What a Small Business Owner Should Know Before Laying Off Employees

Though economists are telling us the recession has come to an end and things are beginning to rebound, the unfortunate result of an economic downturn that has lasted so long and affected so many industries, countries and skillsets is that the recovery is likely to take a very long time to show itself to small businesses.  This being the case, small businesses are still finding themselves having a need to cut costs and layoff employees.  Click HERE to read an article that can help your company meet your Federal and State legal obligations with regard to laying off employees, and yet allow you to do what’s needed to protect your company and assist your soon-to-be ex-employees as much as possible.

SBA Loan Guarantees Revert to Pre-Stimulus Levels

The time has come to say goodbye to the 90 percent loan guarantee and reduced fees that supposedly sparked a rebound in Small Business Administration lending; though many reports have indicated small business lending has practically evaporated in spite of the stimulus package enhancements.

In a few days, the SBA will run out of the $375 million in economic stimulus funds that enabled the agency to offer these enhancements. As a result, beginning Monday, Nov. 23, borrowers will have to make a choice:  They can be put on a waiting list to receive these breaks as stimulus funds become available, or they can apply for a regular SBA loan with higher fees and a lower government guarantee for the lender.

The SBA expects additional funds to become available to make loans under the stimulus provisions since not everyone who is approved for a loan will go through with it. However, loans on the stimulus waiting list run the risk of never getting funded.

As recently as Nov. 18, SBA officials said they expected to be able to make loans under the stimulus provisions into December. But loan applications surged this past week as borrowers and lenders tried to get their applications in before the stimulus money ran out.

SBA lenders, small-business groups and the Obama administration have urged Congress to find money to extend the stimulus enhancements. But Congress has to-date failed to do so.

As a result, government guarantees on 7(a) loans will revert back to the standard 75 percent for loans of more than $150,000, and 85 percent for loans of $150,000 or less. Fees on 7(a) loans and 504 loans, which are used to finance real estate, will revert to their normal levels as well.

How the Obama Administration Can Stimulate the Economy and Job Growth Via Small Business

Below is a statement from a group called the American Small Business League with a list of suggestions for the Obama Administration that they believe will stimulate the economy and create new jobs.  After reading, we’re very interested to know what you think, and if you agree, via your comments.

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Source: American Small Business League,  Tuesday November 17, 2009

PETALUMA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The following is a statement by the American Small Business League:

Since President Barack Obama has said that we need to take all reasonable steps to stimulate the economy and create new jobs, the American Small Business League (ASBL) would like to propose these very reasonable steps to stimulate the economy and cut unemployment: http://whitehouse.blogs.foxnews.com/2009/11/12/white-house-to-host-jobs-forum-in-december/

  • Do not change the definition of a small business from being “independently owned” to include firms that are owned and controlled by venture capitalists. This would divert even more small business contracts away from legitimate small businesses and into the hands of wealthy investors.
  • Do not attempt to close the Small Business Administration (SBA) by combining it with the U.S. Department of Commerce or any other federal agency.
  • Honor your campaign promise to, “end the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants.” The best way to do this would be to back H.R. 2568, the Fairness and Transparency in Contracting Act. The Obama Administration is currently awarding billions of dollars a month in federal small business contracts to corporate giants around the world. (e.g. Textron, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Rolls Royce, and Thales) By stopping this problem, H.R. 2568, would redirect more current federal infrastructure spending to small businesses in the middle class than any other proposal to date. http://www.barackobama.com/2008/02/26/the_american_small_business_le.php
  • Implement the 5 percent set-aside goal for women owned firms like you promised during the campaign. http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/SmallBusinessFINAL.pdf
  • Restore the SBA’s budget and staffing like you promised during the campaign. The current SBA staffing levels are at their lowest levels in 30 years. http://obama.3cdn.net/d14eb1b3649c4d6745_0evzmv02w.pdf
  • Eliminate the SBA fabricated exclusionary rules that reduce contacting opportunities for small businesses.
  • Abolish the Comprehensive Test Program, which allows contractors to avoid penalties for non-compliance and avoid submitting reports that are used to track compliance with their small business sub-contracting goals.
  • Enforce the “Liquidated Damages” clause in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which created a penalty for prime contractor non-compliance with its small business sub-contracting plans. This law has never been enforced.
  • Aggressively prosecute fraud and misrepresentation in federal small business programs. Misrepresenting the size of a firm in order to illegally receive federal contracts and subcontracts is a felony with penalties of up to 10 years in prison, a fine up to $500,000, cancellation of all contracts and debarment from selling to the government.

Please click here to watch a short clip about the ASBL’s concerns regarding the Obama Administration’s small business conference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JvT7Btd_9s

Members of the Small Business Community Are Invited to Participate in an Upcoming Live Webchat with US Small Business Administration Leader, Karen Mills

Members of the small business community are invited to participate in an upcoming live webchat with US Small Business Administration leader Karen Mills. Administrator Mills will be answering your questions via White House Live and the WH Facebook app on Monday, November 16 at 3:15pm. Read below for more information about the event or post your questions for Administrator Mills in the comments.

