Posts

Showing posts from August, 2007

Free advice

It’s Warren Buffett’s birthday today, so I thought I would look at advice he has offered.

Warren Buffet
Wikipedia
Buffett has amassed an enormous fortune from astute investments managed through the holding company Berkshire Hathaway, of which he is the largest shareholder and CEO. With an estimated current net worth of around US$52 billion,[2] he was ranked by Forbes as the third-richest person in the world as of April 2007, behind Bill Gates and Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helú.[4]

Profile of Warren Buffet
the free dictionary

Investors Should Heed Warrens Buffett’s Free AdviceSmartMoney
By James B. Stewart
July 10, 2007
In any event, Buffett has given away more free advice than just about any billionaire I can think of. He reports his stock holdings and discusses their merits and the reasons for his choices in his popular annual letter to shareholders. More fundamentally, he has laid out his investment philosophy repeatedly for all to see. Anyone can piggy-back his actual stock selectio…

Farm Stand Business

When I stop at a roadside farm stand, my first assumption is that they are selling home-grown fruits and vegetables from their own fields. But when a New York farm stand has mangos and lemons? And sells t-shirts too? That's a totally different experience.

This recent Treehugger blog post, Farm Stand Produce Not Always Local , refers to a Newsday article, Farm Stands on Long Island Undergoing an Evolution , and discusses that while Long Island is known for its local produce, many farm stands are importing their products from as far away as Florida and Mexico, and are not limited to selling only fruits and vegetables.

Whether or not this is a good thing for local agriculture, retailers, or consumers, farm stands are an evolving business.

With that in mind, here are some helpful resources for the farm stand owner or agricultural businessperson:


Farmers' Market Federation of New York
Planning the Farm Retail Market
Cornell Cooperative Extension: Agriculture Business Resources
Virgini…

"LIFE BEGINS AT 40"

Image
Answering the office phone at the end of the day is often interesting. Last week, the Central office received a call from Michael Raptis, casting director of RDF Media Group. As the press release he subsequently sent me reads: "Key US RDF/Pangea shows include: Wife Swap (ABC); Shaq's Big Challenge (ABC); Two Coreys (A&E); Meadowlands (Showtime); Off The Charts (Fox); How to Look Good Naked (Lifetime); Banzai (G4); 3 Kings (MTV); Ice T's Rap School (VH1); Junkyard Wars (TLC); Faking It (TLC); Gene Simmons Rock School (VH1); Ladette to Lady (Sundance)."

Now, the company is engaged in starting a new program:

Have you always wondered how wonderful life could be if you started that business, took that hobby more seriously or changed your career? Is there anything you always said you'd do once your kids got older?

For many people in their 40’s and 50’s, the time has come to restructure their life and do something they’ve always dreamed of...it could be anything from o…

List of new corporations (etc.) in New York State

Some clients have businesses that could benefit in knowing the names of newly-created companies.

The Division of Corporations (within the New York Department of State) makes available a daily report of newly registered corporations, limited liability corporations, and limited partnerships. It's not EVERY new business in the state, but it's a start.

Here's the service, in DOS' own words:

"The Department of State publishes a daily report of new Corporations, Limited
Liability Companies, Limited Partnerships and Registered Limited Liability Partnerships
and amendatory certificates thereto. These reports are available only through e-mail. The
subscription fees are:

Annual subscription $125.00
Semi-annual subscription 75.00
Quarter-annual subscription 40.00

Your computer must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to review and print the report. You will be notified of the date of expiration of your subscription. …

Half Baked

Well, I am surprised to see that I have not written about this most favorite website. The Halfbakery is a wonderful site for innovative thinkers to run their ideas by other thinkers/would-be inventors. I have found this site useful especially for those - "the world has never seen a product like mine..." clients. For every idea presented, posters will then weigh in on whether they think it is a good idea(viable or not) and often present examples of similar or existing products. Many products are completely fantastical but then some ridiculous sounding ideas have actual examples out in the world. This was the case with the collapsing bollard, and I just read about the "dog jack" that I can imagine being a real product like the doggie stairs we see so often. Here's another that would probably be popular if it existed:
School kid pick up express:
"So what I thought of is a transponder for each family. When we arrive at the school driveway, our ID and our kid(s…

Books your can borrow: our new LibraryThing catalog

If you look to the right-hand side of this screen, you just might see a new feature we've added. There's a widget here that links to our new LibraryThing collection. LibraryThing is an online community that allows members to catalog their own book collections. You simply enter the title, or ISBN etc., and it finds the appropriate catalog record for your book, links you to others who own the same book, and can also make book recommendations and provide other user-advisory-type services.

A user can enter up to 200 books for free. As our circulating collection isn't particularly large, we thought we'd give it a try. So, check out our library collection. The goal is to include all of our circulating books from this decade, but its a work in progress. Still, take a look, use the search feature, and if you find something you're interested in, send us an email and we'll send it your way.

Entrepreneur News from Hispanic Business

Source: The Informant e-newsletter, Volume 4, Issue #243 -- Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Free From NASA: Rocket-science Expertise for Businesses

NASA offers 40 hours of free technical advice to businesses.


Overhaul by SBA to Help Fix System on Procurements

Small Business Administration chief Steven Preston announced reforms aimed at cleaning up a broken system for keeping track of government procurements that has allowed federal agencies to classify billions in contracts to some of the world's largest companies as going to small businesses.

