Have Big Idea? Want to Change the World? Start a Business


If you want to change the world, you may want to start a business.

You can find a million other examples of entrepreneurs who started businesses with an opinion instead of a spreadsheet. From Steve Jobs at Apple and Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia to my friend in Los Angeles who believed the world needed a different kind of dough nut.

I know what you’re thinking: Business is that boring professor armed with spreadsheets and calculators, lecturing you on exciting subjects like “Carefully Evaluating the Competitive Landscape” and “How to Exploit the Market to Produce the Highest Return on Investment.”

For some people, business is precisely that, and paying attention to such things is a smart thing to do if you want to open a new dry cleaner or some other worthy enterprise.

But business doesn’t have to be just that. The most interesting businesses, at least to me, are the ones whose founders had ideas they wanted, or even needed, to share. And instead of turning to art, science or politics to share them, they used a thing called a business to do it.

Let me tell you a little secret: I never did any market analysis to determine whether there was a possible niche for a Sketch Guy, or what kind of return on investment I could get from using Sharpies to sketch harebrained ideas on card stock. I just had a strong feeling: People needed a simpler way to talk about money. And that was the closest thing I ever had to a business plan.

My two eldest daughters are starting to think about what they’re going to be when they grow up. They’re concerned about the impact of climate change, and they have strong opinions about what should happen to stop, or at least slow, global warming.

As a father, I’m proud of their dream and want to encourage it. They could be environmental scientists, professors, policymakers, lobbyists, cinematographers or journalists. The list goes on and on.

But if they can get past Dr. Spreadsheet, they could also be entrepreneurs, and it may be an even more successful and fulfilling path.

Courtesy of Carl Richard, CFP, financial author in the N. Y. Times, “The Sketch Guy”.

Trump Shifts Labor Focus from Worker to Entrepreneurship.

Even by the standards of the Trump era, one of the more unusual departures from recent Washington practice came in June, in a case before the Supreme Court involving worker rights.  The Trump administration felt so strongly on the issue — that employers can force workers to forfeit their rights to bring class-action lawsuits — that it reversed the government’s position, something that has rarely happened in a pending case.

President Trump surrounded by small-business leaders in the Oval Office in January as he signed an executive order on reducing regulations. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

“What’s pretty unprecedented is that they came to a different conclusion in the Supreme Court case,” said M. Patricia Smith, the solicitor at the Labor Department under President Barack Obama. (A Justice Department spokesman said that every administration sometimes departs from the position of its predecessors in new Supreme Court cases.)

It is one of a series of actions that have reversed course on rights and protections for workers. The administration had proposed a 40 percent cut for the government agency that conducts research into workplace hazards, undone Obama-era guidances on enforcement of employment laws and sought to eliminate a roughly $10.5 million program that helps some unions and nonprofit organizations — whose efforts many business and free-market groups consider nettlesome — to educate workers on how to avoid injury and illness.

Championing the American worker was a central theme of Mr. Trump’s election campaign. He made inroads into the traditionally Democratic union vote, and echoed the words of labor leaders on themes like trade, infrastructure and offshoring jobs.

That a Republican administration would nonetheless pursue a business-friendly labor policy is not unexpected. But beyond partisan politics, its record on worker issues reflects a consistent Trump worldview: that entrepreneurship is the highest economic calling and the entrepreneur is the economic actor most deserving of respect.

Mr. Trump has framed his own career as an example of entrepreneurship’s risks and rewards, and has made entrepreneurship a key talking point as president. In nominating officials to serve in his cabinet, he has frequently highlighted their entrepreneurial accomplishments. He has praised a bill promoting women in entrepreneurship and predicted that “millions of people will be lifted out of poverty” thanks to a World Bank entrepreneurship initiative his administration supported.

“I’m very inspired to be in the company of such motivated entrepreneurs — people that I really respect, because I know what it takes; I’ve been there,” Mr. Trump said at a White House smallbusiness event in August.

