Regulatory changes coming for retirement accounts. Bizbox and the Wall Street Journal take a look at Obama's new budget, which may force business owners to set up retirement programs for their workers. For employers that don't have retirement plans for their employees, the new rule would for them to establish direct-deposit IRAs. It's sure to be a serious headache for entrepreneurs. As you may expect, the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Small Business are opposed to the change. There are concerns that small businesses could get sued for mishandling individual retirement savings or would have to adopt newer, more complex (read: expensive) payroll systems.
Blogging layoffs. Laid off workers are increasingly turning to blogs to chronicle their experiences, according to an article in today's Journal. "For many, it's therapeutic and a way to connect with others in the same situation," writes Alina Dizik. "But...some bloggers have angered former employers with their candid writing." The upshot? Companies contemplating layoffs should be aware that those decisions could quickly become public information, whether they issue or a press release or not.
Credit cards the next credit crunch? So says Meredith Whitney—a former Oppenheimer analyst, wife of a pro wrestling star, and now head of her own advisory group—in a chilling op-ed in today's WSJ. Whitney had the attention of financial community after being one of the first to call the crisis on Wall Street. Whitney thinks we'll see that $2 trillion in credit retracted by card providers in 2009, at least a 57 percent reduction. Some causes: an overreliance on FICO scores, lax underwriting standards, and credit limits set based on an an applicant's zip code.
A VC summer camp. TechCrunch reports that the VC firm Highland Capital is running a summer program for student entrepreneurs. Highland is offering stipends from $7,500 to $15,000 to graduate or undergraduate students who are involved in a start-up that hopes to operate in one of its areas of expertise. Student entrepreneurs who are accepted into the Summer@Highland program will receive a sponsor from the firm and attention from Highland's VCs, but won't have to give up any equity.
Back to basics. People do crazy things during boom times--like convince themselves that stuff that once cost money should be free. That's the contention of David Heinemeier of 37Signals. "It seems that the web has been so thoroughly infected by the memes of 'the future is free', 'we'll all live from ads', 'VC money will get us there', and 'acquisition is nirvana' that it has almost lost its faith in the simpler ways," he writes. Heinemeier says that start-ups hoping to succeed in this economy must go back to basics, which means bootstrapping and collecting actual revenues from the beginning. "I think the days of the traditional San Francisco start-up approach are numbered. It'll be flushed down the drain along with CDO's and zero-down mortgages."
Twitter as direct mail. Maggiano's, a Dallas-based chain of Italian restaurants, is running a Twitter promotion that has garnered it over 1,000 followers reports Silicon Alley Insider. In exchange for messaging their friends about Maggiano's on Twitter, participants can earn a chance to win a $100 gift certificate. Of course, we're all accustomed to trivial updates on Twitter -- but will promotions like this be seen as spam or a creative marketing ploy?
More on student consultants As we discussed here, student consulting can be an underutilized source of advice for small companies. The L.A. Times has more in this piece. "It's amazing how many small-business owners kind of think the same way when they've been in business for a while and hit a wall: Where do I go from here? How do I get bigger?" Suzanne DeRossett, owner of Empire Building Services, said to the L.A. Times. DeRossett paid $1,250 to Cal State Fullerton for advice as her staff grew from 50 to 70 employees. The story reports that some programs cost a small fee, others are free, and the help offered can range from agribusiness to nanotechnology.
Small business confidence falls again. The NFIB's small business optimism index dropped again in February, reports Reuters. Owners continue to cut jobs and compensation, and from the looks of it, matters won't improve this quarter.