Obama Looking to Small Businesses for Growth

March 16, 2009

obamaIt was not obvious to everyone during the campaign, but it always appeared that Barack Obama understood the role of small businesses have in the US economy.  An entrepreneurial culture, where small businesses can innovate and drive change is important to any economy, especially a struggling one.  And Barack Obama stressed that more than any of the other candidates.  And now, that message is moving to the front of the economic battle.

Today, President Barack Obama will announce a plan to help struggling small business owners.  This article, from CNN, discusses the two programs that his plan will address right away.

The first, called “the 7a Program“, allows for the Small Business Administration to back up to $2 million in loans to small businesses.  This frees up banks and other lending institutions to once again free up some funds and help small business owners meet the financial needs within the company.

The second, called “the 504 Program“, guarantees up to $4 million for small business development project.  Under the new plan, the fees for borrowers and lenders will be reduced or eliminated to make applying for these funds more attractive.

These are two important steps in turning things around for small businesses.  It is even more important that Barack Obama and the rest of his economic team focus on what small businesses can do to give a much needed boost to the economy.  Increasing the availability of short term funds will go a long way toward relieving many small business owners.  But to improve the nature of the economic climate, it may take more of a concentrated effort on paving the way for successful small business to grow and compete.

Often times, small businesses will find solutions to problems before the larger companies.  The problem is, the landscape is such that larger companies often have too much power and are resistant to change.  We have seen this in the auto industry, the printing/media industry, and the financial industry.  Times are changing and we need the President and his administration to see our flaws and empower those people with the answers to change things.

Small businesses are the start.

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Fliggo, Obama, and Other Thoughts

February 27, 2009

fliggoAfter reading this article in TechCrunch yesterday, I decided to do a little research on Fliggo.com.  Fliggo allows you to create your own video sharing site, your own YouTube in a way.  I see a lot of potential in their service and started to brainstorm a few ways that this could be used.

It would be a great tool for companies to host online training videos for new hires.  It can be branded and customized, closed or open, and allow for alerts, comments, and ratings.  All company training videos can be posted in the right order, and link to and from training sheets and workbooks.

Consultants could use it to showcase ideas and strategies to potential clients.  Friends and family can use it to share videos and comments in a private space.  Certainly entertainers can create their own dedicated space to draw new fans and entertain their devout followers.  And non-profit organizations and interest groups can use it to build their community and share their message.

There are many more things that Fliggo could be used for, and I expect that if they follow the path of Ning, which did this for social networks, they will successfully launch a paid version.  I myself just created a community at http://innovate.fliggo.com as an extension of this blog.  Please go there, sign up for free, and join. There are no videos up there now but I am working on some ideas for the near future.  Feel free to upload and share your own videos.  Tell the community what you are doing to innovate, or any ideas you might have on the subject.  I look forward to seeing them.

On another note, I found this quite interesting.  It is a breakdown of specific word usage in Presidential speeches, comparing Obama to all past presidents.  The one thing that struck me was that he used the word “entrepreneurs” more than any other president.  In an economy like this, it is important to have a president that not only supports small business creation, but also recognizes the need for small business growth to help the total economic turnaroundWhat stands out to you?

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Facebook and Change

January 27, 2009

Facebook AdvertisingIn the past few weeks a lot of things have been happening around the Facebook community.  Police made an arrest after someone made a positive identification of a bank robber off of a Facebook photo.  A woman was fired from his job after staying home from work “sick” and posting that he was too hung over to work on his profile.  Another woman was notified that she was fired through a message on her Facebook account.  Prince Harry was dumped, and the only way he found out was a Facebook profile update.  In addition, Burger King ran an interesting, successful viral ad using Facebook as a platform.

We have to realize that we are living in a world that has changed.  And not because we elected a black man as President.  But because he addresses the nation weekly using YouTube.  It’s not because Comcast offers a number of free movies on demand.  It’s because they have a Twitter account to deal with customer service issues.  It’s because the online world is no longer the online world.  The online world has crossed over into the real world.

No longer can you live in this world without being affected in some way with what is going on online.  The virtual space isn’t virtual, its physical.

This day was coming. It wasn’t long in the making, in fact, it just kind of popped up on us.  But it’s here.  And it’s time to recognize that and stop running from it.

There is a bounty of information out there, go find it.  There are millions of ways to connect with people, start connecting.  There are thousands of products competing for your business, find the best one.  Stop ignoring the world that you don’t understand.  Start taking advantage of it, otherwise the rest of the world is taking advantage of you.

There is no longer a divide between the internet and the physical world.  We’re all living in both.  Start living again.

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Big Picture, Simple Execution, Strong Vision

January 21, 2009

20070514-toyota-logoToyota may move to the number 1 automaker in the world in 2009, replacing GM.  They did this by continuing to see the big picture, work to sell globally, and produce cars that met or exceeded customer demands.  They didn’t use any crazy schemes, remarkable innovations, or cut throat marketing.

