Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Upscale

"Upscale." "High-end."

Advisors seeking information from the Research Network often use these terms when they make their requests at their clients’ behest. But do your clients have any sense of what these terms mean when they say them?

High-end does not merely mean that the items or services provided sell for a higher price, an assumption I’m getting when an advisor merely "passes through" the clients’ question (not a good idea, by the way.) Upscale means that the product being sold is not only more expensive but also of a higher quality than the average product of its type. In the service sector, it means a greater amount of time and effort being exerted. The client cannot just slap a higher price tag on what they are doing and expect to receive it, at least over the long term.

There are some industries that are more mature, so that the sense of upscale is well-defined. The restaurant industry has codified upscale. Restaurants are divided into limited services and full service, with a few gradations of the average bill size indicated for the latter. The Research Network can easily find data for these breakdowns. Conversely, it will be considerably harder to find reliable numbers for the size of the upscale pen market or even high-end consignment shops.

A couple things to be aware of when determining the market size for upscale:
Not everyone who has money spends it. Note the advice in the Thomas Stanley books, "The Millionaire Next Door" and the newer "Millionaire Women Next Door" of living below one’s means. Despite the high rate of credit card debt in the country, there are pockets of frugality. Be aware of that when you ask for income information.

Another trend is that there are many folks who may eat macaroni but spend money on their car. Or they may drive their car into the ground but eat at fancy restaurants. Note this quote from "If Loving You is Wrong", a novel by Gregg Olsen:
"[It was better] to have one fine thing than a half-dozen average items. Quality over quantity. Clothes were a key example. She'd save up her money and splurge on a garment from Ann Taylor or I. Magnin…" The current economic books are saying exactly the same thing.
***
An article on the luxury market.

Friday, December 23, 2005

LaGuardia SBDC on TV

The Small Business Development Center at LaGuardia Community College helped a couple from the Philippines achieve their American Dream: a veterinary clinic. More than 1,100 budding entrepreneurs were assisted by the center, which was created following 9/11.

View the CUNY-TV segment. (Requires Real Player or equivalent.)

Running Time: 3:24

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Succession plans without children

Back in September, Jan Pisancyzn spoke to a reporter from the Democrat & Chronicle. Jan offered advice for business owners whose children do not want to take over the business.

  1. Look at a trusted employee or two who have demonstrated some skill in running the business. In the case of a restaurant, the head chef might want to take over.
  2. Talk with competitors - and in the case of restaurants, suppliers - who may be interested in buying it.
  3. Look into hiring a business broker who does for businesses what real estate agents do for home sellers.
  4. Be realistic with expectations of how much the business is worth. Ask yourself, what is the current demand for this kind of business and what is a realistic price for the business.

Regarding item #4, the Research Network can help, too. We have a few sources in our reference collection that contain valuation formulas and rules of thumb plus chapters describing methods of determining a fair price. The titles we have are:

  • Handbook of Business Valuation edited by Thomas L. West and Jeffrey D. Jones, 1999
    Handbook of Small Business Valuation Formulas & Rules of Thumb by Glenn Desmond, 1993
  • Small Business Valuation Book by Lawrence W. Tuller, 1994
  • Small Business Valuation Formula Multiples by valuationresources.com, 2004
  • Valuing a Business by Shannon P. Pratt, Robert F. Reilly, and Robert P. Schweihs, 2000

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mature Audiences

The Research Brief from the Center for Media Research ran an article today on how mature audiences (35 to 54 year olds) are more likely to be watching streaming video than the average consumer. The article states that according to comScore Networks "State of the Consumer Streaming Market," “the research confirmed that 35 to 54 year-olds are 20% more likely to watch online video than the average Internet user, and 25 to 34 year-olds are 12% more likely than the average Internet user to watch a stream online.” This flies in the face of the widely held belief that streaming video is the domain of the younger age brackets. This should tell advertisers something: they need to be creative to speak to this important consumer demographic. As this article attests, this presents a great opportunity for advertisers to put their best foot forward and present their products and services in innovative ways.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

More on the ACS

As I mentioned back in July, the American Community Survey is now the new source of Census data.

Go to the Data Sets section of the Census page. Click on any of the tabs to the right (data profiles, detailed tables, e.g.) Pull down the counties of New York. You'll only find 15 of the 62 counties for the state: Albany, Dutchess, Erie, Monroe, Onondaga, Orange, Rockland, Westchester, plus the counties of New York City and Long Island. Why is that? Because this is data based on sampling, and only the locations that have 250,000 people have data that are "statistically significant" in this round. You'll also notice that the data are presented differently than you may be used to, with a lower bound and an upper bound. In fact, these parameters have been calculated before, but not shown.

Next year, the threshold will be 65,000, as the Bureau expands the process. The places with 20,000 to 65,000 people will be calculated based on a rolling three-year average, so there will be no data until 2008, but will come out annually therafter. Smaller places will be generated using a rolling five-year average, with data coming out each year starting in 2010. The 2010 Decennial Census should be a short form for everyone. Naturally, this depends on Congressional funding, which is secure for the 2006 budget.

Another aspect of ACS that is different from the traditional Census rules is the residency rules. While the decennial census asks for one's "usual place of residence," i.e., your primary home, the ACS asks for current residency. Since the survey is conducted year-round, the Census Bureau will get a better handle on seasonal and migratory populations.

Of course, since the forms are sent to each address, it is important to know what those addresses are. Census regularly does a Boundary and Annexation Survey, reflecting address changes. This could be streets changing names or numbering, demolition, new construction or border changes. Read more about this here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

SBA Increases Small Business Size Standards Due To Inflation

Some of you may have already seen this, but I'm posting here for general consumption. This and other SBA news items can be found here.

"SBA Increases Small Business Size Standards Due To Inflation
Interim Final Rule With Request For Comments

SBA has adjusted its monetary-based size standards (e.g., receipts, net worth, and financial assets), for the effect of inflation that has occurred since the last inflation adjustment in February 2002. Since the last inflation adjustment, the general level of prices has increased 8.7%. This action restores small business eligibility to businesses that have lost that status due to inflation. In addition, this rule changes the process for determining the size of small business concerns applying for SBA Business Loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) from a test considering only the primary industry of the applicant, to a two-part test considering both the primary industry of the applicant and the primary industry of the applicant with affiliates. This rule also changes the date on which SBA determines size status for purpose of EIDL applications for businesses located in disaster areas declared as a result of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.

The increased size standards are effective December 5, 2005.

For purposes of Federal procurements, this rule applies to solicitations, except for noncompetitive section 8(a) contracts, issued on or after January 5, 2006. For purposes of noncompetitive section 8(a) contracting actions, the new size standards are applicable to offers of requirements that are accepted by SBA on or after January 5, 2006.

Comments to the interim final rule are due by close of business January 5, 2006."

You may read and/or download the interim final rule published in the December 5, 2005 Federal Register (available in PDF form here (pages 7-18 provide the new size standard tables for specific NAICS codes).

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Misspelling?

These days I'm feeling a bit out of the loop. I'm not up on the latest trends in fashion. So, when we took a recent request on hip-hop clothing, I knew I had to do some background research. One of the clients was interested in several brands. I found myself getting nowhere on my search for the brand Academic. I tried doing a literature search, even narrowed the search to a specific fashion industry publication, WWD (Womens' Wear Daily), but found nothing. Darrin stopped by and I explained my quest. He suggested that the spelling of the brand might not be so obvious (and I had already searched for Baby Phat, another spelling for a clothing brand that wasn't exactly intuitive). I pressed forward searching under alternate spellings and lo and behold, there is a hip-hop brand called Akademiks.

If you have a research request for a brand, company name, or trademark, you'll save the Research Network some time (and get more accurate information) with the correct spelling. We understand that the client doesn't always know either, so just make your best effort. And we'll do the same.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

De-accessioned Books from the RN

These are books offered to the Regional Centers from the RN shelves. In most of these cases we have purchased the latest edition. While in some cases it is not advisable to rely on information from an outdated volume, some of these may still be quite useful. Please contact me should you be interested in having any of them. First-come, first-served.


Bond’s Franchise Guide 1999
DMA Statistical Factbook 2001
Franchise Opportunities Guide 2002
Kids Count Databooks 2000, 2001, 2002
New York Public Sector
The Community Sourcebook of County Demographics 2004
The Community Sourcebook of Zip Code Demographics 2004
The Lifestyle Market Analyst 2004
The Service Business Planning Guide by Warren G. Purdy
The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2003

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

New York State County ZIP Codes

The Empire State Development Library created a list of the NYS County zip codes arranged alphabetically.

"Please note: Zip codes bear no relation to county or other administrative boundaries. They are established by the U.S. Postal Service for mail delivery. In many cases a zip code may cover areas in more than one county."

For instance, 10466 is primarily a Bronx ZIP Code, but it also appears in part of Westchester County.

