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Barely more than a month after drowning in a pile of bad real-estate loans, small-business lending giant CIT Group has emerged from the nation's fifth-largest bankruptcy ever, having knocked more than $10 billion off its debt. The financial services company says it's fit as a fiddle and ready to lend again.

Meanwhile, having been left in the lurch when CIT spiraled down, many small business have since moved on and found other lenders. Will they come back?


Looking to hire the best and brightest young minds America has to offer? Good luck with that. According the the ninth annual Junior Achievement/Deloitte Teen Ethics Survey, 58 percent of teens say that they'd consider their ability to use social networks at work when looking at job offers from potential employers.

As the philosopher Dangerfield once said, now I know why tigers eat their young.

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zip-it.jpgEvery marketing expert you've ever met has probably encouraged you to start a blog on your website to help drive traffic and get your company site good search rankings. But be warned that you'll want to watch what you say on both your own and others' sites, as new laws governing online speech took effect last week.

Why should you care if you shoot your mouth off on the internet? Because the rules of defamation and slander apply to what you write online just as they do to newspaper articles or any other form of speech, notes New York City attorney Nina Kaufman of Ask The Business Lawyer. Folks are getting sued for making up lies about people online, and they're getting hit with big fines, too.

Besides the longstanding rule--don't say things that aren't true--what are the new rules?

web-social-resources.jpg I usually let Mikal Belicove handle the social-media analysis around here, since he's the expert. But at the moment he's busy on a book...and this week the interesting new free social-media tools were just raining down. So Wednesday Web Resources presents: A reputation-management tool by Marchex, the return of free online business listings at Citysearch, Google's latest local angle, and Microsoft's new online encyclopedia of people.

google-logo.jpgGoogle filed a lawsuit Monday to try and stop companies from allegedly using the company's name and logo to promote fraudulent work-at-home money-making schemes.

"Thousands of people have been tricked into sending payment information and being charged hidden fees by questionable operations," Google said in a blog post today.

Along with several other unnamed companies, the search engine giant sued software development firm Pacific Web Works in a Utah District Court. The lawsuit cites trademark infringement and dilution, unfair competition, federal cyberpiracy and violation of consumer sales practices.
verizon-logo.jpg The internet is littered with online collaboration tools that do everything from facilitating virtual meetings like Protosphere to full-on real time document creation and editing like Google Wave. To wit, Verizon recently launched its own small business-targeted collaboration tool called the Verizon Collaboration Center.

"Small businesses need a lot more than e-mail and internet access to stay competitive," says Monte Beck, Verizon's vice president for small-business product strategy. He adds that the Verizon Collaboration Center is a tool to help small businesses grow, run more efficiently and reduce costs.

The first thing I asked when I found out about the Verizon's new Collaboration Center was, "What makes it different?" Powered by Cisco's WebEx software, the collaboration center facilitates video conferencing, document and calendar management and sharing as well as project management. Seems to me, the only real difference is that it's Verizon-branded. That said, after having a chance to play around with the collaboration center, I can say that the interface is sleek, user-friendly and geared for the business user.

obama-job-summit.jpgLast week, President Barack Obama was back at it, holding summits about the economy. This time, it was a jobs summit. And much like the Nov. 18 small-business summit, the jobs summit got a lot of media coverage--much of it critical of how it was organized and who got to go. The Wall Street Journal's David Weidner opined, "someone or something needs to crash the event and make a case for the nation's small business community."

Many small business owners and business organizations have voiced their displeasure with being shut out of these events. So what are we waiting for? Let's hold our own jobs summit.

dollar-bill-eye.jpgDid you enjoy the stimulus cash--get yourself an SBA loan with waived fees and higher guarantees maybe? No? Well, sorry to tell you, but it's too late. Last week, the stimulus funding that enhanced the SBA's offerings ran out. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act gave SBA $375 million in new funding, but it's been spent.

So now what?

job-market-imp.jpgWe've started the slow climb out of the giant black hole. The U.S. job market improved in November, with the lowest number of jobs lost in nearly two years, according to the ADP employment survey released today.

In November, ADP reports the private sector cut 169,000 jobs. In October, 195,000 jobs were lost. Job losses peaked at 736,000 in March and have lessened every month since, ADP said.

wed-web-resources.jpgOnce again, it's Wednesday, and the Daily Dose brings to your attention a few useful online tools and ideas that may help your business. This week, it's a shopping site that brings together online browsing with offline retail inventory, a piece of free pricing analytics software, and a chance to test-drive a new visual social-media site.

Milo is a free Web site that compiles local-level retail merchandise information so you can look onilne and find what's available near your ZIP code. Sounds handy, given how many shoppers browse online before deciding to patronize a local store--a 2007 Accenture study showed 68 percent of shoppers do just that, and JupiterResearch estimates $1 trillion in purchases will be made this way by 2011.

google-wave.jpgGoogle recently released a new toy: Wave--a tool for virtual collaboration in real-time. Right now Wave is still in preview, but yours truly has had a bit of time to play around with it. What's the verdict?

So far, the only thing I've seen Wave used for is chatting and discussions about what Google Wave can be used for. Lifehacker even compiled a list of the best uses for Wave. But it's apparent what Google's intentions are for this application and that is to be used for getting things done; not social networking.

homeoffice-1209.jpgHome-based entrepreneurs have always suffered under a kind of second-class citizenship in the small business world. It was sort of code for "hobby business." But in recent years, as technology made virtual teams easier, I've increasingly come to wonder if that status was warranted. 

I've often found myself interviewing the CEO of some hot new multi-million dollar company, only to have it explained to me almost offhandedly that the chief exec lived in Maryland, while other team members lived in San Francisco, Israel, Boston and New York. And they all worked out of their homes. 

Apparently it's not my imagination. A new study conducted by Emergent Research and commissioned by Network Solutions and the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business documents the surprisingly strong financial impact home-based businesses have on our economy.

cortera.jpgToday's edition of Wednesday Web Resources wanders about the Internet, finding mind-stimulating information to help your business succeed. These three companies' ideas touch every aspect of business operations, offering a new approach for vetting vendors, a creative way to envision your business, and new data on how to value your online social networks.
biz-books-night.jpgWith the rise of self-publishing, print-on-demand publishing, e-book publishing and other low-cost forms, the avalanche of business books released every year has only increased. Usually just hearing the titles makes my mind feel anesthetized--so many don't seem to say much that's new. But recently, several titles have caught my attention, and I've even found myself sitting down and giving them a read.

Here's what's on my bookshelf that I think is worth settling into bed with and staying up a few minutes later to read:
cyber-monday.jpgThe oddsmakers and forecasters are already at work calculating how much we'll spend on Black Friday--the day after Thanksgiving--and Cyber Monday, the Monday following the holiday weekend. In our internet age, these two days form the official opening the Christmas shopping season and usually are a strong predictor of how much shoppers will buy for the holidays generally. This season there's a few new wrinkles--aside from the economy--so it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.