Friday, December 29, 2006

New year, new website...


Hooray! As I imagine most of you have received Brian's email, you now know that www.nyssbdc.org has a new look and some organizational changes. Many thanks to all who contributed suggestions and materials for this revision.

It's definitely still a work in progress (Yes- no one likes the request for counseling form. Folks will have to sit down to decide what information we need to collect here and what we should do with it before any major edits occur.) The center sites have a new look, but the same information. We will make every attempt to tackle a major revision of those pages in the near future, so start thinking about what you'd like to see on your center's pages.

I hope, however, that some of the organizational changes will better allow the central site to change and grow. And I hope that our clients' happy faces on many of the pages will encourage others to give us a call.

Comments, questions and suggestions (as always) are greatly appreciated.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Internet Explorer 7 and the Entrepreneur


IE 7 is here - got in our office last week -with all sorts of new features such as:
Phishing Filter
Proactively warns and helps protect you against potential or known fraudulent sites and blocks the site if appropriate. The opt-in filter is updated several times per hour using the latest security information from Microsoft and several industry partners.


This means, starting early next year, the address bar in Internet Explorer 7 will turn green when surfing to a legitimate Web site--but only in some cases, not all.

"But the new system adopted for IE 7 has been causing friction, too. Initially, only corporations will be able to get the [green color] online trust indicator--a rule that shuts out smaller businesses. While the CA Browser Forum is still working on final guidelines that would include all legitimate Web sites, those could take a while to complete." Microsoft's Phishing Filter turns address bars yellow if on suspicious sites and red on confirmed phishing sites. When Microsoft has no information on a site, which will be true for many small businesses, the site will remain the standard white."

Verisign, Thawte, and other companies are among the certification authorities involved with the new procedure.

Joy Viren Murphy, sole proprietor of Aunt Joy's Personalized Christmas Stockings, profiled in the December 19 Wall Street Journal, fears that her business will suffer. "For that new customer, are they going to pass me by because I don't have a green bar?"

From the WSJ: "Microsoft says the number of companies left out will be minimal, noting that [LLCs] and partnerships, as well as S and C corporations, will be able to get the certificates and thus green bars. In the future it expects certificate authorities to bring more types of businesses into the scheme."

Mrs. Murphy feels, "the Internet made the world so big for small people like me" but feels the new system "seems like an excuse to shut out the small business like myself and make sure we don't take too many of the dollars from the big boys."

Friday, December 22, 2006

Plumbing Woes

Well, not that it has helped me this time, but I’m sure these sites will come in handy one day when I am in my next plumbing crisis. Today, I leave it to the professionals. If you are ever so unfortunate as to be in a wet situation, perhaps these sites might help:

www.Theplumber.com

"theplumber.com web site, has been called one of the "best web sites" by the #1 on-line multimedia encyclopedia - Encarta"
"Even Encyclopedia Britannica has linked to us in the past as one of "The Web's Best Sites"
"World Book On-Line Encyclopedia specially selected theplumber.com by their Editors as well theplumber.com was rated a Hot Site by USA Today"


Plumbing at DoItYourself.com
http://www.doityourself.com/scat/plumbing


Plumbing on Wikipedia.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumbing


www.plbg.com
The Plumbing Education and Information Sharing Site


www.Toiletology101.com
Basics of Indoor Plumbing & Toilet Repairs


~~Murphy's Law~~

"If something can go wrong, it probably will ."

...and I can vouch for that.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Online resource for specialty food businesses

When we get a question about starting a specialty food business we frequently turn to Stephen Hall’s From Kitchen to Market for some practical advice. There is now an accompanying website for the book, complete with a free discussion forum and a Food Entrepreneur eZine, available at http://www.specialtyfoodresource.com/ .

The eZine has a variety of short, helpful articles and the issues are archived. The forum includes topics like “Pricing your product,” “Getting distributors” and “Understanding the industry” and Mr. Hall seems to be a frequent contributor. Looks like a great way for our clients to ask questions of other entrepreneurs and an expert in the field.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

(One CAN Get Some) Satisfaction


American Consumer Satisfaction Index
"ACSI reports scores on a 0-100 scale at the national level. It also produces indexes for 10 economic sectors, 43 industries (including e-commerce and e-business), and more than 200 companies and federal or local government agencies. The measured companies, industries, and sectors are broadly representative of the U.S. economy serving American households."

A blog post from a Usability and Design firm called Adaptive Path.
The blog as a whole is rather interesting, too.

A recent National Retail Federation/American Express study placed Amazon at the top of online and brick & mortar stores.
***
And, apropos of nothing, Keith Richards turned 63 yesterday.

Monday, December 18, 2006

NationMaster

Sometimes I come across a site and marvel at the amount of work put into its upkeep. A few weeks ago, I read about a site called NationMaster. It's a site where you can glean data for a single country from a huge variety of topics (economic, geographic, income, labor, religion, and on and on).

The site originates in Australia, but collects data from a wealth of resources and arranges them in a very easy interface. Since our clients are interested in importing and/or exporting with just about every nation on Earth, this site is extremely helpful.

As a bonus, this site links to a companion page called StateMaster, providing an additional wealth of data for each state in the U.S. These two sites are great for us researchers, and great for kids out there with a paper to write on the main exports of the Maldives.

(And speaking of kids & the Maldives, NORAD once again presents its annual Santa Tracker website. For those of you interested in tracking ol' St. Nick on Christmas Eve - who knows, maybe you've a long-standing beef with the big man - here's your chance.)

Season's greetings to all, and to all, a good day!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Online Ad Spending

The Future of Web Ads is in Britain
The New York Times

By Louise Story and Eric Pfanner
Published December 4, 2006
According to this article Britain is leading the way – way ahead of the US in terms of online advertising and suggests that maybe we can learn from the UK experience.

eMarketer
NOVEMBER 27, 2006 “An emerging consensus paints a positive picture. The trend began early last week, when the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released new data showing that US Internet advertising revenues reached a record $4.2 billion in the third quarter of 2006.”
British Online Ad Spending Outpacing U.S. By Nearly 2 to 1
Seeking Alpha

Posted on Dec 4th, 2006
Carl Howe (Blackfriars Communications)

The Federal Trade Commission – Facts for Businesses
Dot Com Disclosures
A guide for the ecommerce marketer.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Marketing to Baby Boomers

On Monday I finished a question about marketing to baby boomers. That night, I happened to see a piece on the news on marketing to baby boomers. That to me is a sign that I should blog about marketing to baby boomers.

Here are a few interesting articles (and a video) that discuss some prominent marketing campaigns, the use of baby boomer celebrities in advertising, and offer some information about boomer spending patterns:

Business Week: Love Those Boomers

US News: Oldies but goodies (Personally, I would never refer to baby boomers as "oldies." The nerve!)

MSNBC: Baby Boomers Create New Marketing Frontier

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Copyright's a Fuzzy Thing, Sometimes

Parody: copyright infringement or fair use? It depends.

One interesting article that my colleague Amelia came across is "Who owns Barbie?;
CORPORATIONS ARE SUING ARTISTS OVER POP CULTURE ICONS" by John Petrick, in the September 25, 2005 Sunday Record (Bergen, NJ)

"Parody by its nature requires that you make reference to the original. So once something is determined a 'parody,' there's a lot of breathing room," says John Koegle, an attorney who represents artists.

Nevertheless, some companies feel they should be able to control any depiction of their work in public life. And in some cases, they have prevailed. There was the 1978 case in which Disney sued an underground cartoonist who depicted Mickey Mouse engaged in various adult behaviors. While the artist argued it was clearly parody - or "fair use" under the law - the court didn't buy it and ruled the images were copyright infringement.

In 1994, on the other hand, 2 Live Crew was sued for its rewritten version of Roy Orbison's classic song "Pretty Woman." The case ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which found the song was "fair use" in that it was a parody. It's a seminal case for artists and their lawyers, in that it's the first to make such distinctions.

