Entrepreneurial

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.

The economic healing power of these businesses is clear. According to the Small Business Administration, more than 6.7 million of the 27.2 million existing businesses in 2007 were small businesses with less than 500 paid employees. Just one hire by each of these firms would more than replenish the 6.46 million jobs lost since the recession began in December 2007 through June 2009.

Smaller companies continue to forge the strongest track record of job protection. The Labor Department’s Quarterly Business Employment data for Q4 2008 shows that, relative to the size of private sector employment, job losses at large companies were approximately one-third larger than losses in the middle market. Mid-sized companies with 999 employees or less accounted for 10.9% of job losses, while larger companies with 1000+ employees were responsible for 20.7% of job losses.

Is your business failing? It’s your fault

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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!”

Let’s work together to boost entrepreneurialism

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By Michael Gaiss

  Michael Gaiss is a Senior Vice President at venture capital firm Highland Capital Partners. The opinions expressed here are his own.

More than ever, entrepreneurship will continue to play an instrumental role as geographic regions and small businesses contend with today’s rocky business landscape. While the entrepreneurial fire may be well lit, there are opportunities to better coordinate and amplify it into a raging inferno.

Marketing can help this along by playing a key role in nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship. For regions looking to weather the downturn, help small businesses get off the ground and improve their positioning in the long-term, here are a few tips to consider:

Is the government giving small biz a fair shake?

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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.

Time to get a grip on health insurance? Survey says yes

US-HEALTHCAREAs lawmakers grapple with the intricacies of a national healthcare overhaul, many small-business owners are facing a healthcare struggle of their own: determining a suitable health insurance plan for their company.

A new survey reveals that many executives at small firms in the U.S. lack the confidence and know-how to pick a health insurance policy that will meet the needs of their employees and their company’s bottom line.

Of the 500 executives surveyed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), 64 percent said they don’t feel confident choosing a plan, and 60 percent said they’re unsure of how their taxes would be affected if they shell out to cover a portion of their employees’ health insurance.

Wanted: investors for online job board

elena-bajicIvy Exec, a job posting and recruiting website, targets high-profile professionals by offering exclusivity: job-seekers must first be approved as a member to access the site’s job listings.

“They don’t like to be part of the masses,” explained Ivy Exec founder Elena Bajic (read her entrepreneur journal) about the site’s 25,000 members. “They’re looking for a way to differentiate themselves, an exclusive club and a network of peers. So the fact that they have to get approved to be members of Ivy Exec is very important to them.”

THE PITCH

Initially free to join, Ivy Exec recently started charging a monthly fee that ranges from $22-$42 depending on the package. On the corporate side, Bajic charges an average of $8,000 for her selective recruitment services, which include pre-screening all job applicants to find a better match. In this way Ivy Exec operates more like a dating site for job seekers.

Is Bit.ly’s Twitter advantage unfair?

The rise of Twitter as a social-media powerhouse and its micro-blogging platform has created a renewed urgency for URL-shortening services.

There are now endless numbers of websites vying to shorten your too-long tweets to conform to the 140-character limit, but as in every competitive industry not everyone can survive and thrive. This week one of the players, Canadian-based Tr.im (owned by Nambu Network), announced it was throwing in the towel.

Now a small business closing up shop is not normally newsworthy, except when they cry foul as the ship is sinking. While on the one hand Nambu president Eric Woodward told Computerworld’s Gregg Keiser that Tr.im was “accepting the realities and moving on,” he also seized the opportunity to take a shot at Twitter for making Bit.ly its default URL shortening service.

Twitter-based shopping website seeks retailers

imshoppingBuying something online can be a frustrating process. The shear numbers of websites offering the same product can lead to endless hours of surfing to try to find the right deal. Consumers often become overwhelmed and end up not buying anything at all.

Prashant Nedungadi (see Nedungadi’s personal five-day entrepreneur journal, exclusively for Reuters.com) has been one of those people and decided to use that frustration to launch IMshopping.com, a website that utilizes a combination of software and sales experts to direct buyers to the precise product they’re looking for. What Nedungadi has dubbed “human-assisted shopping” is a network of retail experts, or guides, and the broader community of IMshopping’s more than 30,000 registered users.

IMshopping leverages Twitter to help allow consumers to pose shopping-related questions around the clock.

Experts weigh in on Twitter-based shopping site

IMshopping's Twitter pageYesterday we presented entrepreneur Prashant Nedungadi (read his entrepreneur journal) and his startup website IMshopping.com, which offers a platform whereby consumers can ask specific retail-related questions, through the website directly or via Twitter, and have them answered by an online community of retail experts. (click here to read Nedungadi’s pitch)

Nedungadi launched his website last April and has already received $4.7 million in venture capital investment from SK Telecom, but now needs to find retailers willing to pay to utilize his virtual sales force instead of going the traditional route and hiring their own sales people.

Our panel of experts have watched Nedungadi’s pitch video and gave us their reaction to IMshopping and Nedungadi’s business model.

from The Great Debate:

Women small business owners really need healthcare reform

-- Nancy Duff Campbell is a founder and co-president of the National Women's Law Center, one of the nation's pre-eminent women's rights organizations. A recognized expert on women's law and public policy issues, for over thirty-five years Ms. Campbell has participated in the development and implementation of key legislative initiatives and litigation protecting women's rights, with a particular emphasis on issues affecting low income women and their families. The views expressed are her own. --

Insurance companies and others who profit from our broken health care system are mobilizing to defeat comprehensive reform by using misinformation and scare tactics. A prime example is the allegation that healthcare legislation – specifically the plan being considered by the House of Representatives – will hurt small businesses.

The fact is that small business owners, especially women, are already hurting under our current healthcare system. Leah Daniels, 29, is the owner of Hill’s Kitchen – a gourmet kitchenware store that opened last May not far from the U.S. Capitol. Daniels can’t afford to offer health insurance to her three employees. She purchased her own bare-bones plan on the individual market for protection “in case I get hit by a car,” but not much else. It costs her just under $200 a month and doesn’t cover such services as routine doctor’s visits or maternity care. Daniels, who often works 7 days a week, says that she is constantly worried about getting sick.

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