3 Things You Should Know About Small Business: Mar. 13

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- What's happening in small business today?

1. How to get employees to treat customers well. Creating a culture in which your employees treat customers as well as you do is not easy, but could reap large rewards. Business owners need to inspire employees to be committed, not compliant, and that means teach them to start thinking like owners, according to an article by the New York Enterprise Report.

"The difference is that in a compliant culture, people are doing just enough to get by, whereas in a committed culture, people are doing the right thing and making the extra effort," the article says.

"Imagine a culture where employees feel they can take risks, implement their ideas without discouraging amounts of bureaucracy and benefit personally from the outcome of their actions. Your employees are the most important asset your company has. Treat them that way and you will create a culture that has everyone acting like an owner of the company," the article says.

2. Small-business optimism edges higher. Small businesses became slightly more confident in February, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. Its monthly Small-Business Optimism Index gained 0.4 points in February to 94.3 -- the sixth consecutive month of gains.

While the Index reading is lower than the year-earlier period, it is the second-highest reading since December 2007. The report suggests that in February "owners became slightly more pessimistic about the outlook for business conditions, but more optimistic about future sales growth, making the reading a mixed bag, although headed largely in the right direction," the NFIB says.

"The good news for small-business owners and those watching the economy is that things are getting better. However, at this slow pace of growth and recovery, it could be years before we are again enjoying prosperity," NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg says. "The price of gasoline is a wild card, and rising energy costs will weigh heavy on the minds of small firm owners. The economy is holding on to tenuous gains, moving ahead in fits and starts which, hopefully, will result in future positive growth. First-quarter growth will not likely match that of the fourth quarter, 2011, but it should remain positive. In the meantime, we will crawl toward the November election to get a clearer picture of our future."

3. Should you follow all of your Twitter fans? Through the use of Twitter, small businesses can potentially reach thousands of customers, but there is a debate whether businesses should follow all of their Twitter fans. On the one hand you don't want to fall into the trap of a "courtesy follow," simply to appear grateful, says Sheena Medina, Fast Company's community manager. The move will place nothing but noise in your Twitter stream, Medina says.

On the other hand, perhaps businesses should follow back so their followers may "DM," or direct message, them privately. If a business owner does decide to follow everyone, be sure to be authentic. Followers will be able to tell whether they are talking to a real person or a robot.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

To follow Laurie Kulikowski on Twitter, go to: http://twitter.com/#!/LKulikowski

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