Monthly Archive for November, 2014

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 SmallBizTrends

Photo credit to

Contemplating 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

Photo credit to MorgueFile

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

RESULTS: Which political party are you most likely to support?

The Question: With barely a week until the mid-term elections in the U.S., which political party are you most likely to support?

12% - Democrat
67% - Republican
16% - Independent
5% - Neither - don’t plan to vote

Jim’s Comments:
As you can see, our small business audience leans heavily toward the GOP. Representing one of the largest voting blocks in the country, the small business sector could make a big difference in any election if we were more organized to hold politicians accountable on issues that are important to Main Street businesses.

Be sure to vote this Tuesday, and when you do, ask yourself which candidates have the highest regard for your small business and the efforts you make as its owner.

Find work you love and enjoy

Whether work is a blessing or a curse depends on what you are working on and your attitude about it. James Matthew Barrie, the Scottish novelist said, “Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.”

Many hard working entrepreneurs were once unproductive employees, but now, with their wagon hitched to their own star, work is the stuff of their dreams. Many productive employees understand the blessings of employment and become the most valuable of resources: the entrepreneurial employee who loves his or her work.
Work feeds our stomachs with food and our spirit with accomplishment. Work creates, produces, energizes, and fulfills all things humans need for survival and happiness.
If work is not a blessing for you — whether owner or employee — the problem is not work itself, but the work you are doing. The Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Work is love made visible.”
Life is short.  Keep searching until you find work you can love.  I did.

Small business brand value is more than the Q factor

Have you noticed that every new on-air person hired by a TV network looks like a soap opera actor? They’re all young and pretty. We’re left to think that non-beautiful people need not apply. That is, unless you’re familiar with a certain marketing measurement.

Marketing Evaluations Inc. is the proprietor of a marketing metric used extensively to hire on-air talent.  It’s called the Q Score, and it’s as rude as it is simple.

A prospective anchor is presented to an audience who is asked to give one of two answers: I like or I don’t like. Responses are graded based on the numeric Q Score.  Above 19 means you’ve “got Q.”

Never mind credentials, if you can read a teleprompter and have Q, you’re hired.  Below 19—fuggedaboutit.

Could the Q factor be involved in perpetuating the marketplace myth that owning a brand is the exclusive domain of big business?  After all, if only the young and beautiful possess the best TV journalism credentials, why wouldn’t we believe you can only have a brand if you have a sexy national television campaign?

Since most of us would be guilty of giving an “I like” score to a pretty face, it follows that we would also be foreclosed from thinking a dowdy small business could actually own a real brand.  But here’s the truth about branding, and it’s good news for small business: Owning a brand is more than having Q.

Most experts will testify that a brand is established when a product delivers a desirable feeling.  Pleasure, happiness, security and yes, even pretty are examples of how a brand might make us feel. A brand’s value and power are established when it consistently delivers on our feelings and, increasingly in the Age of the Customer, on our expectations.

If people were influenced only by things that have Q, churchgoers would only attend big, beautiful churches, and yet tiny churches abound. Like religion, brand loyalty is also a very personal thing, which is more good news for small business. Getting close enough to customers to discover their individual expectations is one of the many things small businesses do better than big businesses.

So it’s resolved: Owning a brand is not the exclusive domain of big business. And when it comes to actually building brand value, small businesses have the edge.

Big businesses may be good at brand Q, but small businesses are better at what really counts: building brand value. Our challenge is in believing this truth about ourselves.

Write this on a rock… Your small business’s Q is measured in brand value as defined by customer expectations.

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