Thursday, June 30, 2005

Small Business by the Numbers

When the Press calls, you need statistics fast.
  • How many small businesses are there?
  • What is the survival rate for new firms?
  • How many businesses open and close each year?
  • How many new jobs do small firms create?

These and many more Frequently Asked Questions are answered by the SBA’s Office of Advocacy in this PDF document or on the web.

If you need New York State-specific statistics, check out SBA's State Economic Profiles. These annual profiles show the number of small, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses for each state; business turnover (new firms, bankruptcies and terminations); employment; small business income; sources of financing; firms by industry and firm size; and non-farm establishment job gains and losses by firm size. The 2004 New York profile is available in two formats: PDF or plain text.

This data is also available on the NYS SBDC web site at: http://www.nyssbdc.org/News/SmallBizStats/smallbizstats.html.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Driving People to your Door

I am attracted to the human aspect of business which is why I find marketing so interesting. Here are few articles and books that may be of interest:

Targeting People of Caribbean Heritage: 4 Common Errors
by Xavier Murphy June 28, 2005
MarketingProfs.com http://www.marketingprofs.com/5/murphyX1.asp
“Marketers who ignore people of Caribbean heritage are missing on the opportunities to showcase their products and services to a fast-growing segment with significant buying power.”

5 illustrious strategies to explode your web site traffic
by Benjamin Scott
The Marketing Resource Center http://www.marketingsource.com/articles/view/1917
“Are you spending hundreds of dollars on advertising campaigns, only to find out that you have earned a very small profit or none at all? Here are 5 illustrious strategies that will help you explode and create viral traffic to your web site.”

Mind over market: over 20 years ago, Jay Conrad Levinson changed the way entrepreneurs thought about marketing with his book Guerrilla Marketing.
Now, he shows you how to master guerrilla marketing for the 21st century

by Jay Conrad Levinson, Al Lautenslager
Entrepreneur Magazine March, 2oo5
“In the spirit of guerrilla marketing, marketing is everything you do or say that your prospects and customers see and hear from you. This includes everyone you meet, every vendor contact, every sign, and every point of contact and every communication. A guerrilla marketing mind-set requires thinking about all this all the time.”


Entrepreneur Magazine's Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide: Over 1500 Great Marketing Tricks That Will Drive Your Business Through the Roof
by James Stephenson
$15.61

Big Business Marketing For Small Business Budgets
by Jeanette Maw McMurtry
$13.57

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Protect yourself

The Federal Trade Commission is my first destination when I get a variety of reference topics that involve making sure that individuals are not being "ripped off" by an entity:
CREDIT: Consumers have important protections under the Fair Credit Reporting Act
IDENTITY THEFT: How to fight it
PRIVACY: A delineation of the rights of the consumer
CONSUMER INFORMATION: Things to know about Lasik eye surgery, indoor tanning, product labeling
CONSUMER PROTECTION: Deciphering advertising and marketing practices, avoiding scams
FRANCHISING: Certain states (including) NYS) have tougher regulations for would be franchisers

Another valuable national tool in consumer protection is The Consumer Protection Safety Commission. It describes itself as an "independent US regulatory agency that helps keep American families safe by reducing the risk of injury or death from consumer products." These are the folks who issue the product recalls that sometimes make the papers.

New York State also has a Consumer Protection Board where one can register for Do Not Call, complain about utilities’ excesses, plus many of the function s of the FTC on a state level.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Web-based businesses & NAICS codes

One of the benefits of the NAICS Code classification system is that it classifies the PC- and Internet-based businesses that often defied description in the SIC Code Manual.

I've noticed in WebMQS, however, that there's an attempt to classify e-commerce businesses by the product line being sold, or Web-based services by the service being offered.

The 2002 NAICS code system has removed the guesswork from these situations. Just keep these codes in mind the next time you have a Web-based business client:
  • 454111 - "Electronic Shopping" - For those establishments that retail all types of merchandise using the Internet, regardless of the product being sold.
  • 454112 - "Electronic Auctions" - For businesses akin to eBay.
  • 518111 - "Internet Service Providers" - For businesses that promise Internet access & other services to their customers.
  • 518112 - "Web Search Portals" - For those businesses that maintain informational databases that visitors can tap into. Revenue is generated either by selling either site memberships or advertising (or both). Many of the Web-based databases used by the Research Network would fall under this heading.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Beyond Google

Many of us have come to rely on Google when searching the web. And, I admit, Google gives me the results I want, most of the time. But no search engine can find everything. Try these options in your spare time and post a comment when you do:

Did you know that Yahoo! now crawls the web on its own? Yahoo! News gets selective feeds directly from publishers and crawls over 7000 sources for news. You can set up keyword news alerts for free with Yahoo! Alerts. Still like Google's clean interface? Get it on Yahoo! at http://search.yahoo.com/.

