Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Small Business Success Story - The Presentation Source, Inc.

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Brockport SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report


Laurie & James Widmaier 
The Presentation Source, Inc.
Brockport SBDC

Laurie & James Widmaier established The Presentation Source in Rochester in 1997. In the early stage of the business, their goals were simply to promote quality color presentations and sell Tektronix color-printers and projectors. However, in the years that followed Laurie and James recognized a significant potential for growth. They paid close attention to the rapidly changing needs and demands of their clients and adapted to those trends by providing advanced product and service technologies. 

Today, their company is a $3.7 million company with 15 full- and part-time employees that serves a wide range of markets. Its clients include government agencies, elementary and high schools, colleges and universities, corporations, non-profit organizations, houses of worship, and small businesses throughout Western New York. With assistance from Drake Thomas at the Brockport SBDC, the Widmaiers have been awarded more than $550,000 in New York State contracts and achieved a $450,000 bonding ability.

Laurie was a 2016 graduate of the SBDC’s New York State Surety Bond Assistance program. She expressed her belief that the success of her company is due to the high quality of service the company provides, its motivated employees, and its ability to address the specific needs and expectations of its customers. She also noted that the company’s business practices center around professionalism, quality, integrity and collaboration. As for the future, The Presentation Source projects sales of $5 million in 2017. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

FTC to Help Small Businesses Strengthen Their Cyber Defenses

From the Federal Trade Commission:

The Federal Trade Commission is launching a national education campaign to help small businesses strengthen their cyber defenses and protect sensitive data that they store.

The FTC will develop and distribute reader-friendly educational materials with information about cybersecurity that small businesses need. The effort grew out of the Small Business & Cybersecurity Roundtables that the FTC hosted last year with small business owners and non-profit organizations, employees, and managers to learn about the challenges they face when dealing with cyber threats and security and ideas for how the government can help them.

“Small businesses understand the importance of cybersecurity and the need to protect their networks and data, but many feel overwhelmed about how to address the myriad of cyber threats they face,” said Tom Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Our new campaign aims to help these small businesses with targeted, plain-language advice on everything from protecting against phishing scams to tips on what to look for when choosing a cybersecurity vendor.”

The campaign will build on the work the FTC has already done under Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen. This includes the small business cybersecurity roundtable discussions and the launch of a website in 2017 aimed at helping small businesses avoid scams and protect their networks and data. The FTC also has developed several cybersecurity publications aimed at businesses of all sizes including our business guides Start with Security, Data Breach Response and Protecting Personal Information, plus our Stick with Security blog series.

Among the issues that small business owners identified during the roundtable discussions are how to avoid phishing schemes, ransomware attacks and tech support scams, as well as cybersecurity basics. Small business owners also wanted information about how to protect company mobile devices, and a list of questions they should ask vendors to ensure their systems are secure.

To address these concerns, the FTC is creating up to a dozen sets of information on issues of importance to small business owners that will include training modules and videos. Potential topics include phishing, ransomware, email authentication, cloud security, tech support scams, vendor security, how to compare offers of web hosting services, understanding the National Institute of Standards and Technology cybersecurity framework, and others.

In addition, the FTC will work with other government agencies to help develop more consistent messaging about cybersecurity and expand its work with the private and non-profit sectors to help get the materials developed by the FTC to more small businesses.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Do Your Measures Make Employees Mad?

From Gallup:

Fear. Anxiety. Stress. Anger. Not exactly the emotions we're hoping to invoke in our employees, right?

Not exactly the key to motivational management, anyway.

Unfortunately, those are the emotions many people feel when it's time to discuss their work metrics. Employees dread the idea of their manager reducing them to a number. A number that might be accurate and important but doesn't accurately reflect all they bring to their job.

And no matter the niceties of how it's all delivered, people get defensive and deflated.

Why?

"The very act of measuring communicates distrust, power, control and dehumanization." That's what one fellow student said when the topic of performance measurement came up in my Ph.D. class.

He was right. And he was wrong.

He was right because measurement can be dehumanizing. Managers, intentionally or not, end up using measurements negatively in an attempt to motivate people. But it doesn't work.

How Managers Can Excel by Really Coaching Their Employees

Friday, April 20, 2018

Social Security Business Services Online


From the Social Security Administration:

April is National Social Security Month. Handle your small business needs through the Social Security Administration’s online suite of Business Services. See what you can do online!

The Business Services Online Suite of Services allows organizations, businesses, individuals, employers, attorneys, non-attorneys representing Social Security claimants, and third-parties to exchange information with Social Security securely over the internet. You must register and create your own password to access Business Services Online.

