A small business owner’s wish list for the new president

November 12, 2008

Pam SatranPamela Redmond Satran is a developer of baby-naming site nameberry.com, based on the name guides she coauthored with Linda Rosenkrantz. The opinions expressed are her own.

Dear President-Elect Obama,

In the final days leading up to your election, we heard a lot about what you were going to do to help small-business owners. Now it’s time to pony up. Not sure where to start? As someone with the audaciously bad timing to launch my website, nameberry.com, on October 14, I have some ideas:

Start a web-based work initiative
Taking a cue from FDR’s bold work initiatives in his first 100 days, you might train people to work on small web businesses like mine. Instead of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), call it the WWW Camp, where laid-off mortgage brokers and moms craving flexible hours can learn software coding and database management and website design. The result: More jobs in northern Vermont and southern Virginia; more accessible and affordable help for the new generation of small web-based business owners like me.

And while you’re at it, improve the Internet infrastructure
You’re planning to spend billions on highway improvements, but what about the Internet infrastructure? Spending money on roads promotes more driving, which uses fuel and increases our carbon footprint, while investing in the next generation of technology encourages people to stay home and spend more time on the web. That’s good for me and all the other web startups.

Bring the Small Business Association into the 21st century
I’d love it if the SBA was dealing with 2009 businesses like mine along with coffee shops and dry cleaning stores. The kinds of issues I faced starting my business – finding a talented and affordable designer, figuring out search engine optimization, driving traffic to my site – aren’t even addressed at sba.gov.

Help the midcareer worker retool
My degree in journalism helped me launch a career as a magazine editor and writer and book author, but I wasn’t sure where to turn for my new educational needs in this economy. Who was going to teach me how to embed video on my blog – and then how to get out there and promote the thing? Where was someone accustomed to working alone going to learn how to motivate and manage a team – especially without money in the picture? I figured it out myself, but education and training efforts aimed at the midcareer worker looking to launch or renovate a small business, or stay vital in a larger corporation, would be wonderful.

Challenge Google
At the risk of angering the Great God Google, I think you should look into wresting back control of the Internet and putting the public interest above secret algorithms or pay-for-play. There are thousands of newly-unemployed journalists ready and able to make editorial judgments on the value of websites based on quality and not on the number of times they can cram certain keywords into their copy. Bring back real intelligence and expertise to everyday research.

Champion more entrepreneurs
You got a lot of political mileage out of Joe the Plumber, and made him famous in the process. But how many sinks can one plumber plunge? Referring to me as “Pam the Baby Namer” would drive millions of parents in search of excellent names for their babies – Barack, anyone? – to my small business.

Make government relevant to small business owners again
I’m not worried about my taxes; I’m worried that my business won’t make any money at all and, even with minimal expenses, we’ll have to close shop. I’m worried that, even if we can afford to pay a salary, the cost and trouble of paying social security and medical insurance will mean we can’t hire someone. I’m worried that, without affordable sources of money – including my diminishing home equity and my own IRA – my business will stay small forever.


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Give the guy a chance. He hasn’t even taken office yet, and you’re expecting him to have solutions already.

It took Bush eight years to screw us this badly; give Obama some time to “prune the Bush”!

Posted by obamabeliever | Report as abusive

I would be more interested in having an SBA Czar than a Secretary of State. I’m with Pamela. The small businesses in this country are the backbone of the economy and something must be done to help us stay alive. This issue has to be on the first 100 days plan.

Posted by Obama wanna beleive | Report as abusive

Obama has to address the economy out of the starting gate, and that includes small businesses. I think Pamela’s suggestions are right on target, but they fail to address one key point – what about making broadband accessible to everyone? We all know online business is where many will turn because of unemployment. But not if they don’t have access, and/or not if their access is sub-par. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to run an efficient business (or even trying to research or simply surf the net) with a slow connection and stalling applications.

Once the broadband issue is resolved, then I believe there needs to be a turn towards helping people obtain computers–good computers–at a reduced rate. Maybe tax incentives for large coorporations that donate or sell at a low cost their “expired” desktops and laptops? Most corporate computers have a 3-year lifespan, still a great computer for the newbie who has never owned a computer before.

Posted by Wendy | Report as abusive

Obama is an opportunist. If you think he is going to do anything other than reward his friends you will be disappointed. Nobody moves up the political ladder this quickly without some heavey hitters behind them(think JFK and the power of papa Joe). I would like to believe Obama will be an effective influence, but we will have to see what happens. In the mean time we are all on our own, don’t expect any help from the pols.

Posted by On our own | Report as abusive

Seriously? Please do not give people any more hand outs. I am in the IT field and the last thing our field needs is people being taught for free on things that colleges and schools make money on. Take from one to give to another? I think not. If you want to learn don’t expect to do it for free, you need to work for things, THAT’s the American way.

