“Working from home.” There was a time when that phrase meant a lot of things other than what it was supposed to mean. It meant, “I’m a slacker,” “I’m a misfit,” or “I got fired for stealing all the microwave popcorn.” But these days the phrase is enjoying newfound respect. A new study by Emergent Research, a small analyst firm run out of its founders’ home (of course), finds that domestic enterprises make up half of all businesses in the U.S. And some of them are multimillion-dollar companies. A BusinessWeek report on the rise of the homepreneur says multiple factors are driving the trend, including lower overhead, technology that makes it easier and cheaper to work from home and, not least, a change in the perception of home-based businesses.
The most important social network for small business. It’s not Twitter or Facebook, although they are becoming more popular among small businesses (if you believe the onslaught of surveys reiterating that trend). Trouble is, you can spend 18 hours a day tweeting at Twitter and posting at Facebook and never know if your efforts are being rewarded with new business. There’s a more productive way to spend your time online: monitor reviews of your business at sites like Yelp, CitySearch, Google Maps and others. Internet marketer Tom Crandall lists a number of steps you can take to maximize the online presence of your business in his blog.
Know what customers say right away. Of course, most small-business owners are too busy to sit at the PC and search for news and reviews of their companies. If you’re one of them, check out the new reputation-management tool from a company called Marchex. It collects all mentions of your firm online in blogs, forums, tweets, posts, etc.–more than 8,000 sources in all–and feeds them to you in real time. The application is still in beta and free until first quarter 2010. After that you’ll have to pay.
Vital tax credit set to expire. It’s easy to ignore Washington these days. It’s like watching a YouTube clip of a dog chasing his tail: interesting for a few minutes and then…suddenly quite boring. But there are shifts in the policy landscape you should know about. One of them: the expiration of the five-year net operating loss carryback. This is a provision that allowed small businesses to take recent losses, deduct them against any profits made in the previous five years and collect a tax refund. When the five-year NOL carryback expires, the provision will revert to its former two-year carryback limit.