Posts filed under ‘Small Business’

On SOPA, PIPA, and Copyright Maximalism: How We Must Respond

Joel Spolsky – Google+ – Two things about SOPA/PIPA and then I’ll shut up :) (1) …

(1) The internet seems to ignore legislation until somebody tries to take something away from us… then we carefully defend that one thing and never counter-attack. Then the other side says, “OK, compromise,” and gets half of what they want. That’s not the way to win… that’s the way to see a steady and continuous erosion of rights online.

The solution is to start lobbying for our own laws. It’s time to go on the offensive if we want to preserve what we’ve got. Let’s force the RIAA and MPAA to use up all their political clout just protecting what they have. Here are some ideas we should be pushing for:

  • Elimination of software patents
  • Legal fees paid by the loser in patent cases; non-practicing entities must post bond before they can file fishing expedition lawsuits
  • Roll back length of copyright protection to the minimum necessary “to promote the useful arts.” Maybe 10 years?
  • Create a legal doctrine that merely linking is protected free speech
  • And ponies. We want ponies. We don’t have to get all this stuff. We merely have to tie them up fighting it, and re-center the “compromise” position.

Mr Spolsky is expressing thoughts that all of us should be thinking. In fact, I’ve partially expressed some related concepts before. Only, now that they’ve been expressed, we need to discuss them, modify them as needed, and then implement them. I encourage you to go to his post on GPlus and read the whole thing.

Sunday, 2012-January-22 at 20:18 3 comments

Pasadena’s Own Buy-Local Effort

Buy Local Pasadena Informational! « Buy Local Pasadena Blog

Want to support and nurture local independent businesses here in Pasadena and our surrounding communities? Then come to Vroman’s to learn more about a new movement growing here in town – BUY LOCAL PASADENA!

This is heart-warming. Instead of waiting for LOOACs (Large, Out-Of Area Corporations) to bring recovery to their community, a number of businesses in Pasadena, California, are banding together to encourage residents to buy from locally-owned businesses.

It seems to me that our current financial crisis is a result of preferring large, non-local businesses and banks over their locally-owned competitors. Your one or two-branch bank does not have the resources to invest in speculative derivatives like credit default swaps, nor to open branches in the latest high-flying boomtown, nor to develop loan products designed to extract even more funds from lower-income borrowers.

To the degree that it is possible, I prefer to buy locally-produced goods and services, from locally-owned businesses. When there is a problem, they are generally quite willing to correct it. And even when there isn’t any problem, I get the satisfaction of knowing that someone locally is going to eat tonight.

Finally, it is smaller, locally-owned businesses that are going to give your brother-in-law (the one who hasn’t worked in five years) a job.No LOOAC will even think about hiring him, because his record is blemished. But a locally-owned business is likely to give him a chance to prove his worth. Hopefully, this effort in Pasadena pays off, along with similar efforts in other cities and towns across the country.

Tuesday, 2008-December-16 at 09:31 1 comment

More Joel On Software

The book is out. I am nowhere near finished, but it reads like his blog does. Good stuff. Most of it is from his blog, but it is still worth having, if only for the ease of finding a random post to read.

Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Also Borders and other quality bookstores.

Friday, 2008-August-22 at 20:47

Smaller Businesses Need FLOSS

Larger corporations have, over the past several years, benefited greatly from an alphabet soup of specialized techniques. In their supply-chains, for example, they have used ERP and ERP II. Of course, sales & marketing, as well as collections and other customer-contact functions have benefited from CRM. Management in general has benefited from computerized “dashboards” that deliver BI, or real-time summaries of key enterprise performance measures. This is in addition to the continuing benefit from computerized bookkeeping, accounting, and financial systems.

Most of these tools, excepting the last, have been largely out of the reach of smaller businesses. Intuit, Inc has been successful getting its products before individuals and both small and medium-sized businesses.

Most of the other tools have been expensive and complicated to set up, requiring a consultant to customize the installation for a business’ needs and often requiring on-staff “experts” to handle the daily operation of the system. FLOSS products, such as Compiere, Adempiere, TinyERP, and openCRX are fast becoming equivalent in functionality and superior in their ease of administration to the giant corporate offerings. Most are still best installed and configured by a knowledgeable person, such as a consultant. These systems give smaller businesses the tools of their larger competitors at significantly lower prices, and with far easier operation.

