In trying times, try new new things. Even as the economy continues to struggle, the L.A. Times finds that many entrepreneurs aren't hiding their heads in the sand. Instead, some small companies are improving service and productivity. One example is Barco Uniforms, which provides uniforms for shows like ABC's Grey's Anatomy. Here's some refreshing optimism: "In response to the recession challenge, we are kind of reinventing our business model," said Michael Donner, third-generation owner of Barco Uniforms Inc., which employs 175 people in Gardena. "It's difficult to do," Donner said. But "when you are remarkable in a recessionary time, you do it well, you pull it off, then you can grow your business as a result."
Click fraud . Remember how online advertising was supposed to be transparent, incredibly efficient, and a replacement for traditional media? Well, it turns out there's a problem -- rampant fraud. TechCrunch has the goods on a new report from Click Forensics. The report finds that 17.1 percent of all clicks on pay-per-click ads come as the result of click fraud. Automated click bots - essentially, computers that are programmed to click on online ads - are responsible for 30 percent of fraudulent clicks. A huge, under-reported problem.
Health care costs stifle growth. For any entrepreneur who's taken a look at their premiums lately, CNN Money has the not-so-shocking news: health insurance costs hurt small businesses more than their bigger competitors. Health care costs amount to a sizable competitive disadvantage for small companies. "Small businesses typically pay 18% more for health insurance than big companies, which can use their purchasing power to drive down the cost of coverage, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund, a health policy research foundation," writes CNN. "And the number of small firms that provide health insurance to their employees has been shrinking every year: 59% in 2007, down from 68% in 2000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Of the 46 million uninsured in the U.S., 27 million are small business owners, their employees or their dependents."
Budding entrepreneurs in the Girl Scouts face a tougher sell. Via Business Sheet: Due to the recession, each will have fewer cookies and the cost will rise from $3.50 to $4.50. Time to brush up on your sales tactics, scouts! Here are some tips and inspiration from Inc.
Employees that will actually pay to work for you. Parents are shelling out big bucks to ensure that their college-aged kids secure hard-to-get internships this summer. According to the WSJ, some parents are supporting their children financially so that they can take unpaid internships, hiring consultants to promote their children to employers, and even bidding on internships in online auctions. For employers who have frozen hiring or laid off workers, bringing on some eager and inexpensive (or free) interns may be smart move.
Thinking local for fast-food. Consumers rated regional food chains above their national competitors in overall customer experience, Independent Street reports. The results support the long-held notion that smaller businesses can compete by appealing to consumers' desire for quality and value: "It's probably easier to maintain the highest standards if you're only operating in a couple of states," speculates Paul Clarke, VP of sales and marketing at Sandelman & Associates, who conducted the survey.
Big credit, little state. Rhode Island is in a life-and-death battle to get credit to small businesses like Warwick Ice Cream, CNN reports in a video. "With a state that's facing a $305 million deficit, the critical aspect is small business. This is a small business state, without capital, without credit, small business will die," says SBA district director Mark Hayward.