The Complete Phone Registration option is provided to individuals who began their Business Services Online registration by phone and need to create a password.

List of Services include:

Request a replacement Social Security card
Apply for Social Security benefits
Get your Social Security Statement
Appeal a decision
Find out if you qualify for benefits
Estimate your future benefits
Get a letter saying you don't receive benefits
Block electronic access to your information

Online Hours of Operation
Monday - Friday 5 AM - 1 AM ET
Saturday 5 AM - 11 PM ET
Sunday 8 AM - 11:30 PM ET
Federal Holidays - Same hours as the day of the week the holiday occurs

Thursday, April 19, 2018

76% of U.S. Organizations Concerned About Meeting GDPR Deadline

From BusinessWire:
With... the May 25 enforcement date of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) [looming], NetApp, the data authority for the hybrid cloud, released research findings from a global survey of IT decision makers across the U.S., UK, France, and Germany. The survey shows that these decision makers are still missing an opportunity to transform their business through a holistic data management approach that reduces risk and improves business efficiency.

For nearly two years, most organizations have lagged in addressing their GDPR compliance, and in some cases are ignoring the issue completely. In doing so, they are ignoring the benefits to be gained from the compliance effort, including developing a data-centric approach to control, manage, and move data regardless of where it’s stored – on premises or in the cloud. A data-centric approach drives improved efficiencies and competitive advantage and unifies data governance practices across organizations to drive down cost.

According to the report:

40% of U.S. businesses and 35% of global businesses think that GDPR could threaten their existence due to financial penalties, while 52% of U.S. businesses and 50% of global businesses think that it could lead to reputational damage.

Only 52% of U.S. businesses and 39% of global businesses are confident that they know where their data is stored.

63% of U.S. businesses continue to invest in private cloud services and ensure compliance with data protection.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Small Business Success Story - Andrade Medical, PLLC

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Bronx SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report


Dr. Joseph Andrade 
Andrade Medical, PLLC
Bronx SBDC

Dr. Joseph Andrade was born in Chone, Ecuador. He attended the Universidad de Guayaquil for his undergraduate and postgraduate studies and graduated in 1981. Dr. Andrade passed the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) in 1982, and the Federation Licensing Examination (FLEX) in 1983, examinations required to assess the readiness of international medical graduates to enter residency or fellowship programs in the United States in accredited hospitals. 
Dr. Andrade trained in pediatrics at Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center from 1983 to 1986, and later trained in internal medicine from 1986 to 1988 at the same hospital. He received his NY medical license in 1986 and is board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics. Dr. Andrade opened his first private practice in August 1988 and has served the Bronx community for 32 years. He takes care of patients with medical problems including asthma, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, mental disorders, and provides preventive medical care. 
In 2015, Dr. Andrade consulted the Bronx SBDC for assistance in securing financing to set up a new office. Advisor Lourdes Martinez helped him obtain funding from Spring Bank to cover the expenses of construction, renovation, fixtures, equipment, and working capital. He anticipates hiring five additional employees for the new office. Dr. Andrade was recognized with the Castle Connolly Top Doctors in the New York Metro area award for his outstanding work in 2003-2008 and 2010-2015. He is affiliated with Montefiore Hospital’s Wakefield Campus. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

FTC: It's Illegal to Specify Parts, Services for Warranty Coverage

From the Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission staff has sent warning letters to six major companies that market and sell automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems in the United States.

The letters warn that FTC staff has concerns about the companies’ statements that consumers must use specified parts or service providers to keep their warranties intact. Unless warrantors provide the parts or services for free or receive a waiver from the FTC, such statements generally are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a law that governs consumer product warranties. Similarly, such statements may be deceptive under the FTC Act.

Each company used different language, but here are examples of questionable provisions:

*The use of [company name] parts is required to keep your . . . manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.
*This warranty shall not apply if this product . . . is used with products not sold or licensed by [company name].
*This warranty does not apply if this product . . . has had the warranty seal on the [product] altered, defaced, or removed.

“Provisions that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or services harm both consumers who pay more for them as well as the small businesses who offer competing products and services,” said Thomas B. Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

FTC staff has requested that each company review its promotional and warranty materials to ensure that such materials do not state or imply that warranty coverage is conditioned on the use of specific parts of services. In addition, FTC staff requests that each company revise its practices to comply with the law. The letters state that FTC staff will review the companies’ websites after 30 days and that failure to correct any potential violations may result in law enforcement action.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Register Now for the #SmallBusinessWeek Virtual Conference

From SBA and SCORE

The U.S. Small Business Administration and SCORE Association will host a free, 3-Day Virtual Conference during National Small Business Week. The conference will take place Tuesday, May 1 – Thursday, May 3 between 12:30 pm ET - 6:30 pm ET each day.

