On SOPA, Small Meetings and Small Businesses

Small Gatherings Present Large Opportunities

On the Huffington Post site yesterday, Zach Carter wrote about the decision of Sen. Marco Rubio (R – Fla.) to withdraw his support from the proposed SOPA and PIPA bills. Rubio, one of the first senators to support the bills in the spring, posted his ultra-serious statement about not understanding the bill’s “technical workings and potential problems” on Facebook of all places.

Meanwhile, in The Washington Post a couple weeks ago, Jia Lynn Yang wrote about the extension of the payroll tax cut: “…Congress and the administration have quietly made a critical change in how Social Security is funded—one that some in Washington worry could undermine the program’s foundation if lawmakers keep renewing the tax break.”

I ran into Carter and Yang at a friend’s party on Sunday for the Green Bay Packers – New York Giants football game. The Washington, D.C. area can be like that. (On Monday, President Obama and the First Lady came to the free Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute concert at the Kennedy Center that I attended. I joked to my friends that the Obamas finally got smart and came to one of my good events.) Once I found out whom Carter and Yang were, I questioned them about their jobs, the business world—they’re both business reporters—and the state of journalism. (I think they’re both in their 20s.) I should have known something was different when Yang told me, before I knew her profession, that she loved the film Margin Call—as I did. Some of the dialogue in the film can only be deciphered by business reporters.

Being among a small group gave me the perfect opportunity to speak to them and learn. Had it been a conference and they were speaking—as I’m sure they will soon be doing—I would not have had that access. SIPA’s two major conferences—the recent Marketing event in Miami and the May 20-22 Annual here in Washington, D.C.—get most of the publicity and rightly so. They are whirlwinds of information and networking. But the Small Publishers Roundtable, taking place near The White House on Thursday, Feb. 16, the Marketing Directors Roundtable in London on Feb. 23 and the Winter Publishers Conference in New York on March 15 (The Ides of March, another interesting film) present truly unique opportunities to learn from and get to know your like-minded—and maybe not so like-minded—peers.

And this is quite the time to think “small,” as in small businesses and small gatherings. Last week, President Obama elevated Karen Mills, the current chief of the Small Business Administration (SBA), to a cabinet post. Gene Marks, a business columnist for The Huffington Post, wrote that he has been pleased with the SBA’s efforts but would like to see more; he praised the over $30 billion in lending supported to over 60,000 small businesses. “That’s good stuff, but what about the other 29,353,039 firms/establishments?”

He wants the SBA to “better define its market. They have already set standards for defining what a small business is—but only if they’re looking for government work. Does my business qualify?” He would like to see them be clearer as to who their customer is (and who is not). How many employees can a small business have? And he wants to see the SBA be more of a customer service branch.

“What do just about all small business owners have in common? Yes, we hate collecting accounts receivable. We don’t like being forced to contribute to our customers’ stupid charities. And we’re definitely paying our computer guys way too much money to fix problems. But it’s not just that. We all have, at some time or another, the distinct displeasure of having to do business with the Federal government…And we’re all under-resourced.”

Marks goes on; it’s a long article. I’ve touched a lot of important issues today, but the main idea is that we usually never have the time to give each issue its proper due. SIPA’s smaller meetingscan do that.

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SIPA’s Upcoming Schedule of Meetings

Thursday, February 16
Small Publishers Roundtable

Washington, D.C.

Thursday, February 23
Marketing Directors Roundtable

London

Wednesday, March 14
Training: From Analysis to Action

London

Thursday, March 15
Winter Publishers Conference

New York City

March 28-30
SIPA Munich 2012

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