RHONDA ABRAMS: STRATEGIES
SAY “GENERATION Y”
and this picture may come to
mind: spoiled, entitled, unfo-
cused, slacker. Not true, argues
Costco member Donna Fenn
in her new book, Upstarts!
(McGraw-Hill, 2009), which
examines how young entre-
preneurs are creating start-ups
at an unprecedented rate.
The approaches taken by
members of Generation Y,
born between 1977 and 1997,
definitely aren’t old school.
But Fenn says that they’re
skilled in new technologies,
motivated to run their own
show and, perhaps fortu-
nately, naive about the tradi-
tional rules and risks of
starting a business. And, at 77
million strong, they will shape
the small-business landscape
and the economy in the years
In painting a narrative of
this new generation through
dozens of profiles, Upstarts!
serves as a validation of sorts
for a new business model, but
there’s a deeper message. Fenn
says that everyone, young and
old, can learn plenty from
Generation Y. In fact, ignor-
ing the emerging people and
practices of this
could be a
Rhonda Abrams is the
president of The Planning
Shop, a publisher of books
and software for entrepreneurs (
Take your business
to the clouds
IF YOU RUN A small business, I’ve got an important term for you to learn: “cloud computing.”
Cloud computing can save you money, time and
headaches—while improving your business.
It’s really a simple concept. It means having
key business functions stored and run on the Web
rather than your own office computers. If you use
a Web-based e-mail program (such as Yahoo! Mail,
Hotmail, Gmail or AOL), you’re familiar with cloud-based computing. Your e-mail is stored somewhere out there in cyberspace rather than on
your own computer or servers.
Now, hundreds of companies have sprung
up to provide a whole range of business functions on the Web, including payroll, sales-contact
management, document sharing, data backup,
even word processing.
What I love about cloud-based applications is
they give small businesses the power of big corporations, but without a tech staff or big budget.
You always have the latest versions of software;
you get more features than you can devise yourself; you have predictable monthly costs; you can
access your business from any computer with a
fast Internet connection—all while reducing or
eliminating your need for tech staff. Woo-hoo!
For example, in my business, I use an online
service to handle my monthly business-tips e-mail
newsletter. It used to take days to prepare, and I
needed a tech-capable staff person. Now my
administrative assistant handles it in less than two
hours. Piece of cake!
There’s more. The Web-based newsletter service continually cleans up my mailing list and introduces more powerful applications, such as the
ability to easily conduct surveys. When one of us
has a tech question, we e-mail their tech support.
Yes, I pay a monthly fee, whether I use it or
not. So that gives me an incentive to get my
newsletter out. But in the long run, it’s a lot
cheaper than tech staff and upgrades.
I also use cloud-based services to do payroll
and share documents with outside contractors. I
now look for Web-based solutions whenever I
need to implement any business process. Check
some of these services out. You’ll find that keeping your business in the clouds is heavenly. C
More in archives
Spotlighting the hidden paycheck
On Costco.com, enter
“connection.”At Online Edition,
search “Rhonda Abrams.”
DO YOU KNOW what a “hidden paycheck” is?
More than 50 percent of small-business owners
don’t. That’s one finding in a recent study by
Costco member business George S. May International, a management-consulting firm founded
in 1925 and located in Park Ridge, Illinois.
According to the study, based on more than
1,000 businesses surveyed, 77 percent of small
businesses will not be giving raises in 2010. At
a time when staffs are being thinned and the
employees are being asked to do more to pick
up the slack, small businesses may lose valuable
workers to companies offering better wages.
That’s where the “hidden paycheck” comes in.
Simply stated, the “hidden paycheck” is
made up of those benefits that may not show on
a pay stub. They include:
• Health benefits
• Sick, personal and vacation days
• Education reimbursements
• Discount auto-purchase plans
• Accidental death and personal
• Workers’ compensation
• Social Security and Medicare
Paul Rauseo, George S. May’s managing
director, suggests distributing personalized benefits statements or setting up customized Web
pages for each employee, saying, “It is hard for
employees to value what they don’t fully know or
understand. A site that outlines paid days off as
well as company-paid benefits such as medical,
dental or tuition reimbursements makes it clear.”
Here are some other ways to show your
employees they are valued.
Social media. Set up an online community
where employees and management can engage.
Regular meetings with employees. Asking
employees what they think goes a long way in
gaining support for a company initiative. Whether
you utilize an online focus group, a blog or spot
polls, employees feel empowered.
Treating employees like clients. Consider
offering occasional extras, such as health screenings, end-of-week parties and in-house contests.
Accessible managers. When owners pitch in
and are visible, the employees feel connected
and go that extra mile. C