Thursday, August 31, 2006

Creativity

It is only too easy to find fall into a rut. Everywhere you look it is easy to see examples of situations where the joy has gone out of a thing, and no creativity is being used to solve problems. So, how to keep things fresh? How does that creative problem solving go away? The main thing seems to be to exercise your mind, by thinking. Like the cardinal rule of brainstorming, don’t censor. Spend time looking beyond your realm of expertise, to other disciplines and exercise your imagination by using it. Here are a couple of articles and sites that explore how we maintain our creativity.

The Brain Behind Creativity
USA Today: Science and Space
Updated 8/27/2006 10:04 PM ET

Creativity
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Creativity Techniques – an A to Z
Creativity Innovation mycoted Science and Technology

de Bono Consulting

"The quality of our thinking will determine the quality of our future."-Edward de Bono

Books by Edward de Bono:

Teach Your Child How to Think by Edward de Bono

Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas by Edward De Bono

I Am Right You Are Wrong: From This to the New Renaissance: From Rock Logic to Water Logic by Edward de Bono, Ivar Giaever, Brian Josephson, and Sheldon Lee Glashow

De Bono's Thinking Course, Revised Edition by Edward de Bono, Intelligence is a skill that can be developed...., and Intelligence is a skill that can be developed......
New Think: The Use of Lateral Thinking in the Generation of New Ideas by Edward De Bono

Sur/Petition: Creating Value Monopolies When Everyone Else Is Merely Competing (Going Beyond Competition) by Edward De Bono
Practical Thinking: 4 Ways to Be Right, 5 Ways to Be Wrong, 5 Ways to Understand by Edward De Bono

How to Have a Beautiful Mind by Edward De Bono (Jan 23, 2007)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Labor Day 2006


I enjoy the irony of celebrating Labor Day by not working. Even though there are 2 1/2 more weeks of the season, it's dubbed "the end of summer." Well, who am I to be contrary?

Labor Day, as described by:

The US Department of Labor

Wikipedia

Geocities

PBS

How stuff works

something called Wilstar




Friday, August 25, 2006

Science editors have the nicest links

I think it is fair to assume that most science editors are smart people. But who knew that they could put together such a nice list of internet reference links? The Council of Science Editors has indeed put together lovely pathfinder page, available at http://www.councilscienceeditors.org/links.cfm.

Having stumbled upon this site when I interned for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, I’ve bookmarked it ever since. Some links are particularly science-y (like the link to FishBase, a database of over 28,400 species of fish), while others are just cool (check out the link to the dictionary of clichés or the internet anagram server).

I probably should have just blogged about the neatest links individually, thus providing myself with blog fodder for some time. But I’m nicer than that, so here’s the whole kit and caboodle.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

New Books on the Shelves

Reference

Community Sourcebook of zip code demographics 2006

Community Sourcebook of county demographics 2006

Kids count data book

NACS State of the industry 2005:

Northeast Center for Small scale food entrepreneurship:

Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.: Distilled spirit sales

The PMI Book of Project Management Forms


Circulating

Klees, Emerson. Entrepreneurs in history-- success vs. failure : entrepreneurial role models

Klees, Emerson. Staying with it: role models of perseverance


Moltz, Barry. You need to be a little crazy: the truth about starting and growing your business

Godfrey, Joline. No more frogs to kiss: 99 ways to give economic power to girls

Hornjak, Boris. The Project Surgeon: a troubleshooter's guide to business crisis management

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

2005 American Communities Survey

It's likely you've read about the 2005 American Communities Survey, which was released last week. The new "data products include estimates of demographic, social, and economic characteristics of people, households and housing units (both occupied and vacant) for every state in the Nation, Puerto Rico, and most areas with a population of 65,000 or more." The 2004 ACS was limited to places with 250,000 or more.

