NYT: This Week in Small Business: Free Lunch?

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(This post originally appeared on the New York Times)

The Politics: A Shrinking Deficit

The president announces a $3.7 trillion budget with revenue-raising favorites and a tax credit for small businesses. Here is everything a small-business owner needs to know about the president’s budget, and this is a quick guide to all of the budget proposals. Bill McBride says the deficit is shrinkingrapidly. The International Monetary Fund says monetary easing is producing little risk of high inflation, and the Federal Reserve remains divided over when to end the stimulus. The Pentagon looks to cut 40,000 to 50,000 civilian jobs over the next five years, and Saturday postal deliveries will continue.

The Economy: Global Recession?

Small-business confidence retreated last month, and Dave Gonigam offers one reason small-business owners are bummed out. But some small businesses are hungry to hire. Retail sales fell unexpectedly in March, but financial stress has returned to mid-2007 levels according to three Federal Reserve measures. Lumber prices are near a housing bubble high, and land becomes more expensive. Job openings increased in February, and machine tool orders show signs of strength. But wholesale sales and inventories had a very bad February, and restaurant operators’ confidence in the economy is tenuous. The White House is projecting slow economic gains, and the World Trade Organization cuts its forecast. John P. Hussman expects the American economy to “join a global recession that is already in progress in much of the developed world.”

 

People: Free Lunch?

Tech companies that offer free lunches are drawing attention from the Internal Revenue Service. This is why Margaret Thatcher inspired so many women. John Baldoni reports on why your least engaged employees might be your top performers: “It is not usual for good performers to feel lost in the system.” Beware of these traps when hiring for your small business. Here’s how to use a virtual assistant. If you’ve got a problem, you can now hire an “hourly nerd.” Some 83 percent of American workers say they feel stressed by their jobs, up from 73 percent a year ago. A dog-friendly environment is just one of the perks your small business can afford, according to Suzanne Lucas. And here is why this guy’s son is crying.

Management: Jay-Z Sells

A study finds that businesses owned by women have increased59 percent since 1997. Jim Jacques says that one of the five things that set real entrepreneurs apart is “they don’t try to be someone else.” Jay-Z will sell his shares in the Brooklyn Nets. Alison Bradford explains why you need a compelling vision. Gregory Ciotti believes “external end-goal restriction” is a dangerous creativity killer. Consumerist names its worst company of the year. Brett and Kate McKay say that to succeed in work and life you need to be Mr. T. The firing ofJ.C. Penney’s chief executive teaches a few lessons.

Start-Up: Ridiculous Start-Ups

Here are some ridiculous start-up ideas (that became successful). A seminar in Chicago this week will help you findinvestors for your start-up. A disabled veteran starts a barbecue-sauce business while another start-up can help you manage the death of a loved one. Gabrielle Karol asks whether location matters for a start-up. Two entrepreneurs start an “urban ventures” accelerator program that empowers entrepreneurs to solve urban problems. Andrew Chen wonders why we are so bad at predicting start-up success: “Be careful with what you think you know versus what you don’t. I’ve found that my area of expertise where I can make good decisions is actually pretty narrow.”

Finance: Backing Away From Social

It turns out that for many banks, the Small Business Lending Fund was nothing more than a way to get out of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Crowdfunding’s tally amounted to $2.6 billion in 2012 — with projects like this one, which is seeking funds to film big rodents. Lending to franchises has reached the highest level since the recession. Venture capitalists arebacking away from social businesses, and Chicago’s venture capital financing plunges 42.6 percent. A global technology provider serving the financial services industry releases aconsulting initiative to help banks improve the profitability and efficiency of commercial and small-business lending.

Cash Flow: Canceling PayPal

Heather Allard suggests three steps to build a business budgetthat works. Robert X. Cringely struggles to cancel his PayPal account. A bunch of celebrity entrepreneurs auction off their time. Ivan Widjaya lays out the process of protecting a trademark. Here are six legal steps to take when starting a business.

Sales: What’s Changed?

This infographic shows how the sales profession has changedsince the “Mad Men” era. Tom Searcy has thoughts on what your business can learn from the N.C.A.A. tournament. Bob Phibbs says you can prepare your store to attract customers and keep them coming back. Peter Boritz outlines the best steps for “on-boarding customers.” Andrea Johnson suggests six steps to drive more sales through your pipeline.

