Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Transportation Statistics

http://www.trbcensus.com/ Census Data for Transportation Planning

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ctpp/ Census Transportation Planning Package (CTPP) is a set of special tabulations from the decennial census designed for transportation planners. CTPP contains tabulations by place of residence, place of work, and for flows between home and work.

http://www.transtats.bts.gov/Bureau of Transportation Statistics: Intermodal Transportation Database

http://www.bts.gov/pdc/ BTS books for sale

Monday, January 30, 2006

"SBA Express" - A Case of (Almost) Identity Theft

Not long ago, I heard about a client of Bernie Ryba (from the outreach office of the Stony Brook SBDC in Great River) who had an experience worth sharing with all of you.

Bernie's client - a well-educated man - received a phone call from someone saying they were from SBA Express, and that his loan application had been approved, and that they needed his Social Security Number to finish processing. The client was somewhat confused, as he hadn't applied for any funding. However, he assumed that his advisor spoke with SBA, who in turn spoke with SBA Express. "They have 'SBA' in their name," he reasoned. "Why wouldn't they be legitimate?"

With this in mind, he gave the rep his Social Security Number. It didn't take long for him to regret it.

He called Bernie, and asked if he'd heard of the company. Bernie had not, and asked for the toll-free number they provided (1-877-545-2174). He called, and pretended to be someone looking for financing. He asked a rep, "Are you affiliated with the SBA?" And he was told, "No."

The conversation ended quickly after that, as it confirmed Bernie's suspicion that it was a scam. He contacted his client, and told him to get in touch with his bank (fortunately, he didn't have any existing credit cards to his name) and monitor his accounts, as well as to file a police report. He sent the client a copy of this article, and told him of the IdentityTheft 911, Web site that (among other things) helps victims of identity theft.

Bernie then left a message with the Attorney General's office regarding this case (he's still waiting to hear from them). He also notified his peers at the Stony Brook SBDC. An e-mail came to the Central Office (it's how I heard about it), and information was passed on to New York's SBA Regional Offices. (I would also suggest contacting the Federal Trade Commission.)

And he was good enough to speak to me at length about the case. So far, the client hasn't experienced any catastrophic loss from divulging his SSN, but he waits & wonders if the other shoe will drop someday.

So, Lesson #1: If you have a client who hears from SBA Express, warn them of this case. Lesson #2: And it bears repeating - never give your SSN number over the phone or through an e-mail (in other words, don't get phished). Even clients as well-educated as this one can still fall prey. (And kudos to Bernie for acting quickly on this, and being the kind of advisor that a client can contact, even when he or she is feeling foolish.)

For additional information, Roger posted a blog on identify theft on 6/28/05, and Mary Beth had some input in a posting on 11/10/05. Also, Roger has a series of PowerPoint slides on the subject that he put together for a presentation at the 2003 ASBDC Conference. Give him a call if you're interested in seeing them.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Seven Deadly Sins for Managers

I came across an article on FreePint intended for library managers but the advice may be applicable to anyone in an office environment. Maybe you (or someone you know) has these qualities that often aren't effective in managing staff or interacting with others:
  1. Micromanagement
  2. Lack of communication
  3. Fostering divisiveness
  4. Abusiveness
  5. Failure to listen
  6. Avoiding conflict
  7. Taking credit for others' work

Read the complete article at http://www.freepint.com/issues/050106.htm#tips for more discussion on the seven deadly sins as well as a list of Seven Desirable Strategies.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Entrepreneur Start Up Guides - Update

We’re keeping 10 years worth of the Entrepreneur Start-Up Guides. With the New Year comes de-accessioning the oldest of the bunch which in this case are:

1221 Computer Consulting ©1995
1321 Credit Consulting Service ©1995
1034 Janitorial Service #1 ©1995
1034 Janitorial Service #2 ©1995
1265 Making Money With A PC ©1995
1359 Operating a 900 Number For Profit ©1995
1154 Travel Agency ©1995
1296 Vitamin & Health Food Store ©1995

The revised list of available guides is:



NO. TITLE
1817 Apparel Business ©2000
AUCTION – see EBAY BUSINESS
BAKERY – see RESTAURANT
BARBER SHOP – see HAIR SALON…
1186 Bar/Tavern ©2001
1278 Bed and Breakfast #1 ©2003
1278 Bed and Breakfast #2 ©2003
BRIDAL CONSULTANT – see WEDDING…
1136 Business Support Services ©2000
1076 Car Wash ©2002
CATERING – see RESTAURANT
1058 Child Care Service ©2001
CHILDREN'S APPAREL – see CLOTHING…
1816 Cleaning Service ©2000
see also MAID SERVICE or JANITORIAL…
1817 Clothing Store ©2001
COFFEE HOUSE – see RESTAURANT
1162 Coin-Operated Laundry ©2001
COMMERCIAL CLEANING – see JANITORIAL…
COMPUTER CAREERS – see MAKING…
1151 Consultant ©2000
1304 Crafts Business ©2003
DAY CARE – see CHILD CARE SERVICE
DELI – see RESTAURANT