Early in its history, Google became the most popular search engine, moving past Yahoo.  They did this by creating a faster, more accurate search engine than we had seen before.  And though this takes a lot of research and innovative technology, it is basically just offering a service that people needed; one that was easier to use.

My point here is that a company does not have to execute any major, outside the box, strategy to succeed.  The most successful, long lasting companies in the world have done one thing consistently: Give customers what they need/want.  Whether it’s Google, Toyota, Apple, FedEx, IBM, or your small business.

So what does this mean for you?

Well, right now it means simplifying your vision to get through the recession.  It means concentrating on one or two things that you do well, and building on them.  Define what your customers need from you and give it to them, no questions asked.  If you do this, you’ll keep clients, it’s as simple as that.

In the future, it means establishing a set of core principles or values that you are going to stick to.  If you believe in offering the latest technology enhancements to your products, don’t cut corners or your customers will call you out on it.  If you believe in following up on your sales with superior service and maintenance, don’t hire weak support staff.  Look at the big picture, see what you need to do to succeed, and do it.  You’ll get in more trouble and take on greater risk by changing philosophies, changing industries, or changing strategies unnecessarily.

And this same idea that works in the business world can work for Barack Obama.

Dear President Obama,

Congratulations, you’ve made it.  Time to get to work.  You’re running the show and the people expect certain things from you.  So make the government work for us, and start to execute the things you’ve promised.  If you give us what you said you’d give us, we’ll love you for it.  If you carry out as we expect, the world can move forward.  Like a strong company, this country will only work with clear vision and leadership, core values and principles, and simple, straightforward execution.

Sometimes innovation comes from doing what’s right, and what is needed.

Signed,
Zach Heller, “Be Innovation”

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Energy Chief and Climate Czar: Time to Step Up

December 11, 2008

global-warmingSo Obama reportedly has named Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, to be his Chief of Energy.  And after being turned down by Al Gore, has selected Carol Browner to be his Climate Czar.  This will be the most important department of the cabinet in the coming years.  Let the debate begin.

Obama has stated that fighting Climate Change and Energy Crises would be a top priority of his administration, a topic that has never gotten the attention it requires.  He said that he would devote $150 Billion over ten years to clean energy technology research and development.  And these two positions will be the topmost voices on where and how we spend this money.

Climate Change and Energy are the most important challenges that face this country right now.  The economic crisis is bad, but we have been there before.  Though it will take a while, things well shake out, and we will get back on track.  Don’t start thinking that the world is falling down around us.

Global warming is something that is affecting the entire planet in a way that we have never seen before, something that, without our attention, will continue to get exponentially worse.  There have been major advances in technology that will allow us to potentially reduce the negative affects we have on the environment, but many more are needed.  We have to continue to raise interest and awareness, continue to develop infrastructure, and continue to invest in new ideas and innovations that allow us to move forward in this area.

The pressure is on the Department of Energy to step up and deliver from day one of the Obama Administration.  As a country, we cannot allow them to hesitate.  We must demand that they experiment with new technology, invest in new ideas, try new things, fail, and try again.  The time is now, and the US has to begin setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.  And guess what, all those people that think this issue is not as important as the economy may want to consider the positive impacts that growth of new energy technologies will have on jobs, trade, and investment.

Remember, Steven Chu and Carol Browner won’t have all the answers.  Give them your ideas, and get your voice heard at Change.gov.

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Change, Change Agents, and Changers

June 20, 2008

Innovation is all about the guts to inspire change, and the guts to actually change the way you do things yourself.  Whether it is in a big company, at a small startup, or in a political election, change is a powerful word.  It is even more powerful of an idea.

Sometimes change comes from the top down.  Sometimes it comes from the bottom up.  But I think the best kinds of change are two-sided.  It takes the people to initiate the change, and then the people that follow them.  It takes someone to change the way something is done to get people to change the way they do it.  And it takes the people to do something differently, to get someone at the top to provide them a means to do it differently.

The change agents are those people that will openly try to change things.  They put themselves out in the public eye and talk about how differently things could be.  The changers are those that will follow them.  Changers are the people that are so inspired to actually put words into action.  In Barack Obama’s campaign, we proclaim him to be a changer.  When really, it takes the people that believe in him to actually get things done.  If no one believed in him, the change he talks about would never happen.

When a company changes the way you buy products, it takes the consumers that believe in the new system to make it work.  When people decide they want a new way to get information, it takes someone at the top to deliver it to them.  It is a give and take game that ends in innovations on a grand scale.  Don’t look for one person to change the world, because although change agents can make us believe, it takes the efforts of the masses to create a real difference…