from PopTech:

Does our economy make us happy?


By Lisa Gansky

The opinions expressed are her own.

Does our economy make us happy?

The crash-and-burn of the financial system, a prolonged recession, and high unemployment obviously cause us enormous distress. We are forced to ask ourselves, “What can we afford now?”

The collapse has also made many of us rethink what we care about. We're finally asking, “Are all these things we’ve been buying (and probably still making payments on) truly making us happy?”

I started asking myself related questions long ago. Where do we look to derive value? What’s the source? As I talked with people, did research, and listened more intrusively to my own internal voice, I realized that in the process of choosing and buying we are actually being engulfed (essentially consumed), by the stuff in our lives.

It seems clear that our metric of Gross National Stuff isn’t moving us toward a happy path. Stuff noise is drowning out the happiness signal. Stuff blinds us because we believe that having it makes our lives fulfilled and living convenient.

So, does more stuff translate to greater convenience or more happiness? Not really.

Bolstering our entrepreneurial ecosystem

Peter Cohan and U. Srinivasa Rangan teach at Babson College and are authors of “Capital Rising: How Capital Flows Are Changing Business Systems All Over the World”. The views expressed are their own.

Since the “Great Recession” began, at least 8.5 million jobs have vanished. How will we create new ones? The answer lies in improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem (EE).

Everyone looks to entrepreneurs to create jobs. The Kauffman Foundation found that firms five years old and younger created most of the 40 million jobs in the U.S. between 1980 and 2005.

Entrepreneurship void felt in Jackson Hole

– Jeff Bussgang is a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Harvard Business School. He is the author of “Mastering the VC Game” and writes the blog “Seeing Both Sides”. The following is an abridged version of a blog that originally appeared on PE Hub. The views expressed are his own. –

I love Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s one of the most extraordinarily beautiful settings in the world. One cannot help being in a good mood when observing the breathtaking wildlife, open sky and the awe-inspiring Grand Tetons.

Thus, reading the reports from last weekend’s annual economist confab in Jackson Hole could not have been more depressing. If the practitioners of the dismal science sound this pessimistic amidst such an uplifting setting, what will their attitude be when they trade in their cowboy boots for green shades and return to their drab offices to stare at spreadsheets? A usually staid Allen Sinai sounded positively hyperbolic, yet apparently spoke for many at the conference, when he told the New York Times, “I’m more worried than I have ever been about the future of the U.S. economy. The challenge is unique: poor and diminishing growth, a sticky unemployment rate, sky-high deficits and a sovereign debt that makes us one of the most fiscally irresponsible countries in the world.”

The only real way out: Entrepreneurship

Robert Wolcott (left) and Michael Lippitz

– Robert C. Wolcott is the founder and executive director of the Kellogg Innovation Network at Northwestern University. Michael J. Lippitz is the senior research fellow at the Center for Research in Technology & Innovation at Kellogg and a consultant to the federal government. Their book, “Grow From Within: Mastering Corporate Entrepreneurship and Innovation” launched in October. The views expressed are their own. –

The news the U.S. economy grew at a 5.6 percent pace in the fourth quarter – the best showing in years – is tempered by the fact it was fueled by government-supported spending and revving of depleted inventories.

How can America again create quality growth? Though growth appears around the corner, many fear it’s based on governments worldwide flooding markets with liquidity and public spending. To address a crisis born partly of excessive private debt, we’re writing public IOUs to the future. But public largess only buys us time. Eventually, the future will come calling.

America’s economic recovery lies in the middle market

bonneytom5x5Thomas Bonney is founder and managing director of CMF Associates, a financial consulting, staffing and recruiting firm based in Philadelphia, PA, that serves private equity, middle-market and small-cap public companies nationally. The views expressed are his own.

In his 1988 Republican National Convention acceptance speech, George Bush championed the tradition of the American community, describing it as “a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”

More than 20 years later, this tradition still forms the core of our country’s strength – particularly the “thousand points of light” that comprise our medium-sized, family- and private-equity owned business community. I believe it is this community that will ultimately drive the tailwind of economic recovery and growth.

Is your business failing? It’s your fault


Brace yourself, because George Cloutier has some unsettling news: your failing business is your fault.

Cloutier is the no-nonsense CEO of American Management Services and author of Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing, a literary slap in the face to small- and medium-size business owners who wonder why sales are slipping and cash is tight.

Like the gruff boss he urges small business leaders to be, Cloutier doesn’t waste any time trying to get you to like him — he wants your respect, and his book fires off rules without apology: “Love your business more than your family”, “End your denial” and, perhaps most startling, “Give up golf – it’s a waste of time!”

Is the government giving small biz a fair shake?


Last year was a record for small businesses, which scooped up more than $93 billion in federal contracts, a $10 billion jump from a year earlier, according to a report by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

It’s good news to be sure, but critics are already grumbling that the government only allotted 21.5 percent of its promised 23 percent target to small businesses for fiscal 2008.

Key among their complaints:

* High costs: Small businesses often opt out of the running for government contracts for fear that they can’t absorb the proposal costs that can run as high as $25,000 to $500,000, The Washington Post reports.

Things are looking up … sort of


Small business owners say they’re more confident about the economy, but they’re still plagued by worries about paying their bills and slumping cash flow, new research from Discover Financial Services shows.

Their optimism is a bit of a head-scratcher, especially considering the slew of discouraging news the survey uncovers. Some highlights:

* nearly 70 percent of small biz owners say their take-home pay has taken a hit in recent months.

The down side of raised wages


Millions of minimum wage earners across the United States have circled July 24th on their calendars, marking the day a mandated pay hike will bump up their hourly wages to $7.25 from $6.55.

The move is the latest in a three-part pay increase approved by Congress in 2007 in a bid to fatten up the paychecks of the country’s lowest earners and “improve the lives of working families across the nation,” the Department of Labor said.

But many small business owners are left asking, “What improvement?”

“For the business owner who hires a lot of people, I see prices going up and doors closing,” a sandwich franchise owner told the Indiana’s Journal and Courier newspaper.

Green shoots — where!?

Small business owners in the U.S. may be pleased to hear that some of their brethren are feeling a bit more optimistic about the future. The fresh sliver of positive news arrived in inboxes across the country Monday and shows confidence among small business owners in the U.S. appears to be headed up, albeit not entirely out of the gutter.

The Discover Financial Services survey, part of its Small Business Watch program, shows the number of small business owners who see the broader U.S. economy improving jumped to 31 percent in April, up from 16 percent in March. That’s the highest level for that measure in two years.

While the survey showed some small business owners growing more optimistic, 51 percent still see worse economic times ahead. And the pessimism doesn’t stop there. A whopping 91 percent of small business owners rated the current U.S. economy as “poor” or “fair,” and that’s the measure that’s stayed constant for the last eight months.