CEO's get ready for their closeup. Today's Chicago Tribune has an interesting story about the recent spate of company CEO's who have begun popping up on TV commercials as their company's pitchmen. Sprint, Walgreen's, and General Motors are just a few of the companies who have put their chief executive in front of the camera. Ad experts say making the head honcho the public face of the company is a textbook way to rebuild trust in companies during tough economic times. As the Tribune puts it, "Putting corporate leaders in front of a camera is supposed to make Americans feel better knowing somebody's in charge." Although not everyone is convinced of the effectiveness of this strategy. Said one brand consultant, "I guarantee you nobody's looking for middle-age white guys to be marketing icons."

Finally some good news from the IRS. With Congress still working on passing legislation to help shield small-business owners from cetain tax-shelter penalties, the IRS has extended its grace period for the collection of those penalties until the end of 2009. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the IRS has suspended collection efforts in cases where the tax benefit derived from so called listed-transactions amounts to less than $100,000 for individuals and less than $200,000 for firms.

A cleaner, greener Apple? Yesterday, Apple released new, much sought-after information about its environmental impact. For one, its greenhouse gas emissions, and how they are distributed across the lifespan of an Apple product. According to Apple, the bulk of their greenhouse gas emissions (95%) come from the life cycle of the products that they make. A product's "life cycle" accounts for the phases of raw material extraction, to manufacturing, to packaging, to transportation, to period of use of the product (four years of use for a Mac; three years of use for an iPhone or iPod), to recycling. Apple also hopes that this report will help customers consider their own environmental footprint.

Will Google Make Yelp Cry Uncle? Never one to let a successful business model go unchallenged, Google is launching Place Pages for Google Maps, a potential competitor with business review site Yelp. The project's name reads more like the title of a book report or atlas entry than a hot new social media tool, but with Google aggregating much of the information Yelp customers come for (a business' hours of operation, prices, etc.) all it needs is a bit of interactivity to put Yelp in real jeopardy. Just what business owners need, another field on which to engage their critics. But a new platform doesn't resolve the fundamental question, should businesses yelp back or not.

More from the Inc. 500|5000 Conference. Attendees tried their hand at cracking crabs, bibs and all, at last night's harborside Crabfest, but the day's speakers seemed to be the main topic of conversation. Bob Williamson, founder of Horizon Software, told his extraordinary story of how he overcame a life of heroin addiction, crime, and homelessness, to eventually start and run a successful business. We also got an inside scoop from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, when he announced Commerce Department plans for launching a brand new Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Today's lineup looks to be equally impressive. Jim Collins kicked off the morning with a talk about how companies can avoid the five stages of failure. After discussing some of the qualities that make a CEO great, he explained that even outlandish CEO's can be effective, quoting Hunter S. Thompson, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." That's it for now, look for a complete conference recap on Monday's post.


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