1824 eBay Business ©2003
1819 e-Business ©2004
1822 e-Learning Business ©2003
EMPLOYMENT AGENCY – see STAFFING…
1313 Event Planning Service ©2004
1228 Executive Recruiting ©2003
1328 Freight Brokerage ©2000
1306 Gift Basket Service ©2003
1170 Hair Salon & Day Spa ©2004
HEALTH FOOD STORE – see VITAMIN. . .
1282 Herbs & Herbal Products ©2003
1334 Home Inspection Service ©2002
1091 Import/Export Business ©2003
1237 Information Consultant ©2004
1393 Internet Entrepreneur ©1999
LAUNDROMAT – see COIN LAUNDRY
1198 Lawn Care Service ©2003
1159 Maid Service ©1996
1015 Mail Order Business ©2000
1345 Medical Claims Processing ©2001
MEN'S CLOTHING STORE – see CLOTHING…
1222 Network Marketing ©1997
1818 Personal Concierge Service ©2000
1823 Personal Training Business © 2002
PIZZERIA – see RESTAURANT
1400 Restaurant and Five Other Food Bus. ©1998
1400 Restaurant and Five Other Food Bus. ©2001
SANDWICH SHOP – see RESTAURANT
1820 Self-Publishing Business © 2001
1071 Seminar Production Business ©1998
1386 Specialty Travel and Tours ©2001
1189 Staffing Service ©2004
TEMP SERVICE – see STAFFING SERVICE
1375 Vending Business ©2000
1330 Wedding Consultant ©2002
1391 Wholesale Distribution Business ©2000
WOMEN'S APPAREL SHOP – see APPAREL…

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Help Me, Rhonda

Rhonda Abrams is a businesswoman who writes a syndicated weekly column about entrepreneurship, printed in several newspapers across the country as well as appearing online. She's a big fan of the SBDCs, as this column will attest.

Her December 30, 2005 column is entitled Websites for Entrepreneurs, and I recommend it. It includes:

Synergos Technologies "If you’re thinking of doing business in a location, or just going on a business trip, you’ll find this website a quick and easy way to find information about that city." Some of it is Census data, but other data includes weather, school districts, and travel distances to other cities.

Library of Congress State Govt. Page
State and Local Government on the Net
"Need to know what state laws apply to your business? Find a link to your state and local governments at these websites."

Industry association links: "I think trade associations are an amazing source of information, data, and advice for entrepreneurs; since I couldn’t find an easy-to-use list of associations on the web, I compiled one myself and put it on my website." This is VERY useful, especially if you don't have access to the Encyclopedia of Associations or its electronic equivalent.

Angel Capital Association: "Check this website for a directory of angel capital groups – perhaps you’ll find one in your area."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Developments in the Patent Process

I've recently come across two interesting documents regarding the current state of the U.S. patent system:

1) "Blackberry Picking," by James Surowiecki, from the 12/26/05 - 1/2/06 issue of The New Yorker. Surowiecki examines the recent case involving Research in Motion (or RIM), the Toronto-based company that brought the BlackBerry technology to widespread use. In this piece, he discusses the phenomenon known as "patent trolling," whereby small companies with patents find their fortunes not by bringing their creations to market, but rather by suing for infringement those companies that expend the effort. In addition, the author cites data showing that understaffing at the USPTO enables patent trollers to thrive.

2) "Competition, Innovation, and Racing for Priority at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office," by Linda Cohen and Jun Ishii, from the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies. This 45-page study challenges the long-standing American belief that awarding patents to someone who is "first to invent" is more entrepreneur-friendly than those nations (particularly Japan & those in Europe) who award inventors who are "first to file". Instead, they argue that the "first to invent" method delays the introduction of new technologies. Their paper isn't going to change the way the USPTO does business, but this has been an ongoing debate in the intellectual property community in the U.S.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Value of Networking

Most of the articles I come across on networking have to do with job seeking, but it seems (from what I hear from advisors), that our clients can often benefit from these skills as well.

Many entrepreneurs need to get the word out and possibly exchange services with other start-ups. Networking offers a great deal to the new business owner:

They can meet a variety of people, often building knowledge of their industry. It is a method of low cost advertising and a way to find bartering opportunities, maintain relationships with other professionals, potential clients and gain referrals.

