Entrepreneurial

Small business owners feeling glum about economy: poll

President Barack Obama called them the “engines of growth” in a debate this week against Mitt Romney, but small businesses are feeling decidedly glum about the broader economy and more than half of them have no plans to hire anytime soon.

Just a third of small businesses say they are optimistic the economy will improve this year, down from 61 percent who felt the same way last spring, showed a new survey by The Hartford insurance group released on Thursday.

Their uneasiness about the sluggish economy has small businesses holding off on hiring. Nearly 60 percent of the 2,000 small business owners, with fewer than 100 employees, surveyed back in August said they did not add staff in the last year and 67 percent did not intend to hire over the next 12 months.

That’s disconcerting news about a segment of the economy the U.S. Small Business Administration touts as responsible for creating more than half of all new jobs.

“The last six months something has changed their view point,” said Liam McGee, president and chief executive of The Hartford, which provides insurance to about a million small businesses. “There’s just so much uncertainty about all those things that it’s putting a damper on growth and hiring.”

from Paul Smalera:

Brad Feld’s four ingredients for thriving startup cities

BOULDER, Colo. -- One of the most resonant talks I heard at last week's Big Boulder conference was also one of the shortest. In about twenty minutes, Brad Feld, who is without exaggeration the godfather to the Boulder startup community, explained exactly why it is that Boulder feels like a town on the verge, and why it's teeming with startups. A lot of it has to do with Feld himself.

It's not just that Feld is a co-founder of Techstars, the nationwide startup incubator that got its start in Boulder, or that the college kids -- and lately, mid to late twenties startup veterans -- flock to Boulder in hopes of getting a few minutes of his time to discuss their ideas. It's not just that Feld's Foundry Group scored big with an exit on Zynga, though that credibility certainly helps. And it's not just that he picked Boulder as some magical perfect place to be a startup Mecca. In fact when I asked him why he moved there from Boston, he said, laughingly, it was because, "my wife told me she was moving to Boulder." He figured he had better go along.

"Happy warrior" is usually a phrase reserved for politicians on futile crusades, but the four principles that Feld talked about that make Boulder a burgeoning startup locale are ones that he seems to embody, not just talk about. And as to my earlier post, wondering where and whether Boulder needed a billion dollar startup (or founder) to justify itself, Feld more or less shrugged it off. If that outcome is a natural result of the principles Feld sees as key to keeping Boulder a great place to found a company, then great. If it's not, I get the sense no one, he least of all, would mind very much.

7.5 million reasons not to call your rival the Taliban

– Cynthia Hsu is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

With the down economy, businesses these days are trying everything to get an edge. But whatever you do, be wary of defamation laws. For example: calling your rival car dealership something akin to the “Taliban Toyota” might just end up costing you millions.

That’s exactly what happened in the case of Bob Tyler Toyota of Pensacola, Florida. Employees at the Toyota dealership spread rumors and slurs about Shawn Esfahani, the owner of the Eastern Shore Toyota in Daphne, Alabama. They told customers that he was funneling money to insurgents. And that he was an Iraqi terrorist.

Is ‘Occupy Silicon Valley’ next?

– Connie Loizos is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. The views expressed are her own. –

There it was on Craigslist – an ad for “young, successful professionals living in America’s most emerging area, Silicon Valley,” ostensibly posted by a “major cable network” that’s looking to cast a Silicon Valley reality show.

No wonder. While many Americans are suffering through an abysmal economy, Internet startups seem impervious to bad news of any kind. Valuations have been rising for several years straight; companies like Zynga, Facebook, and Twitter are minting millionaires left and right; and many young outfits can’t hire skilled, highly paid software engineers or salespeople fast enough.

Exclusive: Small business backs Obama, not Democrats: poll

The Obama administration has hurt small businesses but the president still leads in backing among current 2012 election candidates, a new survey found.

Some 63 percent of small businesses said the administration’s policies had been damaging to small business, while only 16 percent indicated they had benefited, according to the poll by Manta, an online community that promotes small business. Some 67 percent were highly unsatisfied with government, with only 2 percent highly satisfied.

Meanwhile, the survey, which queried more than 2,300 small business owners online between August 12 and 29, showed President Obama as the candidate with 21 percent of support, followed by Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, with 14 percent; Texas U.S. Representative Ron Paul, also a Republican, with 11 percent; and Republican former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, with 9 percent.

6 tips for startups to take advantage of the recovery

– Chris Lynch is vice president of economic development at the Irvine Chamber of Commerce. The views expressed are his own. –

With recent reports the economy is becoming stable and showing signs of upward growth, the question is what are entrepreneurs going to do about it?

The answer is simple, they can take advantage of the upbeat perception that the economy is in recovery and benefit from the opportunities they didn’t have before. The following are some tips on how entrepreneurs can take advantage of the recovery, based on years of experience coaching successful startups.

Access trumps ownership in 2011

– Lisa Gansky is the author of “The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing” and the Mesh Directory live. The opinions expressed are her own. –

Disturbed by the sight of dead Christmas trees lying on the curb after the holiday, Los Angeles-based landscaper Scott Martin had an idea. Why not rent people living Christmas trees?

He set up a website and offered different types of live trees in a variety of sizes. Customers specified which tree, what size and on which day it would be delivered and where. Scott and his team also offered decorations for the trees they rented. After the holiday, each customer selected a day for the tree to be picked-up and Scott and his team even recycled the gift wrap and packaging. The trees were either returned to the nursery to be cared for and sold later or donated. An all around joyful holiday win for the customers, Scott and team, the community and the environment.

Tax cuts for the rich bad for small business

– Lew Prince is managing partner of Vintage Vinyl, an independent music store in St. Louis. He is also a member of Business for Shared Prosperity, which has circulated a petition against extending the Bush-era tax cuts. The views expressed are his own. –

As a small business owner for more than 30 years, I have to be reality based.

I budget and make decisions that consider both short- and long-term realities. My company wouldn’t last a week if we kept repeating mistakes.

The Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans were a big mistake. We should let them expire, not repeat the mistake by extending them. It’s an illusion that it will be easier to end them after a two-year extension.

Extending tax cuts eliminates uncertainty

– Kelly Phillips Erb is a small business owner and practicing tax attorney at the Erb Law Firm in Philadelphia. She is also the author of the popular Tax Girl blog. The views expressed are her own. –

Let’s get a few things straight from the start. I don’t like the so-called Bush tax cuts. I don’t believe in trickle-down economics. And I don’t think it makes good fiscal sense to make the tax cuts permanent.

Yet, as the calendar creeps closer to December 31, I find myself in support of extending the tax cuts.

Exclusive: Survey says small businesses upbeat about 2011

Small businesses are feeling better about the economy and are looking to grow in 2011, according to a new survey released this week by online marketing firm Constant Contact.

Of the more than 1,400 small business owners that responded to the survey (view full results), 73 percent expected their companies to grow over the next 12 months and nearly 40 percent felt “positive” about the economy over the course of the next year.

“They see the darkness behind them and looking forward they see some light,” said Eric Groves, Constant Contact’s senior vice president of global market development. He added the survey is a “followup” to the Waltham, Massachusetts-based company’s larger spring polling of roughly 4,000 small businesses. Groves said Constant Contact has more than 400,000 clients, predominantly small to medium-sized businesses.

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