Albany County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12007 12009 12023 12041 12046 12047 12053 12054 12055 12059 12067 12077 12083 12084 12110 12120 12122 12143 12147 12158 12159 12183 12186 12189 12193 12202 12203 12204 12205 12206 12207 12208 12209 12210 12211 12303 12304 12309 12469

Allegany County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14060 14065 14536 14708 14709 14711 14714 14715 14717 14721 14727 14735 14739 14744 14754 14777 14802 14803 14804 14806 14807 14813 14822 14836 14846 14880 14884 14895 14897

Bronx County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 10034 10039 10451 10452 10453 10454 10455 10456 10457 10458 10459 10460 10461 10462 10463 10464 10465 10466 10467 10468 10469 10470 10471 10472 10473 10474 10475 10550 10805

Broome County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13730 13744 13746 13748 13754 13760 13777 13778 13787 13790 13795 13797 13802 13803 13811 13813 13826 13833 13835 13850 13862 13865 13901 13903 13904 13905

Cattaraugus County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14041 14042 14055 14060 14065 14070 14101 14129 14134 14138 14171 14706 14719 14726 14727 14729 14731 14737 14738 14741 14743 14747 14748 14753 14755 14760 14770 14772 14779

Cayuga County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13021 13026 13033 13034 13045 13071 13074 13080 13081 13092 13111 13118 13140 13143 13147 13152 13156 13160 13166

Chautauqua County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14048 14062 14063 14081 14136 14138 14701 14710 14712 14716 14718 14723 14724 14726 14728 14733 14736 14738 14740 14747 14750 14757 14767 14769 14775 14781 14782 14784 14787

Chemung County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14812 14814 14816 14825 14830 14838 14845 14859 14861 14864 14871 14872 14889 14892 14894 14901 14903 14904 14905

Chenango County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13040 13052 13072 13124 13136 13155 13332 13411 13460 13464 13485 13730 13733 13746 13778 13780 13787 13801 13809 13813 13815 13830 13832 13841 13843 13844

Clinton County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12901 12910 12911 12912 12918 12919 12921 12923 12924 12934 12935 12944 12952 12955 12958 12959 12962 12972 12978 12979 12981 12985 12992

Columbia County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12017 12024 12029 12037 12060 12062 12075 12106 12115 12125 12136 12156 12165 12168 12173 12184 12502 12503 12513 12516 12517 12521 12523 12526 12529 12534 12546 12567 12571

Cortland County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13040 13045 13050 13053 13055 13077 13101 13141 13158 13159 13803 13835 13862 13863

Delaware County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12093 12155 12167 12406 12421 12430 12434 12455 12468 12474 12776 13730 13731 13733 13739 13740 13750 13751 13752 13753 13754 13755 13756 13757 13775 13782 13783 13786 13788 13804 13806 13820 13838 13839 13842 13846 13849 13856 13859

Dutchess County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12501 12507 12508 12514 12522 12524 12526 12531 12533 12538 12540 12545 12546 12563 12564 12567 12569 12570 12571 12572 12578 12580 12581 12582 12583 12585 12590 12592 12594 12601 12603

Erie County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14001 14004 14006 14013 14025 14026 14030 14031 14032 14033 14034 14037 14042 14043 14047 14051 14052 14055 14057 14059 14068 14069 14070 14072 14075 14080 14081 14085 14086 14091 14102 14111 14120 14127 14134 14139 14141 14150 14170 14201 14202 14203 14204 14206 14207 14208 14209 14210 14211 14212 14213 14214 14215 14216 14217 14218 14219 14220 14221 14222 14223 14224 14225 14226 14227 14228

Essex County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12851 12852 12855 12857 12858 12870 12872 12883 12912 12913 12928 12932 12936 12941 12942 12943 12944 12946 12950 12956 12960 12961 12964 12974 12983 12987 12993 12994 12996 12997

Franklin County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12912 12913 12914 12916 12917 12920 12926 12930 12937 12938 12945 12953 12955 12957 12966 12967 12968 12969 12970 12981 12983 12986 12989 13655

Fulton County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12010 12025 12032 12068 12070 12078 12095 12117 12134 13329 13339 13452 13470

Genesee County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14001 14003 14004 14005 14011 14013 14020 14036 14040 14054 14058 14103 14125 14143 14416 14422 14482 14525 14591

Greene County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12015 12042 12051 12058 12083 12087 12135 12176 12192 12405 12407 12413 12414 12418 12422 12423 12424 12427 12430 12431 12439 12442 12444 12450 12451 12454 12460 12463 12468 12469 12470 12473 12477 12482 12485 12492 12496

Hamilton County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12032 12108 12134 12139 12164 12190 12812 12842 12847 12852 13353 13360 13436

Herkimer County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13304 13322 13324 13329 13331 13339 13340 13350 13357 13361 13365 13406 13407 13416 13420 13431 13438 13439 13454 13470 13475 13491 13502

Jefferson County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13601 13602 13603 13605 13606 13607 13608 13611 13612 13616 13618 13619 13622 13624 13626 13634 13636 13637 13638 13646 13650 13656 13659 13661 13665 13673 13675 13679 13682 13685 13691 13693 13698

Kings County, NY (county)- a/k/a-Brooklyn
Zip Code(s): 11201 11203 11204 11205 11206 11207 11208 11209 11210 11211 11212 11213 11214 11215 11216 11217 11218 11219 11220 11221 11222 11223 11224 11225 11226 11228 11229 11230 11231 11232 11233 11234 11235 11236 11237 11238 11239 11251 11385 11416 11693

Lewis County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13309 13316 13325 13327 13343 13345 13367 13368 13433 13437 13471 13473 13489 13619 13620 13626 13648 13665 13682

Livingston County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14414 14423 14435 14437 14454 14462 14466 14472 14480 14481 14485 14486 14487 14510 14512 14517 14525 14533 14545 14546 14560 14572 14822 14836 14846

Madison County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13030 13032 13035 13037 13052 13061 13072 13082 13085 13122 13310 13314 13332 13334 13346 13355 13402 13408 13409 13418 13421 13425 13460 13476 13480 13485 13491

Monroe County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14410 14414 14416 14420 14428 14445 14450 14464 14467 14468 14470 14472 14482 14502 14506 14514 14526 14534 14543 14546 14559 14564 14580 14586 14604 14605 14606 14607 14608 14609 14610 14611 14612 14613 14614 14615 14616 14617 14618 14619 14620 14621 14622 14623 14624 14625 14626

Montgomery County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12010 12053 12066 12068 12070 12072 12086 12095 12137 12160 12166 13317 13339 13428 13452 13459

Nassau County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 11001 11003 11010 11020 11021 11023 11024 11030 11040 11042 11050 11422 11426 11501 11507 11509 11510 11514 11516 11518 11520 11530 11542 11545 11548 11550 11552 11553 11554 11557 11558 11559 11560 11561 11563 11565 11566 11568 11570 11572 11575 11576 11577 11579 11580 11581 11590 11596 11598 11691 11696 11701 11709 11710 11714 11732 11735 11753 11756 11758 11762 11765 11771 11783 11791 11793 11797 11801 11803 11804

New York County, NY (county) - a/k/a Manhattan
Zip Code(s): 10001 10002 10003 10004 10005 10006 10007 10008 10009 10010 10011 10012 10013 10014 10015 10016 10017 10018 10019 10020 10021 10022 10023 10024 10025 10026 10027 10028 10029 10030 10031 10032 10033 10034 10035 10036 10037 10038 10039 10040 10041 10043 10044 10045 10046 10047 10048 10055 10060 10069 10072 10079 10080 10081 10082 10087 10090 10094 10095 10096 10098 10099 10101 10102 10103 10104 10105 10106 10107 10108 10109 10110 10111 10112 10113 10114 10115 10116 10117 10118 10119 10120 10121 10122 10123 10124 10125 10126 10128 10129 10130 10131 10132 10133 10138 10149 10150 10151 10152 10153 10154 10155 10156 10157 10158 10159 10160 10161 10162 10163 10164 10165 10166 10167 10168 10169 10170 10171 10172 10173 10174 10175 10176 10177 10178 10179 10184 10185 10196 10197 10199 10203 10211 10212 10213 10242 10249 10256 10257 10258 10259 10260 10261 10265 10268 10269 10270 10271 10272 10273 10274 10275 10276 10277 10278 10279 10280 10281 10282 10285 10286 10292

Niagara County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14001 14008 14012 14028 14067 14092 14094 14105 14108 14120 14131 14132 14172 14174 14301 14303 14304 14305

Oneida County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13042 13054 13301 13303 13304 13308 13309 13316 13318 13319 13322 13323 13328 13338 13354 13363 13401 13403 13413 13417 13421 13424 13425 13438 13440 13456 13461 13469 13471 13476 13477 13478 13480 13483 13486 13490 13491 13492 13494 13495 13501 13502

Onondaga County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13021 13027 13029 13030 13031 13036 13037 13039 13041 13050 13057 13060 13063 13066 13069 13077 13078 13080 13082 13084 13088 13090 13104 13108 13110 13112 13116 13120 13122 13135 13141 13152 13159 13164 13166 13202 13203 13204 13205 13206 13207 13208 13209 13210 13211 13212 13214 13215 13219 13224