Donald J. Trump in 2004 as one of his apartment projects went up in White Plains. He has framed his career as an example of entrepreneurship’s risks and rewards. Credit Susan Stava for The New York Times


Net Neutrality Hurts Entrepreneurship.

Happy Friday. Net neutrality topped the headlines this week, with the Federal Communications Commission vote to roll back its 2015 net neutrality regulations on Thursday morning. Led by FCC Chairman and former Verizon executive Ajit Pai, the lift on regulations legally allows internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to block, slow access, or offer “paid prioritization” for certain content. Though big ISPs promise nothing will change, the repeal might make it even harder for startups to compete with tech incumbents without burning through their resources. In what may be the one silver lining, it’s encouraging to see executives from our industry stand together for equal access to the internet for all.                                                                                   — Allie Felix, for Work-Bench,

Work-Bench is an enterprise technology venture fund based in New York City. We invest in category-defining enterprise technology startups early in their go-to-market


Net Neutrality Is Over. What Happens Next?
Fortune • “The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to repeal its 2015 net neutrality rules that prohibited Internet service providers from blocking, slowing or discriminating against online content and services. FCC chairman Ajit Pai…”

Why Net Neutrality Was Repealed and How It Affects You
The New York Times • “The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules, which required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content without charging consumers for higher-quality…”

Challenges of Hiring Employees and Gig Workers.

Small Business Owners Share Challenges of Hiring Employees and Gig Workers

Small businesses employ almost half of all workers in the United States and have been responsible for much of the post-2008 economic recovery through their hiring efforts.

Over the past year, hiring activity has been on an upward trend for small businesses, with plans to add workers hitting the highest level since 1999.

SCORE’s latest Megaphone of Main Street Small Business Jobs Report surveyed more than 1,700 small business owners to rate their hiring experiences of employees and contractors.

Difficulty filling positions

More than 50 percent of small businesses said it was very or somewhat difficult to fill open positions, with about 55 percent of micro businesses, or those with 0 to 4 employees, in agreement.

Twenty-seven percent of openings went unfilled in the past six months, which was consistent across different small business sizes and locations. Business owners cited problems finding skilled, qualified applicants as a primary reason for not filling positions.

Offering competitive wages and salaries is another common challenge, along with a lack of healthcare and other employee benefits. Hiring takes time, too — about 18 percent of all small businesses said it was too time-consuming to hire qualified workers – they’ll just do the job themselves.

Small businesses use job-posting sites, recommendations from other business owners, networking groups and online platforms drive hiring efforts, but by far, recommendations from other workers proved most fruitful in finding new employees.

Our infographic, “The Megaphone of Main Street: Small Business and Employment,” identifies more hiring challenges faced by small businesses.

The gig economy and small business

The area of largest hiring growth among those surveyed was in one-time project or gig workers at 37 percent.

Eighteen percent of businesses reported replacing employees of any type with contractors over the past six months.

Of those business owners, 50.8 percent reported choosing a contractor or temporary worker for the benefit of their specialized expertise. Forty-one percent reported only having seasonal or temporary needs; 35.1 percent said they preferred hiring a contractor over needing ongoing cash reserves for payroll. The costs and complexities of offering employee benefits like healthcare and retirement plans also drove the decision to hire a contractor.

Forty-seven percent of solopreneurs reported hiring other people for part-time help running their businesses. Their firms had an average of 3.2 workers, including the owner.

Contractors are most likely to be called in to complete technical, accounting, bookkeeping and marketing tasks. Other important roles for contractors include manufacturing, sales, business planning and logistics.

When respondents noted their reasons for hiring an employee over a contractor, consistency of work and commitment to the company were primary. Having the same person in a position rather than a rotating contractor was another major factor, as was the ability to direct work tasks and schedule work hours.

Some business owners commented that their concerns about correctly following IRS regulations— and dealing with related paperwork — guided their decisions whether to hire a contractor or an employee.