Some articles:

10 Tips for Successful Business Networking
by Stephanie Speisman

Offers tips like:
…Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow…
…Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas.. .

How Job-Seekers Get Their Jobs
QuintCareers.com

Explains how people really get jobs and referrals.
A pie chart shows that nearly half of all job seekers reach the right people through networking followed by cold-calling which came in second (24%) for being the best way to get in the door. The importance of networking can also be applied to makig contact with clients and services. Although a career site, this one also has a list of networking sources on the web and best practices.


Finding Time: Blending Networking Into Your Life
By Perri Capell
WSJ CareerJournal.com

“You may think of networking -- making new contacts and spreading the word about yourself or your company -- as slogging to trade shows or meet-and-greet cocktail parties to shake hands and exchange business cards.

But tending to your career doesn't require spending long days in hotel ballrooms or long nights in smoke-filled bars. If you see everyone as a potential contact, you can network during any mundane daily activity, from waiting in line for a latte to peddling at the gym to commuting.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Shopping the Seasonal Sales

Your clients, both as retailers and customers, may appreciate this article from All Things Frugal- Home of The Pennypincher E-zine Tightwad Tidbits Daily & The General Store

Maximize your Money by Seasonal Shopping

We all know that certain items go on sale at different times of the year.

Here is a list of items that regularly go on sale- when and why. Most of these are common sense. Most items go on sale at the beginning of the season they are used in, due to competition. They also go on sale at the end of the season during clearance sales. There are also traditional sales, probably started to fill in the gaps, and inventory clearance sales at the end of the year on almost everything.

January

*Winter clothes- inventory clearance of clothes, shoes, boots, purses and other seasonal items.
*Holiday Clearance- the festivities are over for while. Look for sales on all holiday or festive items.
*This is a great time to buy wedding gifts or gifts for children.
*January White Sale- The traditional sale for linens, towels, bedding, etc.

February

This is a slow month for retailers. Look for sales in popular sellers like:

*Household items, Furniture and other Textiles
*Dinnerware
*Electronics

March

*Garden Supplies- Competition brings down the prices this month.
*Luggage- competition as people prepare for vacations.
*Spring Clothing and Shoe competition.
*Storm Windows are now off season with better price negotiation.
*Winter Outdoor recreation equipment - going out of season.

April

*Lots of new, seasonal clothes.
*Clearance on Easter dresses and accessories, as well as men's suits and ties.

May

*Traditional White Sales on linens, blankets, towels, eta.
*Spring Cleaning competition on supplies. Good time to buy a mop!
*Tires- competition as people start preparing their cars for vacations.
*Home Maintenance items,as the season begins to spruce up homes.
*Spring competition in buying new handbags, replacing lingerie, other light clothing.

June

*Summer clothing.
*Television sets.
*Refrigerators- got to have a good one in the summer.
*Continued sales on home improvement products.
*Large items like pianos are not selling and very negotiable.

July

*Clearance begins for summer clothes, bathing suits, and other light wear
*Clearance on air conditioners.
*Home appliances-more home improvement competition.
*Rugs and carpets- home improvement competition.
*Fuel oil- refill competition.
*Radios and stereo equipment- summer fun.
*Summer sports equipment sales. (like camping equipment)
*Used cars.

August

*Furniture, lamps, and other household items-last shopping trip before winter competition.
*Traditional White Sales (as above).
*Clearance on outdoor sport equipment.
*Clearance on seasonal items such as barbecues, air conditioners, fans, lawn mowers.
*School Supplies - competition.
*Outer Wear Competition . *Summer clothes clearance .
*New car clearance to get ready for the new models.

September

*Back to School Items: Clothes & Supplies.
*Gardening Supplies (the end of the season close-out).
*Household Accessories, such as rugs, lamps and dishes.
*Bicycles and Car parts.

October

*Fishing Season- Supplies.
*School clothes and supplies clearance (stock up for next year).
*Cars- getting ready for the new models.
*Finer household items like crystal and silver- in anticipation of the holidays.

November

*Winter is Coming Items- Coats, Boots, Gloves, eta.
*Quilts and Blankets.
*Heating Devices and Appliances.