Ontario County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14415 14424 14425 14432 14456 14466 14469 14471 14472 14475 14485 14487 14489 14502 14504 14512 14513 14522 14532 14534 14544 14548 14560 14561 14564

Orange County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 10916 10917 10918 10919 10921 10924 10925 10926 10928 10930 10940 10950 10958 10963 10969 10973 10975 10985 10987 10990 10992 10996 10998 12518 12520 12542 12543 12549 12550 12553 12566 12575 12577 12586 12589 12721 12729 12739 12746 12771 12780

Orleans County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14058 14098 14103 14105 14125 14411 14416 14422 14470 14476 14477 14571

Oswego County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13028 13030 13036 13039 13042 13044 13069 13074 13076 13083 13103 13114 13126 13131 13132 13135 13142 13144 13145 13167 13302 13437 13493 13661

Otsego County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12036 12064 12116 12155 12197 13315 13317 13320 13326 13333 13335 13337 13342 13348 13361 13415 13439 13450 13459 13466 13468 13482 13485 13488 13491 13776 13796 13807 13808 13809 13810 13820 13825 13834 13843 13849 13859 13861

Putnam County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 10509 10512 10516 10524 10537 10541 10579 12531 12533 12563 12582

Queens County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 11001 11004 11101 11102 11103 11104 11105 11106 11234 11354 11355 11356 11357 11358 11359 11360 11361 11362 11363 11364 11365 11366 11367 11368 11369 11370 11371 11372 11373 11374 11375 11377 11378 11379 11385 11411 11412 11413 11414 11415 11416 11417 11418 11419 11420 11421 11422 11423 11426 11427 11428 11429 11430 11432 11433 11434 11435 11436 11691 11692 11693 11694 11697

Rensselaer County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12018 12022 12028 12033 12052 12057 12061 12062 12090 12094 12121 12123 12130 12138 12140 12144 12153 12154 12156 12168 12169 12180 12182 12185 12196 12198

Richmond County, NY (county) - a/k/a Staten Island
Zip Code(s): 10301 10302 10303 10304 10305 10306 10307 10308 10309 10310 10312 10314

Rockland County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 10901 10911 10913 10920 10923 10927 10931 10952 10954 10956 10960 10962 10964 10965 10968 10970 10974 10976 10977 10980 10983 10984 10986 10989 10993 10994

Saint Lawrence County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12922 12938 12949 12965 12967 12973 12980 12986 13608 13613 13614 13617 13621 13625 13630 13633 13635 13642 13646 13648 13652 13654 13658 13660 13662 13666 13667 13668 13669 13670 13672 13676 13679 13680 13681 13684 13687 13690 13694 13695 13696 13697

Saratoga County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12010 12019 12020 12027 12065 12074 12118 12134 12148 12151 12170 12188 12302 12803 12804 12822 12831 12833 12835 12850 12859 12863 12866 12871

Schenectady County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12008 12010 12019 12053 12056 12066 12137 12148 12150 12302 12303 12304 12305 12306 12307 12308 12309

Schoharie County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12023 12031 12035 12036 12043 12053 12066 12071 12076 12092 12093 12113 12122 12131 12149 12157 12160 12166 12167 12175 12187 12194 12469 13459

Schuyler County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14805 14812 14815 14818 14824 14837 14841 14864 14865 14869 14870 14878 14886 14888 14891

Seneca County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13034 13148 13165 14433 14456 14489 14521 14532 14541 14847 14860 14886

Steuben County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14437 14512 14572 14801 14806 14807 14808 14809 14810 14812 14814 14815 14819 14820 14821 14823 14826 14830 14837 14839 14840 14843 14855 14858 14870 14871 14873 14874 14877 14879 14885 14897 14898

Suffolk County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 06390 11701 11702 11703 11704 11705 11706 11713 11715 11716 11717 11718 11719 11720 11721 11722 11724 11725 11726 11727 11729 11730 11731 11733 11735 11738 11740 11741 11742 11743 11746 11747 11751 11752 11754 11755 11757 11763 11764 11766 11767 11768 11769 11772 11776 11777 11778 11779 11780 11782 11784 11786 11787 11788 11789 11790 11792 11793 11794 11795 11796 11798 11901 11933 11934 11935 11937 11939 11940 11941 11942 11944 11946 11948 11949 11950 11951 11952 11953 11954 11955 11957 11961 11963 11964 11965 11967 11968 11971 11976 11977 11978 11980

Sullivan County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 10963 12566 12701 12719 12720 12721 12723 12725 12726 12727 12732 12733 12734 12736 12737 12738 12740 12741 12742 12743 12745 12747 12748 12750 12751 12752 12753 12754 12758 12759 12760 12762 12763 12764 12765 12766 12768 12770 12775 12776 12777 12779 12780 12782 12783 12786 12787 12788 12789 12790 12791 12792

Tioga County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13732 13734 13736 13743 13760 13811 13812 13827 13835 13864 14817 14859 14883 14892

Tompkins County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13053 13068 13073 13736 13864 14817 14850 14853 14867 14881 14882 14883 14886

Ulster County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12401 12404 12406 12409 12410 12411 12412 12416 12419 12428 12433 12435 12440 12443 12446 12448 12449 12456 12457 12458 12461 12462 12464 12465 12466 12472 12477 12480 12481 12484 12486 12487 12491 12494 12495 12498 12515 12525 12528 12542 12547 12548 12561 12566 12589 12725 12740 12753

Warren County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12801 12804 12808 12810 12814 12815 12817 12824 12835 12836 12843 12845 12846 12853 12860 12874 12878 12885 12886

Washington County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 12028 12057 12154 12185 12809 12816 12819 12821 12823 12824 12826 12827 12828 12832 12834 12837 12838 12839 12844 12849 12854 12861 12865 12873 12887

Wayne County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 13143 13146 13148 14433 14489 14502 14505 14513 14516 14519 14522 14551 14555 14568 14589 14590

Westchester County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 10466 10470 10501 10502 10504 10506 10507 10510 10511 10514 10518 10520 10522 10523 10524 10527 10528 10530 10532 10533 10535 10536 10538 10541 10543 10546 10547 10548 10549 10550 10552 10553 10560 10562 10566 10570 10573 10576 10577 10578 10580 10583 10588 10589 10590 10591 10594 10595 10597 10598 10601 10603 10604 10605 10606 10607 10701 10703 10704 10705 10706 10707 10708 10709 10710 10801 10803 10804 10805

Wyoming County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14004 14009 14011 14024 14037 14039 14040 14054 14066 14082 14083 14113 14145 14167 14427 14481 14525 14530 14536 14550 14569 14591

Yates County, NY (county)
Zip Code(s): 14415 14418 14441 14456 14478 14507 14512 14527 14544 14561 14837 14842 14873 14878
Compiled 10/01

Sources for zip code lookup:
US Postal Service
US gazetteer
NYS Department of Health

Another source for ZIP Codes by county is to go to <the Census Bureau's American Factfinder. Choose data sets.. Pick any of the Summary Files (SF) detailed tables. click on GEO within GEO tab, and pick 5-digit ZIP within county.

If you're looking for a ZIP Code map for each county, the best place I've found, strangely, is the state's Cancer Surveillance website. Click on the map anywhere, go to "County Maps and Data," pick the county of your choice, then select any map.

Monday, December 12, 2005

In Which State Should You Incorporate?

Last week, I sought an answer for a client who was planning to open businesses in more than one state. Part of the question focused on which state, then, should her corporation be registered in.

I found some information in a book we have in our collection. Here's an excerpt of what it says:

"So what state should you incorporate in? It's my opinion that you should incorporate in the state where you are doing business. That is, where your office is located. There are only two reasons to incorporate in another state - first, if you are going to have offices in many states, and second, for tax planning. If you are going to have offices in more than one state, Nevada makes a good choice because it is 'friendly' to corporations. Also, since Nevada has no state corporate income tax, you can lower your taxes by shifting income there from a taxable state. Needless to say, this is a sophisticated tax strategy meant for those with large tax bills and a good CPA.

The bottom line . . .
It's best to incorporate in the state where you are located when you first start out. If you get offices in other states later, you can relocate your corporate headquarters then. Besides, if you incorporate in another state, you'll have to register the corporation in your state as a 'foreign' or out-of-state corporation doing business in your own state."

from How to Form a Corporation, LLC or Partnership in New York. Brown, Dean W., Corporate Publishing, Inc., 2000, p. 24.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Top Inventors

This article gives an overview of author Kevin Maney's quest to identify the top inventors in the U.S. His own attempt to cull a list from the database of the United States Patent and Trademark Office proved futile. He called in some experts who were also befuddled and concluded: "The question, with variables including inventors with same last names and multiple names on patents, is apparently a database operator's nightmare." So, Maney was left to try other avenues to come up with some prolific patent-holders. The top inventor may surprise you. Click on the title of this entry, Top Inventors, to find out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Spamalot: Disposable E-mail Accounts

We’ve all grown accustomed to a certain amount of SPAM in our e-mail accounts, and I know many who choose to sacrifice an account on one service or another to SPAM while keeping their main address free of junk. Naturally then, there are products available to outfox spammers. Here are a few.