Marketing: Instagram Tactics

Here are five inexpensive ways to advertise your home-based business. Lyve Alexis Pleshette discusses the advantages and disadvantages of various advertising mediums. Content marketing has become a $44 billion industry. Donna Amos believes there are four reasons your business should be on Instagram, and here are five ways to be creative with Instagram marketing. Most small-business owners do their own marketing. Karen Talavera explains how to use e-mail marketing, and here are a few tips to engage customers on Facebook. Michael Marshall says the key to search engine optimization is to “know your target.” This is how to step up a social media nurturing strategy, and here are three ways tomeasure the success of a Google AdWords campaign. David Siteman Garland explains how he got his first 100 fans. Here are 10 of the best LinkedIn features for your business. Google introduces a beta test allowing creators to connect Google Plus pages to YouTube channels.

Taxes: Suffocating

President Obama’s budget proposal would cap tax-advantaged savings. The I.R.S. plans to expend 18 percent less effort auditing businesses with assets of $10 million or more. A poll of small-business owners reveals strong bipartisan opposition to corporate tax loopholes. Here’s what you need to know about the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. John Goodman has advice for small businesses that do not know how to handle the Affordable Care Act’s “suffocating cost,” while Wendell Potter says small businesses that want a tax break should check out the A.C.A. Here are 10 well-known facts that aren’t true.

Around the Country: Happy Record Store Day!

A California business owner fights back after a string of burglariesGoogle Fiber is coming to Austin. Some doctors are being driven into bankruptcy. Virgin America is called America’s best airline (United the worst). Grants for $200,000 are available to help expand Oregon manufacturing, and a start-up plans to add hundreds of jobsin Portland. A May 7 event in Boston will help app developers meet employers. New York’s City Council passes a package of bills to help small businesses. The New York Enterprise Report will explain how and why to apply for small-business awards in a webinar. Construction is booming in Texas, but many workers pay dearly. Saturday is Record Store Day.

Around the World: The Nutella Is Missing

America’s most profitable export is cash. London pumps $33 million into its start-up scene. Five tons of Nutella are stolenin Germany. Neil Irwin explains why Japan is the mostinteresting story in global economics. Britain is trying to escape a triple-dip recession. China’s inflation rate drops and most big Chinese companies get some kind of state subsidy. Elliott Auckland explains where Russia is today. This is howManchester United may have hurt a small business. These are the most expensive places in the world for a cheap date.

Ideas: Virtual Currency

The 2014 Honda Odyssey has a built-in vacuum. You can now make 3-D printed candy in a customer’s image, but forget about 3-D because 4-D printing is the new fabrication frontier. Bloomingdale’s installs body scanners to help customers find jeans that fit. A student-built car gets 3,587 miles per gallon. A bar in New York accepts Bitcoins, and here are 10 other real things you can buy with virtual currency (assuming you survive the price fluctuations). Venture firms are eyeing opportunities with Google Glass. A kid goes swimming in the hallway of his school.

Technology: PC Shipments Fall

A hacker demonstrates how he could hijack a plane with an Android app. Drew Hendricks says these are the three signs it is time to get a dedicated server. Here are six ways to copewith hotel Wi-Fi. Paul Mah explains why Office 365 makes sense for small businesses. These are the best 802.11ac wireless routers. A new log-in relies on brain signals. PC shipments post their biggest quarterly decline recorded. Making phone calls is not the  No. 1 smartphone activity, and Becky Worley lists five tech rip-offs, including smartphone insurance.

Tweet of the Week

@juliussharpe – Amazing how in the last 30 years, the United States has completely transitioned from an industrial powerhouse to a brunch-based economy.

The Week’s Best Quote

Edward Behr explains the benefits of a slow life: “You’re living a slow life when you gather seashells along the shore, feed a campfire, visit a nearly empty museum on a weekday morning, talk late into the night, read an ink-on-paper book cover-to-cover without stopping to do much else, and, I would say, if you take the time to be bored. Part of being civilized is not just being slow but occasionally coming to a stop, establishing a point of reference for the moment when you start moving again. When you stop you aren’t really stopping, of course, because that’s often when good ideas rise to the surface.”

This Week’s Question: Do you expect to buy PCs this year?

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