The big questions: Can he get these initiatives passed anytime soon? And if so, would it help?
This isn't some thick theory heavy business text. Instead, the authors David Borgenicht and Mark Joyner have teamed up to provide a step-by-step guide for dealing with five core business emergencies: finance, HR, productivity, sales and marketing and executive.
The U.S. Postal Service may want to watch out for Zumbox--it's providing a way for companies (and everybody, ultimately) to send formatted PDF mail direct to customers' computers, saving the postage stamps. The company's technology enables them to create a computer inbox--or Zumbox--for every street address in America. So companies don't need to know customers' e-mail addresses--with a street address (and the customer's permission) the company can electronically deliver their mail. Besides saving on postage, this will also allow companies to send interactive, multimedia mail with clickable links, videos, you name it.
For instance, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is holding a small business summit next month, inviting more than 20 business owners from around the state to brainstorm on how the state can make it easier to do business in the state. Planned session topics included cutting red tape, working with the state's Small Business Regulatory Advisory Council, and better connecting small business owners with the state's workforce agencies.
Just in the past few weeks, I've read about Boston University student Alex Hodara, founder of real-estate brokerage Hodara Real Estate, and about business-plan competition winner Omar Soliman of the University of Miami/Coral Gables and his partner Nick Friedman of Pomona College, whose company College Hunks Hauling Junk (don't you love that business name?) has becoming a growing franchise. There's Matt Rhodes in Thousand Oaks, Calif., who founded T.O. Student Tutoring while still in high school.
Now, young entrepreneurs who dream about starting their own businesses before they can legally drink are getting a boost.
Time to muddy the waters a bit. Three new reports surfaced this week, each offering a different point of view on how business owners and executives value social networking for business. If you're considering adding social media to your marketing mix, you may find this interesting. If you're already sold--or feel like you were sold down the river--on the benefits of social networking for business, this applies to you as well.
First up, there's the "2009 Tribalization of Business Survey," which evaluated the perceived potential of online communities and identifies how businesses both large and small believe they may better leverage them. According to the survey, conducted by Deloitte, Beeline Labs and the Society for New Communications Research, 94 percent of respondents indicated that they plan to maintain or increase investment in their online community activities, while six percent plan to decrease theirs. However, the survey points out, while businesses are effectively using social media platforms and tools to engage with customers, partners and employees for brand discussions and idea generation, organizations admittedly struggle with harnessing social media's full potential. Of the 400 or so companies surveyed, the majority shared that increasing word-of-mouth, customer loyalty, and brand awareness are the top business objectives of their social networking activities, followed by idea generation from listening in, and improved customer support by engaging.
Small business, your website sucks. And I'll give you five reasons why.
The question is, are you listening to what customers are saying on the internet? And if so, what's your response?
If you're still doing an ostrich about monitoring your online reputation, allow me to pluck your head from the sand. Social-media maven Mike Moran recently commented that in his experience, large corporations are all over online reputation monitoring and responding to grumpy customers, while small businesses aren't paying attention.
Which strikes me as kind of funny, because of all the newfangled social-media stuff out there, monitoring your reputation strikes me as about the easiest, cheapest thing you can do to make sure the Internet buzz on your business is positive. I mean, how hard is it to set up a Google Alert on your company name?
Well, earlier today, in a highly anticipated move, the FTC did just that. By a vote of 4-0, the Commission has approved new rules requiring bloggers and social media users to disclose payments they receive from companies for reviewing their products. The rules, which go into effect Dec. 1, give clear guidance to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with the FTC Act (warning: link takes you to a pdf file, not a Web page).
The Chicago Tribune recently reported that a local company, Extended Care Clinical, sees the current high unemployment rate as a golden opportunity--to reach out to the unemployed and retrain them to fill their nursing slots. Despite the downturn, qualified nurses remain in short supply, so they're offering to pay for nursing school for candidates willing to retrain to join their company as nurses.
This article got me thinking about how many other small businesses might benefit from the current large pool of available workers. For instance, could you save money by taking someone with good skills, but lacking the exact background you'd normally want, and hire them in at a lower salary, ramping them up with on-the-job training? That's a great opportunity for the worker to move up the career ladder, while you get a more-affordable, highly trained employee.
Q2 - Reputation: Do you actively monitor your company's reputation online? If so, what tools do you use to stay on top of what customers and others are saying about you and your business?
Q3 - Product Placement: Ask any business owner if they'd like their product or service featured on Oprah, and they're likely to say YES! Aside from Oprah, where's the best place for your products or services to be featured from a product placement perspective?
Q4 - Challenge: What's the most challenging aspect of your job?
An example is LocalDirt.com, a new portal that connects farmers with customers nearby. The site debuted at the Fall 2009 DEMO technology conference in San Diego last week, pitching its concept to conference producers along with 70 other tech firms. Local Dirt won a DEMOgod award, given out at the event to exceptional companies, and was also picked by innovation and venture-capital newsmag VentureBeat as one of the 10 best companies at DEMO.
Two new organizations are aiming to change all that.
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, which has long focused its philanthropy on initiatives that enable entrepreneurial growth, earlier this month started Build A Stronger America. Billed as an entrepreneurs' movement, Build A Stronger America aims to provide entrepreneurs with "a central hub to share their stories, hear about issues affecting them and create a unified voice."