Have you ever tried A9 from Amazon.com? A9.com includes results from Amazon's "Search Inside the Book" feature - the service that allows you to search the full-text of over 120,000 current books. Searching A9, I found out the average commissions paid to Avon independent reps. for a Buffalo advisor's recent inquiry.

Clusty is a different kind of search tool. It uses a Clustering Engine to organize search results into folders grouping similar items together. If you type "pearl" into the search field, the results show folders for: jewelry, Pearl Harbor, Pearl Jam and oysters, among others. Simply click on the appropriate folder and you'll get more relevant results.

If you want to compare search engine results, go to Thumbshots Ranking. Type in your search term and choose the search engines you want to compare. The results show the number of overlapping pages and the number of unique pages. In general, there is very little overlap in the web page databases of the major search engines. Learn how to use this tool in depth.

If you want to become more of an expert on search engines, visit my favorite site - Search Engine Watch.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Recent Acquisitions

We've had a number of additions to the collection here in the library, some replacing older editions and some completely new to us. While this is not a complete list, it contains a number of sources that may be of interest. Although they are in our reference collection and do not circulate, you may want to note that we have them and may have already seen them in your enquiry packets.

  • Aftermarket Fact Book 2004/2005
  • Hotel Operating Statistics Study 2004: Report for Year 2003
  • Bond’s Franchise Guide 2004
  • Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association: Market Intelligence Reports 2004
  • Bowker’s News Media Directory 2005
  • National Associations of Convenience Stores: State of the Industry 2004
  • Restaurant Industry Operations report 2004
  • National Coffee Drinking Trends 2004
  • Ukers’ International Tea & Coffee Directory and Buyers guide 2004
  • American Pet Products Manufacturers Association: National Pet Owners Survey
  • Professional Carwashing and Detailing: 2004 Automatic Carwash Operations Benchmarking Report
  • Professional Carwashing and Detailing: 2004 Self-Serve Carwashing Benchmarking Survey Report
  • Valuation Resources.com: Small Business Valuation Formula Multiples 2004
  • LMP 2005 : Literary Market Place : The Directory of the Book Publishing Industry
  • High Volume Retailers 2005: The Alternate Channel Sourcebook

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

It's the Law

A popular source for the status of a bill pending in Congress is Thomas: Legislative Information on the Internet. Named for our third President, Thomas Jefferson, it is also a repository for the Congressional Record going back to 1989, and Public Laws going back to 1973. One can search bills by committee, by a word or phrase, or, if you have it, the bill number. One thing to keep in mind: when you see citations to a numbered Congress, such as the 109th Congress, it refers to the two-year period between the swearings in of a new Congress. The 109th Congress coves 2005 and 2006, the 108th Congress covered 2003 and 2004, and so forth.

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is where you will find the rules of the Cabinet departments and other executive agencies of the Federal Government. There are 50 volumes that are updated annually; the first 16 on January 1st, Titles 17-27 on April 1st, Titles 28-41 on July 1st, and Titles 42-50 on October 1st. The CFR that covers the Small Business Administration and the SBDC program is Title 13, Business Credit and Assistance. But you don’t have to know that, since the Search mechanism will aid you in finding the current regulations.

Pending and existing New York State law can be retrieved in a database provided by the New York State Legislature.

Monday, June 20, 2005

WebMQS & Research Network hours

As you know, the Research Network has taken it upon itself to enter the research time into the new WebMQS that it expends on behalf of clients. It saves work for the advisor, and serves as a management tool for the library. Because of this, advisors will not see "Research Network" or "Central Library" in any drop-down menu at their disposal.

However, we've lately noticed that some advisors assign the time spent in phoning or e-mailing an information request (usually 0.1 or 0.2 hours) to the case record. We know this because an attempt is made to assign this time specifically to the Research Network. Since there's no "Research Network" option in any drop-down menus, some advisors assign this time to existing choices (such as "National Library" or "Albany SBDC Assistance") that haven't earned it.