Also in favor of artists' rights was a more recent case in which Mattel sued Utah photographer Tom Forsythe for copyright infringement after he created a series of images titled "Food Chain Barbie." The collection showed Barbie dolls posing in every kind of kitchen appliance from blenders to toaster ovens...

Mattel didn't care what he was trying to show. He was using their property in his artwork. Though he earned only a few thousand dollars at the time in sales, the company sued in 1999 and pressed the case forward all the way to California's federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a scathing ruling against Mattel in 2003, the court found no basis for the lawsuit and ordered the giant toy company to pay for all of Forsythe's legal fees and expenses - a whopping $2.1 million worth of pro bono work. The artist prevailed largely on First Amendment grounds.

***
Images of deceased celebrities: There is no copyright involved, is there? Depends. In California, there is a Special Filing called Successor-In-Interest, where the use of the images of Babe Ruth, Kurt Cobain, Audrey Hepburn and many others is regulated. Also, check out the Corbis website.
***
What if you can't find the copyright owner: The University of Texas has a list of steps for obtaining information, from asking scholars to publishing a notice in the newspaper. But when permission can't be gotten because the owner's unknown, can't be found, or won't respond, assert fair use. That's what the Library of Congress does here:

The Library of Congress has exhaustively researched the contents of this collection to ascertain any possible legal rights embodied in the materials. Items included here with the permission of rights holders are listed below. Many of the items in this collection are in the public domain, that is, not subject to copyright protection such as the works of employees of the federal government of the United States.

Despite extensive research, the Library has been unable to identify all possible rights holders in the materials in this collection. Thus, some of the materials provided here online are made available under an assertion of fair use (17 U.S.C. 107).


If the copyright holder then shows up, showing that a "good-faith" effort had been made will strengthen one's position. Use a disclaimer - if true - such as: "We have made every effort to obtain permission for all copyright protected images/text. If you have a copyrighted protected work in this publication, and you have not given permision, please contact us at..." - a piece I cobbled from several different sources.

For more on the limitations of copyright, go here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

World Almanac

I freely admit to finding ideas for this blog from other blogs that I read. Not everything, mind you (I am capable of some original thought). For instance, not long ago I read on ResourceShelf.com that the editors of the World Almanac - that most venerable of reference tools - had created a blog of their own last October 1st.

I received my first World Almanac as a Christmas gift when I was eight years old. I won't say that I heard my calling as a librarian that very day (there was an ill-fated stretch of years when I felt destined to play centerfield for the Red Sox), but it was certainly a harbinger of things to come. The WA blog won't necessarily be of everyday benefit to you & your clients, but I include it here as a tribute to an old friend.

Friday, December 08, 2006

SBA Hosts Live Web Chat on Year-End Tax Planning for Small Business Owners

WHO: Thomas P. Ochsenschlager, vice president of Taxation for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), will host the SBA’s December Web chat on "Year-End Tax Planning for Small Business Owners."
Chat participants will receive valuable information about the importance of year-end planning and steps small business owners can take to reduce their
2006 tax bills, as Ochsenschlager answers questions on year-end tax savings.
WHAT: The SBA’s live Web chat series provides business owners the opportunity to have discussions online about relevant business issues with experts, industry leaders and successful entrepreneurs. Participants have direct, real-time access to the Web chats via questions they submit online in advance and during the session, with instant answers.
WHEN: Thursday, December 14, 2006, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., ET.
Ochsenschlager will answer questions for one hour.
HOW: Participants can join the live Web chat by going online to www.sba.gov, and clicking "Online Business Chat." Web chat participants may post questions for Ochsenschlager before the December 14th chat by visiting app1.sba.gov/liveMeeting/liveDec06/intro.cfm and posting their questions online.
To review archives of past Web chats, visit online at www.sba.gov/tools/monthlywebchat/index.html

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

SBDC on TV

Want to see some SBDC folks on TV? The Mohawk Valley SBDC turned 20 years old, and Syracuse's News 10 was there to cover it. Luckily for the rest of us, this clip is online too, here .

I wanted to share the fun, but also remind you all to send me your clips, your news articles, your business advice. . .

It's nice to share.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Handbook of New York State and Local Taxes, et al.

The Handbook of New York State and Local Taxes provides a general descriptive overview of the taxes which New York State and its local governments impose, and is revised periodically to reflect recently enacted law changes. It does not include non-tax revenue sources such as motor vehicle fees and the Lottery. Instead, it focuses on taxes, especially those administered by the Department of Taxation and Finance.
To download the entire publication, the October 2006 Edition, please visit here.
***
Tax Department Announces Discontinuation of Publication 352, which is Income Tax Forms and Instructions and Selected Corporation and Withholding Tax Forms. However, the CD-ROM of the publication is available for sale. View the document.
***
For you policy wonks, Streamlining New York's Sales Tax: Examining Requirements for Compliance with the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement

The Streamlined Sales Tax Project was founded in March 2000, with the purpose of developing measures to simplify and unify state and local sales taxes. The extent to which New York should participate in the nationwide e sales tax streamlining effort is an important state fiscal policy issue.
This report highlights the key features of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement and examines the extent to which New York's current State and local sales tax complies with its provisions. To download the entire publication, go here, which will lead you to a 107-page PDF.
***
Higher top tax rates on individual income, higher sales tax rates, and the existence of state-level inheritance or gift taxes all tend to slightly reduce a stateÂ’s share of the national entrepreneurial stock, according to a study by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The report State Tax Policy and Entrepreneurial Activity also discovered that top marginal tax rates on individual and corporate income do not have statistically significant effects on state entrepreneurship rates, but states with higher sales tax rates tend to have higher entrepreneurship rates. The study was written by Donald Bruce, and John Deskins with funding from the Office of Advocacy.

A copy of this report can be obtained here, and the research summary here. Should you need further information, please feel free to contact Joseph Johnson at (202) 205-6533 or advocacy@sba.gov.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Articles on Electronic Business

Recently, Walter Reid from the Farmingdale SBDC forwarded me an article that originally appeared in Derek Gehl's E-Business column, part of the Entrepreneur magazine website. The article presented brief, straightforward strategies to boost traffic to small business websites. It is not geared at those who are super-proficient in the ways of website marketing, but rather to the (I suspect) vast majority of business owners who are not.

I'm not going to reproduce the article here, mainly because I went to his website & found many, many articles of his that were worth telling you about. The worth of an article is not always just what it tells you, but what thoughts it triggers in your head. Each of these provides a wealth of suggestions & links to other sites, and might be worth keeping in mind the next time you have a tentative e-businessperson in your office.

(Thanks, Walter!)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

and I quote...

Ok, so I have not felt inspired. But, today I was dealing with a request for copyright free quotes and this led me to a few sites of general interest. (Incidentally, many quotes are copyright free by nature – since so many of them are from historic personages, but the arrangement of those quotes in a given collection would be copyright protected.)

The usual suspects are:

The Quotations Page is a labor of love created and maintained by Michael Moncur and his wife Laura Moncur. They offer Quotes of the Day , Motivational Quotes of the Day and the usual search function by author and subject.

There is also Quoteland.com

Wikiquote which further breaks categories down to those such as:
Epitaphs
Misquotations
Films
and Proverbs

CoolQuotes.com

IMDb.com also has a Movie Quote page.

And for a laugh:
Things People Said which a collection of quotes from everyday people.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cyber Monday?

Guess which day of the year is the busiest for most online retailers. Here’s a clue: Its not “Cyber Monday”.

Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, when shoppers return to work and their speedy internet connections, has been heralded as the top online shopping day. Turns out it’s really probably the 12th busiest day of the year. But that’s not stopping online retailers from using this term for their own marketing purposes.

Read about the myth and the reality in this Business Week article.

With all this online shopping, one might think that the paper catalog is a thing of the past. Turns out that catalogs (like many other paper-based products, including books and the clutter on my desk) are not leaving us just because a digital alternative exists.

Read why the catalog is here to stay here.

