Worst Customer Service, IPO Hope, and a Pizza Prank

Advertisement

Makings of a comeback? The Wall Street Journal has some good news this morning from the markets, including a glimmer of hope for IPOs. Rosetta Stone, the language learning software company, went public today, opening above its expected price, which is the first time that has happened in a year. "The warm reception for IPOs and junk-bond issues shows that investors are increasingly willing to buy riskier assets. During the worst of the markets' troubles many investors would buy only U.S. government debt, considered the safest of all securities," the Journal says. Rosetta Stone's stock was soaring this morning, up 44 percent.

The customer is wrong. Even the most customer-unfriendly businesses (airlines, cell phone companies) will usually nod to the importance of customer service. But every now and then, a business decides that it can afford to be downright hostile to its clientele. That's the case at the Sufi Coffee Shop, perhaps the meanest cafe you'll ever hear about, as documented by a Stanford PhD student. The Mountain View coffee shop is plastered with hostile signs, including five (!) admonishing patrons not to kiss one another and a collection of signs in the bathroom that are--how to put this?--more than a little overbearing. But the coffee is good! (For another offbeat take on the coffee business, check out Inc.'s elevator pitch for the Conservative Cafe.)

Is revenue overrated? "Would you rather have $30,000 or $1 million in revenues for your startup? Sounds like a no-brainer, but I'd like to try and convince you that it's not." That's how Eric Ries, a serial entrepreneur who now works as a venture capitalist, begins his latest blog post. (Thanks for the tip, Tim Ferriss.) Ries argues that it's more important to build a business that is set up for growth than it is to grow quickly. That's because a company can learn more during its early days if it's not frantically trying to drive sales, and because founders can get distracted if they're constantly going on customer calls.

How two employees video prank damaged the Domino's brand. Sometimes social media is not your company's friend. A few days ago, two Domino's employees filmed a prank in the restaurant kitchen and decided to post it online. By yesterday afternoon, reports Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times, the video had more than a million hits, there were five references to it on the first page of the Google search for "Dominos" and Twitter was, well, doing what Twitter does best. In the end, the employees were served with felony charges for delivering prohibited foods and the company's brand took a serious hit. Like the Motrin debacle and the recent Amazon.com error, social media was the catalyst in turning an unfortunate incident into a PR nightmare. Execs at Domino's decided not to respond aggressively, hoping it would go away. But Twitter users concerned about how the company was going to respond, weren't looking beyond Twitter for an answer. By yesterday, realizing its mistake in letting the controversy fester, Domino's created a Twitter account and put its CEO on YouTube. Does your company have a plan in place for dealing with scandal?

Gun sales surging for some reason. Concerns from gun enthusiasts over the possibility that Obama administration will restore a ban on assault rifles have created a booming market. The Wall Street Journal reports that the recession, fears of social unrest, and rank speculation all may be driving up the price of guns. (AK-47s have done particularly well since the election, apparently.) Some gun owners are getting downright entrepreneurial. The WSJ writes: "Bubba Sanders, owner of Bullseye Supply LLC, in Brandon, Miss., said he has "a number of doctor clients whose financial advisers have told them to invest in ammunition. Beats the hell out of money markets and CDs. You can double your investment in ammunition in a year."

Let's make a deal. If you're shopping for office space for your small business, there's good news from Independent Street: It's a renter's market. Landlords want tenants, and they're willing to throw in incentives like a free month's rent or building improvements. In Atlanta, one of the hardest-hit job markets, commercial leasing fell 50 percent in the first quarter of 2009, but leasing to small businesses rose 7 percent. And if you aren't looking for new space, it's time to think about renegotiating, especially if you need the cash.

Letter to the IRS. Nadia Velazquez, chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee sent the IRS commissioner a four-page letter yesterday delineating how the IRS can help small businesses, particularly in the way the agency implements provisions in the Recovery Act. Velazquez recommends that the IRS make processing Form 941, which allows employers to claim a subsidy to pay COBRA benefits, its highest priority. She also recommends that IRS ensure that refunds are paid quickly by monitoring the filings for Forms 1045 and 1139 for small business with a net operating loss that, thanks to the Recovery Act, can offset the loss against income earned in up to five prior years. And she tells the IRS to start accepting more so-called offers in compromise, from taxpayers who have experienced significant financial problems. In 2007, only 26 percent of the 46,000 offers submitted were accepted.

Need money? CNN.com offers up their 10 tips for landing the right investors, from being realistic to showing your passion. "The entrepreneur is the Pied Piper of a company," says Chip Hazard, general partner at Boston-based Flybridge Capital Partners. "We want an articulate, passionate CEO who can excite others - employees, customers, business partners." For more tips on how to secure investors, read on at Inc.com here.

NASA makes selections in Small Business Technology Transfer program UPI reports that NASA has chosen 16 small businesses for potential contracts as part of its Small Business Technology Transfer program, which awards $9.6 million total to 16 hi-tech firms partnered with 15 universities in 18 states. The highly competitive three-phase award system is part of a requirement of NASA as a federal agency to award research and development funds to small businesses.
More from Inc. Magazine:

Get this delivered to your inbox.

Apply to the Inc. 500 and Inc. 5000.

Follow us on Twitter.

Friend us on Facebook.

Last updated: Apr 16, 2009




Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: