NYT: This Week in Small Business: The Silly Money Ratio

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(This post originally appeared on the New York Times)

Small-Business Must-Reads

Matthew Yglesias explains how not-in-my-backyard stupidity is blocking an opportunity for small-business growth. A dongle joke at a tech conferencespirals way out of control. Bryan A. Garner provides a comprehensive “bizspeak” blacklist that bans phrases like “mission critical” and “ducks in a row.” A company that manufactures a handheld vaporizer is just one in a wave of start-ups taking advantage of relaxed marijuana laws. Opportunities in the wedding, adoption and divorce industries are only a few reasons Bill Murphy Jr. believes smart entrepreneurs should care about gay marriage.

The Economy: Reconciling Budgets

The president signs a stopgap funding bill, and the Senate and House must now reconcile their budgets. The stock market closes at a record high, but thesilly money ratio hits its highest level since 2007. Economic growth is revised upward, home prices rise the most since mid-2006 and orders for durable goods increase. Weekly mortgage applications go up, but consumer confidence falls.

People: Office Jokes

A group of former employees from the outsourcing firm oDesk raise $4.5 million to finance a rival start-up. Observers offer 5 musts for hiring great employees and 10 perks most American workers don’t get. The federal government spends more money each year on disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. A Powerball winner and bodega owner could have a rocky road ahead. Christy Schutz says “office jokes” are one of the things she misses about working in an office. This infographic listsreasons not to get an M.B.A. And will the “Office Brothers” help save this small business?

Retail: Just Looking?

A store combats “showrooming” with a $5 just-looking fee. Lululemon is making its customers “bend over to verify sheerness” before issuing a refund. Wal-Mart plans to test online delivery lockers in its stores. Bob Phibbs explains how using the personality styles of your customers will help you make more retail sales. Robert Moskowitz offers a few good tips for keeping your business safe from repeat robberies. Restaurant sales rise as tax refunds catch up, but a study finds that deals and discounts are no longer driving restaurant traffic. A few top eateries are warming to British-style tea. A start-up plans todo away with the payment process in restaurants so diners can eat and leave.

On the Road: Power Up

American Airlines decides to let customers without bags board first, and airline passengers may soon be able to use electronics during takeoff and landing.

Management: Brain Training

Business and labor groups reach agreement on immigration. A study indicates that American companies and entrepreneurs enjoy one of the most business-friendly climates in the world, but small-business owners are still frustratedby lawmakers in Washington. Business leaders say small businesses needadvisory boards. Alisha Webb suggests five things entrepreneurs can learn from Coca-Cola. Studies indicate that “brain training” can make you a smarter owner. Kevin D. Johnson explains why ignorance can be bliss in business. Glenn Muske says you should stay visible by using marketing, media and mingling. A study suggests women make better decisions than men. Three thoughts promise to make you happier, and five people are put forth as small-business committee staff members who every small-business owner should know.

Health Care: A Bonanza for Start-Ups

survey reveals that 83 percent of large and mid-size employers offer workers some incentive to participate in health-related programs, while another report finds that most companies plan to impose consequences on employees who don’t try to improve their health. Employers who seek toreduce their exposure under the Affordable Care Act’s “play or pay” mandate in 2014 by reducing their employees’ hours may risk penalties. Hamish McKenzie says Obamacare is a bonanza for start-ups. The health care law may have created 111 million hours of paperwork, but Magic Johnson says it’s working. Barbara Weltman sums up what the law means for your business.

Cash Flow: Solar Power

Outsourcing tasks is among the tips suggested by Kasey Navita Phifer forkeeping costs low when starting a small business. Communication is crucial in order to set up and nurture a partnership. A team of solar experts explains why your business should consider solar power. Steve King reports on the riseof small-business crowdfunding. Dave Bui shares 10 winning principles for wholesale imports.

Marketing: Grouponicon

Valeria Maltoni says customer data is your biggest advantage. Nora Richardson has five tips for better brand recognition. If you want to attract more customers through events, here are 4 reasons virtual conferences rule, a few ideas for creating more effective webinars and 10 free Web conferencingtools. Groupon holds its first Grouponicon for small businesses in Dallas.