P.S. The busiest online shopping day is probably between Dec. 5 and Dec. 15.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Copyrighted or Not

The purpose of copyright is right in the U.S. Constitution, Section 8 of Article 1:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

Notice a few things:
-the words copyright, patent or trademark are never used
-the word "limited" is specified
-the exclusive Right is designed to promote progress

Some folks either do not understand this or choose to ignore it.

An example from the workshop I attended is the Boston Globe reprinting the Declaration of Independence last year. At the end, it says (c)2005 Boston Globe. Interesting because the Declaration is not copyrightable! That's true on two fronts, actually: 1) material printed by the federal government (or what would become same) are not copyrightable - so go ahead, steal away from the Census Bureau, e.g., and 2) even if it HAD been copyrighted, the item by now would have lapsed into the public domain. Remember the notion of "limited".

Another example is a realistic photograph taken of the Mona Lisa. It is not copyrightable because there is no creativity involved, though there is some skill. Now if the picture were distorted, or a mustache added, e.g., it might very well be copyrightable.

From the Copyright page: Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.

Copyright law has changed several times in the 20th Century and it can be tricky to ascertain whether some items are still under copyright or in the public domain. I learned that, due to some quirks in the law that expired in 2003, an unpublished work of Mark Twain, written in 1876, and published in the Atlantic Monthly in 2001, 91 years after the author's death, doesn't lose its copyright until 2048! You can pay the Copyright Office $150 per hour to check the copyright status, or your can try to search the copyright database yourself. You may discover that only part of the item - the introduction, or the annotation, e.g. - is under copyright.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Multiples for Business Valuation Formulas

Wow . . . now there's a snappy, exciting title!

When our clients are buying or selling a business, they sometimes need a formula that they can use to calculate a fair price. We have several books on determining a business' value, but none of them are comprehensive. There are always certain types of businesses for which formulas are not provided.

I've come to like one resource in particular, because it does cover a wider scope of businesses. It hails from ValuationResources.com. Here's a link to a sample of their 2006 version (it's a PDF file, just so you know). Page 1 provides a basic review of some pretty simple formulas, while the remaining 8 pages list multiples for various SIC codes.

We have the 2004 edition in our collection, and plan on purchasing this 2006 edition very soon. Should you ask for a valuation formula in the future, it's very likely that data from this resource will be part - if not all - of the response.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What does your Phone Number Spell?

Phone Spell
http://www.phonespell.org/phoneSpell.html

The PhoneSpell search engine allows you to look up your number to see what it spells. This service offered by Phone Spell works on the honor system - if you find the service useful, they ask that you make an appropriate donation. Seems fair enough:
"The PhoneSpell® search engine provides three 4 services in one! You may have heard that now you can take your phone number with you when you move. Enter a 6 to 10 digit phone number and we'll show you what words and phrases your phone number spells to help you decide if you want to keep it. Opening a business and need a new phone number? Pick a new 7 or 8 digit phone number by typing in an available exchange (first 3 to 5 digits) and see what one-word numbers you can choose from. Searching for just the right toll free number to advertise? Type in letters and we will show you the corresponding phone number. We can even dial the number for you!"

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A $3.6 billion industry, an average of $1.07 per pound, and 13.4 pounds per person per year…




Its turkey! For many of the major holidays the US Census website prepares fun factoids related to that time of the year, calling them "Facts for Features."

Did you know that there are three towns called Turkey in the United States? Or that 1.6 billion pounds of sweet potatoes were produced in the United States in 2005?

Yummy. Read more about it here or just click on the turkey on the left side of the main census page, http://www.census.gov/ .

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

2005 American Community Survey

Here's the good news: there are annual data available from the American Community Survey. It now covers geographies of 65,000 or more, compared with the 250,000 population limit from last year. The ACS is designed to replace the 2010 Census long form questions.

Here's the bad news: because of previous cuts in the Congressional funding, the 2005 ACS does not capture data from group quarters, which include prisons, college dormitories, and nursing homes.

So, for instance, the population estimate for the city of Albany - calculated through a different methodology - is 93,523, down from 95,658 in the 2000 Decennial Census. But the 2005 ACS shows 78,404. One cannot make any population comparisons.

Depending on the category, one may or may not be able to compare other characteristics either. For instance, 2005 ACS data in a place with dorms will skew older than what's really happening, whereas a place with a large nursing home will skew younger. Data on race, place of birth, veterans status, and all sorts of work data will be different with a large group quarters facility.

Yet, politicians and the media have glommed onto these new statistics, making assertions about populations that the methodology does not support.

One thing you should get used to is a margin of error figure. For the 2005 ACS population in Albany, it's +/-4,044. This replaces the terms "lower bound" and "upper bound" used in the 2004 ACS, which found data mavens using whichever number was most advantageous.

I'm disinclined to tell people not to use these numbers at all, but certainly, one should use them with extreme caution.

Read what the Census Bureau says about comparing the 2005 ACS with Census 2000:

Comparisons with Census 2000
The Census 2000 data include the population living in both housing units and group quarters. The 2005 ACS only includes the housing unit population. In areas where you feel that the contribution from group quarters is limited [emphasis mine], it is reasonable to make comparisons with Census 2000. For characteristics that Census 2000 tabulated exclusively for the housing unit population, such comparisons are also reasonable. The ACS homepage includes a link to a set of subject definitions. The subject definitions for the 2004 ACS include advice about making comparisons with Census 2000 for each ACS topic. That advice is applicable again for comparing 2005 ACS data with Census 2000. Any monetary estimates from the SF-3 tables must be multiplied by the CPI-U-RS factor 1.13357257.

***
Here's an story about 2007 census funding from the current Census News Brief that may apply to the future of the ACS:

The 109th Congress, which reconvened this week for its post-election "lame duck" session, must still complete action on the majority of funding bills for Fiscal Year 2007 (FY07), including the Science, State, Justice, and Commerce Appropriations measure (H.R. 5672). This week, legislators are expected to complete their leadership elections and to pass a second Continuing Funding Resolution for the fiscal year that began on October 1, before recessing until the first week in December. The House of Representatives approved the Commerce appropriations bill in June; the full Senate has not taken up the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill passed by the Senate appropriations panel in July.
The first Continuing Resolution in September provided that agencies whose appropriations bill had only passed the House would be funded at the level in the House bill or the Fiscal Year 2006 level, whichever is lower. The House allocated $815.7 million for the Census Bureau, an increase of $14 million over 2006 but $58.3 million below the President’s 2007 request for the agency. Senate appropriators allocated $828 million for the Census Bureau, $50 million below the President’s request.
At a July hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, and Commerce, Census Director [Louis] Kincannon [who, along with Deputy Director Hermann Habermann, announced their resignations this week] told lawmakers that the House funding bill would force the agency to abandon plans to use GPS-equipped handheld computers for field data collection, a change that could increase the life-cycle cost of the census by almost $1 billion. The director noted that House-passed cuts in Census Bureau funding primarily affected 2010 census planning activities, leaving the bureau with little flexibility to apply the funding reductions to non-decennial programs.
Funding at the House-passed level also could result in cancellation of group quarters coverage in the American Community Survey (ACS), according to the director. Group quarters, which include nursing homes, college dorms, military barracks, and prisons, were first added to the ACS this year. "Ultimately not including the GQ population in the ACS means the ACS cannot fully be the replacement for the long form in 2010," the Census Bureau said in a statement this summer.

Census stakeholder organizations, under the auspices of The Census Project, sent a letter in October to prospective House and Senate conferees on the Commerce appropriations bill, urging them to restore full funding for the Census Bureau in FY07, "to help ensure uninterrupted preparations for the 2010 census and continuation of the full American Community Survey (ACS)." The letter was signed by groups representing a wide range of data users, including local governments, science professionals, and social policy advocates. A copy of the letter is available at thecensusproject.org.

