• Watchdog group wants truth in small business procurement

    Most small business federal procurement dollars go to big business, group says.

    The Obama Administration hasn't yet released its annual report on the proportion of federal contract dollars awarded to small businesses in the past year, but the American Small Business League predicts that when the document arrives this summer it will misrepresent the facts. Not that the league is accusing the Obama Administration of doing anything its predecessors haven't. It's common practice for big businesses disguised as small ones to be counted among the awardees of federal procurement dollars designated for small business.

    Since 1953, the federal government has been mandated to spend 23 percent of the total value of all federal prime contracts with small businesses. But "fraud, abuse, and loopholes in federal policy and implementation result in the majority of federal small business contracts being illegally diverted to large corporations every year," the watchdog group says. The organization estimates that only 10 percent of federal contract dollars were awarded to

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  • Ten tweeting tips for small businesses

    If the recent Profit Minded post "How a Designer Turns Tweets into Sales" left you thinking that tweeting 14 times a day is beyond your capacity, here's another angle.

    A tweet a day could grow your customer base.

    Twitter itself has just published a 21-page guide for small business owners on how to use the platform to engage customers and "put Twitter to work for your business." The straightforward, simple, and illustrated tips are designed to show business owners how to "connect with customers, amplify your message, and ultimately, grow your business." And one tweet a day might be all you need to make an impact.

    For total newbies, the guide dissects the anatomy of the 140-character tweet, tells you what to do with a hashtag, explains what it means to follow and be followed on Twitter, and shows how and why to retweet and direct-message your followers. It also offers tips on designing your profile page, and developing your company's Twitter voice with plenty of inspiring examples from well-done small business feeds.

    For those

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  • Confounding reports on small business and healthcare

    146061239With a ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act expected from the Supreme Court any day, small business organizations have been re-airing their views about healthcare reform.

    What the Court will decide is anyone's guess, but two surveys published this week by small business advocacy organizations predict how the decision will affect their constituents. Unfortunately, the predictions are contradictory. Further confusing matters is a question raised this week about the validity of the National Federation of Independent Businesses' claim that its Supreme Court lawsuit represents the interests of small businesses.

    Consider these news items reported this week:

    1. National Federation of Independent Businesses is the group that brought the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act to the Supreme Court on behalf of its members. But the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that nearly $4 million of NFIB funding in the year it filed the lawsuit came from a Republican campaign

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  • Is your workplace social media policy legal?

    Would your workplace social media policy hold up to NLRB scrutiny?

    That some employers routinely ask job applicants to hand over their Facebook passwords was provocative news in May when two U.S. Senators asked the Attorney General to investigate the legality of the practice. Employers demanding to snoop around inside a potential hire's Facebook account? Why not ask prospective employees to hand over their personal diaries and family photo albums too? The sleaziness of the practice just seemed obvious.

    But the National Labor Relations Board has determined that employers need guidance when it comes to writing workplace social media policies. The independent federal agency recently released a report focused on employer policies governing employees' use of social media.

    "Employee use of social media as it relates to the workplace continues to increase, raising various concerns by employers, and in turn, resulting in employers' drafting new and/or revising existing policies and rules to address these concerns," wrote Lafe Solomon, Acting General Counsel

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  • Bankers forecast better credit for businesses

    American Bankers Association outlook for business is mildly positive

    More and better credit will be available to businesses in the next six months, continuing into next year. That's the prediction of the American Bankers Association, which this week issued a forecast for U.S. economic performance predicting growth of 11.5 percent this year in loans to businesses.

    The trade group, which represents the $14 trillion industry that has taken much of the blame for the U.S. recession, stated that "the significant increase in credit growth shows that the banks are doing their part to make loans that will help drive the economic recovery." Whether or not you agree, additional forecasts made by the group are mildly encouraging for small business owners.

    ABA Economic Advisory Committee chairman George Mokrzan said that consumers will also experience more opportunities for credit. An increase of 7.4 percent in loans to individuals will lead to stronger consumer spending in the second half of this year, he said. The group expects consumer spending, which represents

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  • How a designer turns tweets into sales

    Patti Wunder, owner of Easton Place, generates leads on Twitter

    Patti Wunder was savvy from the start about leveraging social media to generate business for her one-woman handmade stationery and digital branding operation, Easton Place. She built a beautiful website, writes an engaging blog, has posted hundreds of enchanting photos to Flickr, produces a monthly e-newsletter, keeps her Facebook page up-to-date, pinned feverishly to Pinterest until copyright concerns led her to drop it, and has a busy storefront on Etsy.com.