GishPuppy.com
Assures you can “take back your email” by registering with their free service which enables you to make aliases that you can use for online registrations and then easily delete whenever you want. This service is praised for it’s simplicity.

Jetable.org Disposable Email
These aliases automatically expire after a certain amount of time; 1 to 8 days. They are not connected to your actual email at all, so the down side is they stop forwarding to your regular email when they expire and cannot be manually reinstated.

Emailias.com
Offers a few more features. You set up an emailias button in your toolbar and when a registration asks for your email address, you click that button and it generates an alias.

SpamGourmet
Eats SPAM. Offers reply address masking, a more flexible tool, it offers some control over words in aliases, trusted senders do not get cut off, even after the alias expires. You can also extend the life of an alias manually.

Yahoo! Mail
Offers AddressGuard™, through which you can create aliases. Yahoo! is a reliable brand and offers tons of space.

ZoEmail
Offered by AT&T Labs has got rave reviews for virtually eliminating SPAM.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

O Canada

It used to be that when I would Google for some obscure statistical figure, as often as not, I would hit on something from Statistics Canada, which would be irritating, because I wanted numbers for the United States.

Statistics Canada is a centralized statistical agency that serves the federal and provinical governments. It originated in 1919 as the Dominion Bureau of Statistics. It conducts over 400 surveys.

While some of the raw statistics are available on the page, many of the reports are only available for a price. It is supposed to operate on a cost-recovery basis.

One section that is totally free, as far as I can tell, is the Canadian Census.
It is similar to the U.S Census in that it depends on self-enumeration (the US since 1970, Canada since 1971). Both countries use short forms (100% response requested) and sample data long forms. Some of the geographies (metropolitan areas, census tracts, blocks) are comparable.
Conversely, Canada has collected data about religion since 1871, something that does not happen in the United States because of the separation of church and state. It has only been counting the non-"Caucasian" non-aboriginal population since 1996; "visible minorities" include Arab and Latin American populations. Canada recognizes common law marital status.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Native American Capital

We frequently receive requests on behalf of clients who are Native American, wondering if they qualify for any grants based on their heritage. As usual, there aren't any grants available specifically for Native American businesses.

Recently, though, I received an e-mail that announced the arrival of a company called Native American Capital. Their mission, according to their Web site, is to "foster and promote business and economic development in Indian Country through investment of private equity capital in promising new and developing high growth businesses in Native American and Alaskan Native communities."

As they are new, I don't have much information as to their effectiveness. However, if you've clients of Native American descent who have a promising business venture, this is a potential source that ought to be investigated.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Al Hirsch

Allyn Hirsch, Certified Senior Business Advisor, at Stony Brook, has retired after 10 years of service.
Allyn’s background was in the defense industry and expertise in engineering and technology, which had enabled him to offer clients a wide variety of assistance, especially manufacturing companies and inventors of technical products. He had assisted clients in obtaining venture capital as well as traditional bank financing.
Allyn is a graduate of Polytechnic University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. His last day was November 30.

He was one of the top five counselors in 1998.

We in the Research Network will miss him, not only because he asked really well defined questions, but also because he always showed a personal interest in our well-being.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Evaluating Web Content

Ever come across information on the web and wondered about its accuracy? Here in the Research Network we try to evaluate web content by checking for:
  • credibility
  • authority
  • reliability
  • relevance
  • date
  • sources behind the text, and
  • scope and purpose.
For example, a recent article in USA Today found a false Wikipedia 'biography' for John Seigenthaler, Robert Kennedy's administrative assistant in the early 1960s. Seigenthaler himself found the inaccurate text on Wikipedia and his son located the same inaccurate information on Reference.com and Answers.com. "Representatives of the other two websites said their computers are programmed to copy data verbatim from Wikipedia, never checking whether it is false or factual."

So, how do you know if the Wikipedia entry you found or anything else on the web is true? Use the web with caution, verify facts and try to find cooberating evidence from articles or books by experts in the field. Keep in mind that just because it's in print doesn't mean it's true. My seventh grade English teacher quoted Benjamin Franklin who said, "Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see." (Should we believe him?)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

New Books on the Shelves

Federal yellow book:
Fall 2005

New York State government directory 2005-2006

New York State Farm fresh guide 2002-2003
Central Region
Western Region
Metro Region
Eastern Region

Clinkinbeard, Curtis J.
Hypergrow your business -- double, triple or quadruple
any business by harnessing the natural laws of growth.

Aiken, Richard
The Relationship between wildlife watchers, hunters, and anglers
Report 2001

Private and public land use by hunters
Report 2001

We also get a number of special issues and supplements from journals in our collection that we don't always get to share. A few on my desk are:

Advertising Age's

Hispanic Fact Pack: An Annual Guide to Hispanic Advertising and Marketing, 2004 and 2005
Fact Pack: An Annual Guide to Advertising & Marketing, 2004 and 2005
Agency Preview Guide 2004
Point: Marketing at C-Level, March 2005

American Demographics

Marketing Tools Sourcebook 2003
Diversity in America

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Good business

Purloined verbatem from an e-mail. For all except the first article, tou will have to register with BNET, but it's free.

  • BusinessWeek has a great interview/book review on the importance of details to customer service.

    Author Michael Levine says that operational details, such as limited hours and dirty bathrooms send a message to customers about the general quality of a business.
    These details have a more significant effect on customers than you might think:

    "The consumer mind has a logical and emotional part, and if you don't speak to both, you will lose them, especially when they're hungry, tired, angry, or lonely.
    "We're living in an age of anxiety. When people are not hungry, tired, angry, or lonely, the emotional side will win the debate with the logical part of the brain 80% of the time. When they're hungry, tired, angry, or lonely, emotion wins 100% of time. We are often hungry, tired, angry, or lonely, so it's exceedingly dangerous if you're a business to ignore the emotional part of the brain."
    What do the details of your operation look like? If they could use a tune-up, these BNET resources will help you get started.

  • Best Practices in New-Customer Service
    New customers are a delicate client sector virtually for any organization. Because they do not have a history with the company, they have no reason to be loyal-until, through excellent service, the company gives them one. Article discusses a study commissioned by Entergy, to learn how leading organizations define excellent customer service and achieve the high levels of service to new customers that lead to their retention. The scope of the study included discovering how "best-practice" organizations: optimize new customers' experiences, elevate first impressions, improve customer interface, provide beneficial new customer services, emphasize a focus on the customer, and follow up with new customers within six months to one year.

  • Perfect Customer Service: Bigger is NOT Better
    The bigger the customer service department is the less efficient it is at serving customers. If management developed alternative solutions to customers' needs, some or all parts of the customer service department could be eliminated. Customer service departments would look very different than they do today if products showed up on time, employees did what was expected, orders were completed with precision and products rarely, if ever, failed.

  • Organizing for Customer-Centric Marketing
    Marketing communications is shifting away from mass media toward an approach informed by deep audience knowledge. This places database marketing groups -- and the customer insight they have amassed -- into the organizational spotlight. But many of these groups play a service-focused role that hampers customer -centric communication. To help firms map out a vision, road map, and skills portfolio for customer-centric direct-to-consumer marketing, Forrester has developed a four -stage maturity model.

  • Differentiate Your Business Based On Outstanding Customer Service
    Outstanding customer service requires several things: 1) a sincere and powerful commitment to serving customers and prospective customers at the highest possible level each and every time, 2) excellent people, 3) stringent expectations and policies regarding how customers are served along with a high level of accountability for enforcing those expectations and policies and 4) a discipline about serving customers consistently in manner that not only meets customer expectations, but often exceeds them. Achieving outstanding customer service means hard work and attention to detail as well.
  • Monday, November 28, 2005

    Grocery Items - Private Label Database

    The Web site for Private Label Buyer magazine has a searchable database of their 2005 Supplier Source Book:
    http://www.privatelabelbuyer.com/guide/

    This magazine describes itself as being geared towards supermarkets and other retail chains selling store-brand products. This section of their Web site is aimed at buyers for supermarket or grocery stores.

    Every supermarket has a line of products that they sell as their own, but, in actuality, are obtained from one of these manufacturers.

    Clients who've manufactured a product typically sold in such a place have this site, then, as a possible marketing tool. The site allows for three ways to search - by a specific company name, by a location, or by a product category.

    If you have a client who's interested in getting placed on this database, contact information for the staff at Private Label Buyer can be found here:
    http://www.privatelabelbuyer.com/contact.php

    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    Tourism Research Sources in New York State

    I was very excited to go to a session at the State Data Center affiliates meeting in late October. It was designated with the title listed above. We often get requests for regional tourism data. I was less excited at the end of the session.

    I assumed that the folks who bring us I Love NY would have great statistics that would show the success for ther campaign. Unfortunately, most of these statistics are for sale, if they are available at all. The state Department of Economic Development receives merely a summary of the data compiled by D.K. Shiffet & Associates. For your clients to buy them would be extremely expensive (five figures).

    As for the hotel occupancy numbers, they are tallied by Smith Travel Research, which will cost at least a few hundred dollars. Fortunately, many newspapers subscribe, so we CAN often provide data based on articles.