There are several scenarios for completing action on the remaining nine FY07 spending bills, according to senior congressional staff. Lawmakers could reach agreement on some of the appropriations measures in the lame duck session and send them to the President for signature, either separately or in a package (called an Omnibus Appropriations bill). Alternatively, Congress could fail to reach agreement on some or all of the bills and decide to let the 110th Congress finish the job. In that case, Congress would pass another Continuing Funding Resolution to cover all agencies for which a regular appropriations bill was not enacted, before adjourning sine die. The Science, State, Justice, and Commerce Appropriations bill historically has been among the most contentious of the funding measures.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Business Lists & Reference USA

Not a day goes by here without fulfilling a request for a client who needs a list of this business or that. For years, the Research Network used a CD-ROM product called the American Business Disc (ABD) to make these lists possible.

Last summer, InfoUSA announced that it was no longer making this CD-ROM available. The company (like every software provider in the information industry) is trying to steer former CD-ROM subscribers towards their web-based equivalent, called Reference USA.

Many of you might be familiar with Ref USA. It is a common presence on databases offered for free to cardholders of local public libraries (as well as the New York State Library). If you're not familiar with it . . . you're about to be.

Starting later this month, the Research Network will be creating business lists from this website. You shouldn't see much difference in the end product. Oddly, the web version of this product isn't nearly as versatile as the CD-ROM (a lot of useful search features - ones that we relied on - don't exist on the website). We'll have to adapt.

The main advantage of Ref USA, though, is that InfoUSA updates the records much more frequently on the web (once per month) than they did with the CD (once every six months, and sometimes longer). They still can't guarantee that every list that you get will be 100% all the time, but the lists you get ought to have fewer dead addresses & phone numbers than before.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Statistics on housing, demographics, quality of life in NYC’s neighborhoods

Angel Roman sent us a link to an interesting report with housing and community stats by community board, issued by the Furman Center:
State of New York City's Housing and Neighborhoods 2005.


"Every year the Furman Center compiles statistics on housing, demographics and quality of life in New York City’s neighborhoods from a variety of sources.

"This edition streamlines the presentation to focus attention on the critical data that reveals how the City, its five boroughs, and its 59 community districts, have fared in recent years. It shows how each of the City’s neighborhoods is progressing, both in absolute terms and in relation to other areas of the City. It provides the first independent analysis of the just-released results of the 2005 Housing and Vacancy Survey. Finally, it adds a chapter analyzing how the affordability and availability of housing has changed between 2002 and 2005."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

New Arrivals: Books

Flecker, Cody.
Collect Your Money:

Fenix, Walter.
Cleaning Services Bid Estimation:

Hynes, William G.
Start & Run a Craft Business

Mcknight, Thomas
Will it Fly?

Louis, Louise
101 Home Based Businesses for Pet Lovers

Taylor, Don
Up Against the Wal-Marts

Levine, Mark L.
The Fine Print of Self-Publishing

Richards, René V.
Online Marketing Success Stories

Baourakis, George.
Marketing Trends for Organic Food in the 21st Century

Mitchell, Susan
American Generations

Stanberry, Scott
Federal Contracting Made Easy

Pressman, David
Patent it Yourself

Chain Store Guide
2006 Directory of Apparel Specialty Stores

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Nonprofits & Charitable Giving

We’ve received a number of questions related to nonprofit organizations lately. The National Center for Charitable Statistics is another good resource for finding information about the US nonprofit sector as well as charitable giving statistics.

The number of non-profit organizations in New York 1996-2004 is located here: the data can be broken down by type of nonprofit (i.e. public charities, private foundations) and includes information on asset levels and/or topical areas.

More interested in household giving statistics? Try this “Table Wizard,” which will yield reports on giving by state, county or income level.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Copyright and Digitization

I attended a workshop last month sponsored by the Capital District Library Council, entitled "Copyright and Digitization for Libraries, Archives, and Museums" by Peter B. Hirtle, the Intellectual Property Officer at the Cornell University Library. Fascinating stuff, copyright in the digital age.

One of things Mr. Hirtle always makes clear is something we librarians at the Research Network try to make clear when we address one of your copyright, patent, trademark or similar questions, which is what he calls IANAL - I Am Not A Lawyer. For many of the issues, the issues are not black and white, which leads to litigation.

Librarians, as users of protected material, have a certain awareness of their obligations. One of the things I DID NOT KNOW is how digitization makes US, the librarians, the users. Whereas when someone goes to the library and uses the copier, or even uses the librarian as his or her agent, the patron is the user. So you'll be seeing some additional verbiage in the documents that we'll be sending to you.

Conversely, librarians and archivists have certain specific rights to copy copyrighted works through Section 108 of the Copyright Law as long as it's a single copy, and in the course of our jobs. Read about this in Circular 21.

There is also a notion in copyright law called "fair use". From the copyright page:

Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
the nature of the copyrighted work;
amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The distinction between "fair use" and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.


So the parameters are not at all clear. All factors must be weighed, though the courts have been particularly emphasizing the effect on the market. Here's a checklist that may help.

Monday, November 13, 2006

An URL of Your Own

Back on September 18th, I wrote a post that described the Research Network's plans on providing information digitally in response to client requests. Today, we took a big step in making this a reality.

We'd been experimenting in attaching files (Word docs, Excel sheets, PDF files, HTM pages, etc.) for several months, but it was causing unforeseen problems. Our mail server & your mail server may not agree on certain things (like the size of a file being sent, or whether a message would fall prey to a junk mail filter, etc.). As a result, some messages weren’t being received. So, rather than trying to memorize the quirks of 20+ mail servers around the state, a different method was born.

Gus Geidel (our harried but diligent MIS guy) created a section on the main SBDC website in which any of the RN librarians can "drop" a file. More often than not, the file will be several documents stitched together, and saved as a PDF file.

The file name will comprise two parts: the advisor's last name, followed by the case number to which the research applies. Once you identify your file, you can either open it & print, or open it & save locally to your hard drive. The file will exist on the website for a brief period of time (we plan on purging every Friday those files over a week old). When your file has been put on the site, you'll get an e-mail that same day from whichever librarian did the work. The body of the e-mail will provide any other details relevant to the research, and it will also provide a link to the web address.

(Because this blog site can be read by anyone, I'll send the URL to this site to SBDC staff only this Friday.)

We can still attach small files to e-mails & send them to you. It's the larger files that will require use of this new website.

There will be no links to this new site from the main SBDC page - it's strictly for New York SBDC personnel. The address should NOT be given out to the client (there'll be other files on there not meant for prying eyes). The site will be bare bones in its aesthetic, so don't expect a masterpiece of visual design. Also, at some point, we'll had some level of security to the site (probably a password function).

The RN staff still has to work out internally some kinks on how we're going to utilize this function (there's a bunch of behind-the-scenes stuff that has to get done before a file is posted, and, for our own sanity, we're trying to keep that effort as streamlined as possible). We’re in uncharted waters here.

If you've got ideas on how to improve this, we'd like to hear it. But the site is up, and it is running, and we think it's pretty cool.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Community

Given the huge popularity of Craig’s List and the spawning of so many other online communities, you may be interested to read this article from Fast Company that offers Craig Newmark’s view of “communities” and how to build them, their shortcomings and best practices.

Are You on Craig's List?
Craig Newmark has organized a community whose members include some of the Web's most influential people. Here is his manual for (virtual) community organizers.
From: Issue nc02 November 2000 Page 26 By: Katharine Mieszkowski
Photographs By: Sam Jones

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Free Photos

My old monitor and my jade plant
Currently, we at the central office have a subscription to an online image database, and several of the photographs that appear on the SBDC website come from this resource. But, as I make revisions to the website (and I hope you’ll see some of them soon), I’m trying to put up fewer “canned” images and more pictures of our gorgeous clients.

But what if you don’t want to pay for images and you don’t have a wealth of smiling faces to put on your website? Try these sources:

U.S. Government Photos and Multimedia
Most images on U.S. government websites are in the public domain, and can be freely reproduced and reused without permission. Browse available images from this site- just be careful to check each source’s policies to make sure you’re in the copyright clear before nabbing any images.

