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A woman passes a shop with a sign which reads "For Rent" in Madrid April 27, 2012. (SERGIO PEREZ/SERGIO PEREZ/REUTERS)
A woman passes a shop with a sign which reads "For Rent" in Madrid April 27, 2012. (SERGIO PEREZ/SERGIO PEREZ/REUTERS)

Small Business Briefing

Spain's banking crisis hitting entrepreneurs hard Add to ...

The latest news and information for entrepreneurs from across the web universe, brought to you by the Report on Small Business team. Follow us on Twitter @GlobeSmallBiz. Download our app here.

Credit dried up, half a million small businesses shuttered

The restructuring of Spain's banking sector following the 2008 property market collapse is hitting Spanish entrepreneurs hard, drying up credit, causing thousands of small businesses to shutter and leaving remaining ones struggling to survive, recounts this New York Times piece.

As the country's banking reforms attempt to rescue the ailing sector, many regional savings banks upon which entrepreneurs relied have either been swallowed up or ceased to exist, leaving entrepreneurs with few or no avenues to seek credit, the story says.

And the big hit on small businesses is a big hit on the country, raising unemployment and cutting tax revenues, notes the story, which says that 60 per cent of the economy and 80 per cent of jobs come from small- and mid-sized businesses. It says that more than half a million small businesses have closed up in the past few years.

"The savings banks that these people got their loans from don't even exist any more," the story quotes Alfonso Garcia Mora, director-general of AFI, a Madrid-based financial consultancy.

The story says that Spain had 45 regional savings banks a few years ago. That number is down to 13 "and even their future is uncertain," says the Times piece.

The problem affects not only existing companies but efforts for startups as well. "How are you going to get new businesses going if there is no one willing to take a risk and lend you money?" asks Edward Hugh, an economic guru, in the piece.

The story recounts the tale of one once-expanding skateboard maker that had orders coming internationally and moved into a modern warehouse; now the owner is looking for a buyer for the warehouse, has scaled back the company's product line and laid off almost all employees, including a friend from childhood, the story says.

It notes other entrepreneurs are trying to find ways to do business without access to credit. One bus and train window manufacturer, for instance, has made a recent agreement with a supplier to pay for glass after being paid for windows, rather than borrow money to cover the costs of glass. Another is juggling her banking among nearly a dozen different banks.

For another view on small business in Spain and elsewhere in Europe, have a look at this opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal.

Small businesses raise concerns about B.C.'s new Family Day

Small businesses have raised some opposition to British Columbia's new Family Day, say these stories in both the The Province and The Vancouver Sun.

The new holiday will take place on the second Monday of February, starting in 2013

While the decision about when the new statutory holiday will fall gives small- and mid-sized business owners "some certainty and allows them to plan ahead," said Shachi Kurl, provincial director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the CFIB estimates the new statutory holiday will cost an average small business in B.C. an extra $1,135 for labour and other expenses.

And that figure, Ms. Kurl wrote in earlier piece did not include energy and utility costs and lost sales.

Some small businesses, especially in hospitality and tourism, may see a boost. "However," Ms. Kurl was quoted as saying. “the majority of our members are telling us they need mitigation to help them with the financial burden this holiday places squarely on their shoulders.”

The CFIB's "message to government," she said, is that "the work is not done on this file."

Music can hit the right notes with customers, employees

Research has shown that consumers shop longer and make more purchases when they’re exposed to music, points out this piece on Entrepreneur.com, noting that the right tunes can also hit the right notes in helping to boost employee engagement and productivity. So if you have a retail operation and want to make music that is sweet to the ears of customers, the story offers five bits of advice.

Among them: Keep melody in the background so that music creates atmosphere, not the focus. Also strike a balance between soft and loud to put shoppers at ease, not drive them away. Beat also matters: the faster the music, the more it may stress people out, while sloer paces may be more calming. Oh and that 'on-hold' music: Silence or cloying sounds are out. Finally, music can be made a motivator: Consider personalizing the music to help recognize employees, the story suggests, noting one company plays designated favourite tunes of staff when, say, they close a sale or come up with an innovative idea.

Company programs employees hate

While we're on the topic of making employees happy, Inc.com offers up its take on company programs that employees actually detest. The employee of the month award? One winner actually implies lots of losers. "Recognition should be specific, timely, genuine... and available to everyone, not just a 'winner,'" the piece says.

Oh, and assigned parking spaces: Nobody should get to park closer to the door except for health reasons, it advises, noting that the assignment of parking spaces creates "artificial distinctions." The early bird should get the spot. "Optional" social events, which really mean mandatory, are another on the do-away-with list. Some people just don't like to socialize away from work, the piece notes. If you hold events, make them of broad appeal, but never try to force togetherness.

Finally, peer and self-evaluations are also disliked. Good employees figure you should already know their worth, and bad employees never really rate themselves that way, the piece notes. As for peer evaluations, nobody really wants to criticize someone they work with regularly, so they offer up bland assessments; and if someone says something critical, they're quickly figured out, causing resentment rather than team building. Informal, spontaneous feedback is better,the piece suggests, adding that actually the boss should know employees' performance. "That's your job, not theirs."


Remarkable Entrepreneur SuperConference

Business author, motivational speaker and leadership coach Robin Sharma will host his second Remarkable Entrepreneur SuperConference in Toronto this weekend, on June 2 and June 3. It aims to help entrepreneurs and small business owners boost their business growth while "creating the personal lives of their dreams." For more information, click here.

Jolt accelerator applications deadline

Applications for the new JOLT technology accelerator recently created by MaRS Discovery District close tomorrow, May 30. Applicants must be a team of two or more, with founders working in the business full-time; preference will be given to startups with a "minimum viable" product. Those who participate will have to be in Toronto for the 16-week program. Those selected will be notified by June 25. For more information, click here.


Robots and ray guns welcome at this inventive office

With its splashes of yellow and lime, the Calgary office of Tag Advertising is anything but bland. In this month's edition of The Amazing Space , Todd Sloane discusses how he selected the eye-catching colour scheme and what makes his warehouse district agency so uncoventional.


Summer vacation eludes many entrepreneurs

As summer vacation season kicks into gear, many of those in business for themselves will only dream of beaches and docks, for delayed, abbreviated or missed time off is one of the prices many entrepreneurs pay for owning a business, recounted a story last June. While surveys show that many people leave vacation time on the table, it can be even tougher for small business owners to take a summer break, whether because they feel they can’t afford to, feel they have too much on their plate to stop, have too few employees to take over, fear down time will cause business downfalls, consider themselves too essential to be absent or just love what they do too much to leave it behind.

Got a tip on news, events or other timely information related to the small-business community? E-mail us at smallbusiness@globeandmail.com

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