In the Capital District, it's already created controversy, with the Albany mayor indicating that there is an undercount, and Colonie officials elated with their town's growth. This article, which talks a bit about the survey process, may be helpful. Surveys are sent to households, and if there is new construction in a geography which the Census Bureau doesn't know about - usually because the geographic entity has failed to provide information to the Census Bureau - then this could lead to the appearance of an undercount.

The ACS is still a fairly new tool that data users and governmental officials are still getting used to. If you access it, please note the very large caveat that it does NOT include numbers for group quarters: dorms, prisons, nursing homes, and the like.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Survey - How Much Money Does It Take to Start a Small Business?

Some of you may have already gotten wind of this, but a brief article appeared in last week's issue of the Central Valley (CA) Business Times titled "Survey: What it costs to start a small business". The text was based on a press release from Wells Fargo, based on their latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index study.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Wild World of Wiki

As if the folks who contribute to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia don’t have enough fun in cyberspace, they recently convened for the second annual “Wikimania” convention. Here, founder Jimmy Wales discussed his intent to focus on quality over quantity. Although a recent article in Nature gave Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Brittanica close marks in accuracy for their scientific articles, Wales appreciates that the whole encyclopedia isn’t there yet. There’s work to be done, but Wiki devotees seem up to the task.

Home page for the convention: http://wikimania2006.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
Article about Wales’ comments: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060804/ap_on_hi_te/wikimania
Read more about the study from Nature:
http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051212/full/438900a.html

Thursday, August 17, 2006

FITA: The Federation of International Trade Associations

Under the category: a lot of stuff in one place, this site is a gateway to a lot of good international organization sites, directories, and advice relating to international trade. I had a look at the "Getting Started in Importing or Exporting?" and found a number of information sheets or pathfinders for various aspects of a international trading company. It offers a nice compilation of a number of other sites on all aspects of import/export.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Northern New York Tourism Research Center

The NNY Tourism Research Center was created in 2001 to fill an information void felt by communities, tourism professionals, entrepreneurs and others. Among its reports are the 2004 STATISTICAL COUNTY TOURISM PROFILES, 12 - 16 page PDF files for these counties:
Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Warren; plus the Town of Webb in Herkimer County.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Economic Impact of NYS SBDC: 2004

As some of you might know, Dr. James Chrisman (from Mississippi State University) frequently conducts impact studies on behalf of the SBDC program. Surveys were mailed from Central earlier this year to those long-term clients (i.e., those with a minimum of 5 hours of contact time) seen during 2004.

This, from the report:
"In 2004 the New York SBDC provided long-term consulting assistance to 14,984 clients. Of these, 4,226 owned established small businesses and 10,758 were seeking to start new businesses (pre-ventures). A mail questionnaire was sent to the 9,368 long-term clients for whom the SBDC still had valid mailing addresses in 2006. A total of 1,405 clients returned questionnaires. This represented a 15.0 percent response rate."

From these responses, Dr. Chrisman was able to compile his analysis of the New York program's performance for 2004. It's a detailed report, but here are some of the highlights:

Aggregate sales impact:
Established Firms = $354,294,300
Pre-Ventures = $2,611,246,300
Total = $2,965,540,600

Aggregate employment impact:
Established = 2183 new jobs
Pre-Ventures = 12,162
Total = 14,345

Existing jobs saved = 8,579

Benefit-to-cost ratio (entire NY SBDC operation):
Established = $1.61/$1.00
Pre-Ventures = $10.50/$1.00
Total = $12.10/$1.00

Regarding that last figure, the report concludes that "the consulting provided to both established business and pre-venture clients generated $12.10 in tax revenues in one year for every $1 spent on the entire program." Per Jim King, who's been looking at these reports for nearly 20 years, these are "very strong numbers".

Good work, everyone!

There's a lot more data in this 19-page report. If you'd like to see an electronic copy of it, please email me at darrin.conroy@nyssbdc.org.

Friday, August 11, 2006

WorldCat is now online

The contents of more than 10,000 libraries, with 1.3 billion records for books and lots of other materials are now available in one place, free, and online.

If a library owns it, it’s probably in here.