The Virtual Conference offers all the best parts of an in-person conference, but without the hassle of traveling. Watch 12 educational webinars, get free business advice from mentors, pick up free information and resources from sponsors and network with fellow business owners.

The webinars include:

Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints & Keep Your Customers
Simple Steps to Choosing the Right Financing
Addressing Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace
Sharing Your Story Through Video
Pop & Play: How Opening a Pop-Up Shop Can Help Launch Your Retail Brand
How Changing Consumer Behavior Impacts Your Business
How to Get New and Repeat Business On Autopilot with Email Marketing
Cybersecure Your Small Business
Managing Your Finances in the Cloud
Creating and Sustaining a Strong Social Presence
The U.S. Economic Outlook and Its Impact on Small Businesses
Grow Your Business in 2018

Register NOW!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Two Trade Wars: 1807 and 2018

From the American Institute for Economic Research

The legal uncertainties surrounding trade with China have sent people looking for historical precedent for this mess. One jumps out: the targeted trade embargo that the US imposed against Britain in 1807. Let’s look at the parallels and lessons.

For months now, the Trump administration has been threatening every manner of taxes on imports from many countries but on China in particular. The policies would directly attack American consumers and producers of goods in which China has some role in the supply chain. China has responded with taxes on imports that would directly hit the economic prospects of Trump’s political base.

Most recently, in order to escalate further, the president picked a big round number of $100 billion and sent aides out to round up enough products to meet that target. China, the spokesmen of which cannot say enough how much they would far prefer peace and economic cooperation, has retaliated with promises to close more markets to American producers.

Among the latest imported products from China affected are medical supplies and equipment, including pacemakers, artificial limbs, knee replacement parts, defibrillators, fillings for teeth, birth-control pills, vaccines, and that’s just what is on the list. Many other secondary products and services will be affected. The supply of all of these will be restricted and hence the price will increase, provided you can get the products at all. At best it means raising health-care costs, which is pretty much the last thing Americans need...

The [1807] decision turned into the worst disaster of the Jefferson presidency...

Friday, April 13, 2018

Few People Are Comfortable Sharing Data Through Third Parties

From eMarketer:
According to a recent Vision Critical survey of digital buyers in North America, 80.1% of respondents said they would be comfortable sharing personal information directly with a brand for the purposes of personalizing marketing messages. But just 16.7% said they would be OK with sharing this type of information through third parties.

The utilization of third-party data has become a hot topic in recent weeks due to Facebook’s ongoing scandal with Cambridge Analytica, in which information was harvested without people’s permission for voter targeting purposes.

The growing skepticism toward data collection was reflected in a Gallup survey of 785 Facebook users in April 2018, in which 43% of respondents said they were very concerned about invasion of privacy. That was up from 30% in 2011.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

An Unexpected Industry Pivot: Optimism

Obtained From: eMarketer

After an unexpectedly strong holiday season closed the door on 12 months of "retail apocalypse" headlines, the retail industry is showing signs of confidence not seen in a year or more.
But the confidence stems from something more than Christmas sales. Rather, the industry appears to have embraced the idea of consumer-centricity and moved on from the mindset of forcing a specific purchasing journey.
“There is [a] building confidence that the industry is now pivoting” away from separate silos for in-store and digital sales, said Carrie Ask, executive vice president of global retail at Levi Strauss & Co., during a panel at Shoptalk in Las Vegas. “We don’t think of it as either/or anymore—it’s just shopping.”
This was echoed by others at Shoptalk. Ken Worzel, president of Nordstrom's ecommerce site, said the department store is moving away from separating its ecommerce and brick-and-mortar business because the fragmented perspective is not an accurate view of how consumers shop. Instead, Nordstrom looks at business performance on a local level, examining local assets like people, product and place, then ties those elements into how it serves consumers digitally.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Small Business Success Story - All American Karate School

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Jamestown SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report