The proper procedure when communicating with the Research Network for a specific client is to enter the expended time under Prep hours, and assign it to the advisor working on the case.

The time ought to be captured. However, there's no need to assign it to the Research Network. Assign it to yourself.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Copyright FAQs

Starting with the basics, what does copyright actually protect? Copyright protects "original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed."

If there is no copyright symbol, is a work still protected? Assume that a work is protected unless you have clear evidence that it's in the public domain. U.S. law does not require the copyright symbol © to be posted.

Can I freely use information that I found on the web? "The original authorship appearing on a website may be protected by copyright. This includes writings, artwork, photographs, and other forms of authorship protected by copyright." See Copyright Registration for Online Works.

Am I allowed to e-mail an article to my co-workers or post it on the Internal web site? The answer to this question depends on how you obtained the article and what use rights accompany the article.

If the answer to many of my questions is, "It depends," how do I know what I'm allowed to copy or use? Ask the owner of the copyright. "If you know who the copyright owner is, you may contact the owner directly. If you are not certain about the ownership or have other related questions, you may wish to request that the Copyright Office conduct a search of its records or you may search yourself. " You can also contact a licensing representative such as the Copyright Clearance Center.

The quoted sections of this FAQ were obtained from the U.S. Copyright Office.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mother of Invention

Inventors…a topic near and dear to us all. If you’ve come to us on behalf of an inventor, you may have seen these sources. You may appreciate them for reinforcing any realism you may be trying to encourage.

The Patent Café – Inventors’ Café

Offers a step by step look at the process of getting a product to market including patent information and a bit on scams to beware of. They are selling something – inventor’s journals, and starter kit but there is a nice brief summary of the process and a good links page. http://www.patentcafe.com/

The Entrepreneur Network (TEN)

Not to be confused with Entrepreneur Magazine, this site is very good from the point of view of offering advice to the absolute beginner. They are a program of the Zimmer Foundation and are affiliated with SCORE (though they do give SBDCs a plug on their site). This site includes a lot of very good articles on every aspect of inventing and book reviews and also includes a list of inventor evaluation services. http://tenonline.org/

Will it Sell? How to Determine if your Invention is Profitably Marketable (Before Wasting Money on a Patent) offered by James E. White & Associates.

Information on idea development, patents, licensing and an in-depth look at the entire inventing process with sobering advice. The author has developed an extensive list of links for all aspects of inventing and may give clients an idea of just how much research goes into developing any product. http://www.willitsell.com/

Lastly… The National Inventors Hall of Fame which wins points from me for being such a nicely designed site – both clean and playful, it offers profiles of major inventors and inventions as well as guidance and information on contests and conventions. http://www.invent.org/

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Census Data for New York City

There is great information available on the pages of the U.S. Census Bureau, down to the smallest hamlet. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get Census data for the neighborhoods of New York City, such as Greenpoint/Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Lower East Side/Chinatown in Manhattan, or Elmhurst/Corona in Queens from the Census page, because they are not considered "real" entities. You COULD look at some maps and try to combine Census blocks (tedious) or use ZIP Codes (very imprecise).

The best solution is to use the page from the New York City Planning Department. It defines 59 community districts, including 12 in the Bronx, 18 in Brooklyn, 12 in Manhattan, 14 in Queens, and 3 in Staten Island. In other words, the City Planning Department has taken Census data and has done the complicated neighborhood statistical calculations for you. In addition to demographic data, the district profiles include land use data, "public and private schools, parks, public safety, health, mental health and other social service facilities."

Monday, June 13, 2005

Business Credit Reports

Every blue moon, an advisor will call the Research Network looking for a "D&B report" for this company or that. A comprehensive D&B credit report costs $130 (though they offer other reports, with less information, for fewer dollars).

However, we just learned of an alternative worth exploring. Experian - one of the three main credit reporting agencies in the U.S. - offers on their Web site what they call Smart Business Reports. At this page, you can view their sample reports. Their deluxe model (called "ProfilePlus") offers much of the same information found in D&B's comprehensive report, including:
  • business history
  • credit summary (including credit score)
  • average amount owed each month
  • monthly payment trends
  • an itemized list of recent trade payments
  • bank & insurance carrier information
  • current leases
  • any existing or recently-settled tax liens and UCC filings
All of this can be had for just $44.95. Even better, if you run a search for a particular company in Experian, they will tell you (unlike D&B) whether they have extensive data for that firm, so you don't waste your money.

