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Week in Small Business part - 24

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Unemployment Hits Two-Year Low

In the latest sign of a strengthening economy, the U. S. unemployment rate on Friday fell to a two-year low of 8.8 percent. The Department of Labor notes that unemployment has dropped a full percentage point over the past four months, its sharpest decline since 1984. Small businesses have been doing their part: The most recent Intuit Small Business Employment Index shows smaller employers added 50,000 new jobs in March.

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Week in Small Business part - 23

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Geithner Says Small Biz Needs More Cash to Compete

U. S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that small businesses need increased funding access to be successful. In his remarks at the Access to Capital conference this week, Geithner said that the government-s recent tax incentives and lending programs for entrepreneurs have helped. -But it’s still a tough financing environment out there for small companies, and we want to draw more attention today to the challenges facing startups and high-growth companies,- he said.

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Week in Small Business part - 22

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SBA Plans to Upsize -Small- Business

The U. S. Small Business Administration is considering expanding its definition of what a small business is. The changes would increase the number — by nearly 9,500 — of American businesses that qualify for SBA programs, The Street reports. The proposal is available for public comment. Meanwhile, New York Times blogger Robb Mandelbaum takes a closer look at recently proposed budget cuts at the federal agency.

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Week in Small Business part - 21

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Businesses Double Up Their Twitter Use

A report from research firm eMarketer says that Twitter usage among small businesses doubled between Q3 2009 and Q4 2010, to 19 percent of all companies. That also happens to more than double the overall rate of tweeting adults in the U. S. — eight percent, according to Pew Research. But is that a good thing? Not always. Big business provided another reminder this week of the pitfalls of social media: A rep for Chrysler embarrassed the company by publishing an expletive-laced tweet criticizing Detroit drivers. The automaker later fired the agency responsible for their Twitter presence. Here-s a no-brainer: If your business has a Twitter feed, know who-s updating it. If you keep multiple accounts for personal and business use, know which one you-re signed into. Since it-s Chrysler, an automotive metaphor seems right: Just because your teenager gets their driver-s license doesn-t mean you should turn over the keys to the car and forget about it.

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Week in Small Business part - 20

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Apple Offers Small Business Tech Support Plan

Apple, more often associated with the high-end consumer market rather than the business computing world long-dominated by Windows-based PCs, has launched a tech support package aimed at small businesses. The plan, called Joint Venture, offers a variety of services from training to troubleshooting. The base package costs $499 — with the purchase of a new Mac, of course — and covers up to five systems, each of which includes a Mac, an iPhone, and an iPad. (Apple on Wednesday unveiled the iPad 2.) Curious: If your business uses Macs or other Apple products, what do you think? Is it worth the price tag? And if you don-t use Macs for business, would this make you more likely to start? Let us know in the comments.

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Week in Small Business part -19

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Online Crooks Like Small Businesses, Too

MSNBC-s ConsumerMan, Herb Weisbaum, takes a look at a growing trend: Small businesses can be cybercrime victims, too, and they may not be taking the necessary steps to secure their — or their customers- — information. I wrote about this recently over at InformationWeek: A noted security expert told me that even though you might not harbor state secrets, the rapid spread of malware poses a real threat to companies of all shapes and sizes, especially as it becomes easier and easier to put your business online.

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Week in Small Business part - 18

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Tax Mess in Texas

State Comptroller Susan Combs sent a clear message to Amazon. com recently: Don-t mess with Texas. Combs has publicly demanded that the online retailer cut a check for $269 million in unpaid sales taxes on purchases by Texas residents. But Governor Rick Perry issued a different message to Combs: Don’t mess with Amazon. And the retailer has said it will shut down its warehouse in the state. A Dallas Morning News editorial backs Combs in the fight. It-s another chapter in the increasingly complicated relationship between online retailers that don-t collect taxes and state legislatures — not to mention some small businesses — that think they should.