Creative Commons Image Search
For less governmental images, try the search engine at Creative Commons. Images indexed here still may be licensed in various ways (read more about Creative Commons licensing options
here) but some can be used commercially and while others can be modified or adapted. Again, just be sure to read the fine print.

Oh, and one more thing! Do you have any photos where you are sitting down with one of your clients? How about an image of you or a client working at a computer? I’d love to replace the images on the “Make an Appointment” page with some real-life SBDC folks, and I’m in pursuit of the perfect picture…

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Performance Based Interviewing

The Department of Veterans Affairs has put together something called Performance Based Interviewing.


PBI "is a method to increase the effectiveness of the interviewing process in selecting and promoting quality staff. With PBI, the interviewer carefully defines the skills needed for the job and structures the interview process to elicit behavioral examples of past performance."

One interesting feature is a bank of interview questions designed by the job function. Following each level is a sample question.

Level I: Frontline staff, those who do not supervise others.
"Give a specific example of a time you had to deal with an upset co-worker, patient, or other customer. What was the person upset about and how did you handle? What was the outcome?"

Level II: Work unit leaders, those who lead the work of a natural group of people, either temporarily (process improvement team leader) or as an ongoing role (foreman, section leader).
"A part of this job is documenting your work. On a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being excellent writing skills, how would you rate your writing ability? Give specific example of the types of documents you write routinely. What feedback do you get from your supervisor on your writing skills? "

Level III: Mid-level managers, division/department/service line managers, those in charge of a major function in an organization.
"Think about a specific time when you had to negotiate with several service chiefs to obtain their cooperation to implement a specific initiative. Tell me specifically how you negotiated with them to attain the desired cooperation and how the implementation of the initiative went. "

Level IV: Executive leadership, those responsible for the overall functioning and outcomes of the organization.
"Tell me specifically what you have done to create an atmosphere of trust and empowerment within your sphere of influence. What tangible results have you seen from your efforts? "

The page has information for those preparing to be interviewed as well as those conducting interviews or training others about PBI.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Small Business Statistics

We've mentioned this before (in June 2005, to be precise), but it bears repeating:

If your local media/legislator/campus office contacts you for some immediate data regarding the state of small business, then here are some sites you can visit to get that information:

SBA's Office of Advocacy is the primary resource regarding studies of national & state small business trends. On their home page, note a menu on the left-hand side titled "Research & Statistics". A number of links appear beneath that heading, including "State Economic Profiles" (which provides small business data for New York & other states for the individual years 2002-2006, inclusive).

Other choices on this menu include "Data on Small Business" and "Owner Demographics," both of which lead to pages that cite reports written by Advocacy over the last several years on a wide variety of topics (including women in business, the availability of financing to small firms, births & deaths of small businesses [a popular choice], etc.).

In addition to these, we're often asked to provide historic trends for an industry for a local area. The Census Bureau collects & reports data in its Business Patterns series (the most popular of which is "County Business Patterns," which also has the most data). You can learn the number of small businesses (defined roughly as those with fewer than 500 employees) within a specific NAICS code for one or more counties for individual years 1998 through 2004, inclusive. It takes a bit of back-and-forth, but you can (for example) determine whether the number of small agricultural businesses in Chautauqua County have been on the rise since '98, or not.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

FREE NY TIMES Select

The New York Times had put most of their opinion columns and online archives behind a subscription wall and called it Times Select. It suddenly cost fifty smackers to access their columnists. Not this week.
http://select.nytimes.com/pages/timesselect/index.html November 6-12, 2006

Friday, November 03, 2006

VOTE!

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, November 7.
For more information, contact your local Board of Elections and/or the League of Women Voters.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Small Business Book of Lists

The StreetWise Small Business Book of Lists: Hundreds of Lists to Help You reduce Costs, Increase Revenues, and Boost Your Profits.

The broad sections in this book are: Starting Up, High Finance, Where you Work, Day-to-Day, Your Taxes, The Geek Section, Your Customers & Prospects, and Your People.
That sounds like the usual rundown but each of these sections covers lists like:


  • Ways to Find Your Start-up’s Niche in the Market
  • Things to do Before Writing
  • Your Government Proposal
  • Most Common Home-Based Business Zoning Issues
  • Questions to Ask When Interviewing and Individual Accountant
  • Best Ways to Reduce Inventories
  • Popular Voice Mail Systems Popular CRM Vendors for Enterprises
  • Tips for creating Your Direct Mail List

Just another good source to add to our repetoire.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Adventures in Real Estate

Perhaps it is just my “nesting" instinct, but this apartment-dweller wants a house. For the time being, I’ll just have to settle for researching housing trends. To that end, here are a couple of good sites:

Money Magazine has prepared several Top 10 lists on the real estate market, including which markets are forecasted to have the fastest growth, slowest growth, and highest and lowest home prices.

This page also offers articles and advice on real estate topics.

For more information on housing in this country, check out Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. They offer some very useful full-text reports, including ‘The State of the Nation’s Housing, 2006,” “America’s Rental Housing, 2006” and “The Changing Structure of the Home Remodeling Industry, 2005.”

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All Hallows' Eve

From the ghouls at the Census BOO-REAU:

The observance of Halloween, which dates back to Celtic rituals thousands of years ago, has long been associated with images of witches, ghosts, devils and hobgoblins. In the United States, the first official citywide Halloween celebration occurred in Anoka, Minn., in 1921. Over the years, Halloween customs and rituals have changed dramatically. Today, many of the young and “young-at-heart” take a more light-spirited approach. They don scary disguises or ones that may bring on smiles when they go door-to-door for treats or attend or host a Halloween party.

"Trick or Treat!"
36.1 million: The estimated number of potential "trick-or-treaters" in 2005 — 5- to 13-year-olds — across the United States, which declined by 284,000 from 2004. Of course, many other children — older than 13, and younger than age 5 — also go trick-or-treating.

108 million: Number of occupied housing units across the nation — all potential stops for "trick-or-treaters."

Jack O’ Lanterns and Pumpkin Pies
1.1 billion pounds: Total production of major pumpkin-producing states in 2005. Illinois led the country by producing 497 million pounds of the vined orange gourd. Pumpkin patches in California, Ohio and Pennsylvania also provided lots of pumpkins: each state produced at least 100 million pounds. The value of all pumpkins produced by major pumpkin-producing states was $106 million.

Where to Spend Halloween?
Some places around the country that may put you in the Halloween mood are:
Transylvania County, N.C. (29,626 residents).
Tombstone, Ariz. (population 1,569).
Pumpkin Center, N.C. (population 2,228); and Pumpkin Bend township, Ark. (population 307).
Cape Fear township in New Hanover County, N.C.; and Cape Fear township in Chatham County, N.C. with populations of 15,711 and 1,170, respectively)
Skull Creek township, Neb. (population 285)
Press Release

Candy and Costumes

1,241: Number of U.S. manufacturing establishments that produced chocolate and cocoa products in 2004, employing 43,322 people and shipping $12.5 billion worth of goods. California led the nation in the number of chocolate and cocoa manufacturing establishments, with 136, followed by Pennsylvania, with 122.

515: Number of U.S. establishments that manufactured nonchocolate confectionary products in 2004. These establishments employed 22,234 people and shipped $7.2 billion worth of goods that year. California also led the nation in this category, with 76 establishments.

26 pounds: Per capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2005; it is believed a large portion is consumed around Halloween.

2,497: Number of formal wear and costume rental establishments across the nation in 2004.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Signage Site is Now Running!

The web-based version of the SBDC book "What's Your Signage?" is now up & running. It went live late last Friday. It can be found at http://www.whatsyoursignage.com.

The site is a very compressed version of our 2004 book, and has two purposes. The first is to give small business owners a brief overview on the value of effective signs. Studies have shown that effective signage has a positive impact on sales.

The second purpose of the site is to match small business owners with a sign company near them. The site was developed with a lot of help from the International Sign Association, and they're also letting us use their member database.