December

*Toys- lots of competition to bring down the prices.
*Winter Items to keep warm still on sale.
*Festive Occasion Items on sale-Tablecloths, gift items, party ware.
*Day after Christmas Markdowns- Everything from toys and wrapping paper to clothes.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Follow-up on NYSL/NYPL and Novel Databases

Back on 6/2/05, I blogged that the New York State Library and New York Public Library's databases are accessible to all New Yorkers with a library card. Well, things just got easier. Now you can skip the library card application and log into http://novelnewyork.org/ with a valid New York State driver's license (or DMV photo ID). You and your clients would probably find these databases of interest:
  • Business & Company Resource Center-includes company profiles, brand information, company histories, SEC reports, periodical articles, and links to relevant Web sites.
  • New York State Newspapers-includes the following seven full-text newspapers from around New York State: Buffalo News, New York Times (from 2000 on), New York Post, New York Observer, Syracuse Herald American, Syracuse Herald-Journal, and Post-Standard (Syracuse).

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The International Telecommunications Union

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), whose mandate is “to maintain and extend international cooperation between all its Member States for the improvement and rational use of telecommunications of all kinds” and with members across the globe, they are well placed to offer reliable information relating to the telecommunications industry.
You can find maps and graphs, statistics on the number of telephone lines, broadband penetration, and mobile cellular subscribers among other ICT indicators for most countries you can think of. They also have a who’s who directory, and a section on industry regulations in this densely packed site dedicated to telecoms issues and developments.

Publications include the World Telecoms Indicators 2004; and the ITU Internet Reports 2005: The Internet of Things as well the practical guideline handbooks dealing with security issues or regulations and standards.
Based in Switzerland, the reports available for purchase or download are in Swiss francs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Independent contractor or employee?

Some employers have made the fateful decision to furlough their employees, only to hire them back as "independent contractors" to avoid governmental obligations that an employee requires, such as matching Social Security payments. Can they do that? Well, "it depends."

The IRS has a PDF document here that describes the definitions of an employee and an independent contractor. (Saying they are independent contractors does not necessarily make them so.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

"What's Your Signage?" Wins State Award

In late December, I heard from a woman named Mary Redmond. At the time, Ms. Redmond was the Acting Director of the New York State Library. In addition, she serves on a committee called the Government Information Roundtable for the New York Library Association, or NYLA/GIRT.

The purpose of her call was to inform us that What's Your Signage? was named one of two winners of NYLA/GIRT's 2004 New York State Notable Documents Award. More on that story can be found here:
http://www.nyssbdc.org/News/FullArticle.cfm?id=134

If you recall, the book serves as an introduction to the value that an effective sign can provide a small business. It took the better part of eight months to create. It is the result of work done by myself, Mary Beth Bobish, and Josee Fonseca, with invaluable design work done by SUNY Central Administration's David Schillinger.

If you were with the SBDC in April 2004, then you should have received a copy of this book. If, for whatever reason, you don't have a copy, then let me know, and one can be mailed to you.

Very soon, a Web-based version of this book will be made available to the world. More on that in the near future.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

SBA Newsletters for You

SBA offers several free e-newsletters to keep you up-to-date on a wide variety of information and business opportunities for small businesses. Subscribe to one or many and receive e-mail notification as soon as items are published. Here's a sampling of the available newsletters:

  1. BUFFALO, NY NEWSLETTER
    This monthly newsletter provides current events, lender reports, and up-to-date information on SBA programs and small business issues.
  2. REGION 2 NEWSLETTER
    Inside Region 2 is a quarterly newsletter focusing on SBA news in New York State, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as program and policy updates from SBA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
  3. SBA BUSINESS LOAN GUARANTY
    Be among the first to receive emails with Agency approved, time-sensitive information regarding SBA's business loan guaranty programs.
  4. SMALLBIZOPPS
    SBA's Office of Government Contracting offers this newsletter to help small business owners understand how to market to federal agencies and private industry.
  5. VETGAZETTE
    The Office of Veteran's Business Development's quarterly newsletter provides veterans and service disabled veteran entrepreneurs with up-to-date information on all of SBA's programs and services, available resources and related small business issues.

It's easy to subscribe. Visit http://web.sba.gov/list/.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Minority Business Directories

There are several sources useful when searching for minority or women owned businesses in an area of sector. Here are a few I have used:

Empire State Development

Minority & Women Owned Businesses Searchable Database
This database can searched by:

  • Economic Development Regions
  • Business Market Areas
  • Certification Types
  • Gross Sales
  • Product/Services Type
  • Federal ID number


8(a) Sources

"The comprehensive source for current information on federally-certified minority and woman-owned businesses."

Business Research Services, publishers of business directories and electronic directory products, offer this online service, searchable by company name, industry and location.

They also publish the Set-Aside Alert, a newsletter for small, minority, and woman-owned business issues and contracting news. BRS also create custom-generated electronic directories for a fee.


The MWBE Directory:

The Source for locating minority and women owned businesses.