From now on, the Research Network will turn to Experian first. Their data is respected, and their price is right. You - and your clients - should consider it as well.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

New York Agriculture Statistics Service

Each year, the employees of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conduct hundreds of surveys and prepare reports covering virtually every facet of U.S. agriculture -- production and supplies of food and fiber, prices paid and received by farmers, farm labor and wages, farm aspects of the industry. The New York Agricultural Statistics Service provides a link between USDA, NASS, and New York.

The data can be useful for your agricultural clients writing business plans. For example, the web site contains County Brochures showing the number of farms, land area, and leading agricultural products for New York State counties (except Nassau, and NYC's 5 boroughs).

You can also view special surveys for the equine breeding industry, fruit tree and vineyards, and wineries. For example, Wayne County, with 17,156 acres, remains the major producing county of apples accounting for 38 percent of the state’s apple acreage. Ulster County continued in second position with 5,669 acres or 13 percent of the total apple acreage. Orleans County retained third place with 4,805 acres, 11 percent of the total apple acreage.

The Statistics Reports section includes data on dairy, honey, maple syrup and trout among other products. Additionally, there are weekly Crop Weather reports which can help your agricultural clients gauge how their competition is doing around the state. This week "Reports from Madison County are showing that strawberries were damaged from the frost a few weeks ago." If your client produces strawberries elsewhere, s/he may find a market this year in Madison County.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Pricing Realism

Every industry has its issues with setting prices and estimating. Particularly we get enquiries on pricing guidelines for contractors, graphic designers, crafts people and consulting services. While I strongly believe clients should be proactive enough to join their industry association through which they can usually get very sound advice on setting rates and benchmarking, I realize they often do not. Associations are a huge resource to us but more and more the best and most useful information is understandably reserved for members. Even sites that are actually trying to sell you something can still sometimes offer a few useful nuggets. As with everything, you should never rely on only one source.

For example:

The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association website has a number of articles on the topic, discussing the merits of various service pricing methods. Sites such as these also often include bulletin boards where business and owners can advise each other, an informal but often quite useful source. http://www.phccweb.org

Wire-Sculpture.com offers an article entitled “How to Price your Wire Jewelry for Wholesale or Retail Business”. They describe various scenarios and guidelines for working out a price.

Entrepreneur.com One article I sent out recently is called “Setting the Right Price: How to balance costs and profits when charging for the items you sell”. In this case the example business is a gift basket service. I find that often the type of business is less important – that the metric is what is useful, usually along service and product lines.

We also have a number of books in our collection dealing with this issue.

How to Start and Build a Law Practice by Jay G. Foonberg is a very useful source of information on setting fees, billing and getting paid.

Estimating for Contractors: How to Make Estimates that Win Jobs by Paul J. Cook is another good if dated.

A bit sideways from this topic is a book entitled: Consultant & Independent Contractor Agreements by Attorney Stephen Fishman which is a Nolo Press publication and is very current. It covers various types of contractors including construction, and including a number of issues that should be addressed in a business agreement. Nolo’s website is a great resource and also has advice on figuring how much you're worth aimed at the service enterprise.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Being Green

We've received a number of questions over the years about making purchasing choices that are environmentally sound. The July 2005 Consumer Reports announced a new website so consumers can have reliable information in choosing "green" products. So far, the categories are autos, appliances, home & garden, electronics, and food, with more sections to be added. The site at GreenerChoices.org, was launched, appropriately, on April 22.
It also shows how you can get rid of old cell phones, computers, and other electronics. "You might even get some money for them," the article states, but most links are donation sites.

You, or your environmentally-concerned clients, may also be interested in:

  • The Green Products Alliance, a "consortium of manufacturers and marketers who make and sell extraordinarily natural personal care products."
  • Green Seal, an "independent, non-profit organization that strives to achieve a healthier and cleaner environment by identifying and promoting products and services that cause less toxic pollution and waste, conserve resources and habitats, and minimize global warming and ozone depletion."
  • Co-op America's National Green Pages, "The nation's only directory of screened and approved green businesses."

Monday, June 06, 2005

Searching for NAICS codes

Roger presented information on NAICS codes at the recent staff training in Lake Placid. It was necessary because you'll need this information to enter the right code in the new WebMQS.

