Blog Posts by Tom Musbach

  • Economist: Small businesses are not job-growth engines

    Donkey and Elephant fighting (politics)political fightWhoa. Jared Bernstein, the former top economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, just threw cold water on what many politicians want you to believe about small businesses.

    They aren't the "engine of job growth," he said.

    "In what may be the most misunderstood fact about the job market, although most companies are small — according to 2008 census data, 61 percent are small businesses with fewer than four workers — more than two-thirds of the American work force is employed by companies with more than 100 workers," he wrote yesterday in an op-ed for the New York Times.

    Even with the federal government's definition of 500 employees as a "small business," you still get more than half of the workforce employed by large companies, he said.

    The issue is incredibly timely, as nearly every politician running for office is touting the importance of small businesses and their impact on job creation.

    While Bernstein doesn't advocate ignoring small businesses in policymaking, he does fault the

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  • Business planning tips for 2012

    signpostssignpostsWhile annual strategic planning is common in the corporate world, many small businesses neglect this important step in preparing for the coming year. If you haven't started yet, there's still time -- and the tips below might help you.

    I recently attended a presentation on small-business planning by Pat Mayfield, author of several books and the current executive director of the Golden Gate Business Association, and she outlined several steps that can help:

    Establish a clear mission. Always start with your company mission, and align your goals to it.

    Work backwards. Start with where you would like to wind up at the end of the year, in terms of sales or other relevant targets.

    Be realistic, then try stretching. Write down what you think is reasonable to accomplish. Then challenge yourself a little to  extend the goal a little further.

    Keep in mind the worst-case scenario. "I often hear of small businesses failing because they didn't have enough reserves -- many times it's because they

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  • Small businesses play big role in green tech

    solar panelssolar panelsU.S. small businesses hold a significant share of patents and influence in green energy and technology, according to a report released today by the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy.

    While small businesses account for 8% of total U.S. patents, they hold 14% of patents in green technology. Small firms' green technology patents are also cited 2.5 times as often as large firms in other patent applications -- a signifier of their originality and influence, the SBA said in a press release.

    Released at the World Green Energy Symposium in Philadelphia, the government report comes at a time when green energy is suffering from a black eye. The collapse of Solyndra, a solar energy company that received a $535 million loan guarantee from the government yet filed for bankruptcy last month, has become fodder for critics of clean energy and its support from the Obama administration.

    "Small businesses are leading the way in green technology innovation as they have with innovation

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  • Readers ponder 8th rule of success from Steve Jobs’s career

    Steve Jobs waving during a presentationSteve Jobs

    The recent article "Steve Jobs and 7 Rules for Success" inspired many readers, as anyone can see from the hundreds of comments they posted.

    One reader resolved to publish her comics because she is passionate about them, another to publish his novel. It stirred one to pledge, "I am going to invent the coolest automation company ever."

    Others suggested a possible eighth rule for success. While many were sarcastic, a few of the ideas were quite thoughtful or just plain funny:

    • See genius in your craziness, believe in yourself, believe in your vision, and be constantly prepared to defend those ideas. (Mohammad)
    • Never stop dreaming, never quit, and start to believe (Montei_marjz)
    • Black turtle necks and jeans look a hell of a lot better than speedos, flip flops and sunglasses. (Chris)
    • Hard work, dedication and perseverance. Did I mention hard work... (Matt)
    • Don't compete in the market, make a new market. (Daniel)

    What wise, inspirational rule for business success would you add as the eighth in

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  • Rise in small business lending boosts hope

    Pen on borrower's languageRecent reports on small-business lending activity suggest that an engine for the American economy may be revving up.

    The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) said that small business loan activity reached the highest mark in the agency?s history during FY2011. The record loan approval volume, totaling $30.5 billion, marks a return to pre-recession levels, the SBA said.

    The money was loaned to 61,689 small businesses and startups during the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. That compares to $22.6 billion (60,771 loans) in FY2010 and $17.9 billion (50,830 loans) in FY2009.

    Accentuate the positive

    "Small businesses are the backbone of the economy, and SBA has been there to help them rebound through difficult times over the past few years," said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. "First through the Recovery Act and then through the Small Business Jobs Act and new SBA lending programs, SBA has provided small businesses with the tools they need so they can grow and create jobs."

    Another

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  • The entrepreneurial spirit

    Street vendor in China

    Street vendor in Kunming, China, selling jujubes. Photo by Virginia Hines of San Francisco (also works for Yahoo! Small Business Advisor), who commented on the image: "She may not be Steve Jobs, but this lady knows the keys to a winning brand, including  innovation, confidence, creative problem solving, differentiation from the competition, and a product that raises the bar."

    If you have a photo or story to share that captures the entrepreneurial spirit, please contact @tommusbach via Twitter.

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  • Maker of military uniforms is Minority Small Business Person of the Year

    Oscar Quiles with Person of the Year awardPerson of Year award

    Oscar Quiles, president of Pentaq Manufacturing Corp. in Puerto Rico, has been named National Minority Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

    Quiles, pictured above (center), received the award from Joseph Jordan and Marie Johns, both of the SBA, at a Sept. 30 ceremony.

    Quiles' company manufactures tents and uniforms for the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard, among other clients.

    "We are honoring Oscar for his commitment to excellence in government contracting, for creating jobs and providing work incentives for his employees," said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills in an Oct. 3 press release. "Oscar's story is a true testimony of all that small businesses do for our nation and its economy."

    Quiles learned about occupational uniform manufacturing during a decade of work for his family's business, Caribbean Needlepoint Inc. In 2003 he bought a company that was about to close, keeping all 50 employees on the payroll with help from the

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  • Basic writing to boost SEO and help sales

    The topic of search-engine optimization (SEO) intimidates many, as if it's a matter for engineering topic. At least I used to think so in my early days of editing Web content. But every person who works on a site -- particularly in marketing and content production -- needs to understand some basics that can boost visibility and help drive sales.

    The basic aim of SEO is to make your site visible in search-engine rankings. And the starting point for good SEO is to have original, valuable content.

    Specifically, make sure that the words on your page are relevant to your audience and the subject matter of your site.

    Keywords

    On your page, you want to seed your copy with keywords that correspond to subjects and phrases that readers might use in a search engine to find your page. However, cramming your content by repeating keywords won't help you, because the content will become less compelling.

    • Focus on 3-5 keywords per page, and remember that the best keywords are actually multi-word
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