Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
Why money's not the best motivator. Today's Fortune offers tips for retaining your star performers, even when the budget for bonuses is tight. According to a Corporate Executive Board survey of 20,000 "high-potential employees," when people feel "connected to corporate strategy," they're more motivated than when they receive a bonus. This means on top of giving qualified staffers a chance to steer the company in the right direction, companies should also look to employee-referral programs. According to one University of Michigan professor, "When people behave as if they're committed, they become more committed." For more on what employees really want, check out our story here.
Florida eateries suing each other over water "Brooklynization." Back in July, we told you about Larry King's new gig as pitchman for the Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., a Florida-based bagel chain which claims it has developed a technology that Brooklynizes water. Now, as the Sun Sentinel reports (and as crazy as it sounds), the Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. and nearby Mamma Mia's pizzeria have filed suits against each other over their similar water filtration processes. To add another level of absurdity to the story, stuck in the middle of the suits is Donald Kurtzer, the father-in-law of Brooklyn Water owner Steve Fassberg, who helped the company get off the ground, then went off to start his own company and sold a water treatment system to Mamma Mia's.
Keeping cool under pressure. Admit it, there have been times when you've flubbed an interview, dropped the ball on a client, or have just plain choked under pressure. And you never want it to happen again. In today's Chicago Tribune, James Sprayregen, the bankruptcy lawyer who handled the United Airlines reorganization, along with other experts, offers tips and pointers to keeping cool. First tip: being a little vague can work in your advantage. Never say "I have three pointers," because you might just blank on one of them. Also, he recommends keeping a cheat sheet, "sort of like Sarah Palin with the writing on her hand." Want more advice on keeping cool? Check out our recent article with expert tips on giving an important speech.
Bootstrapping your blog. The Internet is a precarious place for a blog without investors. Yet The Awl, not yet two-years-old with nearly half a unique monthly visitors, has managed to perform surprisingly well by keeping costs low (read: no office), creating sponsorships from advertisers, and finding smart editorial content from a group of hand-picked writers. The New York Times reports that the site will earn more than $200,000 in revenue this year, and notes "the owners don't have to get rich--The Awl has no investors--they just have to eat." One of the site's owners, Choire Sicha, a "veteran blogger," noted that the business plan was fairly simple, if there was one at all. "All it takes is some WordPress and a lot of typing," he said. "Sure, I went broke trying to start it, it trashed my life and I work all the time, but other than that, it wasn't that hard to figure out."
How to find your niche. Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Belmont University entrepreneurship professor Jeffrey Cornwall argues that gone are the days when businesses could expect that the sky's the limit on potential customers. Rather, as he explains, "The era of the mass market is over. It has been replaced by what is known as the long tail of marketing, in which the focus is not on the mainstream but on much smaller market niches." To that end, Cornwall offers tips on identifying your specific target market, figuring out what their unmet needs are, and then ways to address those unmet needs.
Too close for comfort? Much to the delight of advertisers, online tracking companies now gather troves of information about where we go and what we do online. Yet one such company, RapLeaf, may have taken its services too far by "inadvertently" giving advertisers real names and email addresses once considered off-limits. The Wall Street Journal today released a full-on dossier into the San Francisco start-up that's built a huge database of users including intimate information like voter-registration files, shopping histories, social-networking activities, and real estate records. In certain circumstances, RapLeaf even transmitted identifying details such as unique Facebook and MySpace ID numbers to clients. While the company has ended the practice, it has still received a lot of requests to tap its technology in the midst of a hotly contested midterm election. "We used to bombard their house with mail," says Robert Willington, a republican campaign strategist. "Now we can bombard their house with online ads."
Groupon goes even more social. In what it's calling "the future of Groupon," Groupon is testing a feature called Groupon Stores, which lets small businesses and local merchants create local Facebook-like pages where fans can access individual deals. According to Yipit, which first blogged about the deal platform, Groupon's self-service feature is ostensibly about throwing a bone to mom-and-pop shops that can't offer deals on a global--or even metropolis-sized--scale. And it's expanding the Groupon empire. Will it work? Let us know what you think.