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It’s your Business so do what you want to-Part One

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=business+graphs&iid=6752210″ src=”9/8/3/5/GM_CEO_Fritz_1d7c.jpg?adImageId=9360485&imageId=6752210″ width=”234″ height=”152″ /]*This is Part One of a 2-part post: It’s your Business so do what you want to.

PART ONE: It IS your Business so do what YOU want to.

Sometimes when people are asked to choose between two kinds of news, good and bad, they will take the bad first, to get it over with so they can end the conversation on a more pleasant note.  That’s what we’ll do here.  To that end, here’s the bad part of the conversation for those with tiny businesses, the very small business owner and the home-based business owner – if you happen to have a truly large business or you influence great chunks of our global commerce, well this is the bad news for you too.  If you do what YOU want to with your business at the expense of your integrity, your ethics, your clients and customers, your friends and family and your industry…then you ought not to be in business at all.

That’s a pretty bold statement.  I’ve actually heard a person or two say, ‘it’s MY business so I’ll do whatever I want to do with it.’  I wonder if that was the sentiments of those bullies on Wall Street who claimed recently before the U.S. congress that they were ever so sorry for “…severity of the 2008 financial crisis and apologized for risky behavior and poor decisions….”  I pulled this from the Associated Press story as it appears online at Tampa Bay Online.  Of the quotes that appear in the article that continue to raise my blood pressure:

  • “…Americans are furious and “have a right to be” about the hefty bonuses banks paid out after getting billions of dollars in federal help,….”
  • “…’Over the course of the crisis, we as an industry caused a lot of damage,’ Moynihan said….”
  • “…Like the other witnesses, Blankfein acknowledged lapses in judgment in some practices leading up to the crisis….”
  • “…Dimon said a crucial blunder was ‘how we just missed that housing prices don’t go up forever…..'”

Let’s talk for a moment about lapses of judgment as Mr. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs said in the quote above.  I would ask: lapses of judgment?  How could these people have such huge lapses of judgment as to cause the near collapse of an entire economic structure?  As a home business owner I have to watch very carefully every business judgment I make because I can see instantly what the ramifications of my decisions will be.  Is it that these institutions are so huge that the people who make the decisions and carry the influence can no longer see anything beyond their pen to paper?

Shoshana Zuboff, the author of The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism,  said in a BusinessWeek article :

  • “…The economic crisis is not the Holocaust but, I would argue, it derives from a business model that routinely produced a similar kind of remoteness and thoughtlessness, compounded by a widespread abrogation of individual moral judgment. As we learn more about the behavior within our financial institutions, we see that just about everyone accepted a reckless system that rewards transactions but rejects responsibility for the consequences of those transactions. Bankers, brokers, and financial specialists were all willing participants in a self-centered business model that celebrates what’s good for organization insiders while dehumanizing and distancing everyone else—the outsiders…..”

Don’t you think this hints at an erosion of personal business integrity and an erosion of personal business ethics?  I’m not so naive as to think that money and power won’t always be addictive aphrodisiacs for some people and that the siren call of more zeroes on the check can blind some people as to what cost those zeroes were arrived at?  [clumsy sentence but asks my question]  But what about the folks around those people?  Wasn’t there someone in those overpriced offices who thought, just for a moment, that perhaps this was a bit too good to be true and whenever this question arises it means that someone somewhere down the line is being hurt?

Ms. Zuboff’s references in her article another she had read about the Nazi war trials and the conclusions of “…Hannah Arendt’s ruminations on Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann as she reported on his trial in Jerusalem for The New Yorker 45 years ago….”  What at first might seem an unfair comparison, I find not so and agree as Ms. Zuboff says:

  • “…This message is not restricted to the unspeakable horrors of mass murder. It is relevant to the relationship between individual judgment and institutional processes in any situation. It’s a message that says: you can’t just blame the system for the bad things you’ve done. Yet to the world’s dismay, thousands of men and women entrusted with our economic well being systematically failed to meet this minimum standard of civilized behavior. They did not capably discern right and wrong. They either did not judge, or they did not act on their judgment….”

