Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • 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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  • Why you should start the year with a small business insurance re-evaluation

    As a small business owner, being under- or uninsured can cost you your company and land you in jail. Greg Bivona, a retired insurance industry executive who now helps entrepreneurs as a SCORE mentor, recalls a 2005 case in which a Bloomfield, Conn., trucking company owner met both those fates when one of his uninsured dump trucks caused a catastrophic accident that resulted in 5 fatalities.

    That owner was found to be willfully negligent, but business owners are frequently unaware that they are insufficiently insured. “A lot of people don’t understand the pitfalls and risks [of being under-insured],” Bivona says. “Often they minimize what they should have, they go cheap. I understand why; I was in the business. They’re between a rock and a hard place. But you don’t want to go too cheap and have exposure.”

    The start of a new year is a good time to conduct an annual re-evaluation of your business insurance coverage. If your staff, office space, or business has reduced in recent years, you

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  • Small businesses start year with sunny outlook: survey

    Small business owners are starting 2013 with a sunnier outlook than they ended 2012 with, according results of an online survey released on Friday.

    The quarterly Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business survey in early January found a significant jump in optimism among 601 small business owners since surveying a random sample of the group online in November. “Small-business owners as a group have returned to being essentially neutral about their current operating environment from being more pessimistic last November,” Gallup reported.

    Yet optimism is down overall among the group from a year ago, and business owners point to many reasons to remain worried about their business prospects. Gallup reports that:

    “More than half of U.S. small-business owners say healthcare costs and taxes on small businesses are hurting their operating environment ‘a lot,’ making these the top two concerns among eight issues tested ... They are followed by the price of energy, government regulations, and the federal

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  • SBA site strives to streamline low-cost tech contracts

    The Small Business Administration has launched an online marketplace designed to simplify the way small tech businesses find and bid on small contracts with federal agencies. Innovative technology companies are invited to use RFP-EZ to create a company profile and bid on low-cost, high-impact jobs.

    According to SBA: “By simply creating a company profile on the beta site, each small business can search and bid for contracts relevant to its skill set. A small business can easily search for an opportunity, see a statement of work, and bid all within the RFP-EZ web interface.”

    At present, the site features four available contracts, all commissioned by the Small Business Administration with deadlines of February 4. The jobs are in database enhancement, database integration, web-based communications, and automated email communications.

    If the pilot phase of RFP-EZ proves successful, SBA says the program will be expanded to include more contracts for a more diverse group of innovative

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  • A “big data” company helps small businesses target sales

    The Radius Intelligence team in San Francisco

    Small business owners may be interested to know that a fellow entrepreneur has raised more than $18 million from investors, including $12.4 in a funding round led by American Express this week, for technology that makes it easier for salespeople to find you and, if you sell to small businesses, for you to find customers.

    Radius Intelligence is the brainchild of Darian Shirazi, who gained notoriety at 17 as Facebook’s first intern and later dropped out of college to start his own company. Descended from entrepreneurs in Iran—one set of grandparents imported fabric to make and sell clothing and another re-manufactured brand-name products such as Nivea and PertPlus for the local market—Shirazi says he grew up thinking about the needs of small businesses.

    He also had a bent for big data. So at 21 he set out with his two Palo Alto, Calif., roommates to build a knowledgebase that would help small service and product suppliers better target their sales.

    Since 2010 Radius has amassed an

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  • 7 tips for marital bliss with a business owner

    Following on our previous post, Agreed to marry an entrepreneur? Some spousal advice, we spoke with Meg Hirshberg, author of For Better or For Work: A Survival Gide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families. The book and her Inc. Magazine column, Balancing Acts, are based on her experience married to business owner Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Farm, the world’s largest organic yogurt company.

    Hirshberg, who married at 30 and began raising a family during the 9 years it took Stonyfield to become profitable, offers these 7 pieces of wisdom that might help you adjust a little easier to the particular brand of wedded bliss you’ve agreed to.

    1. Ask questions now. There’s no time like before you’ve exchanged vows to ask crucial questions of your entrepreneur and perhaps even a lawyer to understand what’s at risk if the business goes belly up. Many entrepreneurs take out a line of credit or use their home as collateral for a small business loan, Hirshberg says, so it’s completely

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  • Agreed to marry an entrepreneur? Some spousal advice

    With wedding proposal season behind us, it’s time for those who’ve recently become engaged to an entrepreneur to ready themselves for the ride. According to many who’ve been there, marriage to a business owner can feature experiences you aren’t likely to get when you’re wedded to someone who works “for the man.”

    “You are about to embark on an exciting adventure. Embrace it!” says a New England software developer who stood by her serial-entrepreneur husband for 20 years before he hit on a major success. “This person will make sure you life is never dull.”

    Indeed, journalist Meg Hirshberg, whose husband founded Stonyfield Farm, compares being along for the ride in a business venture to being the passenger in a car he navigated along California's winding coastal Highway 1. “He was driving and loving it, and I was feeling nauseated because of all the twists and turns," Hirshberg recalls. "One person is in control of the wheel, the other is sitting there being jerked around feeling sick."

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  • A simple home office tax deduction is coming

    If you’re among the many small business owners who regularly forfeit the home office tax deduction for fear of attracting an audit or because it is just too complicated to calculate, there’s good news for you out of Washington today.

    The Small Business Administration and the IRS have coordinated to provide “a new, simpler option for calculating the home office tax deduction.” Taking the deduction will no longer require calculating the energy costs, mortgage interest, homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and repairs you pay on your home office as a percentage of the entire home. Instead, small business owners and employees who work from a qualifying home office will have the option to deduct $5 per square foot of office space on up to 300 square feet, for as much as $1,500 in deductions annually.

    According to the IRS’s calculations, the simpler formula will save taxpayers more than 1.6 million hours per year in tax preparation time. One hitch: the new rule won’t go into effect till

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  • Forget New Year’s resolutions; set intentions for your small business

    “New Year’s resolutions are child’s play,” says entrepreneur coach Linda Tomb. “Resolutions are ‘shoulds,’ like ‘I should go to the gym every day.’” And if you set New Year’s resolutions for your business, you’ll be as likely to keep them as you would be to keep that doomed “lose weight” resolution, Tomb predicts.

    Instead, she suggests, do some New Year’s visioning and set some intentions for your business. Too New Age for you? Hear her out.

    Yahoo! Small Business Advisor contacted Tomb for ideas on how to keep your business resolutions. “If you want to keep a promise,” she says, “it has to be lined up with what you really want—not with what you think you should be doing.” To figure that out, Tomb says, “You have to look inside and see what you’re yearning for.” And that’s what visioning is all about. “Resolutions are about tweaks. But what people are really seeking is transformation, and that comes from visioning,” she says.

    Say, for instance, your business resolution for 2013 is to

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