This Week in Small Business

Since 1994, I’ve been running my own small business (it’s a consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management). In the early years, the best way to get information was by reading a few self-help business books and visiting a couple of Web sites once in a while. Now it seems as if there are a million Web sites and books and experts all trying to tell me how to succeed. And another million bloggers and pundits interpreting the daily political, economic and cultural news and events that affect my company.

What small-business  Tips to Maintain Profitable Small Business with Little Investment owner has the time to sort through all of this stuff? Well, now that The New York Times has enlisted me as a blogger, I guess I do. I’m going spend the time each week and summarize everything that’s happening that affects my business. I’m going to highlight the best commentary from smart people who will help me understand these events. I’ll add a few of my own comments. This exercise, I hope, will help me run my business better. Perhaps it will help yours, too.

Welcome to Dashboard.

STILL A BUYER’S MARKET A big job-creating program that was part of the last year’s stimulus bill is expiring soon, which could mean even more people will be unemployed. “The federal program has helped employ nearly 130,000 adults and has paid for nearly an equal number of summer jobs for young people, according to an analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal policy institute in Washington.” But wait… a new report by the Conference Board says that online job demand has increased by 30 percent (that’s a million jobs) since the official “end” of the recession in June 2009. Even so, it looks as if unemployment is going to stay high for a while.

IT’S OVER, I TELL YOU While many were busy watching the premiere of “Dancing With the Stars” (dude, that Palin girl can move!), the government announced that the recession ended in June 2009. Don’t believe it? Neither does Steve King, a researcher who argues that for many small businesses, the recession is… not over. Back in August, Mr. King wrote about the “2 Speed Economy,” explaining that bigger companies were recovering faster than smaller ones (funny, he reached this conclusion even without visiting my company). He is now forecasting that “the small-business economy will emerge from recession by the end of this year and start to grow early next year.”

HERE’S ANOTHER BAILOUT Maybe we should stop whining about China all the time. One recent report listed 25 American products that rely on huge protective trade tariffs just to survive. (Hey! That’s the jacket I wore to every high school dance on slide No. 8.) I bet these business owners aren’t complaining about the government.

HEALTH CARE OVERHAUL MOVES FORWARD Some key provisions of the health care plan have kicked in. NPR has an interesting interview transcript that reviews the changes for both individuals and businesses. You might want to point your employees to this summary of the bill, too. Many business owners are still grumbling about higher premiums. Meanwhile, a new poll says the new bill doesn’t go far enough.