OCLC’s WorldCat is available at the new beta site, http://www.worldcat.org/. To learn more check out http://www.oclc.org/worldcat/.

Give it a whirl.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Nations Online Project

Another helpful site I don’t think we’ve mentioned before is www.nationsonline.org which is what it sounds like: information on nations and regions of the world. It promotes itself as “among other things, a more or less objective guide to the world, a statement for the peaceful, nonviolent coexistence of nations.”, which works for me.

It also includes some useful information like population statistics, international news, maps, culture, flags, languages, currencies and airports. And most useful at this time of threat to air travel, there is a link to compilations of global travel safety advice.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Due diligence

From Entrepreneur magazine:

The process by which persons conduct inquiries for the purposes of timely, sufficient and accurate disclosure of all material statements/information or documents which may influence the outcome of the transaction. Due diligence is a critical component in mergers and acquisitions.
Due Diligence definition – usually associated with contracts or investments, this term , in general, means that proper efforts will be made in investigations or examinations of efforts put forth in a transaction. Good faith efforts are to be made in performing obligations.

First, the definition should mean nothing more than an investor being "diligent" when checking out the substance of the claims made by an entrepreneur with respect to the market, the product or service concept, the competition, the management team and so on. The term "due" means that it's expected and someone has to perform this task. So the concept is really all about the diligence that is due the investigation into an emerging company's plan for doing business. There are some in the financing environment who expect this to be done by the entrepreneur on behalf of the investors, and that's a completely wrong understanding. The company founder makes some form of disclosure within the business plan, but the responsibility to follow-up on and check out the statements made in that document falls squarely on the shoulders of the investor. For the scope of your financing experiences, always assume that the potential funding source is the one that will check and recheck everything presented by the entrepreneur.

The next issue to consider is how the due diligence gets accomplished. As I said before, this varies considerably from deal to deal. At the first level, a potential investor may pass the business plan along to a colleague who has specific experience in the same (or a similar) area of the new venture. Technical drawings, terminology, articles cited, machinery or processes described, pricing and shipping practices, and marketing channels are all examples of categories within the plan that need to be checked carefully by investors to see if the entrepreneur really knows what he or she is talking about. Certain industries may have very unique issues in these and other company functions. A skilled eye with experience in that same market space will be able to comment on the accuracy of the statements made. If your general contracting business idea doesn't convey a clear understanding of the specific issues related to building supplies, pricing, payment terms or financial commitments on real estate, then due diligence should readily pick up on these as red flags that bring into question the overall quality of the deal.

Due diligence can also go several steps further. Investors will often pick up the phone and contact people or companies named in your business plan. If Jill Smith is listed on your advisory board with an impressive electrical engineering background, investors will want to speak directly with her and follow-up on where she went to school, how long has she been in the industry and hear her version of what she's doing on the board. If Jones and Jones Inc. is listed in the plan as the primary supplier of parts inventory to the new venture, not only will investors want to talk with shipping and manufacturing people at Jones and Jones, but they may also want to visit the factory to meet the owners and production crew and see the operation firsthand. When an accounting practice, law firm or design company is named in the plan, a thorough due diligence speaks directly with each of these and discusses the extent of the business relationship with the entrepreneur and the new company.

This also applies to statements about patents, trademarks, exclusive contracts and deals currently in process with a large buyer. Investors would like to mitigate as many risks as possible related to the funding opportunity. Due diligence simply allows them to check and double-check the pertinent pieces of the deal before deciding whether to provide capital. So don't get upset when an exhaustive due diligence is performed on your business proposal. If everything's accurate in your presentation, then the due diligence will further validate that fact and investors will be more likely to put money into your deal.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Turnaround Times & Signs

Two quick things this week. I've been remiss in giving an update regarding the turnaround time for your requests. Right now, there's a seven-day gap between when you ask a question and when we answer it. We plan on keeping it around that level for a while longer.

