Citibank: Small business cautiously optimistic

Small business owners are showing increased confidence in the economic recovery, but they’re still not willing to pull the trigger on hiring new workers, according to a new survey by Citibank.

“Optimism is definitely up,” said Raj Seshadri, who heads Citi’s small business banking division. “We’re not out of the woods. They’re worried about costs, particularly the cost of healthcare, the cost of raw materials – how they’re going to manage through the increasing cost of running their business.”

The majority of owners said they believe 2011 will be better (44 percent) or the same (42 percent) than 2010, while just 15 percent expect it to be worse, according to the poll. It included a random sample of 1,002 small businesses throughout the country with revenue in excess of $100,000.

Even so, 78 percent of those surveyed are not yet ready to increase staffing levels, holding out for improved sales in a competitive environment where most are resistant to boosting the prices of their goods and services.

“The bottom line is that sales have to recover,” Seshadri said. “Then they’ll be more comfortable thinking about expansion plans as opposed to maintenance plans.”

6 ways to make your small business look bigger

– Michael Hess is founder and CEO of Skooba Design, which develops and produces custom products for other companies, ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 corporations. This article first appeared on BNET. The views expressed are his own. –

Some people say “fake it ‘til you make it,” but I think that cliché has an unnecessary air of phoniness about it. Still, if you are starting up or running a small business, making your company look bigger and more established to the outside world can have dramatic results.

Mind you, I am in no way suggesting misrepresenting yourself or your company, nor advocating flash over substance. And I’m certainly not suggesting that you behave like a big, impersonal corporation. What I am saying is that image does matter, and you should cast your business in the best possible light. To me, the more fitting chestnut is “dress for success.”

10 small business tax mistakes that will cost you

Donna Fenn has more than 20 years experience writing about entrepreneurship and small business trends. She is the author of “Upstarts: How Gen Y Entrepreneurs are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success“. This article originally appeared on BNET. The views expressed are her own. –

There’s not an entrepreneur on the planet who likes thinking about taxes. I know, it’s only February, so you’re likely still in deep denial about April 15. But it’s time to get organized. Almost every aspect of your business has tax ramifications and if you don’t know what they are, you’re inviting trouble down the road (can you say “audit?”).

For tips, I recently spoke to Sandy Botkin, a CPA, attorney, former trainer of IRS attorneys, and the CEO of The Tax Reduction Institute in Germantown, Maryland. He’s also the author of “Lower Your Taxes — Big Time 2011-2012”. Botkin shared 10 common tax misconceptions that both fledgling and experienced small business owners are guilty of. How many of these phrases have you uttered?

Startup develops astrological algorithm to predict romance


If astrology can be used to predict such things as stock market crashes, surely it can help people make love connections. That was the thinking behind New York-based startup Moonit.com

After careers in financial services, Dana Kanze and Mason Sexton Junior decided to create Moonit.com as a way of using astrology to help people like them and their friends with their relationships. Sexton Junior’s interest in astrology came naturally as a result of his father, Mason Sexton Senior, an astrologer and investment manager. Sexton Senior, also a co-founder of Moonit.com, used astrology to predict market events (such as the stock market crash of 1987) and market timing.

The website uses astrology to determine relationship compatibility between two people (romantic, professional or friendships) by using an astrological algorithm. After entering the birth dates, users get a compatibility score and a relationship assessment.

What small business can learn from Jerry Seinfeld

John Spence is the author of “Awesomely Simple: Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas into Action”. He is an award-wining professional speaker and corporate trainer. The views expressed are his own. –

I have some very strong beliefs about what I feel it takes to run a highly successful business. For example, I am completely convinced that whoever “owns the voice of the customer” and uses that information to build an organizational culture of “Extreme Customer Focus” will own the marketplace.

Unfortunately far too few businesses really understand their customers at a deep level, which severely inhibits their ability to deliver consistently superior service and win an unfair advantage in customer loyalty. And who doesn’t want an unfair advantage?

from Reuters Money:

Kill the mortgage deduction and give it to entrepreneurs

Prospective home buyer Jessica Doctoroff (C) visits a condominium for sale with her real estate agent Brenda Bremis in Medford, Massachusetts April 2, 2009.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder  Somehow I don't think President Obama had the home-mortgage interest deduction in mind when he mentioned the U.S. tax code before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week.

Yet winding down and eliminating this write-off for homes would be good for business. It's unfair, doing nothing to revive the housing market and can be put to better use shifting it to entrepreneurs to create jobs.

Most of the job creation in the U.S. economy comes from small businesses, which typically have no public shareholders to sate and are not primarily interested in fattening pay packages of overpaid executives.

Business tips from “The Demon” Gene Simmons

Gene Simmons – rocker, reality TV star and self-styled marketing genius – may be the shrewdest businessman to have donned face makeup and six-inch heels.

In the business world, as in music, Simmons boasts an impressive record. A classic immigrant rags-to-riches tale, he’s worked tirelessly over the last 36 years to turn the KISS brand into an empire. His former blood-spitting “Demon” alter ego now graces more than 2,500 different products such as ketchup, condoms, coffins and credit cards.

In addition to KISS album sales (over 100 million units sold), Simmons earns $100,000 per speaking engagement, and has more than half a dozen booked for 2011 already. Among his other non-musical ventures are estate planning (he is a co-founder of Cool Springs Life Equity Strategy), books, magazines and a handful of television projects.

Stockton small business rankled by Forbes list

Misery loves company but not when it comes to the Forbes magazine list of “America’s Most Miserable Cities.”

The report ranked Stockton, California dead last among U.S. places to do business for reasons that include a ravaged housing market, violent crime and the high rate of unemployment.

A recent Huffington Post article referred to the city as “Foreclosureville, U.S.A.” based on its 9.5-percent foreclosure rate – one of the nation’s highest.

Egyptian-owned small businesses send aid

The way immigrant-owned small businesses sustain relatives back home is a testament to entrepreneurial ingenuity underscored as the political unrest unfolds in Egypt.

Take Sharif Alexandre, the 38-year-old Egyptian-born founder of an electronic payment service in Philadelphia called Xipwire. He’s betting technology like his – which lets people send secure payments within the U.S. using mobile phones – will help centralize money for delivery to Egypt.

“This can be an organic effort,” said Alexandre, a Coptic Christian who is launching a Twitter campaign to rally like-mind Egyptian Americans. Earlier this year he ran a texting effort to send aid to a Christian church in Egypt following a bomb attack.

Obama should help small business, but not too much

P. Griffith Lindell is a veteran business consultant, speaker and author. His newest book is “Struggling With Your Business? Ten Questions to Consider Before Investing A(nother) Dime“. The views expressed are his own. –

President Obama focused part of his State of the Union address on the need for “government (to) create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand.” I applaud and agree with him. The lifeblood of America must flow through micro and small-business veins.

It’s going to take more than political pronouncements, however, to produce the revenues and profits that will change the rules of the current economic game.