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Posted at 09:35 AM ET, 11/06/2013

Small business advice: What you need to know about new telemarketing regulations

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently started enforcing new rules requiring businesses to obtain “prior express written consent” before calling or texting consumers for solicitation purposes. The change creates new challenges for small firms already struggling to adapt to evolving technologies and a still-uncertain economic outlook.


Customers gave you their cell phone numbers? Due to new FCC regulatios, that no longer gives you the green light to call or text. (Daniel Acker - Bloomberg)
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) represents a significant challenge for small businesses that undertake or outsource what is known as “lead generation” among either existing customers or potential new ones.

It also impacts firms that utilize prerecorded message technology to market to their current customers – like a bank texting its customers about lower mortgage rates, a vacation rental group advertising new availabilities to its members, and more.

Until last month, companies have been allowed to contact customers who have provided cell phone numbers — the assumption being that if a customer provides his cell phone number, he has given the company the green light to contact him.

However, starting on Oct. 16, companies must now collect “prior express written consent” from consumers in order to contact them for solicitation purposes on their mobile phone, or to deliver pre-recorded messages to their mobile phone or landline for marketing purposes.

The good news for companies that rely on this type of marketing is that the restriction is limited to companies that employ automated dialing technology, broadly defined as any call generated by a computer that does not require human intervention.

The bad news is that small businesses are particularly vulnerable, as they lack the talent and infrastructure large organizations are dedicating to awareness and compliance. Lead generation via the telephone requires a high volume of calls; moving away from an efficient computer-based process to a manual process could be too costly for small businesses to manage and will impact the overall number of leads for all businesses.

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By Eric Holtzclaw  |  09:35 AM ET, 11/06/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  small business, business, fcc, regulations, government, small business advice

Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 11/04/2013

Small business weekly: In store for a slow holiday shopping season?

A review of some of the biggest small business and start-up stories from the past week, with a focus on Washington.

SHOP exchanges pushed back further

During a congressional hearing last week, Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, revealed another delay for the federal government’s new small-business insurance exchange, explaining that employers will not be able to enroll in plans online until the end of next month.

That important feature had already been delayed once, and at the time, White House officials said it would be ready by the start of November. Responding to questions from the House Ways and Means committee, Tavenner said the site would be functional “at the end of November.”

Obamacare creating a larger part-time workforce?

Critics of the health care law have warned that companies will pull back on part-time workers’ hours in response to a rule requiring them to cover anyone who works more than 30 hours a week.

New government data suggests employers are not yet taking that tack with their current employees (the percentage of employees who work between 26 and 29 hours per week has barely budged this week), however, the share of new jobs that are part-time has surged from around 10 percent to more than 60 percent.

More firms planing to add health coverage

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of small business owners report that their health insurance premiums have risen this year, according to the first installment in a new three-year study by the Washington-based National Federation of Independent Business. Nevertheless, the number of small firms planning to add health coverage next year exceeds the number planning to drop their plans, the survey showed.

SBA le nding holds steady

The Small Business Administration supported around $30 billion in loans to small companies for the third consecutive year in fiscal 2013, the agency said last week, even as small-business lending nationwide has tapered off. While the agency’s total amount of loan guarantees decreased slightly from $30.25 billion last year to $29.6 billion in 2013, the total number of loans edged up from 53,848 to 54,106.

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By  |  11:15 AM ET, 11/04/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  small business, business, obamacare, startups, economy

Posted at 07:30 AM ET, 10/28/2013

Small business weekly: Crowdfunding, contracting and another challenge to Obamacare

A review of some of the biggest small business and start-up stories from the past week, with a focus on Washington.

SEC moves forward on crowdfunding regulations: The Securities and Exchange Commission last week introduced new rules that would allow entrepreneurs to raise capital from anyone in the country through new online investment marketplaces.


“We want this market to thrive, in a safe manner for investors,” Mary Jo White said before a vote on new crowdfunding regulations on Wednesday. (Nikki Kahn - The Washington Post)
The rules were approved unanimously by the commission and now enter a three-month comment period. If finalized, they would give companies the green light to start widely selling securities through what are known as crowdfunding portals, as authorized by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act.

