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Monthly Archive for May, 2010

Steve Forbes reports on current economic conditions

After all these years - since 1997 and thousands of live interviews - I still love doing my talk show every weekday. But there are some days that are the best, including the three or four times a year when Steve Forbes joins me on my show. I have a great deal of respect for Steve’s knowledge, wisdom, experience and world-view, but I especially appreciate the fact that, as Confucius encouraged, Steve is in reality what he appears to be.

Not long ago, I had such a visit with Steve on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, and he talked about the economy, the progress of the recovery, politics and public policy.  Steve is a pathological optimist when it comes to the American spirit and his faith in Main Street small business owners, like you.  But he has a healthy skepticism about the leadership ability of the political class.

Steve has been a member of my Brain Trust for a long time, but he makes his living as President/CEO of Forbes and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes. His new book is, How Capitalism will Save Us.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to what this world-class leader has to say. And if you have any thoughts you want to leave, I’ll make sure they get to Steve. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Small business retailers competing in the 21st century

Every day, small business retailers feel they’re fighting a war on two fronts: 1) being bludgeoned by the Big Box anchored around the corner, while 2) simultaneously being mugged by an online competitor floating around untethered in the clouds of cyberspace.  So how do small traditional establishments go to war with these two formidable opponents?  The answer is short and sweet: They don’t.

Here are a couple of quick points about defending your traditional retail small business:

1.  Prospects of your small retail business are the least likely prospects for a Big Box. The feeling that makes customers prefer the comfort of customization and connection to being overwhelmed by size is so compelling that they will choose you and pay the price you have to charge to fulfill this strong emotion. But you have to deliver on this emotion with the offense of value instead of acting defensively - like being seduced into a price war. Remember, the price war is over, and you lost.

2.  These same prospects are increasingly demanding that the companies they do business with provide them with online capability.  Small brick-and-mortar retailers don’t have to conquer the e-commerce world, but they do have to have a presence there.

In summary, you can beat the Big Boxes primarily by just not trying to be them. But the only way to stay competitive with the online assault is by incorporating an online strategy with your traditional model, which means a website at a minimum - at least e-shopping, if not an e-commerce component - plus the methodical collection of customer contact information, serving a periodic connection strategy to stay top-of-mind.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about the future of small business retail with Darlene Quinn. Darlene is a journalist, the author of Webs of Power and a member of my Brain Trust.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to our conversation and be sure to leave your own thoughts about small business retail in the 21st century. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Note to political class: It was never about the tea

Even though it had a virtual global monopoly on the tea trade, by 1772, the British East India Company was burdened with tons of unsold tea and associated financial problems. One of the reasons for these problems was that, to resist paying the Townshend import duty of two shillings and three pence per pound, imposed by England, merchants in the American colonies were operating a black market of lesser quality tea than The Company’s bohea variety.

Consequently, on May 10, 1773,  the English Parliament passed the Tea Act, which provided for The Company’s tea to be sold at a significant discount in America. The Act did not impose any new tax, but it did do two things: 1) the lower price would undercut the colonists’ black market; and 2) each pound of the cheaper tea would still generate Townshend duty revenue.

In most market actions, lower prices are welcomed by consumers, especially for a superior product. But in 1773 America, where even the slightest westward twitch of the British government was considered by the once and future revolutionaries as disrespect at a minimum and oppression at a maximum, English ships laden with tariff-generating cheap tea were not welcome in American harbors.

Resistance to The Company’s cheap tea was universally vociferous throughout the colonies, but in New England, the reaction manifested in the immortal Boston Tea Party. What the English government did not learn from the Boston Tea Party was that resistance by the American colonists was more about the principle of liberty than any specific government policy.

So far, I haven’t joined the modern-day Tea Party movement, attended any of their gatherings or even interviewed any self-proclaimed members on my radio show. But as a small business owner wanting little more from the Federal government than for it to do me no harm, increasing anti-market sentiment and intrusive policies surely make me identify with the principles of the 21st century Tea Party and its 18th century namesake.

On the 237th anniversary of the Tea Act, the U.S. government would do well to not minimize what is behind peaceful resistance to intrusive policies or indignation to words that offend self-determination. It’s not just about a tax, tariff, tea or health care, it’s about liberty.

Americans haven’t come lately to their love for liberty nor their willingness to stick a finger in the eye of any usurper of that beloved principle which, more than anything else, is America’s greatest product.

Small business, “the cloud” and a love story

When I started my business career a few decades ago, a cloud was a fluffy mass of moisture meandering along overhead. Sometimes benign, sometimes menacing, but as the apex player in planet Earth’s hydrologic cycle, a cloud is very important.

Here in the Digital Age when someone uses the word “cloud” in a conversation, you have to check the context, because they might not be talking about the weather.  In the past few years, “cloud” has become the metaphor used to describe computing power and applications hosted on and delivered from off-site servers to your desktop or handset, instead of residing on your device.

Early in the development of the Internet, application service providers, or ASPs, were the first to deliver off-site processing power, but there was no umbrella term that described the concept. Today, we have several variations on the cloud theme: “in the cloud,” “cloud computing,” and of course, simply the “cloud.” And for small business, the digital cloud is becoming as important for success as its hydrologic namesake is to life.

So why do small businesses need to think of “cloud computing” as a big deal? Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with one of our outstanding Brain Trust members about this.  Chip Reaves heads up the U.S. unit of Computer Troubleshooters which has over 230 CTS locations in North America, and he explained what he believes is the greatest 21st century tool for small business, cloud computing, including some of the key advantages and applications.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to Chip and me talk about cloud computing. Plus, you’ll hear how I used the ”cloud” to claim the title ”Love Doctor.”  Be sure to leave your own thoughts and ideas on how cloud computing has helped your small business. Listen Live! Download, Too!