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    RESULTS: What should be the priority of Obama and the GOP?

    The Question:
    As President Obama and the Republican majority begin their work, what should be their priority?

    24% - Fix Obamacare
    10% - Immigration reform
    27% - Reform the tax code
    5% - Foreign policy
    34% - I’ll take anything if they’ll just work together

    Jim’s Comments:
    It looks like the big interest is in Obamacare and tax reform.  But more of you just threw up your hands and chose “I’ll take anything, if they’ll just work together.” That sounds like an indictment to me. What do you think?

    Sadly, from the looks of things this week, we’re going to get anything but working together.

    Celebrating two milestones

    If you will permit me, today I would like to talk about a couple of milestones of which we’re kind of proud.

    On Monday, November 17, 1997, I began broadcasting The Small Business Advocate Show for two hours Monday through Friday, and ever since that first day the program has been nationally syndicated. This week we’ll celebrate our 17th anniversary and the beginning of our 18th year on the air.

    In January 1998, we began simulcasting our show on the Internet, which makes us one of the pioneers of Internet streaming. We’ve been archiving our show since 1999, including multiple on-demand streaming options. In 2007 we added the ability to podcast all current and archived interviews.

    This Monday will be my 4,421st live broadcast since we began — including all the holidays (next week I’ll broadcast my 18th consecutive live Thanksgiving Day show). Since that first broadcast, I’ve conducted over 17,600 live interviews with small business experts and entrepreneurs. When you hear me talking about making sure that you’re passionate about the business you start, if you didn’t already, now you know I practice what I preach.

    From the beginning, my primary programming goal was to focus on the fundamentals that are important to successfully starting, operating and growing a small business, and to make all of the things we do available to you for free. On that last note–the free one–I must say thanks to our outstanding corporate partners, without whose support the free part would not be possible. I especially want to thank our Presenting Sponsor, Insperity, for ten great years together.

    For my work on behalf of you over the years, I’ve received a number of national awards from organizations such as the U.S. Small Business Administration,FORTUNE Small Business magazine, TALKERS magazine, the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, the Association of Small Business Development Centers, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, and New York Enterprise Report.

    Also this week, we’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of this publication, The Small Business Advocate NEWSLETTER. This week’s edition, Volume XVI, Issue 1, represents 780 consecutive weekly issues since 1999. Thanks for being a loyal subscriber.

    Finally, thank you for your support, comments, many words of encouragement and especially the honor and privilege of being your Advocate. I’m already looking forward to the rest of our journey together. More than anything else, I want you to know how proud I am of you as a small business owner and what you have accomplished.

    Nothing I do as The Small Business Advocate is about me — it’s all about you, my heroes, small business owners, regardless of where you live on planet Earth.

    Why you should care about the net neutrality debate

    As policy battle lines are being drawn in Washington, there’s one important issue being debated that might not stay on your radar like Obamacare and immigration.

    It’s called “net neutrality,” and I’m concerned it might not get the attention it deserves, even though it could have significant long-term implications. My goal here is to simplify net neutrality so you understand how it can impact your business and how to join the debate.

    The term is pretty intuitive. Net neutrality means all Internet traffic gets treated the same, which is what we’ve had for over 20 years; there’s essentially no government regulation of the Internet and no Internet taxes. Also, there’s no preference for, or discrimination against any sender or receiver of email, web pages, music or movies, regardless of bandwidth used via fixed or mobile networks.

    Photo credit to SavetheInternet.comThree groups have a stake in net neutrality: carriers, content producers and a regulator.

    Carriers fill two roles: 1) Local Internet service providers (ISP) connect you to the Internet; 2) national networks, like AT&T and Sprint, own the “backbone,” the physical infrastructure - fiber - that hauls digital traffic between ISPs. Carriers want to charge different rates based on content quantity and speed, which is contrary to net neutrality. Without targeted revenue for their finite bandwidth inventory, they argue, innovation and investment will stall.

    Content producers include Google, NetFlix, Facebook and virtually every small business. If you have a website, sell a product online, conduct email marketing or have an instructional video on YouTube, you’re a content producer. Content producers love net neutrality because turning the Internet into a toll road increases business costs and could make small businesses less competitive.

    The regulator is the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), led by Chairman Tom Wheeler. Some content producers have asked the FCC to defend net neutrality. But here’s what that request looks like to a politician: President Obama wants the FCC to reclassify and regulate broadband Internet connection as a utility, which is not the definition of net neutrality.

    Net neutrality is complicated because it’s easy to appreciate both business arguments. Plus, some even have a stake in both sides of the issue, like a cable company that owns TV stations and movie studios. But inviting the government to referee this marketplace debate is a Faustian bargain because what government regulates it also taxes, and once started, won’t stop.

    Write this on a rock … A regulated and taxed Internet is not net neutrality.