One of the characteristics that is often found in smaller businesses is a less-skilled management team. It is not known how much of this is truly a lack of skill, as opposed to a lack of good information upon which to base decisions. With tools like these, smaller businesses have the opportunity to show the world that they are indeed the better-managed businesses.

Another area where smaller businesses can begin showing their superior operational skills is in choosing to implement FLOSS throughout the organization, from the server to the desktop. For example, you can replace proprietary office suite (POS) with an open source suite such as OpenOffice.org, use an open source browser like Firefox or K-Meleon (Windows-only), choose an open source mail client like Thunderbird.  The advantages are not just in the price that you pay.  The advantages are in the fact that proprietary software companies’ interests are often opposite those of the users of their products.  Whose interests do you think take precedence when the companies behind the RIAA want you to pay for each device you listen to a particular song on?

The only conclusion that makes sense is that FLOSS is in the users‘ best interests.  When those users are smaller businesses and individuals, this is even more true.

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Tuesday, 2007-March-20 at 17:00

Small Businesses Are The Inner Cities’ Only Hope

It is already well-known that one of the major problems in our inner cities is the astonishingly low income levels of local residents. This more or less forces many residents into the underground economy (deriving income from illegal activities), as it is not possible for them to support themselves otherwise.

Yes, there are serious drug, gang, and other crime issues. Some of these are effects of pervasive social issues. A study published by the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research [PDF] in 2000 found that a part of the problem with inner-city economies is a “spatial mismatch.” This is the idea that most of the economic development occurs around the periphery of cities, causing “environmental damage, congestion, and labor shortages at the periphery, and poverty and neighborhood deterioration in the central city.”

However, the study’s solution does not really solve much. At least in Southern California, many residents already spend two to four hours each day getting to and from work. Many residents of areas like the Inland Empire and High Desert are already seeking local opportunities before their vehicles wear out.

Regional solutions are needed, but those solutions must encourage business development to occur closer to residential communities, and encourage employers to seek nearby residents for their workforces.

Milwaukee’s Journal-Sentinel has an editorial that puts this into a more practical perspective. While trying to recover from the loss of industrial firms, the city must still cope with its economically stagnant inner city. “Income per taxpayer, adjusted for inflation, in one ZIP code alone on the city’s increasingly troubled northwest side, was down 7.7% in one year. Meanwhile, the gap between city and suburban incomes continued to grow.”

When I was driving to a federal office in the Los Angeles area every day, I was leaving at 4:45 AM in order to arrive by 7:00 AM. Why? Because around 5:50 AM, a place I needed to pass where another freeway met the one I was on suddenly jammed up. At that point, it took more than an hour to travel the last 17 miles of my 90+ mile journey. It took longer to travel the last 17 miles than it did to cover the first 78 miles.

The Upjohn study suggests:

These problems are distinct because neighborhoods are not job markets. Most Americans do not work in the neighborhood they live in. Research suggests that relatively few of the jobs created by inner-city economic development are likely to go to inner-city residents. Rather, these jobs will go to workers living throughout the metropolitan area.

This is one of the problems with being dependent upon larger companies as the foundation of the regional economy. A vibrant community is likely to have a proliferation of smaller businesses, many of which will be owner-managed businesses, along with some medium-sized and larger businesses among the mix. These locally-owned businesses are much more likely to hire nearby residents. Now there is definitely something positive about having a certain percentage of the people who work in the area coming from outside–these people are going to spend money in the area’s restaurants, for example. Yet, if that percentage rises too high, then neighborhoods become ghost towns after 5:00 PM, with no businesses or services remaining available in the evenings for those who do continue to live in that community.

We have to find a balance. I suggest that the balance is for communities to encourage, support, and even finance locally-owned small businesses. This, of course, should not be a blank check or given without strings. For a certain amount of loan guarantees, a certain number of locally-resident employees should be maintained for a particular time period (which should be at least one to two years). In order to qualify for a larger guarantee amount, both the number and the time period should increase. Perhaps percentage targets are more appropriate: 50% for the first guarantee level, 75% for the second, and 85% for the third, with some numerical “floor” to qualify.

[This would also be helpful in areas such as the Victor Valley and Barstow areas (in the High Desert of Southern California), where there are miles of housing areas, but employment is usually obtained by commuting to other communities.]

If inner-city economic development won’t help the central-city poor much, should the government encourage inner-city economic development? Yes, because business development in the central city vs. the periphery causes different community spillover effects. On the periphery, new business development causes environmental problems and congestion and may require costly infrastructure. In the center city, business development may help improve amenities and safety in inner-city neighborhoods and also the city’s tax base. Private investors do not take account of these 2 spillovers. Government can encourage business to take account of these spillovers by providing central-city business development with public subsidies.

