This Week In Small Business: Frankenstorm!

What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.

The Big Story: Small Devices

Apple introduces the iPad Mini, and here’s everything you need to know about the new device. Google and Samsung introduce a Chrome laptop and a new Android tablet. Microsoft, its empire under siege, rolls out Windows 8 and the Surface tablet. Nathan Eddy believes that Windows 8 could both assist and confuse small-business owners: “The biggest risk Microsoft is taking with Windows 8 is the redesigned user interface, which has left users confused when trying to learn the new system.” Most companies will not be early adopters of the new operating system. Matt Burns says the Surface “is not a tablet, it’s a PC.”

The Election: An Indicator

Small-business owners in swing states called the third debate a victory for President Obama. But Ryan Higa could be the dark horse. The Federal Reserve plans to keep buying bonds; many believe the election will affect the chairman’s future. Sales of Halloween masks indicate a win for Mr. Obama. A lawyer advises employers to be wary about telling employees how to vote.

Economy: The Bright Spot

Russell Investments updates its state of the economy with all but one indicator within normal range. Orders for durable goods rebound. FedEx forecasts online shoppers will generate a holiday record. Equipment-financing confidence holds steady. The United States is experiencing a renaissance in oil production and is expected to be the world’s largest producer. Goldman Sachs predicts an end to high oil prices. Kate Mackenzie thinks the United States is the bright spot of the world. Still, manufacturing contracts in the Richmond, Va., Fed district and the steel industry continue to decline. DuPont cuts 1,500 jobs, and Dow Chemical plans to close plants and lay off 2,400 workers. Stocks plunged Tuesday on earnings woes. John Mason believes that economic policies continue to weigh on the dollar. Home sales are rising, but Bill McBride isn’t impressed: “Even with a 20 percent-plus increase this year, 2012 will be the third or fourth lowest year since the Census Bureau started tracking new home sales in 1963.” The most recent Sage business index of nearly 11,000 small- and medium-size companies shows a significant fall in local market confidence. Which is scarier: the fiscal cliff or Frankenstorm?

Start-Up: Women Veterans

A new study finds that more than half of women veterans who own businesses say their leadership experience in the military inspired them to start their businesses, and another report finds that growth in businesses owned by women has paralleled increased contributions by women across the economy. Meanwhile, a conference for start-up founders is criticized for its lack of women. Denver has its start-up week. John Patrick Pullen suggests nine cities you wouldn’t think are hubs for tech start-ups. Tanya Prive says these are the venture capitalists every start-up should know. Martha Pierce asks why start-ups fail.

People: Employee Burnout

John O’Farrell gives advice for hiring your next vice president for sales. A study finds that many people like to overestimate the number of hours they work. A report concludes that federal employees earn 8 percent more than their private-sector counterparts. Verne Harnish suggests five ways to find extraordinary employees. Wal-Mart has entered another battle with its employees. Over 30 years, Microsoft employees have raised $1 billion for charities. Christina DesMarais lists five Silicon Valley tech companies everyone wants to work for. Managers who consider hiring ex-military people are sometimes deterred by the possibility that candidates have post-traumatic stress disorder. Employee burnout increases. An impromptu board meeting springs up in a Staples store.

Social Media: Warming to Facebook Ads

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone has a guide to minimizing legal risks in social media. Marcus Sheridan explains why our definition of social media engagement and interaction is wrong. Local businesses are starting to warm up to Facebook ads. Amy Nielson believes that one of the best ways to market your business is to create your own social media network. If you follow this pizza chain on Twitter, it will really follow you back. Twelve feline finalists are announced for this year’s Friskies.

Marketing: Abandoning AdWords?

Greg Sterling does not believe small-business owners are abandoning AdWords. Marty Diamond thinks your landing pages may suffer from a lack of focus. In this commercial, passengers in an elevator are frightened. Jeanmarie Bills and Elena J. Forbes have some tips on how to create a blog for your business. Brad Hanner says you need an online presence.

