Blog Posts by Tom Musbach

  • Business lessons learned the hard way

    Woman upset over a mistakeannoyanceMistakes teach some great lessons. But they are often painful, so it's better to learn from others' mistakes, whenever possible.

    Rene Shimada Siegel was nice enough to share some of her hard-earned lessons with me. She started her business, High Tech Connect, 15 years ago after leaving the corporate world so that she could have more flexibility in raising three young children. Her firm matches companies with talented marketing and PR pros and is based in Pleasanton, California.

    Her four lessons:

    "Trust your instincts. Slimy prospects make even worse customers. Every time I went against my gut and opted for the money, I regretted my decision. Big time.

    "Being successful doesn't mean you have to be big. There are some things much more important then giant revenue. Profits. Sanity. Fun. Sleep. Focus on what you do best, and then OWN it.

    "Best business decision ever: joining a small business CEO group (called Vistage). Every entrepreneur needs a mentor or peer group to provide honest

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  • Election notes: What small-biz owners want

    political symbolspoliticsResults of a recent Yahoo! Small Business survey about political issues in the upcoming election revealed a lot of anxiety about Washington right now.

    While you can find more details in my article "Small Businesses: 'Washington Is Worse than Wall Street,'" I didn't get to quote very many of the desires that respondents articulated in the survey.

    Here is a larger sample of the comments, made in response to the question: "What one issue affecting your business specifically would you like to see policy makers address, and why?"

    "Taxes! It is hard to know what the taxes will be at the end of each year, and the system is set up so that we don't want to earn over a certain amount or there is a 40% increase in what we pay. There should be a flat tax amount."

    "I'd like to be able to provide my employees with better health coverage and retirement packages, and not have to lay off so many because my income flow has been severely reduced lately."

    "I would just like for our government to work hard

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  • 2012 starts with positive small-biz outlook

    new year 2012 artGood news for those of you happy to see 2011 disappear: Business owners' optimism and hiring plans are looking up as 2012 gets underway, according to a monthly indicator of the U.S. small-business economy.

    Half of small-business owners said they plan to hire in 2012, and 56% said they intend to raise wages for some or all employees, the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard reported today.

    "We saw caution in 2011, but the leading indicators suggest 2012 looks positive," said SurePayroll CEO and President Michael Alter. "The sun is on the horizon. Optimism is higher, 50 percent plan to hire and wages look to go up."

    The monthly scorecard also noted that optimism among small-business owners rose to 63%, up 10 percentage points in the last two months.

    Could 2012 be a year of opportunity for you? Our recent article "7 tips for becoming your own boss in 2012" offers good advice from experts on how to start and/or grow a business this year.

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  • Occupy Wall Street loses some small-biz support

    The Occupy movement's protest against Wall Street, big-business excess, and rising economic inequality has not really caught on among small businesses, despite some shared interests. In fact, Occupy Wall Street is dividing small business owners rather than uniting them.

    Occupy Wall Street poll graphicpoll resultAn informal poll on Yahoo! Small Business Advisor (left) suggests that a small majority of our readers do not support Occupy Wall Street and the related protests in other cities. The poll results are not statistically sound, so it's probably just safe to conclude that sentiment is split among small-business owners (or people who intend to start a small business).

    A survey from email marketing company VerticalResponse reported very similar results. The company, which says most of its customers are small businesses, found that 49 percent support the loosely defined Occupy movement and 47 percent oppose it.

    The Occupy Wall Street protest that started on Sept. 17 has become active in over 400 cities, but the message is not

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  • November’s slight growth in small-business activity

    several 100-dollar billsmoneyDespite the economic tremors coming out of Europe and the stock market whiplash of November, a few reports this week may ease some of the tension small-business owners, in particular, are feeling in this economy.

    The hiring outlook trends upward

    The overall jobless rate dipped to 8.6%, and total nonfarm employment rose by 120,000 jobs last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Modest job gains in temporary help continued during the month, which suggests more employers are testing the waters for adding workers.

    Small businesses created 110,000 jobs in November, according the ADP National Employment Report released on Wednesday. Or, if you think that's too good to be true, the payroll processing company Intuit reported that small businesses in the U.S. created 55,000 jobs in November.