By placing smaller businesses at the center of economic development and ensuring that these job sources are in proximity to employee pools, we can do more than that, especially if we provide employment training that is directly tied to a particular employers requirements. If company X needs 15 employees that can operate a particular type of lathe, we train 15 local residents and they go directly into company X’s workforce. Now, there will have to be social programs in those areas, including financing, so that local residents can become owners of their homes (perhaps turning housing projects into resident-owned condominiums) and begin to experience the “pride of ownership” that will lead them to help prevent graffiti and other property damage.

A more recent study, from the US Small Business Administration, claims that “Small Business Drives Inner City Growth And Jobs.” We should not be surprised, as larger businesses have to consider locations that can pull in employees from a wide area. They choose freeway crossroads, for example, if they are retail-based, so that employees and customers can drive from all over the metropolitan area.

“This report demonstrates that local entrepreneurs are not only the backbone of inner city economies but their strongest source of new jobs,” said Steve Adams Region I Advocate for the Office of Advocacy and formerly the Director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship at the Pioneer Institute. “Policy makers should take note of these findings showing that supporting new and established entrepreneurs in inner cities should take priority in their urban development strategies.”

Again, not surprising, except to those who have been lured by the siren song of the large corporation. Local business, local employees, local tax revenues–what is so hard to understand about that? It is a “slam dunk,” a win for all concerned.

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Monday, 2007-March-19 at 23:45 1 comment

Lessons From Gardening

Taken from this post.

Have you ever wanted to start your own business?  It turns out that starting a business is similar in some ways to planting a garden.  Most of us already have employers, yet we yearn to take the reins ourselves.  Just as in a garden, you sometimes have to replace the old with the new.  If your job is a weed in your life, maybe you need to head down to the local home center and buy some seeds and peat pots.

Tuesday, 2007-March-13 at 15:39

Avoid Distractions

I was thinking already about this topic, but it really hit home when I opened my e-mail to find a link to a YouTube video that led to a few hours of browsing and listening.

If you’re trying to get something done, you need to limit time-consuming interruptions.  This means you might need to disconnect from e-mail and instant messenger, so that the brother-in-law who seems to get paid to browse YouTube can’t keep you from doing work. Imagine someone who writes for a living who is constantly getting long telephone calls when trying to work.  It may be better for her to turn off the mobile and the ringer on the landline, so that she can get finished with her daily work before she lets the calls get through.

I used to watch the news (channel 2 KCBS-TV) from about 4:30 until the evening news was over. I realized one day that I was getting almost entirely the same content every segment (4:30, 5:00, and 6:00) and then the network news was mostly the same thing again. By limiting myself to watching the news once each day (with exceptions for times like the shuttle breaking up in flight), I found a large block of time that I could dedicate to other things.

I have also found that as I work through a self-instructional course in the Italian language (with a CD, so I can hear the language spoken), that it is important that I block off the same time period each day. If that time becomes "drive the kid to <insert place here>", I become frustrated, because I can’t just squeeze this activity somewhere else.

My hat is off (yes, it is a genuine merchandise Los Angeles Dodgers [of Los Angeles] hat) to those who are able to work at home, complete college degrees at home, and are able to do this without sending your family members to Siberia.  One of the most difficult things for me when I was doing my Master's Degree was that I was home, therefore it was okay to interrupt me.  The whole concept of "I'm working right now," just never did get through to the family.  So I have the greatest respect for someone who successfully navigates those shoals.

Now, the old saying "no man is an island" is really true.  I am not advocating that you completely ignore your brother-in-law.  Instead, I am saying that you should dedicate a particular time for his joke e-mails and videos or his phone calls.  Tell him that you want to be able to focus entirely on his message instead of fretting because a big report is due in a couple of hours.  If you tell him that, you'd better mean it and stick by it.

If you want to achieve something, it is going to take time and effort.  The effort part has to come from inside of you—I cannot wish it into you—but the time has to be seized and kept from the time-wasters in your life.  Fortunately, today is Sunday, so I had the time to watch the YouTube videos and even repeat a couple.  If you are looking for work or running a home-based business, these time-wasters can lead you to bankruptcy court.  Put them in their place today!

Sunday, 2007-March-11 at 17:49

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