The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don’t Follow Through

By the summer of 1830, Victor Hugo was facing an impossible deadline. Twelve months earlier, the famous French author had made an agreement with his publisher that he would write a new book titled, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Instead of writing the book, Hugo spent the next year pursuing other projects, entertaining guests, and delaying his work on the text. Hugo’s publisher had become frustrated by his repeated procrastination and responded by setting a formidable deadline. The publisher demanded that Hugo finish the book by February of 1831—less than 6 months away.

Hugo developed a plan to beat his procrastination. He collected all of his clothes, removed them from his chambers, and locked them away. He was left with nothing to wear except a large shawl. Lacking any suitable clothing to go outdoors, Hugo was no longer tempted to leave the house and get distracted. Staying inside and writing was his only option.

The strategy worked. Hugo remained in his study each day and wrote furiously during the fall and winter of 1830. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was published two weeks early on January 14, 1831.

The Ancient Problem of Akrasia

Human beings have been procrastinating for centuries. Even prolific artists like Victor Hugo are not immune to the distractions of daily life. The problem is so timeless, in fact, that ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle developed a word to describe this type of behavior: Akrasia.

Akrasia is the state of acting against your better judgment. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else. Loosely translated, you could say that akrasia is procrastination or a lack of self-control. Akrasia is what prevents you from following through on what you set out to do.

Why would Victor Hugo commit to writing a book and then put it off for over a year? Why do we make plans, set deadlines, and commit to goals, but then fail to follow through on them?

Why We Make Plans, But Don’t Take Action

One explanation for why akrasia rules our lives and procrastination pulls us in has to do with a behavioral economics term called “time inconsistency.” Time Inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards.

When you make plans for yourself — like setting a goal to lose weight or write a book or learn a language — you are actually making plans for your future self. You are envisioning what you want your life to be like in the future and when you think about the future it is easy for your brain to see the value in taking actions with long-term benefits.

When the time comes to make a decision, however, you are no longer making a choice for your future self. Now you are in the moment and your brain is thinking about the present self. And researchers have discovered that the present self really likes instant gratification, not long-term payoff. This is one reason why you might go to bed feeling motivated to make a change in your life, but when you wake up you find yourself falling into old patterns. Your brain values long-term benefits when they are in the future, but it values immediate gratification when it comes to the present moment.

This is one reason why the ability to delay gratification is such a great predictor of success in life. Understanding how to resist the pull of instant gratification—at least occasionally, if not consistently—can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

The Akrasia Antidote: 3 Ways to Beat Procrastination

Here are three ways to overcome akrasia, beat procrastination, and follow through on what you set out to do.

Strategy 1: Design your future actions.

When Victor Hugo locked his clothes away so he could focus on writing, he was creating what psychologists refer to as a “commitment device.” Commitment devices are strategies that help improve your behavior by either increasing the obstacles or costs of bad behaviors or reducing the effort required for good behaviors.

You can curb your future eating habits by purchasing food in individual packages rather than in the bulk size. You can stop wasting time on your phone by deleting games or social media apps. You can reduce the likelihood of mindless channel surfing by hiding your TV in a closet and only taking it out on big game days. You can voluntarily ask to be added to the banned list at casinos and online gambling sites to prevent future gambling sprees. You can build an emergency fund by setting up an automatic transfer of funds to your savings account. These are commitment devices.

The circumstances differ, but the message is the same: commitment devices can help you design your future actions. Find ways to automate your behavior beforehand rather than relying on willpower in the moment. Be the architect of your future actions, not the victim of them.

Strategy 2: Reduce the friction of starting.

The guilt and frustration of procrastinating is usually worse than the pain of doing the work. In the words of Eliezer Yudkowsky, “On a moment-to-moment basis, being in the middle of doing the work is usually less painful than being in the middle of procrastinating.”

So why do we still procrastinate? Because it’s not being in the work that is hard, it’sstarting the work. The friction that prevents us from taking action is usually centered around starting the behavior. Once you begin, it’s often less painful to do the work. This is why it is often more important to build the habit of getting started when you’re beginning a new behavior than it is to worry about whether or not you are successful at the new habit.

