Monday

China

It's all about China these days, isn't it? Recently, the US House of Representatives have signed off on a bill that will allow president Obama to impose import tariffs on goods from China since China seems to be "manipulating its currency."

China is the biggest exporter in the world. It also has one of the largest populations in the world, if not the largest. So one thing a business will not lack is potential customers. But it seems there are many barriers to doing business in China. Language is one of them. If you don't speak Chinese, you are already at a disadvantage, although, many Chinese speak fairly good English. The other thing is raising enough capital to compete in China. Even well established companies like McDonalds are only now beginning to do business in China. Right now, there are only about 800 McDonalds restaurants in China. A very modest sum when you consider the billions of people who live in the country. But McDonalds has the financial infrastructure to accomplish what a small business cannot in a country like China.

More than food and beverage type businesses, it arguably would be more profitable to get into China's export business than any other sector. For one thing, labor is dirt cheap. But identifying them, and getting good consultants and manufacturers, etc, is very challenging. (There are supposedly a lot of unscrupulous charlatans in this market who take full and total advantage of foreign investors and most of the rip offs happen online.)

It's very very challenging, and for most small business people who are not Chinese, this may be a market better left untapped. But for others, a great opportunity.

Sunday

Google

Can a small business be successful without Google? Not according to Maria Bartiromo. Google has become the blood supply for not only small businesses, but all businesses. And this is a global phenomenon. There is no country in the world where Google is not a factor. The main way that small businesses can benefit from Google is by purchasing Google Adsense advertising. Apparently, AdSense can transform a mom and pop small business from obscurity on the fringe back roads of Arizona, to a global brand barely able to keep up with the demand.

Google's smartphone, the Android along with its various apps are also fast becoming a must-have for serious entrepreneurs not just in terms of the phone element, but the computing features as well. Google Earth, Google TV, Google Images and Google Searches are all invaluable tools that provide incalcable benefits for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Do you Google?

Saturday

POLITICS

What's politics got to do with it?

U.S. politics right now is very partisan driven. It is easy to wonder where is the integrity and which side has the most of it. Politics can kill ideas. It can kill dreams. It can kill recovery. It can kill livelihoods - especialy that of the small business. Right now, if you ask many of the small business owners around the country, they will probably tell you that they wish the Washington politicians would get over their partisanship and get onboard to lead the recovery, which means, signing off on a bill that will help small businesses reignite their engines. Isn't it unbelievable that both parties can't see that the key to the recovery is small business? Everyone laments the 10% unemployment - the jobless recovery, if you may (The Dow hit 11,000 recently!) but nobody can put aside politics long enough to do the right thing by small business, which in turn will fix the economy. Politics is literally shoving not only small business, but the entire American economy off a cliff.

Friday

Inspiration

What do you do and where do you go for inspiration for your small business or project?

For each of us, the answers to these questions are bound to be different. Some people might smoke a cigarette or something more illicit. Others may go surfing on a cyber wave or off the Malibu coast for that matter. Still others may sit and journal quietly till they hit upon that "thing" by free associating. I like to walk myself. Tonight, I walked all the way to Times Square from Downtown Brooklyn, from the court-house at 360 Adams Street, across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall, through Chinatown and Soho, past Union Square and Grand Central, to Times Square. It is not a long walk as far as long walks go, but it is enough of a walk that I can do a lot of thinking about what I was doing and what I wanted to do, and to find inspiration in all the things that abound around me. I took in the sounds of the traffic, the honking taxi cabs, and the incessant chatter of New York folks going about their Friday night. I took in the heady combination of smells of roasting nuts, street-side hot dogs with relish (and that red meat on the stick), smoke, and perfume. And I relished the sights of the city, from the skyline ahead--Metlife, the Chrysler Builging, to the bright neon jumbotrons in Times Square (from Nasdaq, The Lion King and Toshiba.) And of course, there were all the people, so thickly packed on the city streets, I could barely get by on my way to my inspiration. Where was I going? I was not sure. I had not mapped a destination. I had not set my GPS. I was just walking, just searching for that natural high note that always comes to me in the form of an idea, thought or observation when I take long walks in NYC. By the time, I head back South, to Brooklyn (by subway), I was so incredibly refreshed and full of new ideas and motivations. I was newly and freshly inspired.

How do you find inspiration?

Thursday

Influence

People with influence are people who have the ability to change things, and to find solutions where others are unable to do so. You might think that only people with money have influence. But you are wrong. Not that money doesn't make a big difference in a disproportionate number of times. Because money does talk and often, it is difficult to wield any influence without it.

But everyday people, including small business owners, can have a lot of influence in their world and space just by coming up with ideas and coming up with solutions to problems that others can't solve. For example, your business idea may come from a solution you have devised for a problem that everybody else either thought was unfixable, or were too busy putting band aids on to find a true solution.

And influence also means being willing to be unpopular, and called crazy in order to bring about change. But influence can't occur in a vacuum. You do need people to sign up for and to your idea. It is not enough to influence just oneself. One must be able to influence others - their behavior, thought processes, mind set and preconceived ideas.

As a small business person, success could come down to your ability to influence others.

Saturday

Vegas

Running a small business? You might want to move to Vegas. I heard that it is the place to be during a recession. It was one of the few industries that made money during the Great Depression. It sure made something of Steve Wynn and Kirk Kerkorian. I mean, Kirk's having some trouble with some bad investments in the auto industry, but the former owner of MGM is still a billionaire, and he started out poor, and has only an 8th grade education. Well, I should say, I read that he only has an 8th grade education, but I am not certain that this is true.

