Here’s some news to use for small business owners

I’ve noticed a few trends in the small business world that are worth sharing.

From social media to the local economy and leadership in your office, here are some news stories you may have missed.

Social media spreads innovative idea

If you’ve been thinking about starting your own business and need a bit of inspiration, learn more about the success of Missouri Star Quilting Company, www.missouriquiltco.com.

Last month, NBC Nightly News had a story spotlighting the Missouri Star Quilt Company. This company was started in the small town of Hamilton, Mo. (population 1,100). Jenny Doan, one of the owners, came up with a new way to speed up making a quilt. Her process took a day rather than the months it takes most quilters.

The company’s quilting video tutorials starring Doan were uploaded to YouTube. Pre-cut quilting fabrics were developed.

Six years later, the company employs 85 people, has 150,000 subscribers and its quilting video tutorials have been viewed more than 20 million times.

An added plus for the small town of Hamilton: quilters from far and wide come to meet Doan and visit her store. The large number of visitors to town is generating interest in building new motels and restaurants.

Not bad for a small quilting company.

Doan’s idea not only created a fast-growing company, but has also lifted up an entire community.

Local economy is improving

Continued good news on the local economic front. The state unemployment rate is declining. The unemployment rate for the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area is 5.2 percent, which some may consider getting close to full employment.

To me, this indicator of the economy’s health communicates more optimism than is warranted based on my conversations with small business people.

There’s no doubt the economy is slowly improving.

But, we still have much ground to plow given the number of people that have dropped out of the labor force, the number of part-time workers looking for a full-time position, and the number of companies offering less than full-time positions. Of course, the continued chaos and dysfunction in Washington, D.C. isn’t helping.

Progress, yes, but not a time to throw caution to the wind.

Twitter seems to be everywhere

Twitter made news recently by crashing during the Academy Awards when its computer system was overwhelmed by viewers of the program.

Pope Francis tweets. Even Russia President Vladimir Putin is on Twitter.

What to make all of this?

Join the Twitter community.

Make sure Twitter is part of your company’s marketing strategy to communicate with your customers. Take advantage of the many online articles with suggestions and recommendations on how to get started using Twitter effectively.

Consider using Twitter as a daily news feed on your phone or mobile device by following major news, business and political media organizations and publications.

The 140 character tweet is perfect as a headline with an Internet link to learn more about a story of interest to you.

Well-known entrepreneurs are active on Twitter promoting their company, but also sharing ideas and articles of interest to them.

Some suggestions for you to follow on Twitter: Inc. Magazine, the business authors Tom Peters and Daniel Pink, the entrepreneur Mark Cuban, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, TED Talks, Stanford University Business and New York Times Small Business.

Good leaders ask for feedback

I read with interest an article on the Inc. Magazine website titled “The Best Leaders Ask for More Feedback.”

The article’s bottom line was “the more a leader asked for feedback, the higher their leadership effectiveness.”

The article was a good reminder that you must give the same attention in getting regular feedback from your employees as you put into receiving feedback and constructive criticism from your customers.

Regular employee feedback doesn’t mean just once a year during employee reviews but instead needs to be part of a sustained effort of periodic check-ins with your employees where they feel comfortable giving you honest feedback.

Pat Sisneros is the Vice President of College Services at Everett Community College. Please send your comments to entrepreneurship@everettcc.edu

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