Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
The case for going off the grid. Chances are you're reading this on your desktop or laptop, iPhone or iPad, and while it's important to keep up on the news, a new study suggests it's equally important to unplug and zone out. According to The New York Times, researchers at the University of Michigan found that people retained information better after taking a walk in nature compared to a busy city. A similar study out of University of California, San Francisco showed that rats who are exposed to new environments only create lasting memories about those environments when they take a break from activity. Loren Frank, a professor from the university tells the Times, "Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it's had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories." And by downtime, he doesn't mean watching TV, texting or surfing the Internet. When you overstimulate the brain, Frank says, "you prevent this learning process."
Tips for going global. Want to expand your business internationally but are intimidated by learning the ins-and-outs of foreign cultures? You're not alone--a recent survey conducted by UPS reported that one-third of the small businesses that responded cited language and cultural barriers as the primary reason they did not pursue international sales leads. To help you conquer those fears, Businessweek has a list of tips that can help you get started developing business relationships overseas. The advice comes from the president of UPS's international division and many of the tips are lessons he learned firsthand from his own mistakes. As he explains, "Ninety-six percent of the world's consumers live outside the U.S., so failing to export today may mean you'll have to play catch-up later."
Pittsburgh's profitability problem. When Bill Nutting's customers found out that his business was making a healthy profit, they were furious. That's because Nutting is the owner of the Pittsburgh PIrates, a baseball team with an impressive 18-year losing streak (via Business Insider). Over the past three seasons, the team has reaped $34.5 million in profit, and since it spent relatively little on players, the fans were understandably incensed. Read the full story of how Nutting artfully spun the PR disaster into a win.
Meet the apologizers. It's their job to say "I'm sorry." The Chicago Tribune highlights the customer service chiefs at Southwest Airlines, as well as other carriers, that specialize in targeting situations where something went wrong and apologizing to all passengers on the offending flight. Fred Taylor Jr. has been dubbed by one reporter: "chief apology officer." Want more org chart madness? Our Leigh Buchanan just wrote about oddball job titles we love.
Report of gross mismanagement in SBA loan process following Katrina. The Associated Press has conducted an exhaustive investigation of the SBA loan process in the five years following hurricanes Katrina and Rita that sheds a damning light on loan officers and supervisors alike. The report unveils disparities in loan acceptance rates between races, and cites interviews with former loan officers who say loans were denied for no other reason than to clear out an overwhelming number of applications from the SBA's database. "One supervisor who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity out of fear she would lose her job," the article says, "said that on weekends fellow supervisors and other managers would order pizza and just empty the queue of applications." The report also cites instances of yacht clubs and country clubs upgrading their facilities with SBA loans, while less flashy businesses struggled even to get loans approved. "We had no compassion for these people," another former loan officer told the AP. "To our supervisors, it was all about production and we hurt a lot of people along the way." (Via The Huffington Post.)
Fighting for funds. Programs in dozens of states from Vermont to California are running out of the money they need to boost small business growth, CNN reports. The programs, which are designed to marry state and private loans, are vital to economic stability and job creation of states like Massachusetts, which has made almost 4,300 loans over the past 17 years. Coupled with the evaporation of the $40 billion small business bill, the news does not bode well for business owners struggling to get loans. Still, President Obama and the states will continue to lobby for an additional $1.5 billion in grants for such programs once Congress returns to session next month.
Newspapers are dead; long live the iPad. That's what futurist Ross Dawson sees for the near future. The Australian writes that Dawson sees the proliferation of small mobile reader devices rendering paper-and-ink newspapers irrelevant by 2022. And, in 12 years Dawson believes that iPad progeny will be ubiquitous - and cheap. Expect to have a media-consumption screen that will be priced at less than $10 - or even be distributed for free. "More sophisticated news readers will be foldable, or rollable, gesture-controlled, and fully interactive," he says. And news? It could be increasingly crowdsourced by amateurs, and overseen by professionals.
Last updated: Aug 25, 2010
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.