Whatever the case may be, the man grew himself from poverty to filthy rich. Same with Wynn, although, Wynn was never poor. Wyn has built so many hotels in Vegas including the Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas and Treasure Island.

I am not saying you should go to Vegas and start building hotels. Believe me one of those babies will probably run you a billion dollars. No. What I am saying is that there is bound to be some derivative business you can run down there, something you can offer the established industry, as a small business person, that could net you some cash. Because, look around you. There is a real blood bath across the globe right now. People need to feel happy again. I think the most profitable businesses will be those that make people forget their problems. If you can't build the hotels and the casinos, find some product or service you can offer them.

Vegas seems a good place to start. What do you think?

I should disclose that I'm up to page 40 of Winner Takes All by Christina Binkley so I've got Vegas on the cerebral cortex!

Wednesday

Taxes

The tax man cometh. Where shall he find you? At the front door welcoming him in? In the kitchen drinking Chevas Regal from the bottle? Under the bed? I know where I'll be but what about you?

Small businesses may get a good break this year from the tax man. Actually, if president Elect Barack Obama's stimulus plan (reportedly in the trillions) passes, then maybe it's safe to say that everyone, including rich Americans, will get some help and breaks from the tax man this year. For sure, it's not as if anybody, except maybe for personal injury lawyers, psychiatrists and heart surgeons made any money this year. Billionaires around the world are literally killing themselves. I worry sometimes about people like the Trumpster. But he's the ultimate comeback kid. And ultimately, I think he understand it's just money. A thing. A commodity. It's not your life. It is not you....same goes for us little small folks, by the way.

Doing the taxes should be fun this year. Many small business will have massive losses so that means no taxes. There are bound to be a lot of expenses, exemptions and credits that will even make this more fun. So fear not. Do you do the taxes yourself or do you get an accountant? I'm thinking that no matter what you've done in the past, this is a good year to hire an accountant.

Resolutions

It's New Year's Eve and I am certain that you have tons of resolutions that you are going to make or have made. Some of these resolutions likely involve your small business. After a particularly rocky year, I am sure that one of those resolutions is: make more money. I don't know of anyone, even the very wealthy, who had a bonanza year financially. Even the richest of the rich, guys like Kirk Kerkorian, Robert Tchenguiz and Adolf Merckl are practically going broke, losing billions of dollars of value in their portfolios by the day.

I could be wrong, but the battle cries of the recession has been universal - except maybe for hospitals, shrinks and people who work with the dead - they have really capitalized on the consequences of excess stress and financial shock, I would imagine. Yes, all indicators are the the country is in a recession (as are many countries across the globe) and 2009, according to the economists, pundits and their statistics, is not going to be a heck of a lot better - it may even get worse before it gets better. (Be still your heart!)

I think that one of the ways a small business owner can assure that 2009 is worse than 2008 is to adopt a doomsday attitude and to believe that it will get worse. Negative thinking is singularly the worse thing that can happen to a challenge. In order to succeed, one has to remain certain that one can overcome the core challenges that one faces. One has to stay positive. And focused. One has to resolve to master the challenges, to get on top of them, rather than have the challenges get on top of one.

As a small business person, one of my resolutions this year, 2009, is to remain optimistic. And like president-elect Barack Obama always says, I will adopt the mantra, "yes, I can."

What about you? What are your resolutions for your small business?

Sunday

Thrift

In his book, SuperClass, The Global Power Elite and the world they are making, David Rothkopf describes Nelson D. Rockefeller thus: "More than anyone else, Rockefeller incarnated the capitalist revolution that followed the Civil War and transformed American life. He embodied all its virtues of thrift, self-reliance, hard work, and unflagging enterprise."

Rockefeller was also the richest American business man who ever lived. He begain in business around age 24 and through a series of inspired moves, transformed himself into a force for the federal government to be reckoned with with his creation of Standard Oil - a monster corporation that so monopolized the oil business, the Supreme Court had to step in and break the company into parts: Exxon, Mobile, Sun, Chevron and a few others.

What has this to do with small business owners? Well, it's just to remind ourselves that one of the ways Rockefeller rose so high and furiously, is through thrift. As Mao did in China, he "lived close to the land." He also believed in business - creating them and growing them into successes, in hard work and in self-reliance. What is a small business if not the enterprise of a self-reliant person who works hard? But maybe, in these days in particular, more small business owners ought to think more about their overall thriftiness.

Sure, cash is king these days. But I think Rockefeller would probably say, only spend when you absolutely have to. The economist will not agree with this approach, obviously. Because in order to get the economy going, consumers have to start spending and stop hoarding all their cash. And believe me, I am not an economist, so I am not delving too much into that. I am just talking about the idea of thrift and drawing on Rockefeller as a reference. Because, look where it got him?

Saturday

Consequences

If nothing else, the recent upheavals on Wall Street have taught us that every act, even those done in secret and by really important people who are used to "getting away with murder" has consequences. And that eventually, the chickens will come home to roost.

I am certain that at least once since the story blew up around December 11, or so, that Bernie Madoff and his wife and sons have wished that they had not participated in that ponzi scheme. Now, they will lose everything. Including their freedom.

As a small business person, you may not have to worry about the consequences of ponzi schemes. But there are bound to be other ways in which you cut corners, cheat a little bit, try to get over from time to time. It is human nature to try to find the easiest and quickest way to get to a destination - especially when one is looking for money and profit.

But, when temptation knocks, just think of Mr. Madoff, and take the scenic route instead. You're a lot more likely to end up in a place where you can enjoy the fruits of your labor, rather than having breakfast meetings with law enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation - or the like - as they hint at a lifetime behind bars in some federal prison somewhere.

As tough as it might be to get your show profitable, try to always "do the right thing."