I guess what I want to say is that just because it is YOUR business doesn’t mean that you get to do what you WANT to do at the expense of other people. Ms. Zuboff says, “…The economic crisis has demonstrated that the banality of evil concealed within a widely accepted business model can put the entire world and its peoples at risk….” Then she asks, “… Shouldn’t those businesses be held accountable to agreed international standards of rights, obligations, and conduct? Shouldn’t the individuals whose actions unleashed such devastating consequences be held accountable to these moral standards?….”

Then she says, “…I believe the answer is yes….”  And so do I.

And why not?  Small business owners are expected to pay their taxes, not cheat their customers, have truth in advertising,  make their prices competitive [not gouging the customer or stealing market share from competitors], recall products that don’t work, offer replacements and a host of other ethical practices…as well as giving to their communities and being good citizens.  So how are small business owners any different from the “big guys?”

I think it’s a matter of personal integrity.  I think a person has to choose to be ethical and to do so it requires that he or she begin with personal integrity.  In an article at Columbus Business First, John Maxwell, author of  The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, said: “…In the midst of an ever-changing and uncertain environment, there is one thing over which you have absolute control – your integrity….When it comes to being principled and ethical, you are the master of your destiny. Other people and external forces might test it in various ways, but ultimately you alone control your integrity….”

Mr. Maxwell continues in the article with, “…This is a good way to think of us as leaders when it comes to integrity. People of integrity don’t live divided lives; their morals, ethics and treatment of others are the same wherever they are and whatever they’re doing….”

Yesterday Arianna Huffington wrote about renewing the hope of Dr. Martin Luther King, ‘…What we need is Hope 2.0: the realization that our system is too broken to be fixed by politicians, however well intentioned — that change is going to have to come from outside Washington…This realization is especially resonant as we celebrate Dr. King, whose life and work demonstrate the vital importance of social movements in bringing about change. Indeed, King showed that no real change can be accomplished without a movement demanding it….”

Maybe what’s needed is a movement from all of “us” – the individual citizens of the world [is that too broad a movement?] or to start local, the individual citizens of the U.S. – to ask that the leaders of policies [government] and industry [commerce] rediscover the meaning of personal integrity and business ethics and apply those meanings to themselves and to their business and political practices.

Is this a naive thing to ask?  No, I think it’s necessary.  The small business sector needs a healthy economy within which to prosper.  Home business owners need homes from which to conduct their business.  Everyone needs customers who have spendable income.  Can we expect a utopia?  Goodness, no…never happen because human beings are involved.  We’re fallible, but we’re also educate-able.  We can learn and grow and improve.  So let’s do so.

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Remembering life, not death, of John Lennon

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=beatles&iid=7342012″ src=”2/0/9/5/Fans_observe_the_e599.JPG?adImageId=8168702&imageId=7342012″ width=”234″ height=”317″ /]Sometimes I don’t write about business in this weblog and today is one of those times…although the music industry is business, isn’t it?  I subscribe to The Huffington Post online and today’s digest included an article by Joe Scarborough, “Remembering John Lennon Twenty-nine Years Later.” Mr. Scarborough said in the article that he was still in high school that awful day when the world lost an artist – I think it’s always tragic when artistic souls leave this world.   He said in his article, “…I was too young to remember the Beatles as anything more than a former band….”

I was older…am older and remember them very well.  I was barely 13 years old when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show.  My memory not recording these details that well, I went to Wikipedia for this information: the British band appeared on Ed’s show three consecutive Sundays.  That first appearance I saw because our family watched the Sullivan show religiously every Sunday night – we gathered to watch Bonanza also – television in my youth was a way for the family to be together.  And I remember this first appearance very well for a couple of reasons:

  1. my newly teenage heart jumped in instant love when I saw and heard these “long haired” crooners singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” I learned the song by heart after one hearing as is the way with teens.
  2. my dad was appalled; he thought they were too loud, too raucous and would ultimately have a very bad influence on his oldest child

I didn’t get to watch the Beatles’ subsequent appearances because dad would have none of it.  Nor did I get to purchase their albums.  I had to listen to their music on my little transistor radio [anyone remember those?] and at my friends’ homes.  My dad was very much Benny Goodman and maybe Paul Anka music, but certainly not the Beatles.

When John Lennon was murdered I was on the cusp of my thirtieth birthday.  I had a toddler and small baby and remember that night quite well.  It was awful.  What a waste.  I will never understand what drives one person to murder another.