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Week in Small Business part - 17

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Facebook Likes Small Business

Facebook-s manic growth — and its recent $50 billion valuation — may owe a good deal to small businesses that advertise on the social network. Reuters blogger Deborah Cohen dug into an upcoming report by research firm eMarketer and found that the lion-s share — up to 60 percent — of Facebook-s $1.86 billion in revenue last year came from its self-service ad engine. Although the column duly points out that advertisers of any size can use Facebook-s platform, an eMarketer analyst speculates that the bulk of self-service spending comes from smaller businesses.

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Week in Small Business part - 16

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Large Truck Sales Point to Pick Up

We tend to look at the financial markets, employment data, and other broad indicators when considering economic health, but a less visible trend may bode well for smaller businesses: Large pickup trucks and cargo vans are moving off of dealer lots again. The news was echoed by General Motors, which announced Friday morning that sales by its Chevrolet unit to small businesses spiked 36 percent over the final three months of 2010.

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Week in Small Business -15 part

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Optimism Report-s Winning Streak Snapped

The monthly temperature check conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) dropped in December, ending a string of five straight months in which slow-but-certain boosts to small business confidence held sway. The Index of Small Business Optimism shed 0.6 points last month, landing at 92.6. That-s still an improvement from the recent past – the index never cracked 90 in 2009 — but the NFIB is quick to point out that the latest report marks three straight years of -recessionary levels.-

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Week in Small Business - 14 part

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Unemployment Surprises with Significant Drop

The national unemployment rate checked in Friday morning with some good news (finally), falling to 9.4 percent in December, according to the Labor Department. The Washington Post notes that the most recent figure represents the lowest unemployment rate in 19 months and the sharpest month-to-month drop-off since 1998. Earlier this week, the Intuit Small Business Employment Index showed that small businesses added 57,000 workers to their payrolls in December.

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Week in Small Business - 13 part

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Small Retailers Squeezed by Holiday Inventory

Although the outlook for businesses continues to brighten, some smaller companies are getting pinched by their holiday inventory purchases. Some retailers are even resorting to credit cards to keep their shelves stocked during the frantic shopping season.

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Week in Small Business part - 12

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Who Is Sam Graves?

The newly chosen chairman of the House Small Business Committee, that’s who. Graves, a Missouri Republican, had been the ranking minority member of the committee since 2009. His appointment to the chair comes after Republicans took control of the House in the recent midterm elections. In a statement, Graves said: “One of my primary goals will be to aggressively weed out waste, fraud, and abuse within programs intended to encourage small business development.”

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Week in Small Business part - 11

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It Ain-t Over -Til It-s Over

Was this what Yogi Berra meant? The Wall Street Journal says that while big companies are back to normal, smaller businesses are still struggling to shrug off the economic recession. The piece includes a 35-person firm that continued its recession practice of requiring employees to take one unpaid day off each month until sales rev up.

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Week in Small Business part 10

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SEC to Review Small Business Funding Rules

The U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission will re-evaluate the financing regulations that govern small businesses to determine whether they-re outdated or hindering economic growth. The Wall Street Journal reports that the review was prompted in part by the increasing number of online -crowdfunding- venues that enable startups and small businesses to sell shares directly to individual investors. Got an opinion? The SEC is accepting public comments via web form and email.

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Week in Small Business part - 9

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Facebook Local Exec Talks Small Business Tips

Looking for advice on how best to use Facebook for your business? Why not go straight to the source: USA Today scored an interview with Facebook-s director of local, who answered a series of questions on how businesses can get the most out of the ubiquitous social network. Topics include everything from -Likes- to how often to post updates on your Page. Related reading: Cats need Facebook, too!

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Week in Small Business part -8

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Are -Loser Pays- Laws a Victory for Small Businesses?

If your business has been on the wrong end of a lawsuit — especially a frivolous one — this story-s for you, though it has implications for every small business. Texas Governor Rick Perry this week signed a -loser pays- bill to reform the state-s courts system. In short, the law means that plaintiffs in civil suits are liable for the defendant-s legal costs if the suit is judged to be meritless, a move intended to reduce frivolous litigation. An op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal lauds the reform as a victory for small businesses, though FindLaw. com notes that it won-t offer foolproof protection. Multiple news reports indicate that other states are considering similar reforms.

