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Small-business job growth showed signs of strain in December, while overall job growth was roughly inline with prior months, according to two reports released this week.

Employment in nonfarm private small-business payrolls rose 25,000 in December on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the ADP Small Business Report released yesterday. In November, private small-business payrolls rose by an adjusted 37,000.

Meanwhile, total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 155,000 in December, down from a revised 161,000 in November, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported today. In 2012, employment growth averaged 153,000 per month, the same as the average monthly gain for 2011. The unemployment rate held at 7.8 percent. BLS does not break out data by business size. 

Related: Small-Business Hiring, Sentiment Drops in November

The ADP report on small business suggests entrepreneurs continued to hold back on hiring amid economic and regulatory uncertainty. Within small businesses, companies with one to 19 employees lost 6,000 jobs while small companies with 20 to 49 employees added 31,000 jobs. By contrast, small business payrolls gained an average of 41,000 over the past six months and an average of 39,000 over the past three months.

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The key to achieving your goals may be in understanding your brain chemistry. When you succeed at something, your brain releases dopamine, a reward chemical which boosts memory and triggers increased concentration and a desire to repeat the experience.

Because of dopamine, we learn better from success than from failure. In fact, failure lowers dopamine levels, making it hard to figure out what went wrong, says author Monica Mehta. She advises setting small, achievable goals to keep yourself feeling good and moving forward. "The cultivation of small wins can propel you to bigger success," she says. More: Why Our Brains Like Short-Term Goals

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It's the time of year when business owners should be thinking about reporting to the IRS what it has paid to employees. While reporting full-time staff salaries is usually a straight forward part of most payroll services, part-time employee and contractor reporting can be trickier for smaller firms with limited accounting budgets.

Here's the gist: Though specifics can vary the IRS usually requires freelance employees, recurring sub-contractors or any contractors paid more than $600 yearly to receive a 1099-MISC form that must also be filed with the IRS. Filing for calendar 2012 opens this month and runs until February 28, with an extension to April 1 for electronic filers.

While working with an accounting professional is advised, the IRS has been aggressive about creating easy-to-use online resources to make 1099-MISC reporting easier. Here are three steps for reporting part-time contractor wages, plus the tools you'll need to get it done: 

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After purchasing casual dining chain Fatburger in 2003, CEO Andy Wiederhorn fought for years to turn around the company's performance. But, faced with an ineffective management team and the recession, he finally resorted to Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings for two of the restaurant’s west coast subsidiaries in 2009.

Since then, Fatburger has become one of the rare companies that have bounced back from bankruptcy, shifting from a struggling, 40-location U.S. chain to an $82 million franchise group with 120 locations worldwide. Wiederhorn shares four key factors essential to turning around his company. 

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Every startup and small business has a story to tell, something that will connect potential customers to your brand. As a business leader in the social media age, you have an opportunity to draw devoted customers by rethinking the way you express your company’s core value.

Foodily, a new online recipe database, set out to brand themselves as the largest recipe aggregator on the web. But after hiring LoveSocial, a Vancouver-based social media agency, they realized that wasn't the story to tell.

Founder Azita Ardakani redefined Foodily's core value, saying it gives you the opportunity to spend more time eating at home with family and friends. On social media, she asked consumers to share their favorite dinner table memories and what it means to them to eat at home. "We saw a natural conversation erupting," she says.

What made Ardakani’s interpretation of Foodily's core value so much more successful was that it created an opportunity for human connection. "Human connectivity is the DNA of social media," Azita says. 

Related: A Quick Guide to Making Your Brand's Story More Compelling

In order to engage customers, strive to create that emotional pull. Try these three tips to articulate your core value and humanize your brand

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A screencast, or video of what's happening on your computer screen, is commonly used for video tutorials. But screencasts can also be used to create a tour of your website, present a slide show or demonstrate the features of any online product.

While a screenshot is a static image of a computer screen, screencasts essentially are short movies with narration that can show changes made to a site or page over time. They can be used to demonstrate how to use a new piece of software, to report problems with your site or to illustrate potential changes to your site through a redesign.

All you need to create a screencast is a microphone and a service to capture the video. Here are three free tools that can help you get started on the right foot:

Zipcar, whose stock-market performance has left something to be desired since its banner IPO, got good news today when Avis Budget Group announced that it would buy the startup for $500 million in cash.

"By combining with Zipcar, we will significantly increase our growth potential, both in the United States and internationally," said Avis CEO Ronald L. Nelson. "We see car sharing as highly complementary to traditional car rental."

But some Zipcar shareholders have already objected to the sale price, arguing that it undervalues the Cambridge, Mass.-based company, which was once worth over $1 billion on the stock market. The securities litigation firm of Powers Taylor LLP plans to investigate the sale and file a lawsuit to block its progress until a higher price can be obtained for shareholders.

A brief history of Zipcar, from inception through public offering to buyout, follows.

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Winning publicity and media exposure is part of an entrepreneur's job.

Especially when you're just starting or growing a business, it's critically important to get your name out there. You already know that your product or service is innovative, game-changing and indispensable. Now it's time to let everyone else know that it is, too.