I agree with Mr. Scarborough’s thoughts in his article about how music affects our lives; he says, “…The Beatles gave me a love for music that got me through one heartbreak after another….”  Music can help us translate emotion and transport thoughts.  Music stirs our souls and excites our imaginations.  Speaking of which, can you imagine what my dad thought of Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin’s music?  Let’s not even go there!

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Standing for the tiny business sector

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=paperboy&iid=75238″ src=”0072/8b6b57a7-cc06-4e2d-b8ac-6459166865c6.jpg?adImageId=8110054&imageId=75238″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]There exists a business segment that I’d like to hear and read about more – the tiny business sector.  Businesses with 10 employees or less. Businesses with only one person – the solo-preneur.  Just like the newsboy in the photo, there are millions of people working [or trying to] around the world to make their living out of their home office or garage or a corner of the kitchen.  Or they have a small shop downtown with two or three employees.   You don’t read about federal government bailouts for owners of lemonade stands or taco lunch trucks do you?

I’ve been noticing some articles around the news that seem to be addressing small business, but most seem to be in the jobs creation department rather than the stimulating more consumer spending department which is what the tiny business sector needs.  One interesting article is at  The Huffington Post [dot com], written December 3 by Shahien Nasiripour and titled, “No Easy Jumpstart to Get Small Business Hiring Again.”  There was one spot in the article that caught my attention and I thought was right on the money [so-to-speak]:

  • “…The two leading small-business advocacy organizations – the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the National Small Business Association (NSBA) – have differing views. The NSBA points to the lack of credit as one of its top priorities. But in a report released last month based on survey data, the NFIB noted that while its members were having difficulty getting loans, it was far from a top priority. ‘Too many [business] owners have no reason to borrow,’ the authors wrote. ‘The biggest problem was a dearth of customers.’…” [note: I kept Mr. Nasiripour’s links intact in this excerpt except one]

What I want to point out is the last statement of that excerpt: “…’The biggest problem was a dearth of customers.’…” – For the tiny business sector getting a business loan seems pointless…what for?  What we need are customers, cash-in-hand paying consumers.  I read a comment on an article somewhere yesterday [forgive my faulty memory as I’m fighting a cold and laryngitis this week] that suggested the U.S. federal government give all taxpayers a monthly ATM card pre-filled with $500 that has to be spent within the 30 days.  The idea was given as a way to boost consumer spending.  An interesting one.

Another article I found today at the Wall Street Journal online by Diana Ransom and titled, “The White House Works It,” summarizes the most recent ideas to create jobs.  Small business owners, about 130 of them, were among those who met at the White House with others representing differing business segments and sectors.  But in looking at those top ideas, none seemed to benefit the tiny business sector – the one sector most probably not expected to be part of  job creation.  The top ideas from the article:

  1. Work Share Tax Credit – the one comment I found relevant was “…Micro-businesses (firms with fewer than 20 employees) would likely be left out, says Dean Baker, a co-director at the nonpartisan Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. “Presumably, you would want to aid firms other than ones that employ close friends and family members,” he says….”
  2. Jobs Tax Credit – solo-preneur businesses will not benefit from this as this type of business does not hire or job share.
  3. ‘Cash for Caulkers’ “…Depending on how many property owners take up the initiative, the plan could not only provide jobs to the hard-hit construction sector, it would limit carbon emissions and reduce owners’ energy costs….” My thought on this one was that if you had a fellow who was an independent contractor, this could be a help to him…and I know two personally; however, this idea does depend on property owners having the budget to hire the work done. [As an aside, it is one thing to offer home owners tax incentives to participate in this type of initiative, but the reality is that they still must have the budget to afford it in the first place.]
  4. Public Works Projects – This one might be valuable to solo-preneurs if there are people with their own business who have these skills and if the initiative would include the solo-preneur.
  5. Payroll Tax Holiday – again this idea is vested in job creation rather than increasing consumer spending.
  6. Capitalizing Community Banks “…would give small businesses a greater chance of landing loans…” – this idea is grounded in the getting loans for expansion which would result in more hiring.  Tiny businesses might need loans for improvement or supplies…what about that kind of loan?