Signage doesn't seem to elicit much of a response. It's not always something that is considered when our clients come to us, looking to improve their marketing reach. However, as a cost-effective & hard-working advertising mechanism for a business, it ought to be.

Our website would be just the tip of the iceberg for any of our clients when learning about signs. However, the site should make them more informed customers when finding someone who can design and install a sign that works best for their location & their line of business.

This site is available to businesses around the U.S. I plan on notifying SBDCs around the country about its existence, and about what it can do for their clients. Also, I'd like to perform a workshop on the subject at next year's staff training.

I hope to see you there, and hope that you visit the site.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

New Book List

With a bit of a year-end shopping spree, we have updated a number of areas in our collection with titles that we imagined would interest our clientele given the type of requests we get. We have tried to focus on practical titles, many that deal with specific industries. There are a few books that are generally geared to small business owners, on marketing and business principles that are still very interesting.

  • 3G Marketing on the Internet
  • Bricks & Mortar: renovating or Building a Business Incubation Facility
  • Conducting Research Surveys Via Email & the Web
  • Dan Poynter’s Self Publishing Manual
  • Drive a Modest Car& 16 Other Keys to Small Business Success
  • Guerilla Marketing for Free
  • How to Create a High Profit Photography Business
  • Legal Research: How to Find and Understand the Law
  • Making Money in the Fitness Business
  • Organic, Inc.
  • Patent, Copyright & Trademark
  • Spa Business Strategies
  • Start Your Own hair Salon & Day Spa
  • Starting a Medical Practice
  • The 7 Irrefutable Rules of Small Business Growth
  • The Franchise Handbook: A Complete Guide to All Aspects of Buying, Selling or Investing in a Franchise
  • The Ultimate Guide Electronic Marketing for Small Business
  • The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide

There are a fair number of books we have not yet received so we’ll let you know when we get them in.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Media Bibliography

Created by David Sheddon, Library Director at the Poynter Institute (a journalism school), this bibliography presents resources for those working in new media. Useful to anyone involved with internet publishing, or those just curious about the information sharing power of the Web.

Links include various histories of the internet, guides to blogging, and internet trends, stats and demographics. There are lists of relevant books too.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Money Supply and Floor Space

I learn so much from being on certain listservs. For instance, from the Business Librarians' list, I've learned that:
M1 Money supply = currency, demand deposits, checkable deposits, and travelers checks
M2 money supply = M1 + savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds
M2 is the more accepted total and is always much larger than M1.

Information on this is released weekly here. Historical data can be found here. Information can also be found here and here , though I find the latter, because of the format, to be less useful.

Small business folks probably won't be asking about these things, but you may have a relationship with economic development folks or others who may wish to know.

Another tidbit I learned are the definitions of a building's floor space:

Gross floor area - "The total area of all the floors of a building, including intermediately floored tiers, mezzanine, basements, etc., as measured from the exterior surfaces of the outside walls of the buildings".
Net floor area - "The occupied area of a building not including hallways, elevator shafts, stairways, toilets and wall thicknesses."

I can imagine that advisors advising clients who may be thinking of acquiring a building or renting a space may find the definitions useful.

Monday, October 23, 2006

State Health Facts

StateHealthFacts.org is a website that enables you to view data for any state in the U.S., and see how it compares to the rest of the country. As its name would suggest, the site focuses heavily on presenting health-related data (e.g., level of insurance coverage, Medicare spending, general health measures, etc.). It also has a broad category called "Demographics and the Economy," which might be applicable to a broader variety of clients (and not just those working in the healthcare field).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Business of Baseball

In honor of the season, how about some baseball business?
On this Forbes site, MLB teams are ranked according to current value, revenue and operating income. There are also graphs of historical value for each team.

Not into baseball?
Try the business of football , basketball , hockey or soccer .

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Get a Lawyer

When I first started as a librarian a little over a dozen years ago, someone showed me these thick volumes that listed virtually all of the lawyers in the country, designating their specialty. It was one of those resources that begged to be accessed electronically. In time, the Martindale-Hubbell database appeared online, and for free.

I'm reminded of this because one of our SBDC clients, aware of the resource, was not finding what she wanted. I suspect that she was using the Basic Search mode, which I personally find clunky. I prefer the Advanced mode, where I can select lawyers by city/county/state, and by areas of practice. I'd be inclined to select "lawyer" rather than "law firm", because the lawyer selection will identify the law firm.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Online Retail Statistics

Shop.org describes itself as an "association for retailers online". One of the features of its website is a cool compendium of links that provide helpful statistics regarding online retailing. As you'll soon see, categories studied on this page include "US Internet Usage," "US Online Shoppers," "Vertical Markets," "E-Business Trends," and a few others. Keep it handy when advising your e-commerce clientele.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Art Marketing

I have the feeling that I have visited this topic before, but as I am working on a related enquiry, here is a very short list of sources for artist clients to help them get in-the-know:

http://www.nonstarvingartists.com/Resources/ideas.html
A venue for posting portfolios, searching for artist opportunities, book titles, and advice.

http://www.artdaily.com/
A daily newspaper to check up on what’s going on, who’s doing what, with reviews of artists, galleries and museums from around the world. It has a good long list of artists, exhibition listings, art fairs and other artist and art lover’s resources.

http://www.newyorkartworld.com/
Offers the “Art Clock”, a listing of shows around the world. Features include: Artist News, American Arts, Artists Guide, which is a listing of artist’s resources like movers, journals, insurance, galleries and cooperatives.

http://www.artbusiness.com/
For our purposes, this is quite a good site because it offers articles on so many issues that face working artists. Some favorite titles are:
How Not to Succeed in the Art World
I Can't Sell Art Because I'm Not Dead and the Media Are Idiots
Sell Your Art Successfully at Online Auctions
How to Set and Raise Selling Prices
When Your Art Sells, But You Don't Own It
An Art Website that Makes Money

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Business Plans and Profiles Index

Librarians really are nice folks. I sent out an email to one of our listservs in search of an online product like the Small Business Sourcebook (DOL packet staple), and a kind librarian from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh replied with this useful resource.

The Business Plans and Profiles Index, http://www.carnegielibrary.org/subject/business/bplansindex.html, offers online business plans where available, and directs users to print resources as well. Want a sample plan for "Butterflies and Moths, Retail" ? Sure thing. And for the print sources, we at the Research Network may be able to help you find those materials too.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sales Tax Calculator

We received a question about finding a software product that would calculate the sales tax in the 70-odd taxing units in the state of New York, which I did, but I wondered if the state tax department had anything that one could use online. I called a representative, who said there was none; he was wrong, as I found this free NYS sales tax lookup solution. It's a lot easier than looking up a list of all the communities in NYS, or even using this chart, and a lot more efficient. As the communities document states, do NOT use ZIP code alone as the criterion for assigning sales tax. ZIP Code 12309, e.g., is in both Albany and Schenectady Counties.

That said, if you’re looking for ZIP Codes by county, go here.

I suspect that most merchants are unfamiliar with the sales tax calculator, based on this discussion, where one participant writes: "Ugh... I think I'll just ban sales to New York residents and just be done with it. :-)." Please get the word out that, if one has the street address and the ZIP Code, one can easily find the sales tax rate.

What I could NOT find a tax rate collection chart for 8 5/8% that goes higher than $9.99. Do you know where to find one?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Top Venture Capital Firms for Entrepreneurs

A recent issue of Entrepreneur magazine contained this insert, titled "The Top Venture Capital Firms for Entrepreneurs", based on activity during the year 2005. This eight-page PDF file reports a summary of the "Money Tree Report," an annual study of venture capital activity conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers & the National Venture Capital Association.

Companies included here were ranked by the number of fundings to both startup and early-stage companies (defined as those being in business less than 24 months). The actual directory of the companies is extremely brief, and includes just the fund name, the physical location of its main office, and a link to their website.

Many of these names are familiar to me, based on past searches of the Galante's venture capital directory in our collection. If you'd like more information on any funds listed in this PDF, give us a call.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The blogosphere is expanding...

