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Beer, Meatballs, and Video Games — This Week in Small Business

While I just described what I would have considered the perfect weekend as a twenty-one year-old, this week’s round up isn’t meant to make you feel thirsty, hungry, and lazy. Instead, let’s draw some useful business lessons from some of life’s less arduous pursuits. And since it’s Friday, let’s start with a drink. Or a case of Molsons.

How to Motivate Employees with “Outside the Box” Thinking

When Victor Lipman was 23, he loaded trucks for a living. As anyone who has ever performed exacting but repetitive work can attest, mistakes get made, and Lipman’s job was no exception. The wrong packages ended up on the wrong trucks and the days lost on the delivery route translated into money lost for his employer. Management attempted fixes, but to no avail. Then, they struck upon an exceedingly simple solution: if Lipman and his partner didn’t mess up, they’d get a case of free beer. “Suddenly loaders worked with new diligence and fervor,” he writes, all the while reminding us that the most obvious (and cheapest) rewards for your employees can be the most effective incentives.

Sausage v. Meatballs: A Study in Startups

Inc. Magazine brings us a tale of two similar eateries with two completely different outcomes. The first is Currywurst Bros., a successful German sausage chain that opened its first American franchise in New York. They sprung for a nice facade and a great location. They shuttered their doors in less than a year. The second business is Meatball Obsession, a hole in the wall with one menu item (meatballs, naturally) in branded paper cup. They’re a new company, but Meatball Obsession has a much better chance of success. Learning why could give you great insights into the slender line between success and failure.

The Dirty Little Secret of Overnight Successes

And now, video games. Well, not exclusively video games, but this piece does touch on the mobile gaming Angry Birds that we’d bet is probably on the device in your pocket right now. From Rovio’s mind bogglingly successful app to the Dyson vacuum cleaner to Pinterest, we learned that overnight success is, well, rarely overnight success. The Angry Birds maker had over 50 failed games before their hit; Dyson had over 5,000 failed prototypes. It’s a reminder that behind every success are hiccups, missteps, and failure, and that best small business owners take those as lessons, not discouragements.

Phone Customers Ditch Their Carriers Faster than Ever

We all know the drill: you want a nice new phone, so you lock yourself into a nice new contract. But as competition increases and the most desirable phones become available on a wide array of networks, cell phone companies are seeing their customers stick around for shorter and shorter periods of time. What none of them seem to agree on is how to keep their customers and whether the subsidized phone model is still a winner in the age of smart phones.

JOBS Act a “Game Changer”

 We end with news that’s being greeted with smiles across the small business landscape: the JOBS Act. Standing for “Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act,” the law has the delightful distinction of passing both houses of Congress with glowing bipartisan support (amazing, we know) and was signed into law by the President just yesterday. The goal? To give small businesses the ability to raise capital, find investors, and participate in “crowdfunding.” And while those companies are getting an influx of cash, they’ll hopefully be hiring, providing the jobs the bill’s name inherently promises. You’ll read a lot about the “who won” the issue in the press, but for us, the big takeaway is some real government cooperation that aims to help real people run real businesses. Let’s hope it’s just the start.

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