As followers of this weblog may have noted, recently I changed my own solo-preneur business from that as an independent distributor of a direct selling company’s product to being the direct seller of my own [art] product(s).  Life is a journey and it has been interesting to me to watch my own understandings and ‘light bulb’ moments as my business has grown and changed.  I have friends who remain in that other business and this past year their customers have been buying less or dropping as customers altogether.  If any reader is familiar with the art market, for the home-based artist-preneur, the art market for the past two to three years has been like a desert.  I participated in a huge Open Studios tour in 2008 that the previous year had been a financial success for many artists…last year sales were dismal and attendance was down 50%.  People just weren’t buying art.  Even the artists at the event who normally can expect a portion of their annual income went home greatly disappointed and in the red.

So. In all the plans and discussions about economic recovery and helping small business, where are the ideas for the tiny business sector and for jump-starting consumer spending?

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Business news bits and bobs

IMG_1231Sometimes business news comes in little bite-size pieces, much like the Halloween candy we didn’t give out last night – this was the leanest year for TricksOrTreaters we’ve had in the seven years we’ve lived in our neighborhood.  We answered our front door less than 10 times.  And I carved my best effort at a Jack O’Lantern yet!  I know what you’re thinking, I’m supposed to be an “artist” and this is the best I can do? Well, sometimes one gift simply doesn’t translate into another.

Talking about translating, I’m finding that working in concert with various social media sites has its advantages.  Last Friday I put up a question on Twitter: are doctors small business owners? As was recommended to me -and I pass this recommendation along to others- I have my Twitter account linked to my Facebook account so that what I post on Twitter shows as a status update on Facebook – for a small or home-based business that is good to know as it increases the exposure for quick news items you might have.  I got a response on my Facebook status/Twitter question from Paul Sinasohn “…It depends on the structure of the practice. Some are, even if the practice is incorporated, but some – such as those who are partners in larger medical groups (Brown & Toland, Hill Physicians) are not.   SBA standard is $10 million average receipts….”  Thank you, Paul.

Bits from today’s news:

*Today from The Huffington Post, an article about counties in the U.S. that have been stressed the hardest by the year’s economic woes and wouldn’t you know, of the top ten counties, 4 are in my home state of California, and #8 is the county of my youth, San Joaquin County.  The housing boom/bust has had just awful repercussions – it’s not just the home sales industry, but also construction and all the pond ripples out to associated businesses of both those industries that have been hurt.  In the neighborhood in which I live, there is one home that was a victim of bank foreclosure that still sits empty [we had two].  Then you add the layoffs and other woes of the  auto industry and the computer software/hardware industry and it’s rather depressing.  Not so easy to be a solo-preneur in such a climate.

*Swine flu…actually any flu…advice is to stay home if you are contagious.  Article today by Associated Press writer Ashley M. Heher points out that this advice is difficult to follow for those who don’t get paid if they don’t show up.  From the article:  “…That idea drives an untold number of carpenters, day care workers, servers, shopkeepers and small-business owners to their jobs each day. Sniffles or not….”  Home business owners who work primarily online don’t have this as an issue necessarily.  However, those small and tiny businesses who must meet with clients/customers and potential customers daily will have to figure this one out.  Just today I went out to run errands and saw people in the store wearing a protective breathing mask over their face.  This might be one answer.

*This last item really isn’t about small business…it’s about big business.  Unless you could say that an actor is a small business person…even a home-based business person who goes from contract-to-contract.  I mention this one because my sister would have loved it.  My sister passed away three years ago and today is her birthday.  One of the things she and I shared was a love of science fiction movies and television shows.  We both, together and separately, watched the second “Aliens” installment too many times to count.  Tomorrow night on ABC, “V” debuts and it looks fantastic.  I have been a fan of Morena Baccarin since her days on the one-season series “Firefly” as Inara Serra and as Adria in Season 10 of  Stargate SG-1.  The TV critic of my newspaper, Chuck Barney, says of “V” in today’s column, “…it all makes for a suspenseful, scary concoction. The fast-paced “V” pilot sucks you in from the start and keeps you welded to your seat right up through a couple of shockers near the end of the hour….”  I’m going to watch it.  I know my sister would have loved it.

 

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