The world of weblogs just keeps growing. But how fast? Check out this blog entry, full of facts about blogs today at http://www.sifry.com/alerts/archives/000436.html . Did you know that the Blogosphere is more than 100 times bigger than it was three years ago? Or that in June 2006 31% of blog posts were in Japanese?

Or go straight to the source at http://technorati.com/ and see just what people are writing about and searching for.

Read more about using blogs as a marketing tool at http://www.abanet.org/lpm/lpt/articles/bot08061.shtml . While this article is about legal "blawgs" and marketing a law practice, it offers good information for anyone considering using blogs for their business.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Co-Packing

Challenges of Co-Packing
Food Product Design

R&D Management
By: Christine M. Homsey, Contributing Editor
April 1999

This article fleshes out the trials and tribulations for marketer and manufacturer, offering some advice on choosing an arrangement.


“Many factors need to be considered when signing a contract with a co-packer. For example, projected product volumes will influence how good a match a marketer and manufacturer will be. If a marketer has very low volumes or a single product to sell, many manufacturers will not want to bother. On rare occasions, co-packers turn away large volumes that would cause them to exceed their capacity or make them too dependent on one customer.”

Making Your Business Their Business
Is Contract Packaging The Right Fit For You?
By Mel Duvall
PMT: Packaging Machinery Technology


Onecle
Sample Business Contracts
Here is a sample contract for a co-packing agreement:
Packaging Agreement between Hansen Beverage Company and U.S. Continental Packaging, Inc.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

2002 SBO/2004 Employment Size Data/2005 SB Profiles

2002 SURVEY OF BUSINESS OWNERS (SBO), formerly known as the Surveys of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (SMOBE/SWOBE)
"Half of U.S. Businesses Are Home-Based, Majority of Firms Self-Financed, Census Bureau Reports
The Survey of Business Owners (SBO)...provides statistics that describe the composition of U.S. businesses by gender, Hispanic or Latino origin, and race. Additional statistics include owner's age, education level, veteran status, and primary function in the business; family- and home-based businesses; types of customers and workers; and sources of financing for expansion, capital improvements, or start-up. Economic policymakers in federal, state and local governments use the SBO data to understand conditions of business success and failure by comparing census-to-census changes in business performances and by comparing minority-/nonminority- and women-/men-owned businesses."

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau has also released 2004 employment size data on the number of firms, establishments, employment, and payroll by industry and state. In addition, Metropolitan Statistical Area births, closures, and employment changes by firm size for 2002-2003 were released. The data are located here.

Finally, "newly released data show that in 2005, small businesses represented 99.7 percent of all the nation's employer businesses." See the 2005 Small Business Profiles for the States and Territories, listed in the 2006 columns here.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Source for Manufacturers' Reps

We used to have password access to an online database of manufacturers' reps. However, the rules of information access are constantly changing, and the site's owners pulled the plug on our access.

I've only recently discovered that you can obtain lists of manufacturers' reps from the Thomas Register site. Some of you may have already discovered this, but for those that haven't, it's pretty cool.

On the home page, type a word or phrase in the "Product/Service" tab for what you're seeking. When you get results, notice the column titled "Modify Results" on the left hand side. Looking down that column, you'll see a box titled "Company Type". Notice "Manufacturers' Reps" is one of the options. The number of reps appears in parentheses (and, if there are none, expect to see a zero).

Click on the link, and boom, there you have it. I'm pretty sure that the TR's geography is limited to the U.S. and Canada, but that ought to be enough for the vast majority of our clients.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ageism in the Workplace

Another interesting tidbit on the radio this morning was concerning ageism in the workplace – in both directions. The British government is only now introducing legislation to attempt to curb age discrimination in the workplace. On PersonnelToday.com, a favorite magazine for the HR professional, they ran a story in about a small survey done by a consultancy called Water for Fish that revealed that 27% of the recruitment ads in a national Sunday newspaper contained language that might put the listing companies afoul of future laws. The article suggests it may be challenging for companies to rethink their hiring practices. Elements like requiring a specific number of years experience, asking for information that would reveal the applicant’s age, and using language such as “young”, “mature”, “dynamic” or “new graduate” won’t make the cut in the future.

Survey exposes ageism in recruitment ads
PersonnelToday.com

Mike Berry
12 May 2006 09:32

Ageism laws set to transform job adverts
BBC News

By Julian Knight Personal finance reporter

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Salary Searching

Indeed.com, one of the free agregator sites of online job postings, has just released a beta version of a salary search tool, available at http://www.indeed.com/salary

Type in the job title you are interested in and a location, and it will provide average salaries for that, and related, positions.

Or change it up and create a comparison of jobs or locations.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Govt's Role in Aiding Small Biz Federal Subcontracting Programs in the US

From SBA:

Small businesses in the United States have received a share of federal procurement dollars not quite commensurate with their relative importance in the U.S. economy, according to a research study released by the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy. The study states that while 99.7 percent of all employer firms are small, they receive about 23 percent of direct federal procurement dollars and almost 40 percent of subcontracting dollars.

The Government's Role in Aiding Small Business Federal Subcontracting Programs in the United States was authored by Major Clark III, Chad Moutray, and Radwan Saade from the Office of Advocacy.

The study discusses the importance of the small business sector to the overall economy and the policy framework for the federal government's involvement in requiring federal prime contractors to subcontract with small businesses. It examines the policy from 1958 to the present; and discusses steps needed to improve the American small business subcontracting program to accommodate greater participation by these businesses in new and emerging global markets.

To obtain a copy, visit here. The research summary is located here.

Should you need further information regarding this report, please feel free to contact Major Clark at advocacy@sba.gov or (202) 205-6533.

Monday, September 25, 2006

2006 Guide to Hispanic Marketing & Media

Each year, the magazine Advertising Age publishes a supplement called the "Hispanic Fact Pack". This year's version can be found here. The table of contents for this 27-page PDF file promises such things as:
  • Hispanic ad spending by media and category
  • Top Hispanic DMAs by media spending
  • Top web sites by viewers & ad revenues
  • U.S. Hispanic population by race, origin, projected growth

And other items, too. It's a macro view, to be sure, but the document provides a nice intro to this subject.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Encyclopaedia Britannica for all

The Encyclopaedia Britannica, www.britannica.com, would like you to know more about their online encyclopedia. Usually available only to subscribers, the renowned publication has just announced that they will make full-text, extended articles available to websites and blogs that wish to link to them.
Users can then see the full entry, rather than the usual stub that appears for non-subscribers.
They even give webmasters the code to add the link.

Here's an example.
Information from Encyclopædia Britannica about business organization
* Don't be put off by the flags promoting full access through a free trial- there are 25 pages of information here. But only for this topic.

Read more in their press release: http://corporate.britannica.com/press/releases/faf.html

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

ADA


One recent reference question was about enforcement of the Americans with Disablilities Act. I scowled a bit. Even before I attended a workshop on the ADA at an ASBDC conference a few years back, I knew that the focus of the law was not so much on enforcement, but on creating accessibility. I remember one example from the workshop: a store trying to be more accessible might create a ramp, but that might not be practical; so one dry cleaner installed a bell at the bottom of the steps, so that the clerk would come out to the client. Accessibility achieved.

This is not to say that there isn't any enforcement, and even fines imposed by the US Department of Justice. It's just not the route of first resort. Read more about the ADA here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Digital Life

Way back in May at staff training, we talked about your responses to a survey the Research Network had created one month earlier. Among the results to the survey was the majority's wish to have more information transmitted electronically. It's something we were interested in doing, so it's a good fit.

Tomorrow, Amelia & I will be attending a day-long seminar titled "Developing Digital Collections". It's the first of a four-part series, spread out over the next four months, on the subject of employing digitization in a library setting. We're very curious to hear from other librarians who've adapted this to their collection.

