Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • 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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  • Congress doesn't get small business: NSBA survey

    Government gets an overwhelming vote of no confidence from small business, according to a survey of 670 small business owners conducted online last October and released today by the National Small Business Association. NSBA members—who tend to represent older, more well-established small businesses—as well as non-members were polled.

    The NSBA acknowledged that the survey sample was not representative of the at-large small business community: Respondents were largely Republican. And although 90 percent of those surveyed had companies with under 100 employees and more than 40 percent reported gross revenues of under $1 million, a disproportionately large number (42 percent) were from professional services and manufacturing businesses, from S-corps (40 percent), or at companies that generate more than $5 million in annual gross revenues (24 percent)—all much higher rates than a typical cross section of small business owners.

    Nevertheless, the data reflect anecdotal evidence of broader

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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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  • 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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  • Swing-state small businesses favor GOP

    A growing number of small business owners are optimistic about the post-election economic outlook, and the majority of them in key swing states plan to vote for Mitt Romney or the GOP nominee for president, according to a survey conducted this month by Manta, an online community for small businesses.

    The organization polled nearly 1,600 of its members nationally, including nearly 400 in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. In those key states, 28 percent of small business owners surveyed said that if Governor Romney is the GOP nominee, he has their vote. Another 25 percent said they would vote for whomever is selected as the GOP candidate. Four percent said they would vote for the GOP candidate only if it is Ron Paul. And 32 percent said they would like to re-elect President Barack Obama. Fewer than 10 percent of small business owners in the swing states remain undecided.

    Numbers in the swing states nearly mirror national stats

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  • National Small Business Week Interview: Constant Contact

    Constant Contact seminar on social media for small businessConstant Contact will generate $250 million in revenue this year helping more than 500,000 small businesses, nonprofits, and associations use email, social media, surveys, events, and local deals to create and grow customer relationships. Among Constant Contact’s own customers are about 350,000 small businesses with fewer than 10 employees. Yahoo! Small Business Advisor customers can also benefit from Constant Contact’s expertise through a partnership that brings them into the Yahoo! Small Business Dashboard.

    We caught up with CEO Gail Goodman on the same day Constant Contact was celebrating the hiring of its 1,000th employee with a company-wide breakfast. Goodman, whose new book, Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins in a Socially Connected World, hits bookstore shelves this the week, shared her unique insights about small businesses in the U.S. in this exclusive interview with Yahoo! Small Business Advisor.

    How important do you think small businesses are to the overall economy?

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  • National Small Business Week Interview: Verizon

    Verizon reaches out to small businessesEvery small business knows the name Verizon as a provider of technology products and services. But have you considered Verizon as a resource for small business advice, educational tools, Facebook apps, webinars featuring leading small business experts and authors, and website building help? Those are some of the services they provide online, and for two years in a row, Verizon’s website has been ranked by Compass Intelligence.com as the number one resource for small businesses.

    Yahoo! Small Business Advisor caught up with the Verizon managers leading that initiative: Chief Small Business Advocate, Mary Yarbrough, who has responsibility for the small business segment at Verizon and her colleague Mark Adams, Director, Small Business Marketing, who is responsible for marketing online and offline as well as digital assets and social media assets for Mary’s team. They spoke with us by phone from Verizon’s Basking Ridge, NJ, offices for this exclusive interview.

    How important do you think

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