Secondly . . . after many delays, and a lot of work, the website for the SBDC book "What's Your Signage?" is nearly complete. It's a collaborative effort between the SBDC and the International Sign Association (ISA). Right now, a volunteer team of fifteen ISA members are looking it over to see if we've got the details correct regarding their industry.

Next week, I'm going to send an e-mail out to some lucky group of SBDC advisors to look at the site from a small business perspective. You could be the big winner! Seriously, it won't take too much of your time, and your feedback will be valuable. It'll be a random selection of advisors, with a mix from upstate & downstate. (Of course, if anyone not selected wants to look at it, I welcome your input as well.)

Thanks!

Friday, August 04, 2006

LaGuardia CC International Trade Fair

Sent by the LaGuardia Community College SBDC in Long Island City


Are you in the import or export business?

Attend the LaGuardia Community College International Trade Fair & Symposium

"Growing American businesses through strengthening trade opportunities with the world"

August 22 - 24, 2006 in the E- building Atrium on the LaGuardia Community College Campus

MEET DIRECTLY WITH SUPPLIERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD!
Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Greece, Mexico

Agro-industrial Products Leather Goods Textiles Handicrafts & more!
· Business trade fair with up to 50 foreign and domestic exhibitors
· Educational seminars and workshops on trade
· Business networking, matchmaking and marketing opportunities

:: Be an Exhibitor
· US wholesalers and importers of international products
· Multinational businesses looking to sell in the US market
· Transportation & logistics companies
· New York trade and business assistance providers

:: Be an Attendee
· No fee to attend
· Register to participate in free matchmaking opportunities
· US wholesalers, retailers and promoters looking to expand and diversify products and services they offer
· US exporters looking to build resources and competitiveness

:: Be an Event Sponsor
· Access hundreds of fair attendees per day from New York’s business community
· Sponsor the Fair, a Coffee Hour Discussion or Special Luncheon

Get the Edge - Get Competitive - Get Your Share of the Global Market
Through LaGuardia, The World's Community College

:: GET INVOLVED!
Contact the Office of Economic Development at (718) 482 5093 or oed@lagcc.cuny.edu
Or visit our webpage http://laguardiatradefair.com/


En Español

Esta usted en el negocio de importación y exportación?

Asista a la Feria de Negocios y Simposio Internacional de LaGuardia Community College

"Aumentando negocios americanos a través del fortalecimiento de oportunidades comerciales con el mundo "
Agosto 22 - 24, 2006 en el Atrio ubicado en el edificio E de LaGuardia Community College

REUNASE DIRECTAMENTE CON PROVEEDORES DE DIFERENTES PARTES DEL MUNDO !

Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Grecia, México

Productos Agroindustriales Bienes en cuero Textiles Artesanías y mas!
· Feria de negocios con mas de 50 expositores nacionales e internacionales
· Seminarios y talleres de negocios educacionales
· Oportunidades de contactos para su negocio, matchmaking y mercadeo de sus productos

:: Sea un Expositor
· Mayoristas e importadores Norteamericanos de productos internacionales
· Empresas multinacionales interesadas en vender en el mercado Norteamericano
· Compañias de transporte y logistica internacional
· Empresas de Nueva York y organizaciones de asistencia a negocios

:: Sea un Asistente
· Entrada gratis
· Regístrese para participar sin ningún costo en las oportunidades de matchmaking
· Mayoristas, minoristas y promotores Norteamericanos que están buscando expandir y diversificar los productos y servicios que ofrecen
· Exportadores norteamericanos buscando construir recursos y competitividad

:: Sea Patrocinador del Evento
· Tenga acceso a los centenares de asistentes diarios que forman parte de la comunidad de negocios de Nueva York
· Patrocine la Feria, tema de discusión durante el Coffee Hour ó un Almuerzo Especial

Obtenga las Ventajas Vuélvete competitivo Obtenga su Parte del Mercado Global
A través de LaGuardia, La Universidad del Mundo