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From: Karen Mills

Subject: Small Business Financing Forum

Friend:

A few weeks ago, President Obama asked the U.S. Small Business Administration and Department of Treasury to convene a forum to discuss how we can best get credit flowing to small businesses to help them make it through this recessions, and put them in a position to grow and create jobs. We’re hosting the forum next week, and I want to make sure that everyone with a stake in our recovery has their voice heard. Which is why I’ll be taking your questions live in advance of the event this Monday, November 16th, at 3:15pm EST in a live video discussion through WhiteHouse.gov/live or through the White House’s live-chat application on Facebook. And whether you can make the chat or not, I’d like to invite you to submit a question ahead of time by emailing us in advance. We’ll post the full video of the chat afterwards. I’ll be able to share the concerns of small business owners I hear in the chat with the President and Secretary Geithner, at the Small Business Financing Forum and in our conversations and meetings afterwards. The President called for this forum because he knows that small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and that they’re driving our recovery. We want to open the doors and bring everyone who’s involved in this historic effort to the table — from Administration officials and Congressional leaders to lenders and small business owners like yourself – so we’ll also be streaming the conference at live WhiteHouse.gov/blog, Wednesday, November 18th, starting at 9am EST.

Warm regards,

Karen Mills, Administrator U.S. Small Business Administration

Strategic’s CEO Influences Technology Writer

Recently I had the privilege of being interviewed for an article in Small Business Computing about customer relationship management (CRM) by a freelance journalist by the name of Gerry Blackwell.

When I spoke to Gerry about CRM and how it is being used by small businesses today, I immediately knew that I wasn’t giving him the type of information he was seeking for the article he was writing; he had been contracted to focus most specifically on the technology available today to facilitate the practice, and was looking for more of a comparison.  I, however, had a different take on CRM and small business and it was tied very closely to social media, regular interaction with customers thru web 2.0 technologies, and the need to educate small business owners about its’ value in contributing toward business growth.

During the course of the interview while I shared my thoughts, I wasn’t certain that Gerry was ‘getting’ what I was telling him or understanding the potential impact on small business.  However, I am pleased to say that when doing a regular Internet search to monitor references to my name or my company’s name, I came across an article that Gerry had written on his personal blog about our conversation.  I read the article and learned he had in fact, ‘got it’!  And – he had a great ‘take’ on what I was sharing with him.  Click HERE to read Gerry’s blog article as well as to access his link to the original Small Business Computing article which I have previously referenced in this blog.  If you have an doubt about the value of customer relationship management for your business, reading his blog article and the Small Business Computing article will clarify the value for you.

The Real Value of Joining a Local Chamber of Commerce

A new national study reveals that membership in a local chamber of
commerce can significantly boost a business’s image among consumers,
as well as among other businesses. In a scientific survey of 2000 U.S.
adults, The Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based strategic consulting firm,
found positive perceptions of chamber members in a number of areas,
including overall favorability, consumer awareness and reputation, and
likelihood of future patronage.

The study, commissioned by the American Chamber of Commerce
Executives (ACCE), IBM, Administaff, Small Business Network, Inc., and
Market Street Services, showed that when respondents were told that a
particular small business was a member of its local chamber, they were
44 percent more likely to rate it favorably than study respondents who
were not told of the chamber affiliation. Respondents were also 63 percent
more likely to want to purchase goods or services from a small business
that is a chamber member.

chamber percentage graphic“We discovered that informing someone about a company’s chamber
membership opens the door to substantial increases positive perceptions
of that business,” said Alex Trouteaud, Ph.D., senior strategist for
The Schapiro Group. “There clearly is a feeling by our respondents that
chamber membership is synonymous with quality and desirability.”

To tap into this reservoir of goodwill, a small business should not only
join the local chamber of commerce and participate, but also make sure
consumers and other businesses are aware of that chamber affiliation. The
positive impact of perceived chamber membership is felt by big businesses,
too.

For example, when consumers believed that a restaurant chain was a
member of the local chamber of commerce, they were 40 percent more
likely to eat at the franchise in the future. And if a consumer believed that
one of the major automobile manufacturers was a member of its local
chamber,that consumer was 9 percent more likely to consider purchasing
his or her next car from that automaker.

“This study reinforces research done in 2005 about the perceived capacity
of chambers to lead businesses and lead communities,” said Mick Fleming,
president of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE).ACCE logo
“These new national findings point to even more direct benefits for
companies willing to be stakeholders in their local chamber.”

The study results had good news for chambers themselves, where
82 percent of respondents indicated that a local chamber of commerce
“creates jobs and promotes economic development.”

“The message from this national study is as simple as it is
ground-breaking,” said Jim Blasingame, small business expert and president
of Small Business Network, Inc. “Join your local chamber, be an active
participant in your chamber’s programs and be sure to let your customers
and prospects know you’re a proud chamber supporter when they come in
your business and when they see your marketing material.”

J. Mac Holladay, CEO of Market Street Services, an economic development
consulting firm based in Atlanta that helped create the study, said,
“It is refreshing to learn what we have suspected for years — that chamber
membership and community involvement are good investments.”

To review the report click here.