    RESULTS: What’s your experience with consumer confidence during the holidays

    The Question: Photo credit to Spokesman
    Some surveys indicate improving consumer confidence going into the holidays. What’s your current experience?

    8% - Definitely increased customer activity and sales.
    22% - Increased customer activity with some increase sales
    56% - Customer activity and sales are about the same so far
    14% - Our customer activity and sales have decreased.

    Jim’s Comments:
    We’ve been polling small business owners about the economy about four times a year since the Great Recession ended, and we’ve never been able to get more than a third of our respondents to say their economy was doing good or great. As you can see, last week’s poll was no different. Only about 30% said things were somewhat or definitely improving, with the other 70% saying the economy they saw was about the same or worse.
    With the results of the recent election changing the power dynamic in Washington, it will be interesting to see if the response to this question will change in a few months. One thing is for sure, with the GOP in control of Congress and a Democrat in the White House, it will now be clear who to blame about any political issues that might negatively impact the economy. With the lines drawn as they now are, there’s no place to hide.

    Freedom isn’t free

    Photo courtesy of SmallBizTrendsContemplating the blessing of freedom, wherever it may be found, one prime truth is evident: Freedom is not free. And for those of us who are the beneficiaries of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, the only method of repayment — the only way we can ever be worthy of their sacrifice — is if we do all we can to maintain the freedom that has been paid for and given to us.

    In honor of all of our veterans, past and present, I’d like to offer this poem written by Commander Kelly Strong, USCG (Ret.) in 1981 when he was a high school senior (JROTC cadet) at Homestead High School, Homestead, FL. It is a tribute to his father, a career marine who served two tours in Vietnam.

    Freedom Isn’t Free

    I watched the flag pass by one day.

    It fluttered in the breeze.

    A young Marine saluted it,

    And then he stood at ease.

    I looked at him in uniform

    So young, so tall, so proud,

    With hair cut square and eyes alert

    He’d stand out in any crowd.

    I thought how many men like him

    Had fallen through the years.

    How many died on foreign soil?

    How many mothers’ tears?

    How many pilots’ planes shot down?

    How many died at sea?

    How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves?

    No, freedom isn’t free.

    I heard the sound of taps one night,

    When everything was still

    I listened to the bugler play

    And felt a sudden chill.

    I wondered just how many times

    That taps had meant “Amen,”

    When a flag had draped a coffin

    Of a brother or a friend.

    I thought of all the children,

    Of the mothers and the wives,

    Of fathers, sons and husbands

    With interrupted lives.

    I thought about a graveyard

    At the bottom of the sea

    Of unmarked graves in Arlington.

    No, freedom isn’t free.

    My friends, I pray that we never forget those who paid so dearly for our freedom.  Have a safe, happy and respectful Veterans Day.

    Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.

    Beware of the small business voting bloc

    Historically, mid-term elections during a second term of any U.S. president have been unfavorable for his party. But in 1998, an embattled President Clinton went against conventional political wisdom and history. During his second mid-term election, Democrats slightly increased their majority in Congress, producing a political and moral victory for him.

    Going into Tuesday’s elections, President Obama could either brace for the curse of the second mid-term or imagine America’s first black president could pull off a Clinton miracle. So when he declared that his policies were on the ballots, even if his name wasn’t, we were left to assume Obama dreamed of a Clinton repeat.

    Apparently voters agreed with the president about one thing: his policies were on their minds in the voting booth. Indeed, GOP gains were too pervasive to lay blame to just the Democrats on the ballot. Republicans gained the majority in the Senate, increased their majority in the House, increased governorships by three—including in four deep blue states, plus a net pickup of eight state legislative chambers. Talk about the wrong kind of coattails.

    We wanted to know how small business owners were feeling about this election, so in a pre-election online poll we asked them which party they favored. Only 12% said Democrat. Most small business owners consider Obama’s ideology, policies and rhetoric to be anti-business. Here’s a short list of their issues with this president:

    • The worst economic recovery in history
    • Obamacare, the mother of all uncertainties
    • His environmental policies negatively impact job creation and energy prices
    • His fealty to unions is anti-employer
    • The exponential growth of regulations—the stealth tax
    • His plan to relinquish U.S. control of the Internet
    • Small business owners don’t like hearing, “You didn’t build your businesses”

    There are approximately 100 million potential voters in Small Business America, including owners and employees. Considering the economic uncertainty and financial damage small businesses have experienced for the past six years, it’s reasonable to attribute much of the election outcome to these voters.

    As a lame-duck president, it may be too late to redeem Mr. Obama. But the political class should heed the prophetic wisdom of the late Massachusetts Democrat Senator Paul Tsongas, who told his party in 1992, “You can’t be pro-jobs and anti-business at the same time. You cannot love employment and hate employers.”

    Write this on a rock … Beware the small business voting bloc