Here's the latest installment of the SmallBiz Mailbag, a collection of some of the most recent and thought-provoking letters from our Feedback section. We want to hear from you about which stories made you think and what issues affect your small business.
The Showdown over VoIP (4/27)
Who needs a public utilities commission when the consumer has many choices of telephone services? This concept is a leftover from the days of Bell monopolies. If I don't like my VoIP service, I can chose another, call my cable TV company, or even use a traditional phone line. I don't need a local or state organization to help me.
As far as the 911 issue, I call this a smoke screen. Have you ever tried to call 911 on your cell phone? In California it is routed to the Highway Patrol, which can be many miles from your town. The good work of Michael Powell when he was at the FCC needs to be continued.
RTX America Inc.
San Jose, Calif.
The reason that the states want to get so involved in VoIP regulation is [so they can] tax and surcharge it.
For Women, a Failure to Negotiate (4/22)
Women not only fail to negotiate but also are too trusting. Last fall, I interviewed for a position that was a promotion -- changing companies, but in the same field. They met my salary demand and promised that it would be full-time year-round (rather than seasonal) work with benefits (gas, card, cell phone) and bonuses. When I arrived to finalize the deal, the employment contract wasn't ready, and I naively changed jobs anyway.
The benefits never materialized, same for the bonuses, and, instead of being for one year, the contract was for four months (the busy season, during which time I worked 90 to 100 hours a week). [They] explained that after that time, I'd work two days per week but get my entire salary to make up for all the uncompensated overtime and that they only did the contract for tax season.
Guess what? When the contract expired, they informed me they no longer needed my services -- not because I hadn't done a good job, but because my skills were similar to those of someone who had more seniority. They couldn't afford to pay us both.
If I ever decide to accept a job that requires an employment contract again, if it isn't spelled out in writing before I formally come on board, I won't.
Why Societies -- and Startups -- Collapse (4/20)
It's one thing to have the vision, creativity, and motivation of an entrepreneur. It's another to recognize, as an entrepreneur, that you have reached your "Peter Principle" level -- that is, you are great on the "creating the business" idea level but lousy on the management-team-creation and organizational level needed for long-term success. Many entrepreneurial people need to be kept in a cage after the initial success and development stage of a company, and thrown meat from time to time, but not let out into the real world, where they can do damage to companies and employees. As my mother would say: "Know thyself."
You hit the nail on the head this time. Enjoyed your comments. If more businesses would take the time to prepare for the future, there would be more success stories.
Martha's Poncho: An Amazing Yarn (4/18)
Ms. Klein's lively column about Lion Brand Yarn and the speedy development of its pattern didn't mention the one thing that distinguished Lion Brand from all the other yarn companies that also wrote out patterns and promoted their yarns: In gratitude to that unnamed crocheter, Lion Brand donated yarn and needles to the prison. None of the other companies did the same. (It's entirely possible that Ms. Rabinowitz never mentioned it either!)
Lion Brand is known to knitters for generosity in funding awards (Knitter of the Year) and supporting the annual Knit-Out/Crochet Too in New York City and other national conferences. It's also known for its partnerships with publications like Vogue Knitting to produce new magazines (Vogue's Knit1 and Knit It!) -- which have more fashion-forward designs to appeal to younger knitters -- as well as for its fab new yarns and favorite old ones.
I love to use Lion Brand's yarns, designs, magazines, and Web pages in the knitting classes I teach to elementary- and middle-school children. Lion Brand certainly speaks to them and to my somewhat older friends. We are pleased to support a company that appreciates and celebrates our efforts to "knit the world's cares together."
I wonder if it ever occurred to Lion Brand to do something for the woman in prison who made the original poncho. I am sure that she has personal challenges (maybe kids somewhere who could use their education paid for, maybe her own education, maybe health-care needs) that she would be very grateful for help with. It seems unjust that the yarn company is the sole beneficiary of this woman's gift.
New York City
I am a huge fan of Martha Stewart, and I am sure that poncho is very special to her. I am disappointed that the inmate has not gotten the recognition that she well deserves. Surely you can get her name and write to her -- do something. Inmates have accounts to buy needed items from the commissary. Maybe a small donation to her account would be nice. I just feel bad that the inmate has not received any credit.
Karen E. Klein responds: Officials from Lion Brand Yarn made a concerted effort to contact the inmate who made Martha's poncho, but the prison would not let them contact her or leave her a message. The company then decided to make a large donation of yarn to the prison and had one of its Web site "regulars" who lives nearby deliver it. The company received confirmation that it was accepted by the institution.