You have to constantly reduce the size of your habits. Put all of your effort and energy into building a ritual and make it as easy as possible to get started. Don’t worry about the results until you’ve mastered the art of showing up.

Strategy 3: Utilize implementation intentions.

An implementation intention is when you state your intention to implement a particular behavior at a specific time in the future. For example, “I will exercise for at least 30 minutes on [DATE] in [PLACE] at [TIME].”

There are hundreds of successful studies showing how implementation intentions positively impact everything from exercise habits to flu shots. In the flu shot study, researchers looked at a group of 3,272 employees at a Midwestern company and found that employees who wrote down the specific date and time they planned to get their flu shot were significantly more likely to follow through weeks later.

It seems simple to say that scheduling things ahead of time can make a difference, but as I have covered previously, implementation intentions can make you 2x to 3x more likely to perform an action in the future.

Fighting Akrasia

Our brains prefers instant rewards to long-term payoffs. It’s simply a consequence of how our minds work. Given this tendency, we often have to resort to crazy strategies to get things done—like Victor Hugo locking up all of his clothes so he could write a book. But I believe it is worth it to spend time building these commitment devices if your goals are important to you.

Aristotle coined the term enkrateia as the antonym of akrasia. While akrasia refers to our tendency to fall victim to procrastination, enkrateia means to be “in power over oneself.” Designing your future actions, reducing the friction of starting good behaviors, and using implementation intentions are simple steps that you can take to make it easier to live a life of enkrateia rather than one of akrasia.

Courtesy James Clear https://jamesclear.com/akrasia


Small Business Saturday Focuses on Mom and Pop Stores, Current Today.

If Black Friday crowds exhaust you and Cyber Monday feels risky, mom-and-pop business owners in metro Atlanta have a proposition: shop Small Business Saturday.

Instead of elbowing your way to that discounted TV at a Big Box retailer this weekend, you should patronize independent shops, where you can slow down, get one-on-one service and perhaps find unique items, small business owners say.

“We try to offer things you can’t get in the big box stores or on Amazon,” said Crista McCay, registrar for the Marietta Museum of History, one of a number of Marietta Square businesses hoping to get on metro Atlantans holiday shopping itinerary.

“We’ve got Big Chicken items like a Big Chicken ornament made of Georgia clay that you can’t get anywhere else,” she said, referring to the Marietta landmark. “We’ve also got ‘History in Focus,’ which is 125-page book about Cobb County that is unique to our store.” Expectations are high that this may be the breakout year for Small Business Saturday, which has struggled to gain momentum since it was created by American Express in 2010.

The National Retail Federation projects about 71 million people will shop on Small Business Saturday, a solid turnout when compared to the more traditional and better known Black Friday. About 115 million are expected to shop on Black Friday, the NRF reports.


A recent study by the National Federation of Independent Business found that consumer awareness of Small Business Saturday has grown to about six in 10 Americans. That could mean millions in dollars for local economies because most small business sales stay in the communities where the purchases are made compared to that of big box retailers, said Nathan Humphrey, director of the Georgia NFIB office.

“Keeping the money in the local community with people you know is part of the emotional draw,” he said. Small Business Saturday also helps small communities showcase their downtowns because many of the stores are in older, renovated buildings that require shoppers to park and walk to storefronts.

“This is great for communities because it forces people to get out of their cars and walk around,” said Amanda Leiba, senior marketing coordinator for the city of Duluth, which is sponsoring a Small Business Saturday celebration for Gwinnett County community. “Sometimes people don’t know what’s in their back yard because they don’t venture out.”

Unlike retail chains or billion-dollar online juggernauts like Amazon, the mom-and-pop retailers can’t afford to offer huge deals to pull in customers or take a loss on certain items, say a TV, in hopes of making it up with sales of other products, Humphrey said.