Six business principles to stick with in 2009. Inc. 500 CEO Michael Mothner, of Wpromote, outlines six tactics that will get your company through the year, including "Love Your Customers; No, Make Them Love You" and the 2009 national anthem: "Do More With Less." Mothner discovered that since his staff was a fairly computer savvy bunch, they didn't need a full-time IT person and could instead rely on everyone pitching in and handling problems when they arose. "It turns out our collective knowledge is significantly greater than any one 'specialist' in this area; a pretty cool discovery."
Today in "When others are fearful, be greedy." From the Wall Street Journal comes another example of how small businesses can compete by specializing. Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange is a small, high-end insurer that's taking advantage of mass-market homeowners-insurance companies' flight from hurricane-prone coastal areas. While national companies like State Farm are dropping policies, PURE is courting their wealthy former customers. They offer competitively-priced homeowners' insurance policies in high risk areas. How is that affordable? They specialize in large homes worth over $1 million, which, evidence suggests, tend to withstand storms.
Survival of the fittest in the tech sector. In an interview with Content Matters, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures speculates about the future of the tech and media industries. He's optimistic, but he predicts a flight in 2009 to strong companies by investors, customers, and employees. On what segments the eventual recovery will transform: "Every industry that is based on knowledge or information or some other form of non-physical matter (atoms vs bits) is going to fundamentally transform and this downturn will be the Darwinian forcing function. Think about energy and power systems, banking, media, education. They all have that aspect to them."
The Great Twitter Experiment of 2009. New York Times tech columnist David Pogue, who has had a mixed experience with Twitter since his initiation a couple weeks back, decides to let the power of Twitter speak for itself during a Web 2.0 conference in Las Vegas. Pogue tweeted that he had the hiccups, asked his 650 followers for help "RIGHT NOW!", and broadcast their answers in front of the crowd of 1,000. He didn't even have to wait 15 seconds before the responses came flooding in—"Just hold your breath until Windows 7 is released" . . . "I take large sips of bourbon. It doesn't stop the hiccups, but I stop caring" . . . "There's gotta be something in the App Store for it by now." Pogue's followers were no less pithy when he revealed that the tweet was only for the purposes of a conference demo: "ah, the distant echoes of the boy who cried hiccup" . . . "Did the demo mention that you'll keep getting hiccup cures for the next four days?"
The New New Coke. According to the the WSJ, Coco-Cola is dropping the word "Classic" from the brand name in an attempt to appeal to younger consumers. Pepsi, on the other hand, is taking the opposite tack with its new My Generation ads, tracking youth culture through the decades. What's in a name? Check out this Inc.com post to find out how much your company name matters.
A Ledbetter day. Obama signed his first piece of legislation yesterday: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The New York Times has a nice piece on the emotional signing ceremony. The bill was named for a woman who, nearing retirement as a supervisor in a Goodyear tire factory, realized she'd been paid less than her male counterparts for years. Her case was thrown out because she hadn't filed her complaint within 180 days of the first discriminatory check. The bill extends the statute of limitations by restarting the clock after every unequal check. Critics contend the bill will open the floodgates to frivolous lawsuits and encourage employees to withhold their case so they can collect larger damages down the line. Whatever the impact, Ledbetter will never be able to collect her money from Goodyear, but she considers the bill a personal victory: "I will never see a cent. But with the president's signature today I have an even richer reward."
A Venti-sized cutback. Starbucks—an economic indicator in its own right—announced that it will close another 300 stores and lay-off another 7,000 workers. From Howard Schultz's letter to employees: "These decisions have been made to ensure the company is leaner and prepared to endure a worsening economic climate." Read here about why many customers will stay loyal to Starbucks, even if they have to walk a few more blocks to find a new one.
Venture pessimists. The New York Times' Bits blog summarizes a report from the National Venture Capital Association, which indicates that confidence in Silicon Valley is predictably low. It's been the worst year for venture exits in 30 years, and investors have hoarded cash. A troubling quote from the NVCA report from Robert Ackerman of Allegis Capital: "It won't be easy for companies to secure their initial funding in today's environment, which means that those who do secure capital must have something special going for them in terms of the quality of their idea and team and market momentum. There is no such thing as 'good enough' in this environment."
What a difference a tenth of a point makes. A Bloomberg survey has the U.S. unemployment number rising next week from 7.4 percent to 7.5 percent. Bloomberg editor Tom Keene called the prediction a big deal. "Just a tenth of a percent move in the survey this close to next Friday is a big deal. There's a rate of change here to a more grim picture than what we saw 2, 3, 4 weeks ago." Keane says the job cuts are more structural, than cyclical. "That's bow-tie for permanent."
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