    Small  business lending surges; optimism stays flat

    A monthly index that measures small-business borrowing rose 20% in October. The index, released this week by Thomson Reuters/PayNet,

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  • eCommerce posts big gains on long Thanksgiving weekend

    shopping bagsshopping bagsCyber Monday and related retail events around the Thanksgiving holiday weekend have so far produced decent gains that should make retailers very thankful.

    Here's a quick roundup of the numbers:

    * On Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving), online sales rose 33% over last year, according to IBM Benchmark. The final tally was $1.25 billion spent online, a 22% increase from last year, according to comScore.

    * Overall Black Friday sales rose 6.6% over last year, according to retail data and consulting firm ShopperTrak, but online sales grew 24.3%, according to IBM's data unit Coremetrics.

    * Online sales completed on Thanksgiving Day rose 39.3%, showing that the holiday itself is a huge retail opportunity, much to the chagrin of traditionalists and store employees who prefer to keep the day unsullied by commerce.

    Some small businesses see major sales boost

    Nick Palmisciano, CEO of online apparel company Ranger Up, said that his company's sales were up 153% during his company's "best

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  • High court to hear small-business group’s challenge to health-care law

    This week the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear several cases that challenge the Obama administration's health-care law, and one of the cases comes from a powerful advocacy group representing small businesses.

    That National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) filed suit over the individual mandate in the health-care law, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The constitutional question of the law focuses on the commerce clause and the ability to compel consumers to buy a product they don't want. The NFIB believes the mandate puts a costly burden on self-employed and small-business workers that is also hurting their ability to create more jobs.

    "The health-care law has not lived up to its promises of reducing costs, allowing citizens to keep their coverage or improving a cumbersome system that has long been a burden to small-business owners and employees, alike," said Dan Danner, NFIB president and CEO. "The small-business community can now have hope; their

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  • Entrepreneur impulse thrives in older Americans

    Woman working at a computerBoomer entrepreneurBaby boomers aren't just swelling the ranks of the retired; they're also starting businesses in large numbers.

    Roughly 8% of entrepreneurs in early-stage startups are older than 65, and 18% are over the age of 55. That data was released in November in the study "Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2010 National Entrepreneurial Assessment for the USA," conducted by Babson College and Baruch College.

    Another survey released in November suggests that 1 in 4 Americans aged 44-70 are interested in starting businesses or nonprofit ventures in the next 5-10 years.

    Of those potential business owners, 58% say the current economic crisis makes them more likely to create their own venture, despite doubts about startup funding. Nearly as many (47%) said they expect to tap into personal savings to launch their ventures.

    The data comes from Civic Ventures, a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose. The findings support earlier research by the Kauffman Foundation that Americans between the

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  • Vets reveal biggest first-year challenge in business

    In doing research for my article, "Veterans Show Force as Business Owners," I received many more quotes and tips than I could use. Since all small business owners could definitely benefit from the veterans' words of wisdom to help with starting a business, attracting clients, and managing priorities, I collected some for this blog post.

    Here are 5 business owners who are also U.S. military veterans answering the question, "What was your biggest challenge in the first year of business?"

    Alice Guilford, Age Advantage Home Care Services (FL): The biggest problem the first year, honestly, was to stay motivated. That's where the discipline comes in to play. I knew, that in order to get where I wanted to be, I needed to "beat the streets", so to speak. Clients weren't going to just automatically appear. But, once we got our first client, that's when the light bulb went off. I was absolutely amazed to receive that first payment and was thrilled at how the whole process works.

    Carlos Vasquez,

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  • Startup funding: Top challenge for 2012?

    Check out the results of this recent poll (Oct. 31) on Yahoo! Small Business Advisor:

    Poll Result - Small Business Funding is top challenge for 2012poll result
    I am a little surprised that "sales" ranked last, but may be because it was linked with "marketing." I've heard anecdotally from small business owners that revenues are really the biggest challenge right now. But you can't get to the point of generating revenue from sales if you can't get funding to start a business in the first place.

    While seeking comment for an upcoming article, I noticed many business owners who are also U.S. military veterans say that getting a small business loan was the biggest challenge they had in the first year of business.

    Dan Petery of Accessible Homecare Solutions LLC in Cleveland summed it up pretty well: "I can't stress how important getting business funding and establishing business credit are, it can be frustrating, non rewarding and energy depleting, but you have to be persistent."

    Here are a few more ideas for getting startup funding:

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