    Other sources cited but not discussed:

    Travel Industry Association of America Decent state level data.

    U.S. Department of Commerce. Good for international traveler data to a state.

    NYC & Company. Very light on data, though I did find this.

    Northern NY Tourism Research Center. GOOD DATA! Unfortunately only for the counties of
    Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Warren.

    Occasionally, I have also gotten decent information from the local Chamber of Commerce.

    Monday, November 21, 2005

    WebMQS - Contact/Prep/Clerical time issues

    This post covers two distinct situations:

    1) There've been questions asked recently at certain Regional Centers regarding what constitutes clerical time in the Counselor Hours section for WebMQS case records. Some advisors feel that they're doing clerical work (such as doing data entry on WebMQS), while others feel that clerical work is exclusive only to office managers or other support staff.

    To clarify, time spent by the advisor to prepare for a client meeting, to review documents, to follow-up after a meeting, and in completing other tasks relating to the case (including data entry for WebMQS) should be counted as Prep Time.

    Conversely, time spent by the office manager or other support staff to prepare for a client meeting - such as making copies, assembling information packets, and so on - should be counted as Clerical Time.

    2) To reiterate from my 6/20 blog posting, some advisors are in the habit of adding the time spent in communicating a request to the Research Network to the case record. If you are doing this, then that time should be considered Prep. Since there is no option on the drop-down menu called "Research Network," it is not possible to assign this time to us. Instead, logically, it should be assigned to the advisor working the case.

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Small Town Shops and the Web

    An article in yesterday's New York Times discusses how "the Internet is allowing small stores...to develop the niche products that shield them against big-box retailers." Small-Town Shops Bulk Up on the Web gives several examples of small-town shops meeting success through a combination of Internet sales and Main Street store fronts.

    In upstate New York, downtown Ithaca is a hub of new retail activity and tourist trade generated by Internet marketing and sales. "There's an upside and a downside of marketing on the Internet," said Gary Ferguson, the executive director of the Ithaca Downtown Partnership, a business development group. "The floral business has been changed dramatically by the Internet. More and more people are buying flowers online. We had a business called Plantations that had been here for 30 years and had a hard time with the transition and didn't make it. "On the other hand, we have three used-book stores, and they do half their business on the Internet," Mr. Ferguson said.

    Of course balancing Internet sales with the day-to-day management of a retail store is not for everyone. Small businesses need to understand the ins and outs of e-commerce before jumping in with both feet. To learn more, click on the title of this blog to read the article.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    Customer Relationship Management

    Wikipedia has a pretty tidy definition of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) exists “to enable organizations to better manage their customers through the introduction of reliable processes and procedures for interacting with those customers.” This is a bit more than a mere definition; it covers some tips on improving customer relationships. Worth a visit. Obviously written by someone who cares, albeit with some differences of opinion on whether CRM is a “real” area of expertise. These pages can be quite lively with discussions about issues relating to the main topic.
    I would argue that these “specialties” pop up because so many businesses fall down in these areas. There is often money to be made on someone else’s failures. So, it seems that there is the idea behind CRM and then the technology.

    IT Toolbox: CRM Knowledge Base
    A community of IT professionals sharing best practices, discussion groups, and newsletters as well as white papers and links. One of many key topics, CRM or Customer Relationship Management is an area they focus on, primarily from the technology point of view.

    There is also the Customer Relationship Management Association that has a good list of CRM resources, publishes a newsletter and offers access to industry research from IT research companies, among them: Forrester, Gartner, and Frost & Sullivan.

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    Languages - Who Speaks What, and Where?

    The Web site for the Modern Language Association has a feature that "displays the locations and numbers of speakers of the thirty languages most commonly spoken in the United States."

    If you have a client who seeks to know where a certain language/ethnic background is located, this site is a decent starting point: http://www.mla.org/census_main

    The site combines mapping & data tables that are simple to use & understand. Like many sites have done, MLA has taken a lot of information that you can find yourself on the Census Bureau Web site, but re-packaged it in such a way as to make it a snap to find language-related data.

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Identity Theft Prevention

    Roger has touched on the issue of identity theft in a previous post or two. Today, I came across an excellent article on preventing identity theft written by a woman whose identity has been stolen three times. It contains steps to identity theft prevention including "Ten Things to Do Today" and "Seven Things to Do By Next Week" as well as what to do if your identity is stolen and lists of contacts to help. Where should you start? Read the article from Information Today at http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/nov05/ebbinghouse.shtml. Take action on the author's suggestions: request a credit report, consider getting a P.O. box, and perhaps add a photo ID to your credit card and/or debit card. These are just a few of the tasks that can limit the odds of identity theft.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    Latest Volume of Business Plans Handbook

    Here's the list of sample business plans from volume 11 of the Business Plans Handbook:

    Adventure Travel Lodging Company: Cobra Travel Adventure Group
    Brewpub: Hopstreet Brewery
    Cigar Company: Smokescreen Cigars
    Construction Development & Real Estate Firm: Black Pearl Development & Real Estate LLC
    Construction and Home Rehabilitation Company: Pedro’s Construction
    Daycare Facility: Rachel’s Clubhouse
    Giftware Company: Jenni Frey Gifts
    Handmade Greeting Card Company: Heartsongs
    Handyman Service: “I’m the Man!” Handyman Services
    Homeless Shelter: Sister Joan of Arc Center
    Interior Design Company: Make It Your Own Space Inc.
    Interior Painting Service: Eyecatching Interiors LLC
    Internet Loyalty Program: Tunes4You
    Internet Services Portal Site: Net Solutions
    Massage Therapists: MASSAGEWORKS
    Mentally Disabled Care Facility: Welcome Home Organization
    Motorcycle Dealership and Racetrack: Zoom Motors
    Online Mortgage Company: Valuable Mortgage
    Pizzeria: Coastal Pizza
    Private Investigator: FBEyes

    Also, Fictional Plan Templates :
    Food Distributor
    Hardware Store

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    Proprietary Schools

    The Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision (BPSS) oversees and monitors non-degree granting proprietary schools in New York State. The Bureau is responsible for ensuring that the overall educational quality of the programs offered will provide students with the necessary skills to secure meaningful employment and for protecting students' financial interests while attending proprietary schools. BPSS licenses/registers proprietary schools and credentials proprietary school teachers to ensure that appropriate standards are met. The Bureau investigates student complaints and conducts comprehensive investigations of schools to assure compliance with Education Law and Commissioner's Regulations. Proprietary schools under BPSS jurisdiction include trade and business schools, computer training facilities, and for-profit English as a Second Language (ESL) schools.

    So, if you have clients who want to start a school to teach bartending, pet grooming, cosmetology or barbering, modeling, business skills and technology, any of the businesses listed in the previous sentence, or just about any non-degree school you or your client can imagine, click on the title of the article. This is the place to go, complete with forms.

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    Business Lists - How Old is the Information?

    Creating lists of businesses is a daily occurrence at the Research Network. The (vast) majority of time, we use the American Business Disc to create them. Clients use these lists for mailings. Often we hear of how the list is out-of-date.

    ABD is one of several products published by infoUSA. Since so many of you ask for lists, I called infoUSA to learn just how the data in ABD can be.

    Subscribers to the ABD (such as ourselves) get two editions every year. Both editions represent a snapshot of a database that is constantly changing. These snapshots are taken roughly at the end of a calendar year (that's the first edition), and at the end of June (the second edition). (They don't take the snapshot at the same time every year, which is why I say "roughly".)

    The CDs are then distributed to infoUSA customers on a staggered basis. The first edition is ready to be mailed starting in March or April, while the second is sent out starting in October or November. We typically receive our editions in May and November.

    The CD we’re currently using, then, is the first edition for 2005. It represents data that infoUSA had in their database in late December 2004.

    However, infoUSA doesn't update the entirety of their database in one huge individual session. Instead, it's done throughout the year. They're reliant on the receipt of phone directories (including the Yellow Pages) from around the country. These are published, obviously, all throughout a year. For instance, the Yellow Pages for Albany & the surrounding Capital District is published in December of each year. InfoUSA would get a copy of those Yellow Pages, and upload the information into their own database. The company employs hundreds of people who do nothing but contact the businesses in that current directory. These employees then verify the address & fax numbers provided in the Yellow Pages, along with other information not found in a phone directory (like the name of the current manager or executive).

    If a company that was in the infoUSA database cannot be found in the most current Yellow Pages, then it is dropped from the database, and won't appear in the next edition of the ABD. If that company has moved, then ABD will reflect a change of address.

    The age of the data you receive, then, depends on when infoUSA received the Yellow Pages for the area in your search. For the sake of discussion, let's say your search focused on an area of the state whose Yellow Pages comes out every August. Data from that issue is mailed to infoUSA (they subscribe to every Yellow Pages in the country). It's uploaded into their database. Verification ensues, which may or may not be included by that time in December when they take a snapshot of the existing database for the next edition of the ABD. The snapshot database is then processed elsewhere by the company, and eventually becomes the first edition ABD for that calendar year. Distribution to ABD subscribers then begins in March. Because of the staggered schedule, organizations like ours don't receive the first edition until late April/early May.

