Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • Sequester’s threats to small business

    A 2.7 percent budget cut might seem trivial compared to what many small business owners have had to deal with during the recession. But reports about what such a slash to the federal budget would mean to small business owners are mostly dire. The cut is due March 1 if Congress does not come up with an alternative this week. Here's a roundup of media reports about how the sequester will impact small business:

    According to The New York Times' "You’re the Boss" blog:

    “The sequester would ... scale back programs at the SBA. According to the administration, loan guarantees would be reduced by $902 million, from $22 billion to just over $21 billion. And the agency told the Senate Appropriations Committee that cuts to its counseling programs would force the agency’s partners to turn away at least 33,000 business owners seeking assistance.”

    On a list of "Eight Ways the Sequester Could Ruin Your Life," The Daily Beast offered this warning:

    "Anyone with a small business should fear the

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  • Trusting your team: A business owner’s aha! moment

    Businesswoman Lisa Firestone is a meticulous planner. When she approached her partners at an employee benefits consulting firm 15 years ago with a buyout offer in hand, she had a resignation letter in the other hand and four months of legal and financial strategizing behind her.

    When her buyout offer was rebuffed, she quit and launched her own firm within two weeks. She put her house up as collateral for a bank loan, two key colleagues and almost all of her clients followed her, and her workers' compensation and disability management consultancy, Managed Care Advisors, shot out of the gate.

    Lisa Firestone, founder and CEO of Managed Care Advisors

    “One of the best things I did was have a good business plan that I could put in front of a bank and customers,” says Firestone. “I normally think things out pretty thoroughly.”

    That cautious planning created a stable company that grew steadily for several years. But Firestone eventually came to see that her extreme caution wasn’t always a positive.

    As owner, CEO, and “chief motivational officer,”

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  • In business with your Valentine? Some unromantic advice

    One in four business owners won’t have to make any extra effort to spend time with their Valentine today. They’re in business with the one they love. According to a Manta survey of more than 1,100 business owners, 28 percent of small and medium sized business partners are also romantic partners. More than half of those recommend the arrangement and some even tell Manta it has improved their relationship (though not necessarily their sex life).

    Data from Manta's Love, Sex & Marriage in Business survey

    Sounds nice, but the online legal services company Rocket Lawyer offers lovers a dose of reality for Valentine’s Day. If you’re mixing romance and business, Rocket Lawyer founder and attorney Charley Moore says you need to think about pre-nups, post-nups, and corporate governance. He points to some high profile business-couple disasters such as Bethenny Frankel and Jason Hoppy, whose prenup gives Hoppy no rights to any of the $39 million made in the sale of her Skinnygirl Cocktail line—a business he played a part in, and billionaire hotelier

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  • SBA’s Karen Mills to Step Down

    Just one year after her position was elevated to the Cabinet level, Small Business Administrator Karen Mills will step down, President Obama announced yesterday.

    In a statement, the President said:

    "Over the last four years, Karen has made it easier for small businesses to interact with the federal government by reducing paperwork and cutting through red tape. She has played a leading role in my Administration’s efforts to support start-ups and entrepreneurs. And she was instrumental in the passage of the Small Business Jobs Act. Because of Karen’s hard work and dedication, our small businesses are better positioned to create jobs and our entire economy is stronger."

    Mills joined the SBA job from a career in venture capital, where she had been known for supporting women entrepreneurs as managing director of Solera Capital. Most recently, she was president of MMP Group, a private equity firm.

    Politico observed that Mills's departure hints at a trend:

    "Mills's announcement marks yet

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  • How your startup can get enterprise-class networking cheap

    The cloud, the cloud! By now most entrepreneurs have heard that the cloud can help their small business operate with the computing sophistication and efficiencies of a big business. But many still aren’t sure just how.

    One great example can be seen in a new service launched today by the Silicon Valley startup Pertino. Pertino’s founders—a team of networking and security innovators with top management experience at Packeteer, Apple, Blue Coat, and HP’s Mercury Interactive—say they aim to bring enterprise-class computing networks to even the tiniest operations.

    With their service, they say, an Internet connection is all a small business needs to build a global network for its employees. No purchase of servers, no hiring of IT professionals, no adding IP addresses. Says marketing VP Todd Krautkremer, “You can create a business-class network without knowing a single word of mumbo jumbo, and you pay $10 a month per user.”

