Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
Groupon gives couple deal of a lifetime. Dana Burck and Greg Hill of Cincinnati were a happy young couple who enjoyed traveling, watching movies, and did a lot of online shopping together. On Tuesday evening, Hill kept Burck up late with caffeine and back rubs, until about 1 a.m., when she says, "and then we went on Groupon, which is something we always do." The discount site wasn't offering a salon service, pilates class discount, or cheap lunch deal to subscribers of Cincinnati's Groupon. Instead, it read: "A Surprise for a Dana from a Greg," and a "nontransferable" proposal of marriage, the New York Times reports. Did Burck say yes? Let's just say the deal was sealed with a click.
Clouds lifting for small business? Amid strict lending restrictions, slowly rising retail prices, and sluggish hiring, where are the bright spots for 2011? The Wall Street Journal has compiled an in-depth report detailing the climate for small business in 2011. And guess what? It's not so bad. Small businesses are expected to increase their head-counts this year, more small businesses plan to increase retail prices in 2011, and new government programs should provide community banks relief necessary to free up loan dollars. This doesn't mean it's time to ditch the frugality and belt-tightening lessons learned during the recession. The Journal writes: "most improvements are expected to be marginal, likely benefiting only the healthiest small businesses while the rest continue to struggle, relying on survival tactics adopted during the recession, such as deep discounts to lure customers and operating with fewer hands."
LinkedIn hopes to beat Facebook to the IPO punch. With all the hubbub about Facebook, it's pretty easy to forget there are, in fact, other social networks doing pretty well. One looking to grab some attention is LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals, which plans to go public in 2011 and has even selected its financial underwriters, according to Reuters. A big factor in LinkedIn tapping the public markets this year, sources say, is to avoid competing with Facebook, which is said to be eyeing a 2012 IPO. "If Facebook went public before Linkedin, do you think anyone would pay that much attention to Linkedin?" a source told Reuters. "You might want to surpass the beast."
Apple eats away at the competition. In one fell swoop, AT&T has become the most successful wingman of the year. According to TechCrunch, Apple is now poised to dominate the second-tier smartphone market thanks to AT&T's release of its 3G phones for only $49 starting tomorrow. Before throwing away your Sidekick, remember that only AT&T dealers are offering this deal. The Apple store still wants your 99 bucks.
Reasons your business could fail. And they might not be what you expect, says Jay Goltz, small business columnist for The New York Times. His top 10 list comes primarily from customers, not entrepreneurs, who often have a deluded perspective on the problems (hence the reason they weren't able to find the solutions). Four out of the first five reasons relate to math and money—either the numbers don't add up, they aren't accounted for properly, there isn't enough cash, or profits snowball too quickly to manage. Much of the rest comes down to the owners and managers: "They may be perfectionist, greedy, self-righteous, paranoid, indignant, or insecure," Goltz writes. Failure in entrepreneurship is common, as we know, so make sure to cope, learn from your mistakes, and emerge even stronger the next time around.
Time for a culture check-up. By now, it should be common knowledge that happy employees make for better companies. But as the big boss, what can you actually do to make your workers feel good about what they do? Clate Mask, the CEO of Infusionsoft—and veritable corporate culture evangelist—offers his five tips to improve a company's culture in a guest post on VentureBeat today. The takeaway message? Managers must be active in making the company a better place—it's not going to happen on its own. "The natural wedges that typically drive apart management and employees must be attacked constantly," Mask writes.
Facebook's financial secrets leaked. Some details about Facebook's closely guarded financial performance emerged last night, with the Wall Street Journal scooping up this tidbit: Facebook had an income of $200 million in 2009 on revenue of $777 million. That's a high profit margin for such a young company, making Facebook much more profitable than everyone thought. The figures were part of a Goldman Sachs offering document to its clients, who flooded the bank with so many orders for Facebook shares that it will close the book on the offering today.
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