Scenes from a layoff. For struggling firms like Ram Tool, a small family-owned manufacturing company that the New York Times profiles here, deciding which employees to layoff poses some tough choices. The story focuses closely on the emotional toll that layoffs can take on small companies. The article is well worth a read, if only for the gripping look how difficult downsizing can be. During tough times, the management at Ram Tool meets in a conference room and votes on which employees to keep. The voting, however, is anything but simple. Should you retain employees with families to support? Should special consideration be given to long-term employees?
An iPhone App for Office Docs. The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg has a review in today's paper of Quickoffice, a new iPhone app that allows you to edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents in your iPhone. That's something most smart phone users have been able to do for years, but it's new to the iPhone. Mossberg thinks that the $19.99 program was "OK" but points out a litany of limitations, including the high price, the difficulty of getting documents onto your phone, and the lack of a spell check feature.
Retail sales looking up. The New York Times finds some good news in the monthly retail sales reports. April sales were up 1.2 percent from a year ago, better than analysts expected. Does this mean that consumer confidence is recovering? The Times isn't sure, noting that much of the increase came from sales at Wal-Mart, and that many stores are still seeing steep declines.
Would health care reform mean the end of private insurance? Small business advocates are divided about a pending bill to establish a national health care plan, BizJournals reports. Senate legislation would create a national health insurance exchange for small businesses and individuals to choose from different plans. But the big question is whether a government program should be on the menu. The National Federation of Independent Business says no and argues that a government plan would threaten private insurers. The president of the National Small Business Association thinks other reforms to current health care legislation could render a public program unnecessary. Your thoughts?
The future of In-N-Out Burger. The LA Times' Michael Hiltzik wonders about the future of one of the most recognizable family businesses in America, the legendary In-N-Out Burger. The fast food restaurant's characteristically fresh ingredients have inspired a die hard following in California, Arizona, and Nevada. Now, the chain faces an uncertain future. With the heirs to the business having settled legal battles for control of the company, Hiltzik wonders how In-N-Out can continue to grow without abandoning what made it great. He writes: "...a public offering, much less a buyout by a public company, would almost certainly render it unrecognizable. The homogenizing cost-cutting of corporate number-crunchers ('let's drop the beef by a grade; the customers won't notice') could mean the end of In-N-Out as we know it."
Warner Music walks away from two digital music startups. Warner Music once thought lala.com and iMeem could help combat industry-wide declines in music sales. In fact, last year, Warner invested $20 million in lala and $15 million in iMeem. But, in the company's 10-Q filing this morning, the label declared that it's writing off $33 million of its investment in the two startups, reports MediaMemo.Warner wrote off its entire investment in iMeem, and let go of a $4 million "receivable write-off" as well. It's unfortunate timing for iMeem, who just raised an emergency funding round that Kafka pegs in the single digit millions. We profiled iMeem founder Dalton Caldwell in our young entrepreneur issue.