4 Hot Topics in Small-Business News (Plus 2 Poised to Join Their Ranks)

by Kevin Casey on April 6, 2012
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What’s the best way to sort through news and information to find the stories that are relevant to your small business? Let someone else do it for you.

The Intuit Small Business Blog asked SmartBrief editor Brooke Howell — who spends her days culling headlines for the media company’s blogs, email newsletters, and Twitter feed — to identify the stories that dominated the entrepreneurial world during the first quarter of 2012.

Here are four hot topics that should continue to grab your attention in the coming months:

Supreme Court Weighs Health-Care Law

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case to determine whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional; the high court’s decision will affect small-business owners no matter what. “People are really fearful about what it’s going to mean for them,” Howell says. “They know what the law says now, but they don’t know what they’re actually going to have to do, because that’s still dependent on how the court rules.”

The Next Big Thing: Pinterest

Everyone is writing about the latest craze in social media: Pinterest. (The Intuit Small Business Blog has done so on several occasions.) “Last year it was Groupon and LivingSocial and all of the daily-deals sites,” Howell says. “Now, it’s Pinterest.”

Lately, Groupon has been in the headlines for its sagging stock price. Is Pinterest destined for a post-party hangover? Howell says it’s tough to say, because the site is so different from The Last Big Thing. But she notes that copyright issues could scare off some small-business owners, even though Pinterest recently revised its terms of service. “They’re going to have to ensure that people feel safe using the service and that people aren’t worried they’re going to get sued for pinning stuff on their boards,” Howell says. “That’s a big thing for small business — you really can’t afford to get into a lawsuit.”

Will Crowdfunding Go Mainstream?

Crowdfunding isn’t new, but the JOBS Act could help turn this financing niche into a mainstream source of capital for smaller companies — one with new considerations related to ownership structure, management, and so forth.

“That’s a pretty big deal, especially for the startup crowd,” Howell says. Crowdfunding may hold less appeal for well-established businesses, but there are exceptions. “Some of the more innovative, cutting-edge businesses who are trying to push the envelope and do new things might be interested.”

Hiring Rules for the Social Era

As the economy picks up, so do stories about businesses doing a bit of social snooping on job candidates. The latest flare-up occurred with reports of companies asking job applicants to provide their Facebook passwords — something the social network frowns upon. “It isn’t clear whether that’s really widespread or just a couple of loud people saying it happened, but it’s gotten people fired up enough that at least a couple of states have started working on laws to ban employers from doing that,” Howell says. Federal legislation is in the works, too.

Up Next: Presidential Race, Gas Prices

There are two topics currently simmering that you can expect to boil over in the coming months, Howell says. The first is the looming debate over which 2012 presidential candidate will be better for small business. The second is gas prices: If they don’t drop soon, expect a lot more attention to how fuel-dependent small businesses are affected.

“If gas prices remain high, we’re going to see a lot more [stories] about how to save on fuel,” Howell says. “Small businesses that use delivery trucks, or if you think about the food-truck trend — all of those guys have to worry about gas.”

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