Social Media: Pinterest for Guys

Tumblr now hosts more than 100 million blogs. Flipboard opens up magazine creation to the masses. A webinar will explain how to jump-start your business using social media. Lauren Dugan says there are five elements to a great Twitter strategy. Andrea Vahl explains how to set up a Facebook page for your business. Consider these four social media sites you may not be using but should. Jeff Korhan explains how to be the best-connected business. Researchers say there is a link between customer use of social media and higher revenue. And thank goodness: there’s now a Pinterest for guys. This is how to speed up your Web site, increase your online visibility and makeGoogle AdWords an effective and profitable marketing method for your business. And here’s a beginner’s guide to search engine optimization. These are the top three affiliate marketing niches for the home entrepreneur. Todd Giannattasio explains how to do online marketing right, and Justin Fishaw lists three ways to improve your content management strategy.

Around the Country: Hurricane Mistakes

A zombie television show turns a Georgia town into a tourist hub. Manufacturing in Texas and Chicago picks up while activity in Richmond, Va.,slows. Seattle home prices post their biggest gains in nearly six years. Business owners in the New York area discuss the mistakes they made leading up to Hurricane Sandy. The head of the Small Business Administration tries outmattresses in Norfolk, Va. The S.B.A. joins state and local officials to recognize Chicagoland’s small-business exporters. A competition in Minnesotathat supports and accelerates the development of business ideas from across the state opens for entries. Philadelphia hosts a conference on emerging technologies this week while a nearby baseball stadium offers urinal gaming. An Ohio prosecutor drops all charges against Punxsutawney Phil. The new season of Shark Tank is looking for entrepreneurs in five cities, and a search has begun for American college students who possess the entrepreneurial ambition to start the next global brand. And if you’re a recent college graduate, your best opportunities may be in Austin, Tex.; San Jose, Calif., and Washington.

Around the World: $30 Million for a London Schoolboy

Cyprus (whose economy is smaller than Akron’s) gets a bailout. Students from all over Russia visit a 16-year-old’s site to learn about math, physics, literature, scientific breakthroughs and curious facts. Anna Hein takes an in-depth look at Start-Up Brasil. Palestinians are reaching for a tech start-up future. China creates a tax-free zone for art. The Bank of England reports that British banks have a capital shortfall of $38 billion, but Blockbuster Video still is rescued. A London schoolboy sells his app to Yahoo for $30 million.

Taxes: Everyone’s Waiting

Paul Shread advises small businesses to avoid several tax mistakes. Steven Sloan says that everyone is waiting for corporate tax reform, and Congress is considering making a very popular small-business tax deduction permanent. The Internal Revenue Service apologizes for its $60,000 Star Trek parody. Small businesses in Tennessee may be receiving a tax holiday.

Technology: “Ungoogleable”

Apple acquires an indoor location company. Google is trying to prevent Swedish language officials from adding “ungoogleable” to their official word list. Big data is going to blow your mind in five ways; 15 BlackBerry apps offer to increase productivity and security. Erik Wolf learned three important lessons from introducing his software product. Francesca Gino warns that thenext time you are on your computer to chat or text, you should consider raising the blinds and asking the person on the other end to do the same. New technology may soon replace credit cards with fingerprints. The United States is seeing a surge in mobile patents. Here are a few ideas for making your blogmobile-friendly, and Hillel Fuld explains how to use mobile-friendly contentto fuel your blog’s success.

Tweet of the Week

‪@ReformedBroker – The last time the Dow advanced 9 consecutive days it was 1996 and we were listening to the Spice Girls. Oh sure, it was just me.

The Week’s Best Quotes

Brian S. Cohen explains in his just-published book what angel investors are looking for: “Entrepreneurs who most impress angel investors are the ones who deeply know their customers. They have done research into the demographics of their typical customers: age, gender, geography, lifestyle, income, aspiration, brand preferences, shopping habits. They know what their behavior and thinking is because theyʼve spent time with them. They even learn which words and phrases resonate most with customers. This research doesn’t come cheap or easy, but it’s available with a little work.”

Maneesh Sethi explains how to make it impossible to fail: “The secret is called precommitment. Precommitment is the process of making a promise, when you are in your sane state, that will prevent your tempted insane-emotional-id-self from doing something bad. Precommitment is the process of creating an environment that forces you to succeed. You might not be able to find a month to hike in the wilderness, but there are still ways to use precommitment in your normal life.”

This Week’s Question: Are your ducks in a row?

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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