Friday, January 14, 2011

Small Business and the Economy

Yesterday, I tried watching CNBC's Small Business Forum. But they kept cutting away from the answers, every time a question was asked. It really frustrated me.

The only positive thing I heard was that the Federal Reserve has an Ombudsman, and if you feel that your bank isn't treating you right or is denying you credit you believe you deserve, you can contact the Ombudsman.

Fed Head Ben Bernanke said that community banks have stepped into the lending breach left by the big banks. He claimed that a strong balance sheet and good cash flow should enable a business to get a loan or a line of credit. FDIC head Bair said banks should not be saying your business is no longer creditworthy just because your collateral has fallen in value.

But after listening for awhile, I decided that our economy is dead because Bernanke has bored it to death.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

WikiLeaks and Stieg Larsson's "Girl" Books

As I read Forbes Magazines' cover article on Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks, my mind kept flashing back to moments in the Millennium Trilogy books ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" books by Stieg Larsson). This wasn't the first time I had sensed parallels. All along, the WikiLeaks reminded me of these books.

The main character, Lisbeth Salander (the girl), is an extraordinary computer hacker. She works with other hackers and is able to uncover all sorts of information, some of which is very much akin to what we've seen in the WikiLeaks (and may see in the future). The other main character, Mikael Blomkvist, is an investigative journalist who uses information he unearths himself and also from Salander to bring corporate and government malfeasance to light. Sound familiar? (There's much more to the books than this, however.)

Over the course of the books, Blomkvist is smeared in a libel suit in Sweden and jailed. Salander is also tried for violent crimes and is portrayed in the press as an anarchist, trouble maker, lesbian punk rocker. This all reminds me of the rape charges being brought (in Sweden) against Assange. The only place the parallels fall down is that Blomkvist is anti-Nazi, and supposedly Nazi sympathizers work for WikiLeaks. (Who knows?)

If you haven't paid attention to the WikiLeaks, you should. Try reading them and about them in the New York Times. And read the Forbes interview and article . Make up your own mind. Are the leaks doing good, or are they harmful?

Also read the Millennium series, whose author, Larsson, died of a sudden heart attack at midlife before the novels were even published. Kinda makes me wonder what he knew and what else he might have written.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Resolved to Start a Business in 2011?

Did you make a new year's resolution to finally start your own business? As you begin, take time to answer some key questions. You can do this in your head, but I suggest writing down your answers in a notebook (yes, with pen and paper), or writing them on a screen and saving them in a special file. You can return to your thoughts and modify them as often as you like. But once committed to paper or screen, your ideas will become more concrete and will help you move toward your goal. In fact, that is the first question (see below).

America is a great country partly because it is made up of so many independent businesses. Just drive down any street in any town or city and see all the shops. Go online on Ebay or Etsy and see all the small businesses selling a variety of items. Look at the successful big businesses. They all started with a person with an idea for a better way to fill a need. Ford, HP, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM, AT&T...
1. What is your goal? Freedom? Independence? Making money? Being Creative? Making the World Better?
2. What is your big idea?
3. What need do you see in the marketplace that your idea will fill?
4. Who is your target audience? Who will buy what you have to offer?
5. What resources will you need to tap to bring your idea to fruition?
6. What will you need to spend? (How cheaply can you execute?)
7. Will you do this on your own or with a team? Have you assembled the team?
8. How will you market your idea?
9. How will you make and deliver your product or service?
10. What will you live on while you do this? How will you finance your business?

Feel free to contact me if you'd like help in working through these questions, or if you need a guide for a plan. That's my business -- helping entrepreneurs turn ideas into reality and crafting plans that answer the questions investors ask most often. - - Twitter: @upstartwyn