Monthly Archive for May, 2012

Small Business Advocate Poll: What issue or allegiance will impact voting in November 2012?

The Question:
What issue or allegiance will have the greatest impact on how you vote in the November 2012 elections?

54% - The economy

30% - Deficit spending and the national debt

14% - My political party

3% - Other

My Commentary:
One of the most interesting things about modern politics is the concept of a single-issue voter. These folks vote for, or against, things that impact a single issue they are the most passionate about, like the environment, trade, unions support, the abortion issue, just to name a few of the classic examples. Indeed, both parties and many lobbying groups count on single-issue voters as a predictable and passionate constituent base.

But there is a new passion emerging this year that may cause voters to forsake their previous commitment to a single-issue. Based on the results of our most recent poll, it looks like the new normal for single-issue issues is associated with economics.

Last week, in our online poll, we asked this question: “What issue or allegiance will have the greatest impact on how you vote in the November 2012 elections?” Over half, 54%, said “The economy, and 30% chose “Deficit spending and the national debt.” Only 14% of our sample said they would vote for “My party,” and just 3% chose “Other.”

As we move closer to election day on November 6, dozens of issues will be debated and nuanced ad nauseam. But responses to our poll seem to indicate that the issue on the mind of most folks, as Clinton advisor, James Carville so famously said 20 years ago in the 1992 campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

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Remembering America’s militia

Reasonable people disagree on the origins of Memorial Day. But most accept that the practice of decorating graves of Americans who died in military service began in earnest during the Civil War.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, Commander of the Army of the Republic, made Memorial Day official with General Order No. 11, which stated in part, “… the 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country …” And other than Congress making Memorial Day a national holiday and affixing it to the last Monday in May, America has since honored its fallen heroes from all conflicts pretty much as General Logan ordered.

When America issued its first call to arms – before it had a professional army – that call went to the militia, which was identified as “all able-bodied men.” Calling themselves the “Minutemen,” because they could be ready to fight on a minute’s notice, they were primarily shopkeepers, craftsmen, farmers, etc. Today, we call them small business owners.

From as far away as Scotland, America’s Minutemen were impressive. Writing about the colonies’ quest for independence in “The Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith predicted America would prevail thanks to its militia which, “…turns from its primary citizen character into a standing army.” By the 20th century, state militias had become the National Guard. And in 1916, the National Defense Act created the Reserves.

Prior to the war with Spain in 1898, latter-day Minutemen served only on American soil. But ever since – including two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq twice, and Afghanistan – America has deployed citizen-soldiers alongside regular forces, around the world. Indeed, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guard and Reserve members have accounted for one-third of U.S. forces, as well as a comparable percentage of casualties.

On this Memorial Day, as we honor all who have paid the ultimate price in service to this country, let’s also remember the long tradition of America’s small business volunteers, including employees, who served honorably and courageously on behalf of a grateful nation.

It’s hard enough leaving family to march into harm’s way. But the degree of difficulty of that commitment is compounded for Guard and Reserve volunteers who also disconnect from businesses and full-time careers.

America would not have endured without those who “turn from primary citizen character into a standing army.”


This morning on The Small Business Advocate Show I talked more about the sacrifices of America’s citizen soldiers and offered two poems in memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Click on one of the links below to download or listen.

America would not have endured without citizen soldiers

Freedom isn’t free

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Small Business Advocate Poll: How will you vote for Congressional candidates?

The Question:
In the upcoming election, how will you vote for Congressional candidates?

4% - More likely to vote for an established incumbent with influence

42% - More likely to vote to send new representation to Washington

55% - Some of both

My Commentary:
One of the great political debates in the United States in recent years is how much of the problems in Washington are actually caused by the people we sent to solve the problems - the entrenched political class. There are a number of groups, especially on the Republican side of the aisle, who are dedicated to kicking out these incumbents and electing replacements who are not part of the entitled political gentry, and who will work and vote to create real solutions that fit our 21st century challenges.

We wanted to know how our small business audience was thinking about the political class vs new blood issue, so last week we asked this question: “In the upcoming election, how will you vote for Congressional candidates?” Here’s what we learned:

Over half of our respondents, 55%, said they were likely to vote for both incumbents and new faces, while more than four-of-ten of our sample said they were “more likely to vote to send new representation to Washington. And only 5% said they were more likely to “vote for an established incumbent with influence.”

That’s 95% of our audience either inclined or committed to make changes in Washington this year. If our audience is representative of America, and I think it absolutely is, these results should cause some projectile sweat to break out among the political class. Indeed, we’re already seeing the effects of this anti-incumbent movement with the retirement of a number of senior members of Congress, as well as a number being defeated by their own party in the primaries.