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Week in Small Business - part 7

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What-s Next for Debit Card Transaction Fees

The big news this week for small businesses — not to mention banks and consumers — was the Senate vote to not postpone the Federal Reserve-s proposed cap on debit card fees. (Get a recap of the new fee limit and this week-s vote.) The business and political media continue to dissect the vote-s fallout and the coming July 21 deadline for the new rules to take effect. The International Business Times notes that the Fed may still implement modified rules; meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal takes a look at Republican strategies for retooling last year-s financial reforms (the debit card fee limits were mandated by those reforms); and The Hill says that while retailers are celebrating, small businesses need to reinvest the savings rather than pocket them.

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Week in Small Business part6

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No Golden Years Ahead for Majority of Owners

Less than half of small business owners are financially prepared for retirement, according to a recent survey by The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute. Just 45 percent of the 1,433 owners polled feel very well or even fairly well prepared to kick up their feet later in life. And only nine percent said they-ll someday stop working for pay altogether. Close to one in three owners are banking on a future sale of their business to help fund their golden years.

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Week in Small Business -5 part

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Geithner: Small Business Funds Coming Soon

U. S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testified before Congress this week that that the Small Business Lending Fund will soon begin distributing $11.6 billion in capital. That-s the amount banks eligible for the fund have applied for out of a possible $30 billion. The Hill notes that Geithner and the White House have taken some heat from lawmakers for the length of time — more than nine months and counting — it-s taken to put the fund into practice after it was approved as part of last year-s Small Business Jobs Act.

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Week in Small Business - 4 part

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Amazon. com Drops California Affiliates

California small businesses that rely on revenue from the Amazon Associates Program got some bad news this week: They-re fired. Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that will require online retailers like Amazon to collect sales tax on orders that originate in the state. Amazon. com cut its California affiliates loose to bolster its claim that it has no physical presence in the state — and therefore shouldn-t have to collect sales taxes on behalf of the government. Over at InformationWeek, the CEO of ChannelAdvisor outlined the two — yep, there-s only two — options for small businesses scrambling to keep the affiliate cash flowing.

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Week in Small Business - 3 part

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Carpocalypse Now: L. A. Businesses Strike Carmaggedon Deals

What happens when a city notorious for its traffic closes one of its busiest freeways for the weekend? Carmaggedon! (Or the Carpocalypse, if you-d prefer.) As Los Angeles drivers prepare to meet their maker — or at least map an alternate route — some SoCal businesses are drumming up ways to keep shopping traffic flowing during the prime summer days. For entrepreneurs everywhere, it-s an interesting case study in how to deal with — or simply cash in on — events that alter consumer behavior, not to mention the media melodrama that sometimes surrounds them. The Los Angeles Times checks in with several small businesses to see how they-re planning to cope. The Wall Street Journal does the same, even noting a pet photographer that-s knocking 20 percent off her rates.

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Week in Small Business - 2 part

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AmEx Launches Deals on Facebook

American Express has joined the daily deals game, introducing its -Link, Like, Love- program on Facebook this week. The platform enables merchants to tailor targeted deals to -based on the likes, interests, and social connections of cardmembers, and their Facebook friends,- says AmEx. You might be thinking: Really? Another deals site? But TechCrunch sizes up the winners and losers and says American Express, Facebook, and small businesses stand to gain. In the loss column? Groupon, LivingSocial, Google, Foursquare, Visa, and Mastercard.

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Week in Small Business part - 1

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Your Employees Are Updating Their Resumes

Might be time to break out your best Don Corleone and ask your staff: Do I have your loyalty? A recent MetLife survey says less than half will respond yes. It-s worse than that. In fact, one in three small business employees flat-out said they-d rather work for someone else. Yet as loyalty declines, the percentage of business owners who think their team is in it for the long haul remains unchanged.