    We at the Research Network then install ABD onto our computer network, and begin using the product to answer queries from advisors around the state. That first edition stays on our network until (roughly) November. The second edition arrives, we install it, and it overwrites the contents of the first edition.

    In other words, a Yellow Pages distributed in August 2004 will exist on our version of ABD until November 2005. That's over a year. In addition, the company publishing the Yellow Pages might have a cut-off date of their own (say, businesses that were verifiably in place in late June 2004). That would make the information on ABD that much older.

    Several advisors have wondered why mailings generated from lists we've provided their clients result in a fair number of "return to senders". This explanation is the reason why.

    Lists bought directly from infoUSA's Web site (or through their Web-based Reference USA product) are a bit more up-to-date. The CD-ROM version, however, is much more cost-effective, and also provides us greater flexibility in designing searches, downloading, and printing.

    It's a trade-off we're willing to make.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    Hurricane Vehicle Fraud Database

    If you or your clients purchase used vehicles, this free resource, Hurricane Vehicle Fraud Database, may be of interest. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has compiled a database of vehicles and watercraft affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The information in the database was gathered from a number of sources, including insurance companies, salvage yards and state and local authorities. As a result, the NICB has not independently verified most of the information in this database and cannot, therefore, vouch for the accuracy of this information. In addition, there may be many additional vehicles and watercraft affected by the hurricanes not included in this database.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Inventors New Show

    ABC has another reality-TV program idea from the producers of American Inventor. Now inventors will have an opportunity to show their stuff on American Inventor, the new prime-time program set to premiere in early 2006. Contestants can show off their product and have it voted on by the American public, with hopes to win the million dollar prize for best concept. Auditions are being held through November and December for those of our clients who are less tight-lipped about their inventions. Host City is New York for December 7th. Time and place have yet to be set.

    “An embodiment of the ultimate American dream, the show will uncover the hottest new product and make some struggling inventor's dream come true. The show will celebrate the best in homespun American ingenuity and will turn one person's idea into the next big thing.”

    There are some products that are ineligible:

    Drugs
    Medical devices
    Plants
    Adult entertainment products
    Firearms and explosive devices
    Hazardous chemicals or materials
    Computer programming software
    Any product or service that might impact national security

    The FAQ page offers quite a bit of advice on patent protection and the risks involved in this kind of promotional activity.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    SBIR

    In anticipation of the SBIR conference taking place in Albany in a couple weeks, I urge you to familiarize yourself with the Small Business Innovation Research program by going here. You'll find an overview of the program. Click on the Announcements and Solicitations button on the left, and you'll be directed to the SBIR websites for the 10 participating agencies, which are:

    Department of Agriculture
    Department of Commerce
    Department of Defense
    Department of Education
    Department of Energy
    Department of Health and Human Services
    Department of Transportation
    Environmental Protection Agency
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    National Science Foundation

    There are three phases of the grant process:

    Phase I is the startup phase. Awards of up to $100,000 for approximately 6 months support exploration of the technical merit or feasibility of an idea or technology.

    Phase II awards of up to $750,000, for as many as 2 years, expand Phase I results. During this time, the R&D work is performed and the developer evaluates commercialization potential. Only Phase I award winners are considered for Phase II.

    Phase III is the period during which Phase II innovation moves from the laboratory into the marketplace. No SBIR funds support this phase. The small business must find funding in the private sector or other non-SBIR federal agency funding.

    Monday, October 31, 2005

    Purchasing Power/Workforce Info by ZIP Code

    The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has created a page that is a real time-saver. They've taken data that you can find from the Census Bureau - if you had LOTS of available time - and the built a useful Web site around it.

    The aim of the site is to provide data on a) consumer purchasing power and b) a workforce overview. Data can be found for specific ZIP codes, metro areas, or Census tracts.

    At this Web site http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/ETI/PurchasingPower/purchasing.htm, you'll find these options:
    1. Purchasing Power by Census Tracts for custom made printouts of purchasing power for 16 retail categories and data on the workforce population for any U.S. census tract.
    2. Purchasing Power by ZIP Code for data on retail expenditures for 16 consumer areas, retail and business establishments, and the available workforce for all residential zipcodes in the U.S.
    3. Purchasing Power Rankings for Top 100 Metro Areas for ZIP code rankings of each of the 16 retail expenditure categories for the 100 largest metro areas.
    4. Free Geographic Databases for shapefiles and business, household, and workforce census databases to help map your area.
    5. Maps of Purchasing Power for Food-at-Home and Apparel to download free maps of purchasing power for the top 100 metro areas in the U.S.
    6. Urban Markets Retail Sales Leakage/Surplus Drill Downs to show the difference between each metro neighborhood's purchasing power and estimated retail sales.

    (For those of you not familiar with your Census tract, you can find that out by entering a specific address at this site: http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/AGSGeoAddressServlet?_lang=en&_programYear=50&_treeId=420).

    I've not fully investigated this site, but it's worth a look.

    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    Have you updated your info. in the Internal web site today?

    This week, after completing a question for a business advisor, I realized that I didn't have a mailing address for the new outreach office. (1) I quickly logged into the Internal web site but found no information. (2) Then, I called the main regional center and left a message. So, the package sat on my desk until the next day. I waited and waited, but still no call back. I couldn't call the business advisor himself because his original request was via e-mail and did not list the outreach office phone number. (3) Finally, in late afternoon of the second day, I called the main regional center again and was able to get the phone number and address, but not the ZIP code. I thought this was the last step, but I had to (4) call the outreach center to get the ZIP code. So, after 4 steps, I managed to get the package in the mail.

    The point of all of this is my plea for all of you to take a look at your center's information as well as your personal contact information in the Internal web site. If you can't get into the Internal web site (which all of you are allowed to at different levels of access), speak to your Center Director. Your contact information should be current at all times - address, phone number and e-mail address. Believe it or not, we here at Central use the Internal web site every day. You should, too.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    Pet Peeves

    Survey Says…Internet Pet Peeves: What Drives Consumers Away From Your E-Business Hostway Corporation

    Pet peeves about commercial websites or how to drive customers away. Top three: of course, pop-ups, required registration, and required installation of extra software

    “…more than 70 percent of consumers say they’re unlikely to purchase from, or even return to, a Web site after encountering these pet peeves..”

    All Merchants
    More of what not to do on your website including dead links, worn-out phrases and solid pages of text. A few points to consider when designing a web site while considering your audience.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    Customer service is good business

    For your clients in all lines of business, not just service and retail. For all except the first article, you will have to register with BNET, but the registration is free.

  • BusinessWeek has a great interview/book review on the importance of details to customer service.

    Author Michael Levine says that operational details, such as limited hours and dirty bathrooms send a message to customers about the general quality of a business.
    These details have a more significant effect on customers than you might think:

    "The consumer mind has a logical and emotional part, and if you don't speak to both, you will lose them, especially when they're hungry, tired, angry, or lonely.
    "We're living in an age of anxiety. When people are not hungry, tired, angry, or lonely, the emotional side will win the debate with the logical part of the brain 80% of the time. When they're hungry, tired, angry, or lonely, emotion wins 100% of time. We are often hungry, tired, angry, or lonely, so it's exceedingly dangerous if you're a business to ignore the emotional part of the brain."
    What do the details of your operation look like? If they could use a tune-up, these BNET resources will help you get started.

  • Best Practices in New-Customer Service
    New customers are a delicate client sector virtually for any organization. Because they do not have a history with the company, they have no reason to be loyal-until, through excellent service, the company gives them one. Article discusses a study commissioned by Entergy, to learn how leading organizations define excellent customer service and achieve the high levels of service to new customers that lead to their retention. The scope of the study included discovering how "best-practice" organizations: optimize new customers' experiences, elevate first impressions, improve customer interface, provide beneficial new customer services, emphasize a focus on the customer, and follow up with new customers within six months to one year.

  • Perfect Customer Service: Bigger is NOT Better
    The bigger the customer service department is the less efficient it is at serving customers. If management developed alternative solutions to customers' needs, some or all parts of the customer service department could be eliminated. Customer service departments would look very different than they do today if products showed up on time, employees did what was expected, orders were completed with precision and products rarely, if ever, failed.

  • Organizing for Customer-Centric Marketing
    Marketing communications is shifting away from mass media toward an approach informed by deep audience knowledge. This places database marketing groups -- and the customer insight they have amassed -- into the organizational spotlight. But many of these groups play a service-focused role that hampers customer -centric communication. To help firms map out a vision, road map, and skills portfolio for customer-centric direct-to-consumer marketing, Forrester has developed a four -stage maturity model.

  • Differentiate Your Business Based On Outstanding Customer Service
    Outstanding customer service requires several things: 1) a sincere and powerful commitment to serving customers and prospective customers at the highest possible level each and every time, 2) excellent people, 3) stringent expectations and policies regarding how customers are served along with a high level of accountability for enforcing those expectations and policies and 4) a discipline about serving customers consistently in manner that not only meets customer expectations, but often exceeds them. Achieving outstanding customer service means hard work and attention to detail as well.
  • Monday, October 24, 2005

    Creating a Newsletter?

