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Showing posts from May, 2007

Keeping the Books

I had intended to highlight books some of the newer books we have in the library and this is one very practical one. This list does not list all the subsections for all the chapters - I have listed only the sections from the chapter on essential recordkeeping for small businesses.

Keeping the Books: Basic Recordkeeping and Accounting for the Successful Small Business 6th ed.(2004)
by Linda Pinson

Chapters
Recordkeeping Basics

Income and Expenses

Cash Accounting Versus Accrual Accounting

Essential General Records for Small Business
Single and Double Entry Systems
Chart of Accounts
Debits and Credits
An Overview of Four Accounting Tasks Using QuickBooks Pro®
Summary: Accounting Software
Revenue & Expense Journal
Petty Cash Record
Inventory Record
Fixed Assets Log
Accounts Receivable
Accounts Payable
Payroll Records
Independent Contractors

Recreation in the U.S.A. or Where to Go to Ride Your Horse

Here's a fun U.S. government site (and you thought the Census pages were about as good as it got):

Recreation.gov offers this handy database of Federal recreation sites nationwide. Users can search recreational facilities by keyword, state, agency, or activity. The activities range from auto touring to winter sports, and include favorites like fishing, hiking, climbing, horseback riding and picknicking.

Useful for small businesses related to recreational activities, or just planning your next vacation.

IBM Globalization Locale Database

I think this is really nifty, not to mention useful for importers and exporters: the IBM Globalization Locale Database.

It lists, for most countries of the world, the national currency. But then it shows one how the money and other numeric values are formatted. For instance, what one writes as 1,234,567.89 in the United States would be written as 1.234.567,89 in Argentina. You'll find the days of the week and the months of the year in the language, or in the case of Belgium, three languages, of the country. Today may be 5/29/2007 in the United States, but it's 29.05.2007 in India.

Check your (political) facts

While truth-in-advertising rules apply to business advertisements, what about political advertising? Nope.

That's why its a good thing that there are people out there, willing to check the facts, and provide voters and viewers with important background information.

Check out Factcheck.org. A project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, Factcheck.org keeps tabs on claims and statements made by politicians and political candidates, monitoring "the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases." Their postings offer a summary of the peice in question (an ad, speech, or the most recent round of debates), provide an analysis of the facts in questions, and cite their sources.

NPR recently featured a piece with Factcheck.org directors, Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Listen here.

How to Write for Your Web Site

One of our more recent library purchases is Streetwise Low-Cost web Site Promotion: Every Possible Way to Make Your Web Site a Success - Without Spening Lots of Money by Barry Feig. This book covers topics such as creating traffic, developing a promotion plan, what makes a good web site, how to measure success and how to use email to your advantage among many other things. A section I stopped at was on how to use language effectively.
Some of Mr.Feig's guidelines are:
"create keywords you think people would type in the search engines to find the types of products or services you offer. don't just use nouns. Use phrases rather than a single word. Use descriptions also."
"Use multiple, specific headlines. Headlines and subheadlines create immediate context when a visitor is exploring your site. There should be a headline on your screen at all times...Your headline should summarize what's inside your web site... make your copy brief...avoid generalities."…

Happy blogiversary

Image
Taken at 4:42 pm, April 27, 2007

The blog's two years old this week. In the 12 months, from May 2006 through April 2007, we've had an average of 292 hits (a median of 272) per month. There's been a decided uptick in recent months, with 461 hits in March and 602 in April. While 75% of our traffic is coming from New York State, a quarter is coming from especially Europe. Similarly, about 1/4 of the domestic visitors are from outside New York State.

Though some of the people who found this blog came to follow up some demographic or program detail we'd mentioned, at least one recent visitor came as a response to a piece that Darrin wrote nearly two years ago about a scam.

I cite these statistical notes to show that a blog, initially designed for a fairly small niche of a couple hundred NYS SBDC advisors, can become a broader tool.

I am curious, though as to which is better: the reminder on Wednesday, which we do now, or Friday, which we used to do? There's always a spike o…

Rating Venture Capitalists

I learned of a new website from a recent e-newsletter from ASBDC. It's called TheFunded.com, and it has a feature that comes at the need for venture capital from a different angle.

Since we frequently have clients who seek this kind of financing, the site is useful in that they can search for VC firms in their part of the country. They can also narrow their search by the size of funding being sought.

The results of their search, however, aren't simply contact information for the fund. In most cases, each firm will have written commentary by business owners who've had experience with them (usually a paragraph or so). Each firm gets rated (on a scale from 1 to 4, I believe), and the firm's rating appears prominently when the search results come in.

The site doesn't appear to have a function where you can search for firms that deal with a specific industry (we have a tool like that in the library). However, getting the feedback directly from those with past experien…

Corporate & Executive Profiles

There are lots of information sources about corporations and executives, but I though this beta directory at Condé Nast Portfolio.com was quite nice.

The site offers "company information, news, and financial data on more than 500,000 public and private companies" here ...

.. and executive profiles, with "backgrounds, including employment history and compensation data, and news on more than 500,000 executives of leading public and private companies" here.

And if you find that any of those executives should be incarcerated, why not send them this piece (C.E.O. Survival Guide: Pre-Prison Prep), to help them prepare for life in the slammer.

The New York Times Small Business Page

One of you fine folks at a NYS SBDC center (I won't mention who, but the person has the same first name as my father AND my sister) sent me this nifty link to the New York Times Small Business page with news, tips, and the like.