I've shared a few tips for how to pitch the media in this video, ahead of Entrepreneur's Growth Conference in Dallas on Jan. 10, where we'll invite attendees to pitch our editors. Here are some pointers:

1. Keep your pitch short and snappy. If you're pitching a journalist in person, make your presentation shorter than three minutes. If you're pitching via email, keep your pitch equally short -- perhaps just a few sentences or short paragraphs, with relevant contact information. Keep in mind, we hear from a lot of you. 

2. Grab our attention. Tell us why we should be writing about your company. Wow us with at least one fascinating tidbit, such as what inspired you to start your company. Think about what the headline for your story is. Don't forget to communicate your passion for your product or service, which will help make your pitch memorable. 

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Resolve to be better organized in 2013? You're in good company. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that getting organized is the second most popular New Year's resolution. 

But productivity expert Laura Stack says a giant to-do list is counterproductive for busy entrepreneurs. "Combining everything is very distracting and makes it difficult to determine what to work on next," says Stack, author of What to Do When There's Too Much to Do (Berrett-Koehler, 2012) "You must separate what you need to do today with what you don't need to do today."

To best organize your time, she suggests that small-business owners compile three lists.

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As an entrepreneur, you have a lot on your plate. Staying focused can be tough with a constant stream of employees, clients, emails, and phone calls demanding your attention. Amid the noise, understanding your brain’s limitations and working around them can improve your focus and increase your productivity.

Our brains are finely attuned to distraction, so today's digital environment makes it especially hard to focus. "Distractions signal that something has changed," says David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work (HarperCollins, 2009). "A distraction is an alert  says, 'Orient your attention here now; this could be dangerous.'" The brain's reaction is automatic and virtually unstoppable.

Related: 8 Tips for Finding Focus and Nixing Distractions

While multitasking is an important skill, it also has a downside. "It reduces our intelligence, literally dropping our IQ," Rock says. "We make mistakes, miss subtle cues, fly off the handle when we shouldn't, or spell things wrong." 

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While goal-setting is an important factor in the success of our business and personal lives, most of us will see our New Year’s resolutions fail before the calendar turns to February. "People set goals all the time, but 70% of [them] never end up getting carried out in any significant way," says Mark Murphy, author of Hard Goals: The Secret to Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (McGraw Hill, 2010).

While, conventional wisdom tells us that goal setting should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited), Murphy says the key factor in sticking with resolutions isn't that the goals aren't clear or measurable, it's that people don't care enough about them. Instead, Murphy says goals need to be HARD (heartfelt, animated, required and difficult) to be successful. Here, he explains each of the aspects that are key to making this year's resolutions stick.

Related: Nine New Year's Resolutions for Stressed-Out Entrepreneurs

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Whether you're courting potential investors or presenting at a staff meeting, you need to project confidence. Your self-assurance shows others that you believe in your business ideas and helps you sell them effectively.

In some ways, how you present an idea matters more than the idea itself. "Emotional energy and nonverbals are more important than content," says Blake Eastman, a serial entrepreneur and founder of The Nonverbal Group, a Manhattan-based consulting firm that offers body language classes for business leaders. "Investors talk about investing in people, not investing in ideas."

Learning to appear confident is about becoming congruent, meaning that how you look and sound matches what you're saying. For example, if you're talking about your product's most exciting feature, your expression should be big, your voice energized, and your body engaged. Fidgeting and staring at the floor would look out of sync. 

Related: How to Conquer Stage Fright and Focus on the Positive

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The ubiquitous phrase "go with your gut" validates the importance of intuition and instinct in leadership and decision-making. But it's also true that discarding reason and experience in favor of hunches often results in bad business decisions.

U.K. marketing and media consultant Jonathan Gifford has explored the balance of these often opposing factors in his book Blindsided: How Business and Society are Shaped by Our Unpredictable and Irrational Behaviour (Benchmark Books, 2012). Here, he shares four strategies to merge mind and gut for better decision-making.

Related: How Successful Leaders Balance Skepticism and Openness

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Everyone is talking about Microsoft's new Windows Phone milestone. It's a big one: The company announced it published a whopping 75,000 new apps for its mobile operating system.

Not bad. If I remember correctly, I don't think Windows Phone had 75,000 apps in total when 2012 started.

Here's Microsoft's Todd Brix:

Confidence is built by testing and certifying every app and game to help protect customers from malware and viruses. Over the last year we’ve certified and published over 75,000 new apps and games (more than doubling the catalog size) and over 300,000 app updates. In addition, this year we added the capability for customers to tell us if they have a concern about an app.

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Mark Cuban doesn't have much patience for dreamers. "Everyone has ideas, most don't do the work required to get the job done," the billionaire tech entrepreneur wrote this week in a question-and-answer session on social-news site reddit. He was fielding questions about what entrepreneurs need to know when starting a business.

One of his characteristically blunt pieces of advice involved encouraging entrepreneurs to skip business school. "I think an MBA is an absolute waste of money," he told reddit users. "I don't give any advantage to someone in hiring because they have an MBA." In lieu of an expensive graduate degree, Cuban recommends filling your knowledge gaps with free online courses. Last month, mentioned some of these resources, such as those available from Udacity and Coursera, in an article about startup tutoring platform InstaEDU. More: Mark Cuban: What Entrepreneurs Need to Know Before Starting a Business

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