Want a loan with that 10-lb. jar of mayonnaise? Sam's Club announced today that it will begin working with the SBA to offer its members small-business loans up to $25,000, the Wall Street Journal reports. The online program, coordinated by SBA lender Superior Financial Group, is focusing on minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. Sam's Club says that 15 percent of its business members reported that they were denied a loan in a survey last November, up from 3 percent in April 2009.
How to motivate employees. Give them a share in your success. Blogging for the New York Times, Inc. contributor Jack Stack heaps the praise on Hilcorp, an energy company with an empowering bonus scheme. Among the company's novel compensation policies, Hilcorp plans to give employees each $50,000 toward the purchase of a new car if it doubles its 2005 appraised value by the end of the year. "Hilcorp is also a product of its culture, a place where associates really do think like owners," Stack writes. Employees can earn bonuses of up to 60 percent of their salaries and they can invest in specific projects, "literally making them investors in the project's success," Stack says. For more on open-book management policies, see this classic from the Inc. archives.
Tips for keeping morale high during tough times. Coping with the recession not only puts a great strain on businesses, it can also put a tremendous emotional strain on business owners as well. Dr. Jeffrey Cornwall, director of Belmont University's entrepreneurship center, offers some tips for entrepreneurs who are struggling to remain optimistic in the face of these difficult economic times. Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Cornwall first suggests that business owners adjust their expectations. As he explains, "The growth in revenues and profits that you experienced during the good times may not return for quite some time, if ever. Don't burden your business with unrealistic profit goals." Cornwall then goes on to list some ways for entrepreneurs to keep a calm mind while dealing with the effects of the recession. After all, as Cornwall says, "While times may be tough, it's still possible to truly enjoy the entrepreneurial journey."
The Russian Spy had a business plan--and a video pitch. While you were packing for the beach, TechCrunch unearthed even more dirt on Russian spy/Facebook fiend/would-be real-estate entrepreneur Anna Chapman. TechCrunch dug up Chapman's business plan ("really more of a two-page executive summary"), as well as a video Chapman filmed before last year's New York Entrepreneur Week. "Initially, she comes across as something of a red-headed ditz, flirting with the camera" says TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld. "Or maybe she is just nervous, but as she begins to talk about her business she starts to sound a little more believable." As for the business model for her apartment listings website, NYCRentals.com, a vertical search engine that pulls together listings from different brokers, Schonfeld says, "It is not a particularly original idea."
How to run your own island. It couldn't be too much more difficult than running a business, right? Maja Kilgore, the managing director of Fiji's Laucala Island resort, which is owned by an Austrian energy-drink tycoon, says, well, there are logistical obstacles. Such as cyclones. And running a private airport, including controlling the island's airspace. She tells the Wall Street Journal that with 25 villas on more 3,000 acres, and 350 staffers, logistics are key. The island is 85 percent self-sufficient, growing most of its own food and raising animals. One of the biggest concerns, Kilgore says, is "You cannot take the risk of running out of gas."
Upping the price tag isn't always the answer. Thinking of raising prices along with inflation rates? This graphic from Mint.com and WalletPop may give you pause. Inflation has actually outpaced some pricing increases at companies like McDonald's, Levi's and Starbucks, making some products cheaper than they were 10 years ago. "Starbucks, for example, has made it's basic coffee cheaper on the theory that it's better to bring more people through the doors, so that they might purchase higher margin items," Cliff Kuang writes at Fast Company.
Getting your employees to hack you. In the wake of the FTC giving Twitter a stern talking to for its lax security, one of Facebook's senior engineers put out an open call for Facebook employees to test the mettle of Facebook's security by hacking into his account (TechCrunch via peHUB). Though it took them a few weeks they managed to do it, proving how valuable a resource employees can be when used creatively and how much work Facebook still has to do on the privacy front. If your employees don't have the tech savvy to probe your defenses here's how to hire an ethical hacker.