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.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Business Insurance

Looking for basic information on insurance coverage for businesses? Check out the following links:

  • You are not required by law to have liability, property damage or other types of business insurance, but very few businesses can realistically operate without some form of optional coverage. Read more on the different types from Empire State Development.
  • The Insurance Information Institute has launched an online edition of Commercial Insurance to help businesses better understand the basics of commercial insurance -- what it is and how it works. The site, which will be updated as new data comes in, can be accessed at http://www.commercialinsurancefacts.org.
  • A business owner's policy protects against economic losses caused by damage to the owner's property and by legal liability to others for bodily injury and property damage involving the business. This page begins a section covering the three basic types: liability, special business forms and property insurance: http://www.finance.cch.com/text/c30s30d010.asp.
  • Health Insurance: A Small Business Guide from the NYS Insurance Dept.: http://www.ins.state.ny.us/acrobat/hsmbsrpt.pdf.
  • Property Casualty Insurance: A Small Business Guide from the NYS Insurance Dept.: http://www.ins.state.ny.us/acrobat/pcsmbus.pdf.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Web Site Design

I’ve seen a number of articles on good web design but I sometimes wonder if anyone reads them. Maybe it looks so straight forward – like a page in Word, but really it is a unique venue and some guidelines are needed for a business to put their best foot forward.

Issues to face are the overall impression of a site, the actual content, including language usage and grammar, the speed of access to your information, the design of the site, text that one can actually read organization, navigation and privacy.

These books take various approaches:


Don’t make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steven Krug
A quick low-down on what web users are looking for and how to evaluate sites and all doe with a sense of humor.

Web Pages That Suck: Learn Good Design by Looking at Bad Design by Vincent Flanders, Michael Willis. Vincent Flanders also maintains a blog highlighting more examples of what not to do on http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/

Creating Killer Web Sites 2nd ed. By David Siegal
For those who aspire to a well designed site.

David Siegal also wrote Secrets of Successful Web Sites: Project management on the World Wide Web. Which addresses some of the issues not faced in Web Pages That Suck book, like living in the real world of clients and budgets.

Even for those not willing to buy a book, there are a lot of free tips to be had on the Internet like http://www.webstyleguide.com/ or http://www.secretsites.com/ or any number of tutorials on university web sites.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

The Census Bureau has some statistics on the number of folks affected by Hurricane Katrina here and here.

A PDF report on the construction and real estate implications in New Orleans

Unfortunately, the Red Cross and FEMAhad been working different systems while trying to find the missing, but appear to be working more closely now.

Another sad occurrence: as with every disaster of late, there are unscupulous people operating in the alleged name of Katrina victims.

The National Restaurant Association has planned a Dine for America event to help hurricane victims on October 5.

After Katrina, and also after 9/11/01, there has been a greater emphasis on anticipating the possibility of fire, flood and other natural and human-made disasters at home and at the office. FEMA has a 204-page document about citizen preparedness. Generaslly speaking, FEMA's plan expects that individuals should have a 2- to 3-day supply of food, water and other necessities before expecting to be rescued. Also, there's a lot of information of off-site storage of important back-up data.

Of course, Katrina was not entirely a surprise, a noted in this National Geographic article from October 2004.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Lists of Events

Recently, I answered a request for a client who wished to retail her products at fairs and festivals. She wanted a list of such events in a given region of the state.

During research, I came across a site called EventsCrazy.com. It's managed by Events Media Network, Inc., who, among other things, publish selected events directories. The site can be reached at www.eventcrazy.com, and it had the answers I needed for this client.

If you've clients with similar needs, I recommend going there. On your first visit, you (or your client) will have to register. It's free, but you can't search until doing so.

The site allows you to search for events and attractions in three different ways:
1) those within a given radius around a ZIP code that you provide, within dates that you specify; or
2) those by a city & state that you provide, within dates that you specify; or
3) by clicking among a list of states (say, New York), and then clicking on a given city.

Results are then broken down into major categories (festivals, sporting events, special interest, shopping, historical, and entertainment), each of which has several subsets.

Click on the main category link, and brief overviews of the event will appear. You'll see the event name, date being held, and a brief description. Each event has a "More Info" link, which provides its hours of operation, a contact phone number, and other data.