America has many problems, but it makes me feel better about our future when so many are demanding performance by working to take back our government from the entitled political class through our beautiful political process.

God bless America.

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Take this week’s poll HERE!

It’s not just about fear and greed

Fear and greed, it has been said, are the two primal emotions that drive the marketplace. As a maxim, these two words are handy in their ability to deliver the most meaning with the fewest letters.

But brevity paints with a broad brush and the result can deliver an unfortunate impression. Consequently, consider these other emotions that represent a more balanced and positive perspective on marketplace motivations, and which are very prominent in small business owners.

Warm-blooded, humans come with a high-maintenance physiology that requires us to eat regularly and have protection from the elements. When a customer does business with a friend of mine, instead of saying, “Thanks for the business,” he says, “Thanks for the food and shelter.”

Human babies take a long time to fledge from the nest. Our spousal and parental instincts are very strong emotions that motivated us to do quite a bit of aggressive hunting and gathering.

Humans are social beings; we create and live in communities. But the price of community is paid in the currency of responsibility. Our ability to think in the abstract produces the concept of self. And when self-awareness is blended with responsibility it creates the very powerful emotion called self-respect.

The harness-mate of self-respect, ambition motivates us beyond mere survival, and is perhaps the nearest kin to greed. But unlike greed, when ambition is forged with self-respect, a very positive alloy is born: the quest for excellence.

There are many things that separate humans from other life forms, but perhaps the most interesting is our tendency to tinker. Creativity wells up from a visceral spring from which pours our primordial passion to make something that doesn’t yet exist. It’s the free-spirit emotion that is always asking “why,” and “why not.” Unlike innovation, which is born of need, true creativity is its own reward. Creativity is to the marketplace what water is to life: you can have one without the other, but not for very long.

Curiosity may be our most powerful and elemental emotion, because when we pursue it, we do so with the expectation that it may create security for our family, self-respect for ourselves, and feed our ambition.

Look to small business to find all of the marketplace emotions.

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Execute the pricing power imperatives

Small businesses are finding themselves between a rock and hard place.

The rock is inflation.

For several quarters, rising inflation has pushed up marginal costs and operating expenses. Some increases are dramatic, like hikes in raw materials. Others are more subtle, like increases in copy paper, which aren’t noticeable every month, but add up over the year.

The mother of all price increases is petroleum. The doubling of fuel prices in the past three years has compounded the inflation of cost of goods sold, because every tangible product has a delivery fuel ticket applied to it. And, of course, the fuel bill for company vehicles is burning cash and eating profit.

The hard place is a lack of pricing power.

A business has pricing power if it can raise prices when needed or desired; most often employed to pass along cost increases. Having pricing power is a good thing for any business, but alas, as you will see below, most small businesses don’t have it – or at least as much as they need.

Recently, in our weekly online poll, we asked small business owners this question about inflation and pricing power: “Are you able to raise prices to offset increases in costs and expenses?” Here’s what we learned.

Almost half, 49%, said, “Somewhat - but it’s difficult to match every increase.” Slightly fewer, 46%, reported that they were “not able to pass through cost increases.” And just 5% said, “Inflation is not hurting us.”

When a business experiences inflation without pricing power it puts pressure on cash flow and profitability. Younger businesses are the most vulnerable, because they don’t have the equity to withstand the cash-eating effects of this dangerous dynamic. Older companies that have retained profits can endure longer, but every day spent in the inflation-without-pricing-power vortex is an equity-eroding day closer to failure. So why don’t small businesses have more pricing power and how do they get it?

The reason is, while small businesses have many advantages, most are associated with being versatile and nimble, not with power. And the way to acquire at least some pricing power is to develop a strategy that includes the three pricing power imperatives: Communicate, Educate and Execute. This means reminding and explaining to customers in advance that your price increases are associated with the same inflation they are experiencing.

Small business pricing power requires discipline, planning and courage.


Click on one of the links below to listen or download my recent conversations with Bob Phibbs, author of You Can Compete: Double Sales Without Discounting, on how to develop a pricing strategy for your small business.

Is it time to get serious about raising prices? with Bob Phibbs

Why every small business needs a pricing strategy with Bob Phibbs

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Your future success is tied to mobile

Something happened last year, is happening this year, and will happen again next year that has never happened before in the history of the world: People from virtually every walk of life are acquiring the same thing, at the same time, for the first time.

Features-rich, application-ready mobile platforms – aka, smartphones. Watch as Jim tells your small business needs a mobile site to stay relevant.

Watch more of Jim’s videos HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

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