Video: No easy profits for auto wreckers after Hurricane Sandy

For some, Hurricane Sandy has meant more work for their small businesses. With some 250,000 cars destroyed by the storm, one auto wrecker is suddenly very busy, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. In this Reuters TV spot Sally Maggio, a New Jersey car garage owner, explains why this boom in business is actually undercutting her profits.


Image: A car is seen in the debris of a home that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Mantoloking, New Jersey November 12, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Q&A with Jeff Stibel: What small business owners need to know about the fiscal cliff

With the so-called fiscal cliff looming, Reuters Small Business interviewed Jeff Stibel, chairman and CEO of small business credit rating agency Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp to ask him a few questions about what small businesses need to know about the government’s self-imposed tax agreement deadline and what small businesses can do in case congress fails to ink a tax agreement plan before the end of the year.  

Reuters: First off, can you define fiscal cliff for us?

Jeff Stibel: The U.S. Congress and President Obama created the “fiscal cliff” last year as they negotiated ways to lift the federal debt ceiling. The cliff causes two things to happen at midnight on December 31, 2012. First, a range of temporary tax cuts will expire as the Budget Control Act of 2011 goes into full effect. For American small businesses, this will mean the end of several key tax breaks and the imposition of new taxes. Secondly, mandatory budget cuts will be imposed at the federal level. The result has the U.S. economy – and, with it, U.S. businesses – hurdling towards its own cliff.

Reuters: I think a lot of people are aware of the fiscal cliff and its impact on taxes. What impact would it have on small businesses? And what do small businesses need to know about the fiscal cliff?

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.

Swing state small businesses could loom large

In a very close presidential election race, small businesses in swing states could decide who wins or loses.

Nearly 50 percent of small business owners in key swing states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin) favored Republican challenger Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama, according to a survey released last week by Manta, an online small business community.

Despite Romney’s lead among swing state small business owners, Obama was narrowing the gap. The president was the choice for 38 percent of respondents, up six percentage points from a previous Manta survey released in May.

Q&A with Silicon Valley “Godfather” Steve Blank

For those who don’t have a Silicon Valley area code, Steve Blank likely doesn’t have much name recognition. But amongst the Apples, Googles and Facebooks of the world, Blank enjoys iconic status. Blank says he gets asked for autographs just walking down the street in Palo Alto, where he teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford. Some young entrepreneurs reverentially refer to the 59-year-old as: “The Godfather.”

How did Blank earn his celebrity status? First, he is a successful serial entrepreneur, having started eight venture-backed Silicon Valley companies, including software company E.piphany, which raised $66 million prior to going public in 1999. Second, Blank’s first book, “Four Steps to the Epiphany”, became a handbook for every budding tech entrepreneur and spawned the term “customer development” that sparked the “lean startup” movement.

Blank’s blog has become a must-read among entrepreneurs and is widely syndicated, regularly appearing on The Huffington Post. Recently, Blank launched an online version of his customer development course, called “The Lean LaunchPad”, which he says has more than 50,000 registered users.

Small tech CEOs say Romney better for the economy: survey

Regardless of who won the presidential debate, the majority of executives from small technology firms would feel better if Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wins next month’s general election.

Twice as many CEOs from small to medium-sized technology companies (57 percent) believe the U.S. economy would be better off under Romney, according to a poll conducted last month by Boston-based executive search firm Polachi.

Just 27 percent of executives polled thought President Barack Obama would do a better job guiding the economy.

SBA says small business lending up, but some feeling left out

This week Small Business Administration chief Karen Mills gave America’s top banks a pat on the back for boosting their lending to small businesses over the last 12 months, while separate data showed that funding for the most needy small businesses actually contracted.

In a blog posted on the SBA’s official website, Mills trumpeted that the U.S.’s top 13 biggest banks have increased loans to small businesses by a whopping $11 billion since last September as part of a commitment to boost lending by $20 billion by the end of 2014.

“The continued success of this commitment serves as an important example of what is possible when the public and private sectors work together to assist America’s small business owners and entrepreneurs,” Mills wrote.

IDEO’s Tom Hulme on visualizing your business model

In this video, Tom Hulme, Design Director at IDEO and founder of OpenIDEO, introduces a tool that IDEO and HackFWD designed to help founders design and build startups. Although the focus is on tech startups, non-tech entrepreneurs will likely find some applicable lessons from Hulme’s 12-minute talk, including strategies to identify the “backbone of your business,” marketing and how to refine your business model.

HackFwd: Visualize Your Business Model in 15 Minutes Flat from IDEO on Vimeo.

Q & A with Greg Damerow, athlete and adaptive bicycle builder

Greg Damerow is an athlete and small business owner. Damerow, based in Ohio, is the owner of Personalized Cycling Alternatives, which builds custom adaptive bicycles. He was attracted to handcycling after he became ill with ankylosing spondylitis, a severe form of arthritis that affects the body’s joints. The Hartford recently awarded Damerow with a small business grant, and he spoke with Reuters about competing and running a small business.

First off, can you tell me about your disability?

I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis at 18 years old. It causes inflammation of the major joints. It’s a form of arthritis. It affects knees, ankles, shoulders. It was a very painful time for me. There are two forms that the disease can take. One is chronic and you lose function over years. The second form moves rapidly. This was the form I had and so I lost function over a matter of months. The major part of the disease burned itself out after about two years time. I was spared. I was essentially bedridden for two years time and as the major symptoms of the disease dissipated finally, I didn’t have any movement in my hip sockets and much secondary damage in the spine. I have limited neck rotation. Out of that experience I learned how to walk again using my knees and ankles.

Can you tell me about how you started your business? What was the attraction of the bike?

Tech Tonic checks in with HealthTap

HealthTap wants to make visits to the doctor’s office a thing of the past. Anthony De Rosa talks with HealthTap founder Ron Goodman about his new app that allows users to ask doctors questions without ever leaving home. But is less face time actually a good thing?