John Lipari 
All American Karate School
Jamestown SBDC

John Lipari came to the SBDC for assistance with opening a karate school after moving to Jamestown from California. John has an 8th degree black belt in karate and owned a karate school in California. After moving, he wanted to keep teaching and open a school in New York. The All American Karate School (AAKS) opened in October 2015 in Ashville in a 4,000 square foot facility. AAKS instructors focus on teaching students a set curriculum of skills and techniques, which are then incorporated into self-defense moves. This base of skills and self-defense, lead to self-control, self-discipline and in turn self-confidence. The school’s motto, “Be Better Than You Were Before,” puts these goals within reach for people of all ages and of all physical abilities. 
Teaching karate is a family affair and John’s wife Angie Lipari also teaches with him. John’s daughter Nicole operates the school in California. John’s martial arts programs include training in karate, judo and jujitsu. His comprehensive, 10-belt system goes from white to black, and instruction includes classes for people of all ages from adolescents to mature adults. 
John, who has been teaching karate since 1983, consulted the SBDC when he decided to open a second location in Chautauqua County. SBDC Advisor Scott Miller provided technical start-up assistance and advised John how to formalize a business in New York. They discussed the location and attributes of the building, demographics and competition analysis, and the number of potential students needed for break-even analysis. “It’s good to know that the SBDC is there as an ongoing service,” says John. “They continually kept checking back to make sure our needs were being met.” 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Why 'Full Employment' Doesn't Mean Everyone Has a Job

Obtained From: Fortune

 The U.S. expansion has put millions of people back to work and economists agree that the economy is now at or close to full employment. But what does that mean exactly? When economists talk about full employment, they don’t mean everybody has a job. And they don’t mean that even the rosiest economic health can cut unemployment to zero. If unemployment falls too much, inflation will rise as employers compete to hire workers and push up wages too fast. To economists, full employment means that unemployment has fallen to the lowest possible level that won’t cause inflation. In the U.S., that was thought to be a jobless rate of about 5 percent — above the February rate of 4.1 percent. Is higher inflation therefore on the way? Or is full employment a smaller number than economists supposed?


Monday, April 09, 2018

Tech Giants Set to Face 3% Tax on Revenue Under New EU Plan

Obtained From: Fortune

Large digital companies operating in the European Union, such as Alphabet Inc. or Twitter Inc., could face a 3 percent tax on their gross revenues based on where their users are located, according to a draft proposal by the European Commission.

 The draft, seen by Bloomberg, was circulated on Friday and outlines how a targeted levy on gross revenues would increase the tax bill digital giants face, as the bloc seeks to raise money from an industry it says provides less than it should to public coffers. EU countries have been looking into methods to tax digital companies, including Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc., in a way that captures the true value created in the region.

 The commission’s planned revenue tax, which is expected to be proposed on March 21, would only represent a targeted, short-term solution. The bloc also plans to propose a more comprehensive, longer-term approach that will focus on a digital permanent establishment.

 The scope of the planned tax would cover companies offering services such as advertising or the sale of user data, according to the draft prepared by the EU’s executive arm. It would also cover services provided by multi-sided digital platforms, which let users find and interact with each other and where users supply goods and services directly to each other.

Friday, April 06, 2018

10 Years After the Financial Crisis, Have We Learned Nothing?

Obtained From: CNN


The crisis unofficially began a decade ago today, with JPMorgan's shocking deal to rescue Bear Stearns for $2 a share after the investment bank suffered deep losses tied to its mortgage investments. Bear was the first major investment bank to fail, but it would not be the last.

 Now, with a buoyant economy finally starting to lift some of the United States' most depressed pockets, CNNMoney is taking a look back at the 10 years following the financial meltdown that stretched around the globe — and signs that something similar might again be on the horizon, as Congress and regulators begin to loosen some of the rules they put in place to fix and prevent the problems.

 "We're sitting here, 10 years later, with a short-term memory that doesn't seem to recall how we got into that mess," Taylor says. "We got into that mess because of the lack of regulation, and now we're talking about making banks less accountable. It makes no sense whatsoever."

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Talent Walks: Why Your Best Employees Are Leaving

From Gallup:

Which of your employees are most likely to quit?

If you follow Gallup's analytics, you might answer that the least engaged employees quit more often. That is true -- improving engagement among your employees is one of the best ways to slow down turnover. However, there is a group of employees that merits particular attention: your most talented employees.

In our recent work with organizations across various industries, we discovered something really interesting and somewhat unsettling: Highly talented employees who are not engaged were among those who had the highest turnover in each organization -- on par with low talent, disengaged employees. In other words, when your best employees are not engaged, they are as likely to leave your organization as your employees who tend to have performance issues and are unhappy.

Why do they leave so quickly? We speculate that your most talented employees are more likely to have high expectations of their workplaces... But here's the important part: You can't tell how engaged a team member is by performance alone.

67% of employees are not engaged at work. They are not your worst performers, but they are indifferent to your organization. They give you their time, but not their best effort nor their best ideas.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Small Business Success Story - Thorn Electric Inc.

