Two Novel Ideas on Taxes; Small-Biz Stimulus Risks
BY Kasey Wehrum
Government stimulus: more danger than opportunity for small businesses? Obama's $787 billion stimulus package offers a much-needed, near-term source of revenue and growth for small businesses. But companies are unsure of how to adapt their long-term goals and hiring needs to this temporary source of funding, reports the Wall Street Journal. Hinman Consulting Engineers, a San Francisco company that designs buildings to be bomb resistant is stretching its 22-person staff thin to meet the needs of three new projects financed by the stimulus package. But President Eve Hinman is afraid to bring on new staffers without knowing how long the growth period will last. What's more, the specialized nature of these companies' work makes it harder to hire untrained workers. Hinman, who learned her lesson about hiring too quickly when her company saw a rash of new contracts after 9/11, instead tapped adminstrative help to free up her engineers and improve efficiency.
Let the IRS do the taxes. Marketplace reports this morning on a novel policy idea to make paying one's taxes slightly less painful: Let the IRS do them. "How about having the IRS figure out your taxes and send you a form that needs little more than your signature," asks reporter John Dimsdale. That sounds like it might make things easier, but it also kind of sounds like paying your phone bill, which can be really, really painful.
Better yet, tax the tall people. Sounds crazy, but a pair of Harvard Business School professors think that their proposed height tax is no less preposterous than the justification for the country's current tax policy. The latest edition of Harvard Business School's newsletter, Working Knowledge, features an interview with one of the professors who tries to defend their largely tongue-in-cheek proposal by showing that an income tax is an equally arbitrary way of levying taxes. To be fair, both professors are over six feet tall, so they would be subject to their own higher tax scheme.
T Pain gets an iPhone app. A real-time auto-tune app has long been considered the holy grail of software entrepreneurship. Okay, maybe not, but we're pretty excited about startup iPhone developer Sonic Mule's new app: I Am T-Pain. The $2.99 program allows regular folks to auto-tune their voices. (Don't know what auto-tunning is? See this.) "What Smule has done here is technically incredible - and it's a friggin' killer product idea, to boot," Mobile Crunch gushes. "Hip hop fans are going to love this. Drunken frat boys are going to love this. Hell, I can't stand hearing Auto-tune used in songs anymore, and I can't put this thing down. Good job, Smule - you've got a real hit on your hands, here."
Local-washing is the new green-washing. Marketers hype what they think consumers want. When buyers started voting with their dollar for more eco-friendly products, we saw green-washing tactics to make a product seem environmentally safe. Now that consumers are catching onto the idea of buying local to reduce their environmental footprint, buy fresher food, or support local businesses, corporate giants are revamping their ads (if not their products) to meet demand, according to Grist. Among the worst offenders? Venezuelan-owned Citgo, Lays potato chips, Hellman's mayonnaise, and a Seattle-area Starbucks, which renamed itself 15th Avenue Cofee and Tea as part of a campaign to give at least 3 of the 16,000-store chain's locations a "community personality".
A stock market guru's praise of entrepreneurship. Hedge-fund manager and entrepreneur Howard Lindzon takes a step back from watching the Dow to ruminate on the merits of entrepreneurship on his blog, HowardLindzon.com. Lindzon recalls the Dow Jones milestones of recent years and how seemingly vacant they now appear as compared to the actual value of starting and running your own business. As he so eloquently puts it, "If you are not out there making it happen for yourself, then you are just in the prediction business which seems kind of sad. Predicting is fun and can be profitable, but rolling up your sleeves and making s*** happen is the road to fulfillment."
Honor among thieves. Peddling your wares in the digital bazaar is a tricky business but rather than keeping your music and movies under the lock and key of Digital Rights Management (DRM), make them "stealable." "Digital personal property" which behaves more like a physical good--you can lend it to a friend, it can get stolen if untended--could be the answer according to Paul Sweazey who's heading a new study group on the subject for the IEEE (via Ars Technica). People have been decrying DRM for some time, but check out this slideshow on its downsides for small publishers courtesy of David Gammel, president of High Context Consulting. Also see Inc.'s previous coverage of security issues for your company's confidential data.
This is how you do it. A Boston research group has released a report that in part reveals what it takes to become an influencer on Twitter. The skinny from FastCompany's Chris Dannen: "It doesn't matter how often you tweet," he writes. "It matters why you tweet."
Staff editor KASEY WEHRUM has written for Inc. magazine on subjects ranging from the businesses behind professional bull riding to gadget inventor and father of the infomercial, Ron Popeil. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Worth, Budget Travel, and on MSNBC.com. He lives in Brooklyn.