This is a useful site for mobile vendors, and is one of the few sites I've seen that actually provides a phone number for additional information. Again, I recommend it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Small Business Directory Scam

Recently, I read about this scam in TVC Alert, an e-newsletter I receive daily. Thought this might be of interest to you and your clients.

The Federal Trade Commission put a stop to a small business directory scam. The Montreal-based businesses, Datatech Communications Inc. and 9102-3127 Quebec, Inc. (doing business as I-Point Media), and 3 businessmen contacted small businesses in the U.S. about renewing a company directory listing when no prior relationship existed. "The defendants routinely denied requests to cancel the directory listings and harassed customers who refused to pay." The settlement and default judgment against one of the businessmen bans them from the business directory industry and from assisting others involved in the industry.

SEE: FTC v. Datatech Communications
FTC Filed Documents, Civil No. 03 C 6249, 25 August 2005 (Amended complaint, stipulated order, default judgment, order of dismissal, news release) <http://www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/datatech/datatech.htm>

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Read All About It : Newspapers

For current events, I like to check a few international papers to see their take on the news. There are a number of aites that make short work of listing international papers and sometimes magazines in one place. Here are a few.


http://newslink.org/
NewsLink Associates is an academic and professional research and consulting firm studying electronic publishing and visual journalism.

http://www.onlinenewspapers.com/
“Thousands of world newspapers at your fingertips”
Simple drop menus arranged by region, the site does not list the total number of papers. Like many other sites, once you find the list of papers by region or city, unless you are familiar with the papers there is no way of knowing which are the major papers.

All You Can Read.com http://www.allyoucanread.com/
Described as “the largest database of magazines and newspapers on the Internet, with listings for about 22,800 magazines and newspapers from all over the world. AllYouCanRead.com is a complete guide to world media sources where readers find stories quickly -- whether it's news from Time Magazine or a small regional weekly newspaper in Asia.”

http://www.refdesk.com/paper.html
This is a favorite site of mine. Created by librarians, it is like having your bookmarks on one page. Their list of newspapers – USA and Worldwide US papers are arranged under their state flags and lower down the page are world regions.

The Internet Public Library
http://www.ipl.org/div/news/“The Internet Public Library is a public service organization and a learning/teaching environment at the University of Michigan School Of Information. Newspapers are arranged by region and then broken out by country.

The Paper Boy http://www.thepaperboy.com/countrysearch_new.cfm Another comparable site that also offers links to world papers. For members, there is a translation option beside each newspaper name.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Back to School

The sight of crossing guards and bright yellow buses mean the "dog days of summer" and the traditional summer break have come to a close — our nation’s schools have reopened! This edition of Facts for Features highlights the many interesting statistics evolving from students and teachers returning to the classrooms.

>Back-to-School Shopping
$6.0 billion
The amount of money spent at family clothing stores in August 2004. Only in October, November and December — the holiday shopping season — were sales higher. Similarly, bookstore sales in August 2004 totaled $2.0 billion, an amount equaled in 2004 only by sales in December and January. (The dollar volume estimates have not been adjusted for seasonal variations, holiday or trading day differences or price changes.)


If you’re not sure >where to do your back-to-school shopping, choices of retail establishments abound: In 2003, there were 24,065 family clothing stores; 6,457 children’s and infants’ clothing stores; 27,352 shoe stores; 8,840 office supplies and stationery stores; 22,410 sporting goods stores; 11,036 bookstores and 9,366 department stores.

Students
74.9 million
The number of people enrolled in school throughout the country — from nursery school to college. That amounts to more than one-fourth of the U.S. population age 3 and older.


Pre-K through 12
Enrollment

About 60%
Percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in nursery school, up from about 6 percent in 1964, when these data were first collected.

65%
Percentage of children enrolled in kindergarten who attend all day, up from 20 percent three decades earlier.

54.6 million
The projected number of students to be enrolled in the nation’s elementary and high schools (grades K-12) this fall. That number exceeds the 1970 total of 51.3 million, when virtually all of these students were "baby boomers," who swelled school enrollments. See Table 202.

381,000
The national decrease in elementary school-age children between 2003 and 2004. Only six states experienced an increase in this population during that period: Arizona, Nevada, Florida, North Carolina, Colorado and Georgia.