One of the stories, also sent separately by this SBDCer, is this story: "The Supreme Court, in its most important patent ruling in years, on Monday raised the bar for obtaining patents on new products that combine elements of pre-existing inventions."

Interesting stuff. Please feel free to send us useful sites such as this one.
***
New postage rates, as you probably know, started yesterday. But while the first ounce charge went up from 39 to 41 cents, the subsequent ounce rate went DOWN from 24 cents to 17 cents. So the cost of a two-ounce letter has gone from 63 cents to 58 cents.
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I thought those of you who attended last year's staff training would find this story rather intriguing.

Creating a Third Place

A blog I read recently led me to an article on the SpecialtyFood.com website. It's called "Striving for Third Place," and, no, it's not an essay that is promoting mediocrity. While the article targets businesses in the food industry, the ideas it puts forth can be implemented in a variety of retail & service stores.

The article posits that the "first place" in a person's life is home, while the "second place" is work. The "third place" is that public spot where people gather and interact with such regularity that they become part of the business' very fabric.

There are several suggestions here on how entrepreneurs can help establish their businesses as a third place. These are ideas on how to generate repeat customers, but, in a larger sense, these are ways to better integrate the business as part of a larger social structure in a neighborhood.

Right after college, when I was adrift in Albany, I found myself routinely visiting D…

Selling a Business

One of our favorite sites for business start-up guidance is the Business Owner's Toolkit which covers all aspects of starting and running a business.

One topic covered that I have referred to recently is the section on selling a business, something that comes up from time to time. I found that this site covers just about every step in the process.
You can read the complete section on selling a business here.

Here are the major issues you need to think about when it's time to sell your business:
Initial issues in selling out: how should you time your decision and choose experts to help, and what legal/ethical pitfalls do you need to avoid?

Valuations of small businesses: how does the market put a price on a small business, and what can you do to maximize your own business's value?

Finding a buyer: what do you need to know about working with a business broker, creating a selling memorandum, and other marketing concerns?

Structuring the deal: what are your options as to terms…

Learn for 15 minutes a day

I hope you all enjoyed staff training as much as I did. It was great to meet so many of you, and to put faces to email addresses!

Prior to coming to our staff training, I went to the spring meeting of the Upstate New York Special Libraries Association. Our speaker was Stephen Abram, director of innovation at SirsiDynix, president-elect of SLA, and a library futurist.

Like our futurist, Abram stressed the importance of continual learning, and the need for librarians to keep up with Web 2.0 and social web technologies. He cited a project conducted by the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenberg County, where employees of the library were encourage to play with web and digital technologies for 15 minutes a day and blog about their experiences. This project supported camaraderie within the library and in a short period of time, taught everyone some great new skills.

Read more about that project here:

There are so many new technologies out there that could help us in the way we wor…

Diary of a store

I recently came upon a listserv, ostensibly about a movie theater, which had a thread about the closure of a neighborhood video store, designated here as VS.
There were a number of comments of sorrow:

I saw a piece on the local news channel that VS is closing. They said they did not have enough business. I don't think we can persuade them to stay open.
Even though I was a member, they somehow weren't on my radar screen and I would forget to go there.
I bet the Internet video businesses took a bite of their profits, too.


There were also comments about the competition from Netflix, Blockbuster, and video on demand. Then, there were more nuanced responses:

I was in the store this past weekend returning 2 movies we rented and asked why VS was closing. The owner of the store mentioned his disappointment in our community, stating that there are over 10,000 households in our zip code alone and
he had only 300 active memberships. He thanked me for being a member of his store, supporting his…

Staff Training Updates

Thanks to those who came to our presentation last Tuesday. For those of you who couldn't attend, here are the PowerPoint slides:
http://www.nyssbdc.org/RNFiles/2007_Staff_Training_RN_Presentation.ppt

(And, for those of you who WERE there, you can now linger over Amelia's slides. Stupid laptop re-booting . . .)

During our talk, Josee made reference to a few things you can do on your end to better manage the information that we send you. She created a quartet of tip sheets, which were available (with the cookies) at the back of the room. Again, for those of you who couldn't make it, here they are:

http://www.nyssbdc.org/RNFiles/RN_Tip_Sheet_Outlook_Safe_Senders.pdf
On how to better ensure that emails from the Research Network get to you.

http://www.nyssbdc.org/RNFiles/RN_Tip_Sheet_Outlook_Journal.pdf
Use Outlook's "Journal" function to track the history of your inquiry.

http://www.nyssbdc.org/RNFiles/RN_Tip_Sheet_Outlook_Junk_Filters.pdf
Another way to make sure our ema…

Signs That Really Annoy Me

I know that Darrin is the signage guru around here, but this week of staff training reminded me of a sign that I saw at a restaurant in Lake Placid when I was there for a meeting a few years ago: "We cook your food to order. Not responsible for overcooked meat."

Then there's the Lake Placid bakery that had THE most annoying sign on its wall - 35 "stupid" things that their customers have asked, and their "clever" responses:
"Do you bake everything here?" "No, we have it flown in from Chicago. The plane lands right on Main Street to deliver daily."
"Aren't you hot in here?" "Yes, but we can eat what we want and sweat it off."
"What's a Snickerdoodle?" "There is a sign in the showcase. It is in front of a Snickerdoodle."
"Is that ALL you have?" "No, we keep the really good stuff for ourselves to eat later."
And my personal favorite:
"Do you have any water?" "N…