As a small business owner I thought you may have understood capitalism, apparently not.

Posted by Concerned American | Report as abusive

If you can’t figure out how to embed video into your site or research web design/SEO on the web then you are not cut out for a web business. This information exists freely on the web. We don’t need a lot of taxpayer $ going to teach freely accessible information to unresourceful people.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

The entire work habits of America needs to be looked closely and changed considering advances in technology.

Small business owners should be rewarded by tax incentives for finding creative ways of savings country’s resources whether it is employee time, fuel savings, working from home,car pooling. First Establish baselines. Reward business who prove significant savings in these resources. Who knows more about businesses than their owners. Government should have offices who would review the proposals and certify them for tax incentive. Govt should act as catalyst to promote these thought processes and the only way they can do this in through financial incentives.

You look in the morning – a stream of cars going in one direction and another stream of cars traveling in other directions. You wonder why they do that every morning and evening. You would say they go to work and come back from work. Who told them that this is how the work should be. You can say it works. But something else would work lot better. All administrative and consulting jobs can be done from home using the latest technology. Meetings the can be accomplished on the internet. Mass transit should be encouraged and rewarded cutting the automobiles on the road to half. Trucking in a similar way should be cut in half with the introduction of railway system as mass cargo transportation.

There are lot of other things that can be done, but these are few that we should start with.

Posted by kulsum | Report as abusive

I have a creepy feeling that we should strictly limit this fiscal-stimulus, borrow and spend stuff to things that reduce imports. Once the crisis is over we can branch out.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

Government has never changed the world. Entrepeneurs like Eli Whitney, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates and many others have. Get out of our way and let us save the world.

Posted by kelly p | Report as abusive

What if Clinton’s 10-year ecomic plan is finally ‘detoxing’ the economy?

Nice wish list though. It’d be great if the internet was easier to use (i.e. search engines).

Posted by Katie V | Report as abusive

Why is Bush and Congress even considering a huge corporate hand-out to the same auto-makers who lobbied to forbid better gas-mileage standards? The market has not wanted large, unreliable gas-guzzler for a while now, and has never needed them.

This is not the time for “more of the same.” This is the time for innovation.

One thing Obama should consider is the stranglehold current copyright laws have on American innovation. They are set up to benefit huge, established companies and lawyers, not small businesspeople and artists. They do not acknowledge that most of what they “copyright” is built on the work of those who came before them and therefore not entirely “theirs.” (That’s okay, it’s called a Civilization.) They also do not acknowledge that other countries simply ignore them anyway, hampering Americans in the global market.

Americans are great at inventing, especially small businesspeople. Let’s look to create brand-new career fields, not prop up existing ones.

Posted by Ev | Report as abusive

Wow, the Kool-Aid drinkers believe they heard he was for small businesses. Blind Faith. Were you not listening to the words that were coming out of his mouth???

He is NOT for small business – He said it.
But you voted anyway.

Ask Joe the Plummer about Obamas business plan. It’s called spread the wealth you silly rabbit. Taxes are for democrats, business is for Republicans.

Holds onto your seat and be prepared to defend that business of yours. For you to hire 1 designer and pay yourself a good wage you will have to at least bill ovre $250,000 per year… beep beep beep, you show up on the tax radar screen.

Don’t think – no, not me..
Don’t think – well that’s not earnings after taxes..

You my friend are going to be supporting dozens of unemplued workers as much as the 1 worker you hire directly. We all are.

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive

The fact is that the people entering the White House are knowledgeable people with educations from the best universities and a wealth of experience. They know what’s theoretically the best. Well, at the very least their insights are worth more than everyone’s here. There are so many variables you must take into consideration…so many that they actually pay people millions to do it as a career !

Posted by Jaden Bishop | Report as abusive

I support what the President-elect Barack Obama has been advocating in his campaign to revive, strengthen and
boost small businesses in the USA which is the only solid solution to this great economic mess. Most of the bail-out money should be channeled directly to small business (how to do this is another challenge). The Fed has no choice but to find the fastest ways to distribute equitably this huge amount of cash that it has printed to save some vital businesses on time. Small businesses could have the capability of re-channeling this new money into new payroll to take care of unemployment concerns. Small businesses are producers and not consumers in the sense that they add value to products and services that they process. The concept of “Added Value” will produce more employment, economies of scale, and competitive prices which is badly needed now. Small businesses are the alternative investments that savers would not be afraid to get into because they have complete control of the company in contrast to investing in the stock market where you don’t know how many geedy and immoral hands are dipping into your investment.
For more discussion, anyone may contact me at my email.

Posted by Manny Cabanilla | Report as abusive