329,000
The increase in the nation’s high school-age population between 2003 and 2004. More than two-thirds of the states experienced an increase in this group over that period, led by California (78,000), Florida (33,000) and New York (24,000).

12%
Projected percentage of elementary and high school students enrolled in private schools this fall. See >Table 202.

40%
Percentage of elementary and high school students who are minorities (i.e., people who are other than non-Hispanic white). This compares with 21 percent in 1970, when the crest of the baby-boom was enrolled at this level of school.

22%
Percentage of elementary and high school students with at least one foreign-born parent. This includes 6 percent who were foreign-born themselves.

Languages

9.9 million
Number of school-age children (5 to 17) who speak a language other than English at home. These children make up nearly 1-in-5 in this age group. Most of them (7.0 million) speak Spanish at home.

Lunchtime

29.0 million
Average number of children participating each month in the national school lunch program. (From the upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2006.)

10.1 billion
The nation’s total apple production, in pounds, in 2004. The chances are good that the apples your children present to their teachers or enjoy for lunch were grown in Washington state, which accounted for more than half of the nation’s total production.
College

64%
Percentage of the 2003 high school graduating class that went directly to college.

16.7 million
The projected number of students enrolled in the nation’s colleges and universities this fall. This is up from 12.1 million a quarter-century ago. See Table 202.

37%
Percentage of all college students age 25 and over. The majority of these older students (56 percent) attend school part-time.

1-in-3
Ratio of undergraduates attending two-year institutions.

Teachers and Other School Personnel
6.5 million
Number of teachers in the United States. The bulk of them (2.6 million) teach at the elementary and middle school level. See Table 597.

$56,300
Average annual salary of public elementary and secondary school teachers in California as of the 2002-2003 school year — highest of any state in the nation. Teachers in South Dakota received the lowest pay — $32,400. The national average was $45,900. See Table 236 at .

$13.85
Average hourly wage for the nation’s school bus drivers. Custodians earned $12.40 while cafeteria workers made $9.98. (The federal minimum wage is $5.15.) See Table 237.


Technology in the Schools
14.1 million
Number of computers available for classroom use in the nation’s 114,000 elementary and secondary schools; that works out to one computer for every four students. See Table 243.

The Rising Cost of College
$10,660
Average tuition, room and board (for in-state students) at the nation’s four-year public colleges and universities for an entire academic year; that is double the corresponding figure in 1990. See Table 276.

$31,051
Average tuition, room and board at the nation’s four-year private colleges and universities for one complete academic year; that is more than double the corresponding 1990 figure. See Table 276.

The Rewards of Staying in School
$74,602
Average annual earnings of workers age 18 and over with an advanced degree. This compares with $51,206 a year for those with bachelor’s degrees, $27,915 for those with a high school diploma only and $18,734 for those without a high school diploma.

$55,987
Average starting salary offered to bachelor’s degree candidates in petroleum engineering, among the highest of any field of study. At the other end of the spectrum were those majoring in the social sciences; they were offered an average of $29,098. See Table 281.

Graduation
3.1 million
Projected number of high school diplomas that will be awarded this school year. See Table 204.

2.7 million
Number of college degrees expected to be conferred this school year. See Table 204.

Government Spending on Education
$8,019
The per-pupil expenditure on elementary and secondary education nationally in 2003. The District of Columbia ($13,328) spent the most among states or state-equivalents, followed by New Jersey ($12,202), New York ($12,140), Connecticut ($10,372) and Vermont ($10,322).

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Dream Factory

For those inventors looking to develop a prototype, the eMachineShop may be one way to produce it. A recent article at Wired.com, The Dream Factory, describes how it's done. Read on.

"Boot up your computer and design whatever object you can imagine, press a button to send the CAD file to Lewis' headquarters in New Jersey, and two or three weeks later he'll FedEx you the physical object. Lewis launched eMachineShop a year and a half ago, and customers are using his service to create engine-block parts for hot rods, gears for home-brew robots, telescope mounts - even special soles for tap dance shoes. 'Designing stuff used to be just for experts,' Lewis says. 'We're bringing it to the masses.'

The eMachineShop software, he explains, includes artificial intelligence that operates like a 'virtual machinist.' In the background - invisible to the user - it runs a precise emulation of the real-world machines that fabricate parts, to determine whether the job is possible and how much it'll cost."

For more information, visit http://www.emachineshop.com/.