    Pertino’s founders say that, as the workforce becomes increasingly

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  • How not to lose talent as your startup matures

    I once worked for a small nonprofit that generously provided employees with free K-cup coffee. One day a junior staffer noticed that a video camera had been installed in the break room ceiling, its eye pointed at the coffeemaker.

    Emails started flying. Why was management spying on staff? Were conversations being recorded? Were lunch hours and coffee breaks being monitored?

    I went to the HR director to find out. She informed me that unusually large quantities of milk had been disappearing from the fridge. She was determined to find out who was taking all that milk and to penalize them. Installing a security camera, with no explanation, was her best solution.

    Never mind the cost-benefit analysis that would inevitably prove lost pints of milk to be far cheaper than installing a camera and paying someone to watch hours of video to catch the culprit. The cost of creeping out employees was immeasurable. At that organization, such a move was par for the course. Smart people who were fed up

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  • How to create a great small business workspace

    Pets can be part of a productive workspace. Photo: turnstone

    Think that a better-designed workspace, or even a more wellness-oriented culture, could help your small business be more productive and get to the next level? Kevin Kuske would bet on it.

    He’s Chief Anthropologist and General Manager for the office furniture company turnstone, which caters to entrepreneurs and businesses with fewer than 100 employees. In his studies of great small businesses—the kinds of startups that brilliant people grovel to work for—he’s seen how attention to office design and culture can support success.

    In these workplaces, Kuske says, “there’s freedom and the boundaries between work and home are blurred; you see dogs and skateboards and teapots, which creates a very strong culture of personality that is the sum of all the people who work there.” That's also a great recruiting tool, he says.

    In fast-moving small businesses, Kuske says the team members are working so hard that social bonds are important. An element of play in a workspace can help to establish

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  • Four office design tips from a workplace anthropologist

    Designers might promise that a well-designed office space can improve productivity and enhance worker efficiency and well being, but many small businesses have higher priorities for their limited budget dollars than office furniture and interior design. If you operate in Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha, Kansas City, or Dallas, here’s your chance to win a $20,000 office makeover.

    Office furniture company turnstone will launch its “Culture@Work in the Heartland” contest later this month. A team of the company’s office design experts will set out from their Grand Rapids, Mich., headquarters on a ten-day roadtrip through nine states on their way to the SXSW festival in Austin. Traveling in a sleek state-of-the-art mobile office and conference room—converted from a Michigan State University football team bus—emblazoned with the slogan “Be Yourself at Work,” the turnstone team will stop in each of five cities to overhaul the office space of a contest winner.

    The turnstone bus will pull up at five Heartland small business spaces later this month.

    To enter to win a $20,000 office

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  • New portal solicits comments on small biz regs

    Telling legislators how their regulations affect your small business is now as easy as clicking here. The House Committee on Small Business yesterday unveiled Small Biz Reg Watch, a website that alerts users to proposed regulatory actions with consequences for small business. The site lists the regs, describes their impact on small businesses, and provides an easy-to-use comment section to gather input from the small business community within the comment period.

    Six regulations are presently described on the site—two from the IRS, two from the EPA, one from the Small Business Administration, and one from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Administration. More than 250 individual comments have been posted by small business stakeholders.

    To be sure, an online portal for submitting public comments on proposed regulations already exists at Regulations.gov. Small Biz Reg Watch is linked to that portal, but highlights particular rules likely to impact

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  • Seeking your small business’s pricetag? Try an app

    A new breed of software tools aims to give access to big-business financial analysis to small business owners. For far less than it costs to hire an accountant, a math-averse entrepreneur can subscribe to one of a number of user-friendly online services that can extrapolate strategic data from your inputs, or even directly from QuickBooks.

    One vendor has trademarked the term “valuation as a service” to describe the software it provides. The data these tools help generate are useful to any business owner hoping to sell the company, get a bank loan, or share financials in a contract bid. Some users even claim the information they’ve gleaned has helped them increase their value.

    Writing in Colliers’ Magazine last year, Scott Gabehart, author of The Business Valuation Book and professor of valuations at the Thunderbird School, and Michael Carter predicted:

    The rise of the Internet, together with the public availability of real-time comparable metrics, social media technologies, and

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