Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today.
Apple: We swear, we're not tracking you. When researchers discovered last week that iPhones and iPads contained software that recorded—and potentially tracked—location information, lots of people pretty much freaked out, including some notable politicians. Steve Jobs, on medical leave from Apple, spoke to the The New York Times to finally allay people's nerves. "Apple acknowledged that it had made mistakes, which it attributed to programming errors, in storing the data for a long time, keeping the file unencrypted and storing the data even when users had chosen to turn off location services," the article notes. But Jobs is adamant that users' privacy was never compromised: "We haven't been tracking anybody," he said. "Never have. Never will."
Catching up with a gym entrepreneur-turned fitness icon. David Barton created the prototype of a gym-as-nightclub after opening his flamboyantly hip Chelsea gym in 1991, and several subsequent locations that "succeeded in defining an entirely new kind of gym experience, one that felt as much like hitting a glitzy party as logging an everyday workout." Barton estimates he's grossed $230 million from his lavish fitness centers, but after spending what one fitness-consulting company estimates as $11 million designing and decorating each club, Barton's clubs announced this year they are filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In an interview with the New York Times, Barton blamed the bankruptcy on his opening several new high-end gyms just before the recession. "I made mistakes, but there was also a gym bubble that burst," he said. Barton's excesses are the stuff of legend—his wedding had 43 bridesmaids; his apartment had a separate bathroom for his dog—and Barton says that even now that his company is in a new partnership and he doesn't have full control over his clubs, "I'm still CEO. I still wake up every morning and say, 'This is great, I'm David Barton, I get to go work in my gym.'"
Are difficult customers worth keeping? Customer service is a vital part of business; however, not all customers are created equal. Some customers are more valuable than others, and some customers are definitely more difficult than others. While finding ways to sway customers is essential to growth and success, how many resources should a company devote to a difficult but valuable customer? The mentors of the Young Entrepreneur Council, a non-profit organization that supports young entrepreneurs with tools, mentoring, community and educational resources, have provided nine tips on when it's appropriate to "fire" a difficult customer. Most of the mentors agree it's important to be a people-pleaser, but relentlessly difficult customers can drain the life out of an organization, so it's important to determine the customer's worth before cutting off any ties. As mentor and entrepreneur Michael Holthouse puts it, "Happy customers tell two people. Unhappy customers tell 10."
LetsLunch takes on New York Gone are the days when lunch breaks were a hour relief from the strains and pains of the nine to five workday. Thanks to LetsLunch, a business networking service that links compatible people for lunch dates, so you can continue working on your rolodex even while you eat. LetsLunch launched in February and TechCrunch reports that the company hits the mean street of New York today. While networking remains a headache for most entrepreneurs, LetsLunch still may be a worthwhile experience to meet people who are as social, or at least as determined as you are to make more connections in your business community.
Small business hiring picks up. Small businesses may finally be getting the help they need. The Wall Street Journal reports that small business are on a spending spree, picking up new employees left and right. Most of the hiring has been in the technology and financial sector, and according to one report, businesses with fewer than 500 employees have collectively added 188,000 jobs per month this year, compared to last year's 68,500. "Small and young firms are the engine for job growth that we need," says Stephen Bronars, a senior economist for Welch Consulting, a labor advisory firm in Washington, D.C. "They're where the bulk of job creation is going to occur." The article notes that job growth is due, at least in part, to loan enhancements from the Small Business Jobs Act, which allowed the S.B.A to approve $9.1 billion in loans between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31.
Proof of America's brain drain. For decades, immigrants have sought the United States as a land of opportunity. But a new report, released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, asserts that may no longer be the case. "High-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs from India and China are leaving the United States by the tens of thousands each year, drawn away by better economic and professional opportunities in their home countries," the foundation noted in a press release. The report, "The Grass is Indeed Greener in India and China for Returnee Entrepreneurs," surveyed U.S.-educated Indian and Chinese professionals who had returned to their home countries and started businesses. The study cited "economic opportunities, favorable conditions for starting a business and the speed of professional growth as the leading motivations for returning home. Family ties also played a significant role in attracting the entrepreneurs back to their native countries."
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