Red Tape: The Internal Redistribution Service

So far, it appears the Affordable Care Act is not causing small businesses to drop their employees’ coverage. And sorry, men’s club owners, but it seems lap dances are indeed taxable in New York State. A guy lights up his house for Halloween — Gangnam style. Peter Schweizer says the Internal Revenue Service “is morphing into the Internal Redistribution Service.”

Sales: Born to Fail

Here are six reasons to walk away from a deal. Brian Carroll suggests five steps to ensure your lead generation stays on target. Here’s how to turn your iPad into a Square point of sale register, and here’s some good advice on pricing your products. These products were born to fail.

Management: Worst Decisions Ever

Here are the worst business decisions of all time. Mark Zuckerberg, Ben Silbermann and Ben Horowitz talk about lessons learned. Linda Clevenger has some time-management tips for entrepreneurs. George Bradt suggests three steps to a winning attitude for a service business. Andy Birol says you need to answer these questions. Deanne Katz gives advice on avoiding burnout. Ilana Rabinowitz says you should make competition irrelevant. Felix Salmon explains why Apple doesn’t care about its competition. Gwen Moran evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of four leadership styles.

Around the Country: Farmland Prices

While the big businesses in aerospace and defense make headlines, small companies form the backbone of the East Valley in Arizona. Here’s what happens when Seattle becomes empty. The Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville, Ala., will hold a small-business forum on Nov. 9. In New York, a restaurant taps Instagram users to create a visual menu. Farmland prices continue to soar, and the effects of this summer’s historic drought are yet to be known.

Around the World: Sticker Shock

The Bank of Spain sends a warning. The United States is the fourth easiest country in the world (PDF) to do business in. A Korean start-up adjusts to life in London. The cost of living can cause sticker shock, depending on where you do business. Ikea is using wind and sun to be energy independent.

Cash Flow: Surplus Capital

U.S. Bank is offering a new way for customers to pay for online purchases with Visa debit or credit cards. A new version of Google Wallet is coming. Small Business Administration loans to small-business exporters are on the rise, and the agency’s venture capital program grows even as overall venture capital dollars decline. Mark Bell asks if you know what it means to evaluate your spend. Angie Mohr says there are four financial yardsticks for your business. The Principal Financial Well-Being Index finds that 63 percent of small-business owners have surplus capital but that 73 percent of those who have it are not spending it.

Technology: The Worst Password

Bizelo, a cloud software start-up, is creating a collection of small-business applications. Amazon Cloud goes down again. Customer data is hacked at Barnes & Noble. Facebook reports better than expected earnings, and Peter Gabriel asks his Facebook fans to recreate “Sledgehammer.” New research promises to increase bandwidth tenfold. Password tops the list of the worst passwords of 2012. Professors develop a real-life “Star Trek” tractor beam. Bob Lefsetz shares some dos and don’ts, like: “Don’t think Apple is forever.” James Bond uses an Android smartphone. If you’re not interested in tech, here’s how to pick up a girl at the gym.

Best Tweets of the Week

@ValaAfshar
The web is your resume and social networks are your mass references. Paper CVs will disappear in 5 years.

@PFripp
I don’t judge a company by the people who travel by corporate jet; I judge a company by the ones who answer the phone and carry your bags.

Bests of the Week

Deborah Brown thinks that entrepreneurs need to have more fun: “Delegate or eliminate. If the day-to-day tasks are weighing you down, find ways around them. Are you asking for help with the chores, or are you doing everything yourself? What can you order online so you don’t have to go to the store? And who can you hire to help with the cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc.? Yes, these things cost money, but do you think that not having fun is costing you more?”

Adrian Swinscoe says to apply the granny test to get closer to your customers: “Take a step back and look at the language that you use in your marketing, sales and customer service, and ask yourself if it is in your customer’s language. Not convinced? Then try this: apply the granny test, i.e., give your marketing materials to your Granny and ask her if she gets what you are talking about. If she does, then she is either an expert in your field or you’re doing a great job. If not, then you know what to do.”

This Week’s Question: Have you tried advertising on Facebook?

Gene Marks owns the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. You can follow him on Twitter.

New York Times

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