Small Business Revolution Offers Chance to Win $500,000 Revitalization

What can $500,000 and a lot of publicity do for a small city of 10,000 people in Indiana?

That’s what the team from the Small Business Revolution – Main Street series wanted to know when it revisited Wabash to see the impact of the program one year after the city won the contest.

For a quick recap on what happened in Wabash and some of the results a year later, watch this video of the team returning to the city:

The second season, which just debuted, focuses on Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania. Deluxe Corporation, which created the contest, is accepting nominations for the third season of the video series and a chance to win a $500,000 investment for your town and small businesses.

The series stars Robert Herjavec from Shark Tank, who gives the winning town and its small businesses one-on-one guidance, while upgrading public spaces and access to marketing and business services from Deluxe. The town’s business owners are the focus of individual episodes.

Nominations are open through October 19 and the public will determine the winner through voting. To be eligible, the city or town must have less than 50,000 residents. Anyone can nominate a town (even if they don’t live there).

To watch the whole Wabash series, visit

Focus Shifts to Customer Retention

Although customer acquisition is a laudable goal, retention of existing clients often pays bigger dividends for small businesses. More companies may be taking that approach, according to recent research.

A new report by Manta and BIA/Kelsey reveals that, for the first time, small businesses are investing more of their time, money and resources on strengthening relationships with existing customers versus acquiring new customers.

Of the nearly 1,000 small business owners (SBOs) surveyed, 61% report that more than half of their revenue comes from repeat customers, rather than new business. According to previous research, a repeat customer spends 67% more than a new customer. As a result, only 14% of SBOs now spend the majority of their annual marketing budget on acquisition.

This marks a dramatic change from just two years ago, when BIA/Kelsey’s Local Commerce Monitor survey highlighted that SBOs heavily prioritized customer acquisition over retention.

Even with this shift in small business behavior, business owners are not yet poised to take full advantage of their customer relationships. The study found that only 34% of SBOs have a loyalty program while the majority (66%) do not. Moreover, the majority of SBO loyalty programs are offline rather than online, failing to take advantage of technologies that enable seamless implementation and deeper customer insights.


Legislators Wants to Hear From Small Business Owners

A  22-city schedule of town hall meetings is planned for the next six weeks to give small business owners across the state the opportunity to connect with legislators who are part of the recently formed Small Business Caucus. Details are in this press release.

One-hour sessions are scheduled in each location. Representative Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury), one of the Indiana Chamber's 2012 Government Leaders of the Year, is a co-chair of the caucus. He says, "We know small businesses are vital to Indiana's economy and provide the most jobs to working Hoosiers. … I look forward to listening and speaking with small business owners so they can help guide us in pro-small business legislation."

Event details:

  • August 8, Valparaiso, Strongbow Inn, 8 a.m. CDT
  • August 9, LaPorte, Silver Palace, 11:30 a.m. CDT
  • August 20, Seymour, Jackson Coounty Library, 12:30 p.m.
  • August 20, New Albany, Padgett, Inc., 5 p.m.
  • August 21, Columbus, Eastside Community Center, 8 a.m.
  • August 21, Greensburg, Greensburg Library, Noon
  • August 22, Fort Wayne, Georgetown Library Branch, Noon
  • August 27, Indianapols, QEPI, 8 a.m.
  • August 27, Greenfield, Hancock County Library, Noon
  • August 28, Bloomington, Monroe County Library, Noon
  • August 29, Carmel, Monon Center, 8 a.m.
  • August 29, Lafayette, Tippecanoe County Library, Noon
  • September 5, Muncie, Mursix Corporation, 8 a.m.
  • September 5, Anderson, Raine, Inc., Noon
  • September 10, Terre Haute, Indiana State University Cunningham Library, 8 a.m.
  • September 10, Vincennes, Knox County Library, Noon
  • September 11, Evansville, Ivy Tech, 8 a.m. CDT
  • September 11, Washington, Washington Public Library, Noon
  • September 17, Kokomo, Indiana University-Kokomo Kelly Center, 8 a.m.
  • September 17, Rochester, Rochester Public Library, Noon
  • September 18, South Bend, Ivy Tech, 8 a.m.
  • September 18, Elkhart, Elkhart Public Library, Noon



Luntz Memo on Finance Reform Draws Attention

I had an opportunty to talk briefly with Frank Luntz in preparation for his post-Legislative Reception appearance before an Indiana Chamber audience of business and legislative leaders on February 16. He promises new polling data on just what the public thinks of the business community and updated language for companies to utilize to emphasize their contribution to community well-being.

Outside of that conversation, Luntz is being credited (or disparaged, depending on your view) for his role in fighting financial regulatory reform. A recent report included the following:

Republican message guru Frank Luntz has put together a playbook to help derail financial regulatory reform.

In a 17-page memo titled, "The Language of Financial Reform," Luntz urged opponents of reform to frame the final product as filled with bank bailouts, lobbyist loopholes, and additional layers of complicated government bureaucracy.

"If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the bad decisions and harmful policies by Washington bureaucrats that in many ways led to the economic crash must never be repeated," Luntz wrote. "This is your critical advantage. Washington’s incompetence is the common ground on which you can build support."

Luntz continued: "Ordinarily, calling for a new government program ‘to protect consumers’ would be extraordinary popular. But these are not ordinary times. The American people are not just saying ‘no.’ They are saying ‘hell no’ to more government agencies, more bureaucrats, and more legislation crafted by special interests."

On the specific issue of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, Luntz argued that opponents should stress the high-cost of creating an additional regulatory body in addition to the damaging effects it will supposedly have on "small business owners" (as opposed to, merely, small businesses).

"Owning a small business is part of the American Dream and Congress should make it easier to be an entrepreneur," wrote Luntz. "But the Financial Reform bill and the creation of the CFPA makes it harder to be a small business owner because it will choke off credit options to small business owners."

More than 300 Hoosiers have purchased their tickets to hear Luntz in person. It will be most interesting.

More Make the Call to Start Own Businesses

Entrepreneurism is on a slight rise, according to a new survey. In the second quarter, 8.7% of job seekers went back to work by starting their own businesses. This was an increase from 6.4% in first quarter 2009 and a low of 2.7% in fourth quarter 2008.

The increase comes despite credit that is still difficult to obtain and sluggish spending by businesses and consumers. John Challenger of the consultant firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas says, “Small business owners do not quite see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there is a sense that we have at least passed the halfway point.  Once banks are in a position to open the lending spigot again, we are likely to see a surge in start-ups.”

Despite the increase, the numbers remain quite low compared to past years.

Even as the percentage of job seekers turning entrepreneurs edges toward 10 percent, it is unlikely that the start-up rate among the unemployed will reach levels achieved in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Between the inaugural year of the Challenger Index in 1986 and 1992, the start-up rate averaged 16 percent annually, peaking in 1989 when 20 percent of job seekers became entrepreneurs.

From 1993 to 1996, the annual start-up rate averaged 10.6 percent.