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Queens-York SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report


Lawrence Thorne 
Thorn Electric Inc.
Queens-York SBDC

Thorn Electric, Inc. was established in 1990 by Lawrence Thorne. After a short time in the private sector, the business was approved by the New York City Housing and Preservation Development (HPD) to provide emergency repairs and apartment and building wiring upgrades. While maintaining the business structure of a small company, Thorn Electric Inc. brings the flexibility and professional approach that is well-suited for the sectors and communities it serves. 
Thorn Electric specializes in all areas of electrical installation including: electrical distribution systems, lighting systems, fire alarms, public address and clock systems, surveillance cameras, and emergency services. Thorn’s primary focus is electrical construction in public and private schools, as well as the industrial, commercial and residential sectors. Thorn is determined to be a superior and effective contractor that provides quality electrical services on all jobs large or small with professionalism. 
Lawrence consulted the SBDC for assistance with expanding his business. He and SBDC Advisor Brian Yeung also discussed the benefits of NYC business certification, the Bidlinx bid-matching service provided by the SBDC, and the Delta Air Lines project and JFK|IAT Redevelopment as potential sources of contracts. With the assistance from the York College SBDC, Lawrence Thorne was able to get a SBA 504 loan to buy a commercial property to expand his business. As a result of the expansion, six jobs were created and 10 jobs saved. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Shoppers Say They're Self-Sufficient

Obtained From: eMarketer

A recent HRC Retail Advisory survey of consumers in North America found that nearly all respondents (95%) only want help from a sales associate when they need it. Therein lies the issue—how to balance shoppers’ need for self-sufficiency with in-store tech investments meant to help staff on the front lines?
More than half (53%) of consumers surveyed ranked the in-store experience as the most important factor while shopping, but what does that exactly mean? A good number of respondents (30%) said mobile checkout was important to them, and almost as many thought apps that would make personalized recommendations were as well. But sales associates who served this same function were less desirable, cited by just 17%. 
A separate survey of US internet users by Zebra Technologies discovered that the younger the consumer, the more likely they are to be receptive to sales associates using tech for assistance. Indeed, 58% of respondents ages 20 to 36 thought this would make for a better in-store experience, while only 36% of those ages 53 to 71 agreed. 

Monday, April 02, 2018

First-Ever Online Economic Census

Obtained From: United States Census


About The Survey
The Economic Census is the U.S. Government's official five-year measure of American business and the economy. It is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, and response is required by law.

Starting with the 2017 Economic Census, response will be entirely paperless. The Economic Census will mail out information on how to access the electronic instrument in May 2018 to the nearly 4 million businesses, including large, medium, and small companies representing all U.S. and Island Area locations and industries.

Respondents will be asked to provide a range of operational and performance data for their companies.

Respondent Materials
To help you prepare for online reporting, click on the link below and then the appropriate survey questions and instructions (if applicable). (All surveys are in Adobe PDF file format and are for informational purposes only)

Preview Survey Questions and Instructions https://bhs.econ.census.gov/ombpdfs/

Authority
Title 13, United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 131, requires businesses and other organizations included in the survey to answer the questions and submit a response.

Confidentiality
Title 13, United States Code, Section 9, requires the Census Bureau to keep your information CONFIDENTIAL and can use your responses only to produce statistics.

The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in a way that could identify your business, organization, or institution. Per the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015, your data are protected from cybersecurity risks through screening of the systems that transmit your data.

Survey Legitimacy
Below are a few common items you can use to verify the legitimacy of this survey:
     1. Ensure the Web address provided in the letter is a "census.gov" domain.
     2. Correspondence will contain reporting instructions and a toll-free number for survey assistance.   
     3. On the log-in screen, a warning message should be present stating the respondent is accessing a  U.S. Government computer.
     4. After clicking on the “Report Now” button in the Respondent Portal, the OMB Number and OMB Approval Expiration information will appear in the upper right on all screens of the electronic reporting instrument. The bottom of the screen should have a link for the “Burden Statement” which also contains the OMB eight-digit number.

Friday, March 30, 2018

How Do Different Age Groups Consume Online Content?

 Obtained From: MarketingProfs

When planning a website for your business, half the battle is won if you can successfully identify your target audience: You can better customize your website to meet your audience's needs when you have a clear idea of who your prospective consumers are.

But what do those visitors want, exactly, and how do those wants differ by age?
In its infographic on generational marketing, custom writing service Handmadewritings examines what online content different age groups prefer.

The graphic is based on several research reports and studies, and it offers insights that you might consider factoring into your marketing strategies and analysis as you plan efforts to reach the six major consumer generations in the US.

To learn more about the various generations and understand where you might need to tweak your website and content to attract more visitors and improve customer engagement, check out the graphic.