Federal judge green lights health law challenge: U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman last week ruled to proceed on a lawsuit from individuals and small business owners challenging the so-called employer mandate in the new health care law, which requires firms with more than 50 workers to offer affordable coverage to their full-time employees.

The plaintiffs argue that the law only allows the requirement to be enforced in the 16 states that set up their own health insurance exchanges and that the IRS has overstepped its reach by planning to enforce the rule nationwide starting in 2015.

Women-owned contractors win a slightly larger cut:Companies owned by women were awarded 4 percent of all federal contracts won by small business this past year, for a total haul of $16.2 billion, according to new research compiled by American Express OPEN. While still only a sliver, that’s up from 3.5 percent and $15.7 billion in 2009, even though overall federal spending has decreased during that period.

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By  |  07:30 AM ET, 10/28/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  small business, entrepreneurs, startups, economy, securities and exchange commission

Posted at 07:30 AM ET, 10/21/2013

Small business weekly: Obamacare exchanges, an SBA backlog and surging employer confidence

A review of some of the biggest small business and start-up stories from the past week, with a focus on Washington.

SBA reopens to a loan-application logjam: Congress finally struck a deal to reopen the government last week, allowing the Small Business Administration to resume operations on Thursday. During the 16-day closure, officials report that 700 entrepreneurs submitted $140 million worth of loan applications through the department’s signature lending platform, known as the 7(a) program. Jeanne Hulit, the agency’s acting administrator, wrote last week that “some things may take a little time to get back up and running,” including loan-application processing.

Shutdown took major toll on the economy: Standard and Poor’s has estimated that the government shutdown will cost $24 billion in lost economic output, or 0.6 percent of projected annualized GDP growth, while Moody’s Analytics pegged the impact at $23 billion. Others have suggested it will rob the National Parks of about $7 million in revenue and suck $2.4 billion out of travel spending.

Obamacare exchanges prove popular in some states: State health officials in Oregon, New York, Minnesota, Vermont and the District of Columbia have reported higher than expected visitors and enrollees on their new state-run, small-business health insurance exchanges, most of which opened on Oct. 1. In the nation’s capital, for instance, 250 business owners signed up in the first week, and about 350 have signed up so far in Minnesota. On the other hand, the federal exchange has run into a number of problems, and less than half of 1 percent of the site’s visitors actually enrolled in a health insurance plan during the first week.

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By  |  07:30 AM ET, 10/21/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  small business, entrepreneurs, business, economy, obamacare

Posted at 07:30 AM ET, 10/08/2013

Small business advice: How to protect your company and stay open during hurricane season

It’s storm season on the East Coast, which recent experience shows can be devastating not only for homeowners, but for small-business owners, as well. Experience also teaches us that taking precautions against big storms can mean the difference between keeping cash registers ringing and putting up a “closed” sign for days, weeks or even months.


A number of storms in the past few years left small businesses reeling up and down the East Coast. (Joseph Kaczmarek - AP)
When Hurricane Sandy slammed the Northeast last year, for instance, three in four businesses impacted by the storm were forced to close because of a power outage, wind or flood damage, structural problems or other issues, according to a study by The Hartford. Making matters worse, it took more than seven days on average for those businesses to reopen, reducing revenues and losing customers.

While it is impossible to change Mother Nature’s mind, small-business owners can take several steps to mitigate impacts when high winds, torrential rains, floods and other climate calamities head their way.

Preparations typically fall into three categories: mitigating losses, insuring against losses, and planning for communications and logistical disruptions. Here’s where to start.

Mitigating losses

You can mitigate potential losses from flooding, high winds and other weather issues by hardening your business’s physical location. Some preparations can be costly and take time to implement while others are relatively easy and inexpensive:

• Protect your property from flooding by building with water-resistant materials, anchoring fuel tanks, installing sewer backflow valves and raising electrical system components.

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By Ray Sprague  |  07:30 AM ET, 10/08/2013 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  small business, hurricanes, business, small business advice, severe weather

 

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