A coming boom for construction firms? Don’t get your hopes up.

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

The U.S. construction industry is huge, with an estimated 650,000 firms in the business employing more than six million people to create nearly $1 trillion worth of structures each year, according to data from the Associated General Contractors of America.

Small businesses are, without argument, the driving force behind this industry. The Small Business Administration reports that no less than 92 percent of construction firms in this country have less than 20 workers. The industry has been good for small firms too. Despite 2009’s real estate collapse, six of the 10 fastest-growing industries here are tied to construction and include firms doing everything from contracting and carpentry to architectural services and real estate sales.

But it’s a tough business with a high failure rate. Only 36 percent of firms in this industry survive after five years, according to research on start-ups around the country. And those survivors can at best hope to see a net profit (before taxes) of about five percent. “Man, I should have never have listened to my dad when he told me to get into the construction business,” one 50-year-old client recently told me.

But will this change? We’re hearing a lot about the Trump administration’s plans for significant spending on infrastructure over the next few years–$1 trillion in spending has been promised. The plan remains short on details, relies primarily on tax credits to private industry and would need congressional approval. But say everything falls into place. Does this mean good times are ahead for the small firms in this industry?

Unfortunately, I don’t think so. At least not in the short term. Of course, some will prosper. But for most, the construction business, regardless of any new infrastructure spending initiatives, will continue to be a challenging area for small businesses to make money–and for these reasons. Read More…

Yes, Your Internet is Very, Very Slow

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Would you like to play a game of baseball…inside of an elevator? Or drive from LA to Vegas in a BMW 735 Series…on a dirt road? If this is what you like, then come to America where your online experience is mostly the same.

A new Federal Communications Commission report confirms what you already knew: millions in this country are still suffering with very slow Internet speeds. So how slow?

First, a quick primer. To see how fast the Internet is, download, upload and average speed (page load) times are measured in Mbps, or megabits per second. This is not to be confused with MBps which is megbytes per second because…you can clearly see…the “B” is capitalized. No, I am not kidding. No, you are not allowed to kill the next tech guy you see. A good download speed is 25Mbps. The global average for Internet speed is 5.6Mbps.

So again, how slow? Read More…

A Louisville small business is building the world’s largest nutcracker

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Small businesses celebrate the holidays in different ways. Some hold sales to bring in more shoppers. Others use the time to thank their customers. Most of my clients hold holiday parties, give out employee bonuses, and some so far as to shut down for a week.

And then there’s PriceWeber, an advertising firm in Louisville, Ky. It is probably doing some of the above. But it has also come up with a unique way to celebrate the season (and help one of their clients): It is building the world’s largest nutcracker. Read More…

Will Drones Rescue Apple Maps 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 – PayPal introduces a new app specifically targeted at small businesses.

The online payment company is launching PayPal Business to help its merchants conduct business better. Features will include a unified hub for visualizing payment information, the ability to send photos with invoices, refund processing, sales activity monitoring, quicker funds withdrawal, payment reminders, customer list management and history and better importing functionality. (Source: PYMNTS)

Why this is important for your business: Read More…

How to Really Thank Your Employees

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(This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post)

At this time of the year — every year — we’re told to be thankful. And, of course, we should. We should be thankful for the bounty we have, for the great country we live in, for our family, for our health, for Netflix and for free delivery, assuming you’re an Amazon Prime customer. These are the things that make our lives better. We are truly, truly thankful for them.

And, of course, as business owners, we’re thankful for our employees. We’re officially in the holiday season, so that must mean that we give employees bonuses and days off. We hold holiday parties with fun activities for the family and organize “secret Santa” gift-givings. We love our employees, and this is the time of year to really show how much we appreciate them.

Or is it? Should we be thanking our employees at the holidays? I’m not so sure.

Read More…

More than 1.8 million teens are reading books by text messages thanks to this start-up

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

OK, it’s not exactly Dickens. But how about a great story delivered to you by text message?

That’s the idea hatched by Prerna Gupta and Parag Chordia. The two entrepreneurs launched their company, Telepathic, a year ago with an application called Hooked after raising $1.9 million from investors that included numerous venture capital firms and Lean Startup author Eric Ries, according to this piece by Anthony Ha in TechCrunch. And the kids, they do love it.

This week, Quartz reports the service has grown to more than 1.8 million downloads, mostly by the company’s target audience of 13-24 year olds. It’s recently become the top grossing book app for iOS in the United States and is now competing with Amazon’s Kindle and Audible apps to be the number one free book app in the U.S. Apple store too.

Books by text? Read More…

It’s about to get harder to suppress negative reviews from your customers

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Ask any small business owner about their experiences with social review sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor and Angie’s List and most will tell you how valuable those services are for attracting new customers. In fact, almost 70 percent of consumers rely on online reviews before making a purchase.

But there’s a downside: People can leave negative reviews, and online criticism can be damaging to a company’s reputation. Most business owners will admit that handling these types of comments is a huge challenge. And it’s about to become even more challenging. Read More…