    But she says her @easton_place Twitter feed has translated to the biggest sales of all.

    Wunder's stationery products, which she calls "fine paper lovelies," hark back to pre-Internet etiquette. In the age of Evites and Facebook birthday greetings, her hand-drawn cards printed on high-quality stock seek to sustain the disappearing tradition of the U.S.P.S.-delivered invitation and the calligraphy note.

    But 140-character electronic messages have turned out to be a winning way for her to find new customers. In the two-plus years

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  • Loan broker calls business lending “a mess”

    Getting a business loan is confusing and difficult for most

    Yahoo! Small Business Advisor readers who want to understand "why small business lending is such a confusing mess" will be interested in a new columnist debuted yesterday by The New York Times "You're the Boss" blog.

    In the blogger spirit of curating web content, I'll summarize what Ami Kassar says, and point you to his full column for more details and so that you can follow him from here.

    The Times' "You're the Boss" blog features 14 writers with various perspectives on "the art of running a small business." Kassar's expertise comes from running a loan broker called MultiFunding that he says has worked to help hundreds of entrepreneurs navigate the capital-seeking process.

    Kassar calls the small-business lending market "highly inefficient" and "poorly understood." He explains:

    "There are now loan products out there with annual percentage rates of 4 or 5 percent and others as high as 60 or even 80 percent. In part, this is the unintended consequence of the big banks' tightening up

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  • Entrepreneurs and money: Is your relationship healthy?

    Women entrepreneurs often dislike discussing money, says business coach Linda Tomb

    Business coach Linda Tomb takes a three-step approach to helping women entrepreneurs find startup success. Once she has helped her clients get control of their time and sharpen their focus, Tomb turns to their relationship with money.

    "Your relationship with money is the relationship you'll have the longest," Tomb tells entrepreneurs. "Unless your business is really just a hobby, you must take a good look at how your business will make money."

    It might seem like obvious advice for anyone trying to start a business, but Tomb says many women she works with do not like to talk about money. And yet, at her speaking engagements, everyone has questions about money. So, Tomb pays special attention to the topic with her coaching clients.

    Be able to explain your business
    First she tells women to hone their approach to the outside world. "If you're going to make money doing something, you have to be able to explain what you do," she says. "It's astounding to me how many people think they're

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  • Small Business Reading – bad communication, business ideas and plans.

    customerdialogLast week we started this new blog series rounding up some of the best small business reading from here on Yahoo! Small Business Advisor and also elsewhere. We continue this week with some great advice and success stories.

    You should also take a look around some of what Yahoo! Small Business has to offer. Besides our domain name, web hosting and ecommerce products, we also have just added an innovative marketing dashboard that you can try for free even if you don't use our other products.

    We also have a tools section within Yahoo! Small Business Advisor where you can quickly and easily create a press release with a wizard, track packages, calculate loans and look up zip codes.

    We had an interesting set of stories in this week at Yahoo! Small Business Advisor that included the following:

    The inconvenient history of Silicon Valley. (It turns out that the entrepreneurial capital of the US was created on the back of LOTS of government support.)
    Four signs you're a terrible communicator.

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  • Few claim health insurance tax credit

    If you claimed the Small Employer Health Insurance Tax Credit last year, congratulations. You are one of few employers who not only qualified but persevered through complex calculations.

    Health care tax credit too complex for employers

    According to a report issued this month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, fewer than 12 percent of the businesses that were expected to claim the credit in 2010 did so. The GAO study, conducted at the request of Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee ranking member Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), found that 170,300 small businesses claimed the credit in 2010 at a cost of $468 million.

    The numbers fall far below the estimates of government agencies and small business advocacy groups, which suggested that between 1.4 million and 4 million businesses would be eligible to claim the credit and that the cost of the credit would come to $2 billion in fiscal year 2010 and $40 billion from fiscal years 2010 to 2019.

    According to two

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