On another note, we're also close to upgrading our ancient copier. We'll be switching to one that will allow for scanning documents (for instance, our collection of 80+ start-up information packets), which can then be stored into specific files on our network. Scanning these will take some time, so it isn't like the arrival of a new copier will herald immediately a new era. However, it will speed up that era.

It's good to join the 21st century.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

En español, por favor

Many of our favorite information sources for general business advice are in Spanish as well as English. The following links provide access to some articles and documents that might be helpful to your Spanish-speaking clients.

Do you have other non-English resources? Things you’ve prepared? We’d love to be more multilingual on our website, so please think about what you might be able to share.

SBA en español: Online Library
http://www.sba.gov/espanol/Biblioteca_en_Linea/

SBDCNet Document exchange en español
http://sbdcnet.utsa.edu/docx/espanol.htm

SoyEntrepreneur.com
http://www.soyentrepreneur.com/

Mi Propia Negocio
http://www.myownbusiness.org/espanol/index.html

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

International Students

When I get a question about the number of international students in the United States, or U.S. students studying abroad, the source I check first is the Open Doors Report on International Exchange. There is a great deal of free information, such as:
Total Enrollment
Source of Funds
Source of Funds by Academic Level
Fields of Study
Leading Countries of Origin
Institutions with 1,000 or More International Students

while other data, such as
All Countries of Origin
All Institutions Enrolling International Students
Countries by US State
Fields of Study by State
are available in publications to members. A Research Membership is available for $50 for a month's access to all member data.

Here's some more examples of the great free data:

STATISTICS ON INTERNATIONAL EDUCATIONAL EXCHANGE IN NEW YORK

From the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report 2005, statistics particular to the state of New York are listed below. Additional statistics are available at IIE’s Web site.

FOREIGN STUDENTS IN NEW YORK 2004/05 (Rank # 2) 61,944 (down 2.2%)

ESTIMATED FOREIGN STUDENTS EXPENDITURE IN NEW YORK (in millions of dollars) $1,694.1

TOP NEW YORK INSTITUTIONS WITH 1,000 OR MORE FOREIGN STUDENTS 2004/05

Columbia University 5,278
New York University 5,140
SUNY at Buffalo 3,965
Cornell University 3,119
Syracuse University 2,200

LEADING FIELD OF STUDY FOR FOREIGN STUDENTS IN NEW YORK
Field of Study % Total

Other 21.8
Business & Management 15.0
Fine & Applied Arts 10.6
Engineering 10.1
Social Sciences 9.7

LEADING COUNTRY OF ORIGIN FOR FOREIGN STUDENTS IN NEW YORK

Republic of Korea: 11.8% - 7,294
India: 11.6% - 7,215
Canada: 10.3% - 6,365
China: 9.5% - 5,875
Japan: 6.5% - 4,001

TOTAL NUMBER OF U.S. STUDY ABROAD STUDENTS ENROLLED THROUGH NEW YORK INSTITUTIONS (03/04) 14,625

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembrance

Being a Monday, it's my day to post to this blog. However, it's a different kind of Monday - a day of reflection for many people in our country. Instead of small business, I had a poem that I read in the aftermath of those sad, chaotic days from five years ago. It speaks of hope, and it reassures me.

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

- Adam Zagajewski

Talk to you again, next week.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Shy Networker

It may be one thing to find opportunities to network, but it is quite another to succeed at it. For many people, the mere idea of networking is frightening, let alone entering a room full of strangers and striking up a conversation. I’ve come across a few articles that have some advice on how to network if you are not a natural.

Learning to Love Networking: How a Shy Guy Became a Master Glad-Hander
Inc. Magazine
August 2006 by Mike Spinney
Describes techniques to overcome anxiety including acknowledging the fear, and then having a plan of attack. First, avoid the boring intro, keep the listener engaged. As an example, the author explains how Reed Thompson, the focus of the story, improved his delivery:
You also have to keep them interested. To that end, he stopped telling people he was a personal financial adviser, which usually prompted glazed-over expressions and a change of subject. Instead, he began describing himself as the founder and president of a company that helps people take control of their finances. Suddenly, people began asking questions about him and his services.
Other tips include arriving early, practicing skills at more relaxed, familiar functions and keeping at it.

Networking Strategies for Shy Professionals
WSJ CareerJournal.com
By Judy Rosemarin
Done right, networking is a lifelong, evolutionary process that you should do frequently, if not daily. It's as natural as eating and sleeping. Whenever you talk with others and seek their opinions to make an informed decision -- even if it's just to find a good restaurant, movie or electrician -- you're networking.

How Do I Overcome Shyness in Marketing My Home Business?
www.iVillage.com
by Ellen Parlapiano and Pat Cobe, The Mompreneurs

Don't be shy: Networking tips for the timid
BizJournals.com
Joan Lloyd

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Market 2.0

Web 2.0: The power of 2

This article gives a very perceptive and thoughtful overview of howWeb 2.0 applications can change the nature of marketing. Some Excerpts:
"Social networks, blogs, user-generated content, tagging, wikis, P2P - all those are about conversation and fall neatly under 'reputation management', which is, essentially, PR," says Howell. Companies need to be out there, looking at what people say about them online, and respond in an open and appropriate way. Ignoring even one customer's negative comments on a blog could do serious damage to a brand's reputation.



Brands can learn an awful lot from blogs and social networks, which they can use to their advantage; not just to get their marketing messages right but also on a deeper business level, by involving consumers in product development.

An interesting example of this approach backfiring:

...car brand Chevrolet placed tools on its site that allowed users to remix and 'mash-up' its latest Chevy Tahoe ads.

Later,

[Chevrolet] took down its 'Make Your Own Tahoe Commercial' site after receiving a different response than expected. While it attracted 400,000 participants, 16 per cent created ads mocking the over-sized cars, the nature of the ads and the company.


Then, the success stories:

A rising number of digital marketing campaigns over the past year have enabled users to generate their own content. Here's a few:

Orange Paper Film Festival, by Poke

Entrants were invited to shoot a film on their mobile and send the clip via MMS to the Orange web site, where they could then edit them, and add a soundtrack and titles. Winners of the 'Palm de Paper' were presented with awards at a ceremony. The campaign won a BIMA award for best integrated campaign last year.

Sony PlayStation Summer of Freedom, Greenroom Digital

Sony ran a competition to find four 'Freedom Explorers' to act as cheerleaders for the brand. They were whisked to events throughout the summer and kept video blogs of their experiences, which users could read on the PlayStation Freedom site. Visitors could also upload their own video blogs, with a prize awarded to the best each week.

Coca-Cola World Cup campaign, bdnetwork

The soft-drinks giant invited users to take a digital photo of themselves, which showed just how much they love the World Cup, and send it in via MMS or email for the chance to win a pair of tickets to see a World Cup game every day throughout June.

Levi's Mobile Audio Mixer (MAX), Lateral

The fashion brand created web tools that enabled users to create a ringtone as part of an online competition last year. The best submission had their track remixed and pressed on to vinyl. There are rumours that the brand is considering launching the winning track as a single.


Read the whole article here:

Web 2.0: The power of 2



Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Analysis of 2003 Personal Income Tax Returns


"This report describes the prominent features of New York’s personal income tax, with particular emphasis on the 2003 tax year. It also includes taxpayer profiles consisting of number of taxable returns, sources of income, federal adjustments, New York modifications, deductions, dependent exemptions, tax liability and credits by NYAGI class, filing status and return type. In addition, it includes separate sections on income, itemized deduction amounts, exemptions, available credits and information on refundable credits. Finally, it compares statistics for 2003 with those from the prior year for most of these items."
The PDF of this report is 125 pages long, but if you feel so compelled to print it out, please note that a number of even-numbered pages are actually blank.

On a related topic, "The Rockefeller Institute of Government has released State Revenue Preview # 65P, the first in a new series of releases covering state tax collections. The Preview provides an early snapshot of the more comprehensive State Revenue Report, by reporting on tax collections for states that supplied information within one month after the close of their fiscal quarter." This PDF is two pages long.