cooked the books; Paul Krugman says Republicans can’t handle the truth. Advertised vacanciesrise. But weekly unemployment claims go up again. An Intuit index shows thatsmall-business growth is slowing, and TD Bank says small-business owners’stress levels are rising. Wells Fargo’s chief financial officer offers a sober outlook on the economy. Chief executives sharply reduce their expectations. Harlan Levy says that “other than technology, it’s hard to see any part of the U.S. economy growing more than 1 percent or 2 percent.” Retailers reportslower sales growth. The domestic office market barely gains in the third quarter. Manufacturing new orders are “a disaster.” Curt Schilling may evenhave to sell his bloody sock. But mall vacancies declined and auto sales stayed strong with Ford reporting truck sales at their best pace since 2007. The service sector grew in September and holiday sales are expected to rise 4.1 percent. Home prices went up in August.

 

Your People: More Caffeine

The debate continues over whether an entrepreneurial M.B.A. degree is worth the time and money. This is how one teenage entrepreneur snubbed college to build an apps empire. Leigh Branham says there are seven reasons employeesmove on. Here’s a guide to maternity and paternity leave for small businesses. These 15 professions drink the most coffee.

Marketing: Free Cookies

Neil Patel has some advice on handling sales, including: “Offer a free trial.” Here are four things for small businesses to keep in mind as they consider how they can leverage the media, both online and off. Drew McLellan offers seven tips for creating compelling case studies. Girl Scout cookie packaging gets a redesign. Laura Click says there are seven mistakes that will kill your e-mailmarketing, like not offering a “cookie” to sign up (she’s not talking about Girl Scout cookies). Marcus Sheridan says there are seven reasons blogging is failing to generate leads for so many marketing agencies, starting with this: “The reality is the marketing industry is full of blogs that simply are boring.” Rebekah Henson explains how to market like Google.

Social Media: Mars Has a Mayor?

The first Foursquare check-in is made from Mars. The Bengals celebrateGangnam style. A tweet from KitchenAid shows (yet again) why social media needs mature talent. Facebook tops a billion users. Here are five social lessonssmall businesses can learn from big businesses. This music video was made by 2,601 people. David discusses the pros and cons of creating video or keeping it audio only.

Customer Service: Generating Word of Mouth

U.P.S. is now providing a new online destination that answers small-business owners’ requests for support. Jeremy Epstein explains how Merrell Shoes generates word of mouth. Andy Sernovitz shares a tale about a boring store: “If people aren’t stopping in their tracks in front of your door, you’re missing the point. Close your store and start a direct-mail business.” Tina Imperial says that customer touch points are your chance to show how good you are.

Start-Up: A Floating Touch Screen!

A new study from the Kauffman Foundation shows where entrepreneurs come from. Women are flocking to start-ups but trailing in computer tech. This start-up promises a touch screen that floats in the air. Jim Smith wonders if you should start a business in a red or a blue state. Catherine Clifford goesinside the workings of an accelerator. Seven cancer survivors turn their experiences into small-business ideas. Cezary Pietrzak explains why yourstart-up’s name matters. A company amasses restaurant data so that subscribers can update their own profiles in local search directories.

Management: A Tale of Two Arcades

AshleyMadison.com, a site for cheaters, questions Groupon’s ethics, and Noah Fleming has ideas for how the daily deal site can save itself. Goldman Sach’s chief executive says that operating a small business is as hard as running his firm. An I.B.M. executive gives advice for growing businesses. President Obama’s approach to management depends heavily on routines, such as wearing only gray or blue suits. In a video, Teri Geymi explains how to break free from the limitations of fear. This tale of two pinball arcades shows why one struggles while the other survives. Dean Black wants to know what your daily calendar looks like. These are the 2012 MacArthur grant winners. Tracey Schelmetic wonders if clusters are the future of advanced manufacturing. This is what B movies tell us about entrepreneurship. A team of high school soccer players show how to stick together.

Cash Flow: When to Buy Furniture

Small-business lending rises. Chase claims small-business successes. Here’s how companies manipulate earnings. Here’s some advice on when to buy new office furniture, and this is an irreplaceable guide to buying Halloween candy. A regulation overhaul is on the horizon for New York City small businesses. Valpak is giving $10,000 to North America’s favorite small business.

Around the World: Russia Loses $58 Billion

Eurozone unemployment hits 11.4 percent, and one in 10 European employeesis depressed. Matthew Kalman tells the story of a successful Palestinian start-up. Eric Krell lists the riskiest countries in the world and how to protect yourself. This game proves that you’re much worse at geography than you thought (but not as bad as Apple.) Rob Cox says that Vietnam is a bad examplefor emerging markets. Manufacturing growth in India holds steady. China gears up to make more overseas investments. Mexico’s economy may be givingBrazil and China a run for their money. Russia watches $58 billion in capitalleave the country. A human-flesh meat market opens in London. Start-Up Chile gains traction.

Technology: A Headstone App

The Internal Revenue Service revamps its Web site to make it more small-business friendly. Tim Murphy takes you inside the technology of the Obama campaign. Meanwhile, the White House gets attacked online. Researchers at the University of Surrey have made a great step forward in storing hydrogen or methane to power cars. PayPal introduces free online invoicing for small businesses. QR Codes are appearing on headstones. This infographic shows how small businesses are using mobile apps. Mass production of the mini-iPadis reported, and Intel’s production problems may affect Microsoft’s new tablet. Ultrabook sales forecasts are cut in half. Emily Suess lists fivesmartphone apps for businesses. This is how much energy a smartphone usesin a year (and what it means for your budget). And even though there are too many battery factories and too few electric cars, the battery of the futuremight run on sugar.

Tweets of the Week

@cfibTO – They should have called this the presidential #debate on small business. Two dozen mentions of #smallbiz in the first 20min. Amazing!

‏@armano – Oh snap. I need to wear a suit tomorrow. It’s like Superman eating a bowl of Kryptonite

This Week’s Bests:

Daniel Kehrer explains how rock star customers can help you grow. “Rock star customers won’t help grow your business on their own. Even customers who identify themselves as ‘promoters’ in customer surveys — saying they’d be highly likely to refer you to a colleague or friend — aren’t actually doing so. Studies have shown that only about 10 percent of self-described promoters actually refer profitable new customers. The key is this: You have to take the initiative and make it easy for them to do so.”

Two researchers find there’s a dark side to flattery: “Our theory suggests how high levels of flattery and opinion conformity can increase C.E.O.’s overconfidence in their strategic judgment and leadership capability, which results in biased strategic decision making.”

Michael Schuman reports on the myth of Chinese efficiency. “I can imagine pampered visitors thinking China is something it is not. If you fly into the nifty airports in Beijing or Shanghai, get whisked by a waiting driver to your snazzy hotel, have a few meetings, and then get escorted out again, China might appear to be a sparkling vision of modernity. But spend any time here, or try to really do anything, and the notion that China is an efficient place is rudely exposed as a myth.”

This Week’s Question: Did the debate alter your thinking?

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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