    Over the summer, I heard from someone at the Brockport SBDC. She was helping in the creation of a center newsletter, to be distributed among past clients & other friends of the program. She was looking for any sources of royalty- or copyright-free articles on the Web.

    If you're in the same boat, you might want to check out what I found:

    * http://www.articlecity.com

    * http://goarticles.com

    Both of these sites break down their content by subject, and both have a heading for "business". So if (or shall I say, when) you're pressed for time, check out these sites for possible content ideas.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    Ethics and Competitive Intelligence

    Two librarians of the Research Network attended a program on competitive intelligence last week. Speaker Ellen Reen discussed the importance of ethics in any research and analysis whether for your employer or your own business.

    First and foremost, the issue of ethics in competitive intelligence must be considered. Always clearly identify yourself prior to first person interviews and avoid conflict of interest. It is important to establish policies for your organization to prevent unethical or illegal practices. Further research into the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals' Code of Ethics and Fuld's Ten Commandments can aid in developing standards for an organization. For example, the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 makes the theft or misappropriation of a trade secret a federal crime. If you or your employees conduct unethical or illegal activity, your business could be at risk. Ultimately, speaker Ellen Reen likes to ask, "How would this activity look on the front page?" or "What would my grandmother say?"

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Hiring and Keeping Good People

    Apparently more than 60% of small business owners feel that finding and retaining qualified staff is their number one problem. I poked around and found a few articles and books that summarize some of the issues and offer a few suggestions.

    Drive a Modest Car & 16 Other Keys to Small Business Success
    By Ralph E. Warner
    Nolo Press
    Suggests researching what similar jobs pay in your area, particularly those with lowest pay, “if you don’t, these penny-conscious employees are sure to feel slighted, and you’ll quickly lose the most efficient ones.” Warner also suggests looking at workers with comparable skills within your own organization; pay should reflect the level of skill and responsibility of the person in the job. Consistency and fairness will encourage loyalty and trust.

    Great Salespeople Aren't Born, They're Hired: The Secrets To Hiring Top Sales Professionals
    by Joe Miller, Patrick Longo(Editor)
    Demonstrates how to narrow choices among a variety of styles of salesperson, and avoid pitfalls. “Unearth the dirty secrets of the mediocre recruiter’s usual M.O. and master effective interview techniques through extensive real-life examples, role-plays, and step-by-step instruction.”

    Hiring & Firing - Hiring Top Performers
    BusinessTown.com
    "If you're trying to achieve excellent levels of performance in your organization, it's going to be a lot easier if you hire terrific people in the first place."

    This article offers some tips on how to advertise, phone interviewing, and sorting through resumes and how to learn as much about an applicant as you can to ensure a good hire.

    Hiring Top Sales Talent
    http://www.morebusiness.com/
    Quick and dirty tips on making decisions about applicants and their potential as sales staff.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    If You Don't Understand It...

    One of the SBDC advisors called last week with a question. It happened that his client e-mailed him with a question about glass, but it didn't jibe with the rest of the question, which was about pottery and dinnerware. So he wrote back to the client and asked if perhaps she meant glassWARE; indeed, she did. The question is conveyed to the library and everybody's happy.

    Let's imagine if the advisor hadn't taken the initiative to clarify the query. The Research Network finds information about glass, sends it to the advisor, who passes it on to the client. The client is dissatisfied; that's NOT what she wanted. The beleaguered advisor has to contact the Research Network to ask them to redo that part of the question, which is frustrating to the librarian who wants to get it right the first time. It becomes a waste of time for all involved.

    Here's a good rule of thumb: If you get a question e-mailed or faxed to you, please read it to make sure it makes contextual sense to you. If the advisor working with the client doesn't understand the question, it's a good chance that the reference librarian won't understand it either.

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    Venture Capital Research

    Once in a while, we'll get inquiries as to the names of venture capitalist firms that might be a potential source of financing for certain clients. To find them, we utilize a CD-ROM titled "Galante's Venture Capital & Private Equity Directory". It provides descriptions of thousands of VC firms either headquartered or with branch offices here in the U.S.

    All CD-ROMs in our collection have their own quirks, requiring us to know their unique whims in order to get the most out of them. This one is no different.

    Should you require such a search, it would be helpful for us to know the answers to as many of the following as possible:
    • The funding stage at which the company is currently. In other words, does it need seed money, or is it a startup, or is it still in research & development?
    • For what industry is the business seeking the funding? Galante's has 31 broad industry categories, including "Transportation," or "Medical Devices," or "Food Services/Products," and others.
    • The amount of funding being sought. Several firms indicate a minimum and maximum amount that they'll consider investing.

    Usually, we'll limit for you those firms whose territory includes New York State. If that restricts the results too much, we'll expand the search to include a wider geography.

    When we get the results, we'll print out more detailed descriptions for each firm. Unfortunately, this resource doesn't allow for exporting results electronically. Hopefully, future versions will allow this.

    Thursday, October 13, 2005

    Small Business Drives Inner City Growth and Jobs

    Small Business Drives Inner City Growth and Jobs
    Small businesses are the drivers of inner city economies and job
    growth, according to a new study released today by the Office of
    Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Read the SBA press release, the research summary or the complete 30-page report (in PDF format).
    - posted to PR Newswire via Yahoo! Finance, Tue, 11 Oct 2005

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    Standards

    Here’s a list of organizations whose business it is to track standards from various bodies, covering many industries with their descriptions attached.

    American National Standards Institute
    “The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private, non-profit organization (501(c)3) that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system.”

    Master List of ISO Standards
    “ISO is the leading developer of International Standards. ISO standards specify the requirements for state of the art products, services, processes, materials and systems, and for good conformity assessment, managerial and organizational practice. ISO Standards are designed to be implemented worldwide.”

    The World-Wide Web Virtual Library--Standards and Standards Bodies
    “World Standards Services Network (WSSN), is a network of publicly accessible World Wide Web servers of standards organizations around the world. Through the Web sites of its members, WSSN provides information on international, regional and national standardization and related activities and services.”

    With links to:
    International Organization for Standardization - ISO
    International Electrotechnical Commission - IEC
    International Telecommunication Union - ITU http://www.itu.int/home/index.html
    International standardizing bodies
    Regional standardizing bodies
    National members of ISO and IEC

    Thursday, October 06, 2005

    New York State Quality Communities Program

    In the October issue of Grants Action News, the Department of State announced the availability of funding through the New York State Quality Communities Program which may be of interest to regional SBDCs. Under this program, funds are available for planning projects that revitalize downtowns, develop strong economies and protect environmental resources. Eligible applicants may apply for grants by submitting proposals that incorporate one or more of the following programs: Intermunicipal Growth, Community Growth, Community Open Space, Mountain Communities, and Community Center.

    ELIGIBILITY: Counties, towns, cities, villages, local public authorities, public benefit corporations, Indian tribes/nations, and not-for-profit corporations.

    FUNDING: Contact the Department of State for details.

    DEADLINE: December 5, 2005.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION: Requests for applications and forms along with other pertinent information are available for downloading from the Quality Communities Clearinghouse Web site, www.qualitycommunities.org. Other information is available by calling (518) 473-3355 or by sending an e-mail to QC@dos.state.ny.us.

    Wednesday, October 05, 2005

    Trust

    From selling products online to selling relationships, businesses need to gain the trust of their customers. Whether they are buying a book or finding a roommate, the customer needs to know that their personal data is in safe hands. Especially for an older generation who are not at all comfortable with online retailing, our clients who are looking to this group as potential customers need to know how to address their fears. I am often surprised at vendors who offer no assurance of security on their websites and yet expect sales. Here are a few articles on the subject.


    Building Trust on the Internet
    Making Your Client's Privacy Your Business

    Inspiring Trust Online
    SitePoint By Jennifer Johnson

    VeriSign
    Probably the best known name in ecommerce security, they offer a widening number of tools for the online business, from payment processing to database tools. You will also find a number of guides on their site explaining the issues facing ecommerce businesses like: What Every E-Business Should Know about SSL Security and Consumer Trust.

    Straight TalkingTo tell or not to tell?
    That's a no-brainer if you want to build credibility with your customers.
    Entrepreneur magazine - October 2002
    By Melissa Campanelli

    E-Commerce-Guide.com: News, reviews and practical solutions for your online business
    “The goal of the ECommerce-Guide.com is to provide the single best source of independent, up-to-date information about electronic commerce. Our editorial content is 100% e-commerce - with everything including daily news, feature articles, product guides, case studies, an e-commerce events calendar, and e-commerce-focused discussion forums.” This site also reviews products – software and tools for the online business.

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    Return to vendor

    You might call them liquidators, or odd lot processors, but there is a whole industry out there called reverse logistics. From http://www.logisticstoday.com/displayStory.asp?nID=6417:
    Reverse logistics is the process of moving goods from their consumer destination for the purpose of capturing value, or proper disposal. It includes processing returned merchandise due to damage, seasonal inventory, restock, salvage, recalls and excess inventory, as well as packaging and shipping materials from the end user or reseller.