For those who weren't at the workshop, I thought it'd be useful to pass on a search tip for finding the right NAICS code. In the new WebMQS, when you're in the "Add Initial Case" section, you'll notice that Al Scher provided a link to "Code Definitions" to the left of the "NAICS Code" field: http://www.census.gov/epcd/naics02/naico602.htm.

When you click on this, you'll notice a search box in the upper right (with the phrase "Enter keyword"). Enter a word that best describes the case at hand. The results you see are those codes that use that word. (The search box is accessing a database that is the equivalent of the 400-page Alphabetic Index, found near the back of the print version of the 2002 NAICS Manual). If you don't have access to the book, you at least have access to its index via this Web site.

For example, enter "restaurant," and you'll see 11 entries. The NAICS code exists in the middle column. Click on the NAICS number to get a fuller description of what this code entails.

I'm working with Al to add a feature to the Add Initial Case page. Each item in the Business Type drop-down menu is a broad NAICS category. I've asked Al if he'd add the two-digit number that is associated with each category. For instance, "Accommodation and Food Services" will be prefaced with a "72". I hope for this feature to be available soon.

If you're not familiar with NAICS, it can be tough to try & guess which Business Type is applicable. I suggest using the "Code Definitions" first to find the right NAICS code. Make note of its first two digits - these will be your guide when using the Business Type drop-down. Go back into WebMQS, and select that Business Type, and then select the NAICS code you've already determined.

Hopefully, that will make this process a LOT easier.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Privileges of the Cards

As of June 22, 2004, all New York State residents, 18 years and older, are eligible to receive a NYS Resident's Borrower's card for the New York State Library (NYSL). This card will allow those individuals to directly borrow items from the NYS Library and to remotely access NOVEL databases. This program gives New York State residents onsite borrowing privileges; materials will not be mailed to individuals under this program. What are the NOVEL databases, you ask? Some of the same tools your librarians at the Research Network use every day:
  • Business & Company ASAP (database of full-text articles on companies, markets and industries)
  • Business & Company Resource Center (database of company profiles, brand information, company histories, SEC reports, and periodical articles)
  • Business Plans Handbooks volumes 5-10 (print out sample plans in PDF format)
  • InfoTrac Custom Newspapers (contains the New York Times from 2000 on, 7 New York newspapers and more!)

This list is just a sampling of what's available. There is also a database in Spanish: Informe Revistas en Espanol.

At the New York Public Library (NYPL), a Branch Libraries' card is free to anyone who lives, works, pays property taxes, or attends school in New York State. Others may apply, with payment of a $100 annual fee, for a nonresident library card. You will need a Branch Libraries' card if you wish to borrow materials from any NYPL branch, or use the online databases from outside the Library.

Of the NYPL databases, you might enjoy:

  • Auto Repair Reference Center (covers 33 categories of automotive care and maintenance, plus glossary of automotive terminology)
  • Business Source Premier (full-text for over 2,470 scholarly business journals covering management, economics, finance, accounting, international business and much more)
  • Encyclopedia of Associations (includes nonprofit voluntary membership organizations, such as professional societies, trade associations, labor unions, cultural and religious organizations)
  • Newspaper Source (provides fulltext access to many national and international newspapers, newswires, and indexes an additional four national newspapers.)
  • Regional Business News (coverage of 75 business journals, newspapers and newswires from all metropolitan and rural areas within the United States)

There is some overlap between the databases available from NYSL and NYPL, but enough varied options to make it worthwhile to get both cards.

Of course, you can still call the Research Network at x.149 and we will be happy to search the databases to help answer your clients' questions. :)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

I checked out an article entitled Population Out-Migration from Upstate New York to see how my area (Troy) was doing and was surprised to see the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area is actually growing in population. Glens Falls was the leader with Rochester in third.
This is a good site for information on national and local economic indicators, particularly the newsletter, even if the news isn’t always good.

Upstate New York Newsletter
is published by the Buffalo branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, it covers issues like tourism, the upstate economy under NAICS, and business cycles among other statistics.

Empire State Manufacturing Survey
For business conditions for manufacturers in the State including business outlook. The report covers inventories, orders, delivery time, employees and shipments overall. A broad overview.

The Beige Book
is a report published 8 times a year with information on current conditions, including consumer spending in various industries including tourism, and commercial real estate markets.