Small business owners want to see the Chinese punished with tariffs

(This post originally appeared on Philly.com)

Tariffs are having an effect all over Corporate America.

Companies such as Ford, Harley Davidson, Whirlpool, and Walmart have warned of pending layoffs and/or price increases due to the higher costs to buy steel and aluminum or products from Chinese suppliers, reflecting the ongoing trade dispute between the two countries. And while U.S. Commerce Chief Wilbur Ross says that “nobody’s going to actually notice it at the end of the day,” many economists believe otherwise.

But what about small businesses? Are we as concerned about the President’s trade policies? Apparently not. In fact, most support them. Read More…

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Google+ Goes Bye-Bye…And Other Small Business Tech News This Week

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

 1 — Google+ to shut down after a cover-up of a data-exposing bug.

A security bug that allowed third-party developers to access the user profile data of Google+, the search engine giant’s intended Facebook-killing-social network, was discovered and patched in March, but the company never told anyone. It turns out that 496,951 users’ full names, email addresses, birth dates, gender, profile photos, places lived, occupation and relationship status were potentially exposed, but Google claims it has no evidence the data was misused by the 438 apps that could have accessed it. The end result is that Google+ has become too much of a liability and the company will be shutting it down. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for your business: Read More…

Climate change has an unlikely beneficiary: the US small business administration

(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)

The Small Business Administration always finds itself struggling to get funding. Depending on who sits in the White House, it’s oftentimes a tough sell to argue for more money to support small businesses in lieu of spending on social programs, the military or (increasingly) the interest on our national debt. But there could be an unlikely solution to the agency’s funding challenges: climate change.

If you’re familiar with the SBA, then you know that the agency does not actually give out loans. It guarantees the loans made by banks to higher-risk, small business applicants. But there is one case where the SBA actually does lend money, and the need is significantly growing.

In its last fiscal year, the administration issued more than $7bn in direct loans to small businesses, non-profits, homeowners and renters affected by hurricanes, floods, droughts, tornadoes and other natural disasters around the country. Read More…

Your ‘Minimum Purchase’ Credit Card Policy Is Dumb

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(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)

The other day I went into a convenience store to buy a bag of Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch Doritos. The cost was $0.99. I didn’t have cash because…well…who carries cash anymore, right?

When I went to pay for the Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch Doritos I was told there is a $10 minimum on credit card purchases. I told the cashier — who did not make this policy and was just doing her job — that I didn’t have any cash. She told me the minimum on credit card purchases is $10. Hoping the young lady was also a fan of Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch Doritos, I asked if she could perhaps make an exception. She told me the minimum on credit card purchases is $10. Clearly, a Fritos fan.

So,I left.

The convenience store business is a tough business. There’s a ton of competition. The hours are brutal. Finding reliable people can be impossible. Net profit margins are shockingly low. According to industry data, a typical convenience store has revenues of around $650,000 and at the end of the day, after product costs and overheads, the owner pockets only about two percent or $66,000. It’s a living. But it ain’t great. Every penny counts.

Including the pennies the convenience store owner would’ve made from the purchase of my Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch Doritos. Not to mention the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars the convenience store owner is ignoring every year by denying people purchases under $10 who want to use a credit card.

My failed Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch Doritos purchase made me wonder. Does this policy really make sense? Are you also requiring a minimum purchase for customers to use their credit cards? If so, don’t you think you’re losing business because so many people are like me and don’t carry cash? I know you don’t like to pay the credit card fees. But, in an effort to avoid these fees on smaller purchases aren’t you also hurting your profits in the long run? Isn’t this dumb?

Maybe there’s a better way. Actually, there is.

Let’s do the math. The convenience store charges $0.99 for a bag of Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch Doritos. The convenience store owner makes around a 20-30 percent gross margin on that bag. The credit card company’s fees on this transaction would have been three percent or $.03. Which means that, even in the worst coast scenario, the owner is giving up $0.17 gross profit on each bag of Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch Doritos that go unpurchased.

But here’s a question: instead of denying me the purchase, if the owner simply had a policy that charged me three percent more for credit card purchases under $10 would I have still gone for it? Would I have paid the additional three cents? Yes, I would pay three freaking cents more for my Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch Doritos if that’s what it would’ve freaking took to use my credit card!

Let’s say I lived in a state where recreational marijuana is legal. As such, I buy ten bags of Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch Doritos. My total bill would be $9.90. Would I have paid the additional $0.30 to use my credit card? Uh…I’m going to say yes. And yes, I’m going to take a giant leap of faith and assume that the typical customer would also part with that whopping thirty cents for a ten-dollar order.

So, why does that convenience store — or any retailer for that matter — have a minimum credit card policy? Simple answer: they’re dumb and it’s costing them money. The fact is that people are using less cash and more credit cards. Customers do it for convenience. There is an added cost for this convenience. It is a tiny, tiny cost. Charge them if necessary. Don’t lose the sale.

Regardless of whether you’re earning $66,000 a year as a convenience store owner or $600,000 a year running a tech company you can never afford to pass up a customer who’s ready and willing to pay a small surcharge — especially for a bag of Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch Doritos.

The EEOC has been busier than ever. Can you guess why?

(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)

In the age of Donald Trump, deregulation and anti-labor, you would think that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – the five-member group of outsiders appointed by the president whose task is to enforce the federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee – would be kind of dormant. Not so. The EEOC has been as busy as ever, and if you are running a business you better make sure you’re aware of what they are up to.

In short, the theme – to no one’s surprise – has been all about sexual harassment this year. Read More…

A New Study Finds That Optimistic Entrepreneurs Make Worse Decisions

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Do you know one of those super-positive, happy, outgoing persons who always “looks at the bright side” and “finds a silver lining” no matter how bad things are? Annoying aren’t they?

But admit it: if you’re like me, you’re probably envious of those personality traits. Who wouldn’t be? In this world of partisan politics, social media trolls, economic uncertainties and senseless acts of violence it’s pretty easy to be negative. So when I meet someone that’s positive and optimistic I always think to myself “why can’t I be more like that guy?”

Well it turns out that those optimistic people do have a flaw. A big one actually.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Bath, Cardiff University and the London School of Economics and Political Science positive people – particularly startup business owners –  tend to make…well…lousier decisions.

Read More…

On CRM: Can Einstein Help Salesforce Solve This Chronic CRM Problem?

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

It’s a chronic problem and it’s been going on since my company began selling sales force automation systems back in the ’90’s: Managers need complete and accurate data to better run their companies. But their salespeople feel that the time spent entering that data is taking them away from doing what they do best: selling.

The explosion of CRM systems over the past decade has only intensified the issue. That’s because a CRM system is, in the end, just a database. And if people aren’t getting the right data into it, the value of the system seriously diminishes.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Getting sales people – particularly those old-school ones – to use their CRM system has arguably been the number one problem that has challenged both the business owners and sales managers that I know. Sales people are typically very social, convivial and personable…and are oftentimes notorious for resisting technology. The older ones are set in their ways. They have their “process.” They don’t want to be micro-managed. My struggle, along with my clients, is to convince their teams that great technology certainly doesn’t make a great salesperson. But it can definitely make the greatest ones even better.

So how to solve this problem? Maybe, just maybe, Einstein has an answer. No, not THAT Einstein. The Einstein I’m referring to is Salesforce.com’s voice automation technology. Read More…