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An initiative to limit deliveries during rush hour is ‘killing’ some New York City small-business owners

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

There’s no debate that traffic in New York City is horrendous, especially during rush hour. So you can’t blame the city’s mayor for trying to do something about it. Well, maybe if you’re a local small business, you can.

Early this year the city started a six-month program to limit curbside deliveries during morning and afternoon rush hours to alleviate road congestion. I think it’s safe to say that the program is not popular with some small-business owners. The measure is “killing” them, said a group of concerned merchants who protested at City Hall this week to voice their displeasure. Read More…

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Study: Workers are now focusing on retirement benefits over health-care plans

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

If you’ve been budgeting for a better employee health-care plan for your company, you may want to change your tactics. A new study says that employees are now more focused on retirement benefits than on health-care benefits.

According to a survey of almost 5,000 U.S. employees released this week by the consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, 66 percent of respondents were willing to have more taken from their paychecks each month to support larger and more generous retirement benefits. Only 38 percent of those same respondents were willing to pay more each month for better health-care benefits. Read More…

The House passes a bill aimed at helping employees buy out their employers

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

About a year ago I wrote about how a massive wave of retiring baby-boomer business owners — a “silver tsunami” — could, because of a lack of succession planning, cause the loss of millions of jobs as businesses close.

Business owners in some parts of the country, particularly those in more rural areas, are finding that a decreasing number of younger people are willing to take on the family business once Mom and Dad retire. One solution is employee ownership.  If more owners sold their businesses to their employees, then jobs could be saved and retirement for them could be more comfortable. Statistics have also shown that employees work harder, are paid more and are better prepared for their retirement when they share in the ownership of a business. Read More…

NFIB: A ‘record level’ of small businesses are growing their profits

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

The National Federation of Independent Business regularly publishes its Small Business Economic Trends Survey, and for more than year the data has pointed in one direction: up. Small businesses are optimistic about the future.  That’s all well and good, but is all this optimism turning into actual profits? Jobs? Investments?

Seems so, according to the April 2018 survey, which was released Tuesday.

Juanita Duggan, NFIB president and chief executive, said she’s never seen profit trends so high. “The optimism small businesses owners have about the economy is turning into new job creation, increased wages and benefits, and investment,” she said.

The report cites increased consumer spending, lower taxes and less regulatory barriers as the major reasons for the surge in optimism — and profits. More than 1 in 5 small businesses are expecting higher sales in the next few months, with those in the construction (59 percent) and manufacturing (56 percent) sectors coming in as most confident.

The survey, which has been conducted quarterly since 1973 and monthly since 1985, was based on responses from 1,200 to 2,000 small-business owners in April (the first month of the calendar quarter), and the numbers are solid.

For example, small businesses are making capital investments, with 43 percent of those surveyed saying they’re buying new equipment and 27 percent purchasing vehicles. Not only that, but many small-business owners say they are planning to spend even more money in the coming months.

Small businesses are also spending more on their people. Thirty-three percent of the respondents said they’ve increased worker compensation, which is at its highest level since 2000.  Job creation in this sector is also at “historically strong” levels, the study says. Business owners said they are planning to spend more on training and technology to maximize worker productivity.

Still, there’s one thing about these numbers: There’s always another side of the story.  For example, what about the four out of five respondents who didn’t say they were expecting an increase in sales? Forty-three percent said they’re planning to make investments, but how about the other 57 percent? And if 31 percent have increased worker compensation, will the remaining 69 percent be doing the same?

But that’s just me, the accountant. When looking at the past 45 years of data, the NFIB numbers are unquestionably strong, and the people there who analyze these things are feeling pretty good about the rest of the year.

“There is no question that small business is booming,” said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg.

 

Would you believe U.S. employers are facing a shortage of marketers?

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Given the amount of email promotions, pop-up ads and commercials that inundate our daily lives, would you believe that American companies are struggling to fill marketing positions?

It’s true, and, according to a new report from social media site LinkedIn, the problem is a growing challenge for business owners and managers looking for skilled people in a tight job market. Read More…

Is Amazon good or bad for small business?

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

When it comes to small businesses, online retail giant Amazon.com can be a controversial topic.

Ask a few Main Street merchants what they think about the retailer, and you will likely get an earful. The point of view of many is that e-commerce and the Internet itself have significantly hurt their brick-and-mortar businesses. To them, Amazon is the driving force behind that. As I’ve written, a number of retailers — both big and small — have been retrenching or going out of business in recent years. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

So, is Amazon good or bad for small business? The answer depends on whom you ask. Read More…

Facebook’s new features specifically target businesses

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Although tens of millions of small businesses have Facebook pages for their companies, most of the owners I know do not really consider the social media platform to be a business productivity or collaboration tool. That perception may soon change.

This week, Facebook announced some big upgrades to Workplace, its $3 per month “premium” user office collaboration service. Workplace was launched in 2016 and has quietly grown as a popular way for companies of all sizes (including big brands like Walmart, Starbucks and Domino’s) to internally collaborate with employees, customers and others in its community via group chats, messaging and video calls. Read More…