This is their own description of what they can offer:
“The MWBE directory is a comprehensive on-line directory of Minority and Women owned business enterprises. The MWBE directory provides a platform for corporations to promote their dedication to diversity while providing an information portal to access vital, timely information about Minority and Women owned business enterprises nationwide. The MWBE directory is not an on-line bid service; it is a searchable database of the most up to date information on Minority and Women business enterprises.
In order to promote true equality without prejudice or bias we needed to offer a product that allows all of our customers the opportunity to promote their services regardless of company size or financial strength, therefore all advertisements whether Corporate or Enterprise are of equal size and shape. Our directory will remain a "work in progress" as we are tasked with creating, editing and updating to ensure the most accurate information available.”

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Help us to help you

Happy 2006!

Here are some ways we can better serve you in the new year:

  • When you have a reference question, please call the Research Network at extension 149 or e-mail the Research Network .

    Each of us have days that we do telephone coverage. We really prefer that, in most cases, that you call us with your reference query. It may be a bit of an interrupter in terms of working on questions, but the tradeoff is that we believe that we get a better understanding of the query.

    However, when you call an individual librarian who may be out, or may be trying to work on getting the reference out, it slows up the process, for the librarian, and ultimately, for you.

  • If you have a complex reference question and no one is available, please leave a number so we may call back.

    It is a rare occurrence that none of the librarians are available, but it does happen: staff meetings, building fire drills, or occasionally, when we're all already on the phone. Leave us a message; we will call you back.

    Please do not leave us a detailed listing on the phone of the question itself, which 1) usually takes three or four playbacks to write down and 2) inevitabily, some important piece of information is missing.

  • If you are getting a lengthy reference question via fax or e-mail from your client, please analyze it. We have received questions with 30 or more bullet points, (REALLY), and we are forced to wonder whether the client actually needs to know all of those items at this point in the business cycle. Make sure the questions make sense to you, the advisor, because if you, who have met with the client, don't understand them, we, who try to parse this information from the narrative, probably won't. Client questions are often filled with jargon, and we'd appreciate an English translation. Also, with other advisors to serve, we often don't have time to work on questions with 30 or more bullet points, so we will have to make our determination as what we think is most important, or most accessible.

  • Please provide a case number, or at bare minimum, a client name. Now that we are inputting our statistics, we can't send out your question until we've entered your record. Don't clutter our desks further with your completed questions awaiting a number.

  • Generally speaking, we work on a FIFO method, first in, first out. Can we bump a question ahead? Sure, but at the cost of time to others in the queue, possibly including another of your clients. Please use "I need it right away" sparingly.

  • Why do you get some responses out of chronological order? Sometimes, on a Friday afternoon at 3 pm, I'll look for "easy" questions that I can finish before 5 pm. Personally, I don't like to start a question on a Friday and finish on a Monday, because I have to review what I've already done. Therefore, I'll look for requests for business lists, business plans, or other concrete items and get them out.

  • PLEASE do not give out our e-mail adress or phone number. We can only answer questions that come from NYS SBDC.

    Any other questions about how we do things? Please ask. We really don't bite.
  • Monday, January 02, 2006

    Resolutions

    I'm not a strong believer in waiting until January 1st to create a list of tasks whose completion is to be a test of my resolve. Challenge and self-improvement are year-round endeavors.

    However, sitting here in an empty office on January 2nd, with nothing but an iPod to keep me company (an old Jackson Browne song is playing, for those keeping score), I can't help but feel reflective. Starting tomorrow, the whirlwind begins again in earnest, and workday reflection won't be available for a long, long time. With that, here are some long-term items that the Research Network strives to accomplish in 2006:

    1. Reduce the turnaround time. For a variety of reasons, it's hovering around three weeks right now, which is unacceptable to all of us. Talk about a year-round endeavor - this has been at the top of our list for several years running.

    2. Finish the signage Web site that preoccupied all of 2005 (this is near & dear to me especially).

    3. Explore what it takes to get a working Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program up and running.

    4. Integrate our collection (and collective ability) with other libraries in the area to augment the number of resources to answer client queries.

    5. Work with each of you to better streamline the information asking (and receiving) process.

    6. Keep on blogging, and to develop a search mechanism to help you find posts from the recent past.

    7. Get a version of our circulating collection (i.e., those items that we can lend to you) on the SBDC's Internal Web Site.

    8. Cooperate with SUNY at Albany to keep the libary interns coming through our door (they're really a big help).

    I'm sure there are more, but this is ambitious enough. I can't promise that each of these will be met in the next 12 months, but they are the reasons we keep coming to work every day.

    Best of luck to all of you in whatever resolutions you make, and have a safe, adventurous new year.