    Check out the main page cited above. You should also view a a 283 page report on Reverse Logistics trends.

    Monday, October 03, 2005

    Launching a New Product

    Advisors across the state are no stranger to clients who've developed a product that could be the Next Big Thing, if only they knew how to get it to market.

    Not long ago, the Research Network purchased a compact, 45-page primer on this very thing. It's called "The Complete Guide to Marketing and Launching a New Product," and was published in 2004. Its author, Matthew Yubas, has been a marketing consultant to small businesses for 20 years.

    Sections in the article are short and simple, providing tidbits on such things as how to price properly; how to brand the product; a launch checklist; using direct mail effectively; and others. Often the text will direct a reader to other sources for additional information.

    Again, this is a brief introduction to the methods of bringing a product to market, and likely reiterates information that you provide your clients during the consultation period. However, clients who are simply bewildered at where to begin, and how to organize themselves, should benefit greatly from reading this overview.

    Thursday, September 29, 2005

    Tapping into the Hispanic Market

    • By the year 2020 the Hispanic population is projected to reach 53 million, with buying power projected to surpass the $1 trillion mark by the year 2010.
    • The median income of Hispanic households rose by 20% from $27,977…to $33,565...between 1996 and 2001 while the median for all households increased...6%.
    • Of all ethnic groups, Hispanics frequent the mall the most (10.1 times per three-week period) and stay the longest (91.5 minutes).

    These factoids and more can be found at HispanSource, a web site devoted to Hispanic market info. This site is a one-stop resource for locating marketing and research findings, reports, and references related to marketing to the Hispanic community. HispanSource is a joint creation of several parties—the City of St. Paul, Minn.; the James J. Hill Reference Library; Aguilar Productions; and Latinocreative.com. All are located in the St. Paul/Minneapolis (Minn.) area. Note: HispanSource is free but requires registration.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005

    On Burnout:

    “Burnout is spiritual, physical, emotional and/or mental exhaustion, usually resulting from one or more long-term, unsatisfying efforts. Burnout seems to be on the rise in organizations, resulting in poor health, poor performance and conflicts in the workplace (internal conflicts and conflicts with others).” by Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD http://www.managementhelp.org/prsn_wll/burnout.htm

    With the pressures of finances and looming deadlines, it is easy for companies to forget that their biggest asset is the people who keep the business going. When negative attitudes are not kept in check, they spread, morale falters and productivity suffers. Managers need to spot and fix problems before they contribute to an overall negative atmosphere.
    For a very complete explanation of burnout and it’s symptoms and effects, visit http://www.fmi.uni-passau.de/worterklaerungen/burnout.html

    Negativity in the Workplace
    Brian Norris

    Brian Norris is selling something. Seminars and training programs - but he does offer some freebie insights into how to better cope with burnout and negativity at work. He also offers a “creativity day camp”.

    Some of his advice is:
    • Always remember you are in control of your own reality
    • When it comes to experiencing emotions, we are not alone.
    • Your attitude is the foundation for your employees’ sense of reality.
    • Take the time to understand and to be understood by everyone you come in contact with.
    • Additionally, moderate the flow of gossip.

    Other articles on the topic:


    How Savvy Managers Are Boosting Morale By Carol Hymowitz The Wall Street Journal Online
    Boosting Employee Morale
    Small Business Administrationfor an article on what employee morale and productivity mean to small business.

    WORKING STIFF Stress-o-meter
    Survey written by Robin Marks with help from Teri Winfield Hicks. A site that is no longer – but still has an extremely brief, irreverent yet surprisingly on –point self-quiz to measure one’s stress level.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2005

    File it for later

    One of the SBDC regional centers actually reproduces much of the information it receives from the Research Network and puts in into a vertical file, by category.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that YOUR center do that, but you might consider making copies of frequently requested data, information that many clients, and the center itself, could make good use of. Most of what we send out does not change on a weekly or monthly basis. Some of this includes:

    Traffic patterns
    Demographic information, especially from the print sources:
    -Community Sourcebook of County Demographics
    -Community Sourcebook of ZIP Code Demographics
    -Lifestyle Market Analyst
    Industry data specific to the region

    A new center director came up to Central and visited the library. He indicated that the demographic information we pulled for him will be of use for several of his clients.

    Also, a center may have a number of requests for the same type of general information, the type included in the DOL packets. Maybe there are lots of folks in your area that, because of the geographical constraints or the the rising cost of gasoline, want to start a home-based business. Make a copy of the informaton and keep it on file for six months. If a business plan seems to be very popular, consider holding on to a copy of that.

    By acting on some of these suggestions, you will be able to respond to your clients’ needs more quickly while keeping your friendly librarians from going crazy, copying the same material for the same advisor over and over and over...

    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Small Business Blogs

    Now that you're accustomed to reading the Research Network blog, you may want to branch out to read other blogs. For example, do a search in Google for "small business blogs" and the results show a plethora from which to choose. Here are a few worth noting:
    Once you start reading, it's hard to stop. Let us know what your favorite blogs are.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    The Business of Art

    Visual Artists and Craftspeople

    The New York Foundation for the Arts tops my list for information on the business of art. They offer articles on all the key topics for any working artist – money, legal issues, marketing, mental health, and also include interviews and profiles on working artists. They also include a classified section and lots of information on grants, fellowships and residencies.

    Arts Marketing.org
    A walk through the steps an arts organization (in the broad sense of the word) needs travel to reach their marketing goals. Includes case studies like a look at a successful direct marketing campaign completed by an arts museum, rebranding and attracting the family audience.

    The Graphic Arts Guild
    An essential resource for graphic artists, they publish the GAG Pricing & Ethical Guidelines Handbook that every graphic designer should already know but also have a good website that has one immediately useful feature: Ask Mark, a tip sheet with intelligent answers to common issues like a pre-contract checklist and guidance on how to protect copyright. Like their book, they also offer sound advice on researching and setting prices.

    The New York Council for the Arts
    A no frills site for the grant-making agency of the State of New York.

    AmericanCraft.com
    This nicely designed site offers a lot of useful information, particularly Crafting as a Business and Craft Retailer News with articles on various aspects of the business and a listing of the top 100 retailers in the country . There is also a market calendar with show dates – something we often get requests for.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2005

    Census business data

    I went to a workshop on Census data this summer, and I foiund some things that may not be clear to you or your clients:

    Census does economic surveys on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis, depending on the survey. These tend to be of limited detail, and mostly national.
    Census conducts the Economic Census every 5 years, the years ending with 2 and 7. The data are industry specific and addresses a detailed geography, often down to the county level. While the Economic Census does get sent out to businesses, the Census Bureau also relies on administrative records, such as filings of federal tax schedules relating to businesses.
    The Economic Census does NOT cover Agriculture or Government. The Census of Agriculture is run by the USDA. while the Census Bureau does a separate Census of Governments.

    A reminder: Census Bureau surveys are CONFIDENTIAL, which means that it does not give individual or business data to the IRS, or USCIS (the former INS). This allows more effective gathering so that the data may be analyzed for public and private sector uses.
    Public sector: benchmarking, tracking economic change, attracting new businesses, assisting development
    Private sector: study the industry for market share and product trends, study business markets for site locations and sales forecasts, evaluate estimates

    Monday, September 19, 2005

    Small Business Fax Transmissions

    In 2003, the FCC was proposing a revision to Federal law that would mandate all for-profit businesses to have express written permission from a recipient before sending them a commercial fax. Small business owners complained that faxes were an established marketing tool for many of them. The proposed rule change would have made it illegal to send unsolicited faxes to even long-time customers.

    However, the FCC relented. In July 2005, the Junk Fax Prevention Act was signed into law. Among other things, the Act recognizes the "established business relationship" rule. Now, unsolicited faxes can be sent if 1) the sender can prove an established business relationship with the recipient, and 2) the fax contains a conspicuous notice on its first page enabling the recipient to opt out of any future faxes. Businesses must obtain fax numbers directly from the recipient, or from published sources such as phone directories, company advertisements, or the company Web site.

    The phrase "established business relationship" is defined by U.S. law as having "a prior or existing relationship formed by a voluntary two-way communication between a person or entity" and a receiving business or resident. The FCC is clear on the length of the grace period allowed a business to claim such a relationship when it comes to telephone communications. Federal law stipulates that a relationship exists for no more than 18 months after a customer purchased a product or service, or no more than 3 months if a customer merely inquired of a company's products or services.

    However, Federal law for fax transmissions, though, isn't as cut-and-tried, and is defined as a period "no longer in duration than the Commission believes is consistent with the reasonable expectations of consumers". Starting no earlier than October 2005, the FCC may commence proceedings to determine whether to limit the duration of the existence of an established business relationship.

    All of this makes it next to impossible for start-up businesses to market themselves via fax. Existing businesses are advised to use their best judgment - I don't recommend faxing to customers who've not been heard from in years. Also, in accordance with the law, just provide a recipient with an option to get out of future faxes. Most people would be grateful to have that option.