:: INVOLUCRATE!
Comunícate con La Oficina de Desarrollo Económico al (718) 482 5093 ó oed@lagcc.cuny.edu
O visita Nuestra Pagina Web
http://laguardiatradefair.com/

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Ways of Great Leaders

The Three Ways of Great Leaders
“In a new study, some leading business thinkers identify the attributes of great leadership -- and nominate the best bosses of the 20th century.”
From: Issue 98 September 2005 Page 50 By: Bill Breen
Fast Company

This Fast Company article looks at “contextual intelligence” or the ability to see opportunities in the winds of change. C.W.Post and his product samples, Louis B. Neumiller of Catepillar, taking advantage of circumstances to become a permanent fixture on the global scene, or Lee Iococca’s ability to use demographics in his favor: they all capitalized on what was going on in the world and used their individual styles to put their products in the limelight.

Another Fast Company article on leadership offers the flipside:

Ten Self-Defeating Behaviors to Avoid
"Want to Succeed at Work? First Step: Get Out of Your Own Way"
2005-09-26 by Mark Goulston
Fast Company
The article starts out with some advice from Warren Buffet and goes on to describe what not to do – always a favorite for me. Here are the highlights:

1. Thinking you're indispensable:
2. Talking over or at others:
3. Not listening:
4. Not delegating:
5. Using jargon:
6. Being afraid to fire people:
7. Fear and avoidance of giving performance reviews:
8. Fear of confrontation:
9. Fear of failing:
10. Not getting buy-in:

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Web site, web site, website

Just how are you supposed to spell website these days? Darrin and I pondered this very question the other day, and here’s the answer:

Depends who you ask.

Merriam-Webster and the Associated Press will tell you it should be Web site. Afterall, "Web" refers to the World Wide Web, which as a proper noun always gets capitals.

American Heritage goes both ways, but offers this usage note:
http://www.bartleby.com/61/57/W0075725.html
“The transition from World Wide Web site to Web site to website seems to have progressed as rapidly as the technology itself. The development of website as a single uncapitalized word mirrors the development of other technological expressions which have tended to evolve into unhyphenated forms as they become more familiar. Thus email has recently been gaining ground over the forms E-mail and e-mail, especially in texts that are more technologically oriented. Similarly, there has been an increasing preference for closed forms like homepage, online, and printout.”

I like Oxford’s answer best:
http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/usage/website?view=uk

“It always takes a little time for new words to settle to a standardized form. Our most recent dictionary, the revised 11th edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, published in July 2004, shows website as the standard form, and future dictionaries will reflect this.
We recommend capital initials for Internet, World Wide Web, the Web, but not for individual sites.”

There. That settles it. Sort of.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What’s Taxable? State Issues Quick Reference Guide For Sales and Use Taxes

Here's what the press release says:

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has published a convenient quick reference guide and research tool to help business and individual taxpayers meet their New York sales and use tax obligations.

Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Andrew S. Eristoff today unveiled Publication 850, New York State and Local Sales and Use Tax: Quick Reference Guide, designed to provide general information about State and local sales and use taxes.

Commissioner Eristoff said, "Sales and Use tax can be confusing for many taxpayers. Over the past 12 years the Department of Taxation and Finance has made great strides in simplifying our rules and regulations, clarifying our forms and instructions, and making interaction with the Department more convenient.

"Publication 850 takes this a step further by bringing all of these simplified and revised resources together in a handy reference guide. No longer will taxpayers need to wade through a plethora of publications to determine if a particular good or service is taxable and under what conditions; this guide will direct them immediately to the proper information to meet their needs," Commissioner Eristoff said.

This quick reference guide includes a list of taxable and exempt property and services along with basic information related to record keeping and how to avoid common errors when filing a sales tax return. Taxpayers can also receive timely information concerning sales tax changes by subscribing to the Department’s free, e-mail subscription service.


Here's what I say:

It's STILL confusing when fruit drinks which contain less than seventy percent of natural fruit juice are taxable, but drinks with more than seventy percent juice are not (paragraph 1115 of the state TAX law.)