New Loan Program for Food Producers

Image
Tom Morley (from the Westchester SBDC) recently forwarded me an email that began like this:
"Whole Foods Market, a national grocery chain with seven stores in New York, recently started a new program to provide low-interest, long-term loans to small producers around the country. We would very much like to let small producers of food products in New York know about the program."
Part of this company's mission is that their produce be as fresh as possible, and make these loans available to farmers of "locally grown" produce (for reasons best explained here).
Of Whole Foods Market's seven locations in New York State, none are farther north than White Plains. However, they define "locally grown" as "produce that has traveled less than a day (7 or fewer hours) from the farm to our facility." Eligible products include agricultural crops, value-added food products, and other all-natural grocery items.
This definition, then, makes most of the food …

Capital One Small Business Confidence Study

Commissioned by Capital One and conducted by BusinessWeek Research Services, the survey looks at confidence, expectations and hopes of small business owners.

The survey asks small business owners where they seek business advice, in this order:
colleague, family or friends, CPA or accountant, business association followed by consultant, lawyer, commercial lender and other.

“In their own words” are sections given to hearing actual comments from business owners on these topics:
How Would You use $50,000 to Improve Your Business?
How Did You Start and Then Grow Your Business to its Current Level?

Hear My Voice

Today's New York Times features the article "At Netflix, Victory for Voices Over Keystrokes". It discusses how the online movie rental business is trying a new tack (actually, they're returning to an old tack) vis a vis customer service: the telephone. The company has de-emphasized its email address on its website, and has heightened the presence of a toll-free number that is available 24/7. In addition, the call center is located just outside of Portland, OR, and not in India or Singapore.

I find this interesting on a few levels. Netflix believes, in the face of increased competition from Blockbuster's new online service, that they should promote the actual voices of friendly customer service reps as a distinguishing characteristic not found at Blockbuster. This kind of emphasis is something that the business literature has recommended to small businesses in the face of big-box competition, but Netflix still is the market leader in this industry.

So - does locatin…

Thanks, Ciao, Best Wishes, Sincerely

I tend to write “thanks” a lot. And not just because I’m a grateful person (although I am). It’s just my usual email sign-off, probably because I tend to be asking for things, or thanking you all for asking us great questions.

Maybe I should start expanding my repertoire.

This recent article from Entrepreneur.com discusses a variety of email closers, and what they say about you.

What your sign-off is really saying.”

Here’s an older USA Today article on the subject.

Another good source of email etiquette info:

Online Writing Lab at Purdue University

Shorten That URL!

Ofttimes, I see someone send a URL via e-mail and it spreads onto the second line of the posting. The first line of the address is hyperlinked, but the second is not. This becomes cumbersome for the end user.

Two suggestions:
See if the address can be manually shortened. I've noticed that in some newspaper and magazine databases, an address is created to indicate not only the story, but the section and the date. If removing that information still gets you to the story, shorten it.

An example: http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=613944&category=FRONTPG&BCCode=HOME&newsdate=8/14/2007 can be shortened to http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=613944, and is actually more likely to work over time, for some arcane reasons.

The other method is a website TinyURL!™. Put in even that shortened, 57-character, version of the URL above and you'll end up with http://tinyurl.com/yrwmgk, a more manageable 25-character URL.

Kitchen Incubators

A big part of how successful we are at finding information is having the correct terms. We generally hope that the client will be knowledgeable enough in their field to provide some good key words but of course this isn't always possible. We hear of business incubators often enough but kitchen incubators are becoming more prevalent.

I worked on a request yesterday for a a list of commercial rental kitchens in the NYC metro area. The examples I came across were not all in NYC area and there were a few good pieces on a kitchen incubator in San Francisco that I thought were interesting. I thought I'd share what I found here.

WHEDCo
Urban Horizons Kitchen
rents a "4,000 sq ft state-of-the-art, commercial kitchen space." They serve the New York City metropolitan area especially aimed at women and minority businesses.
They also state that "tenants are required to incorporate in order to secure insurance covering product liability. Some of their clients have been Curry …

Go take a walk

Image
Can you walk from your home to a grocery store, library or movie theater? How about from your office?

Check out Walk Score to determine just how pedestrian-friendly a location might be. You simply enter an address into the search field, and the site offers a "walk score" based on the proximity of parks, shops, restaurants, schools and all those other necessities.

The site's mission: "We help homebuyers, renters, and real estate agents find houses and apartments in great neighborhoods. Walk Score shows you a map of what's nearby and calculates a Walk Score for any property. Buying a house in a walkable neighborhood is good for your health and good for the environment." I'd think it would also be useful to a business interested in attracting foot traffic, and wanting to know about nearby facilities.

The site recognizes that it's algorithms can't account for features like highways or bodies of water that might make a route impassable on foot. But it&#…

How Much Should Small Business Officers Pay Themselves?

From Hispanic Business: "Are there industry guidelines for how much officers of small companies [less than 10 employees] should pay themselves? Would it be 1% of sales? 10%?"

Spam Spam Spam Spam . . .

(Or so the song goes.)

Last week's issue of The New Yorker features an article called "Damn Spam" - an unnerving piece that traces the recent history of this email plague.

For example:

* "In 2001, spam accounted for about five per cent of the traffic on the Internet; by 2004, that figure had risen to more than seventy per cent."
* "The onslaught apparently began on April 12, 1994, when two lawyers . . . bombarded the Internet with e-mail offering their services to immigrants . . . The two later claimed that they made a hundred thousand dollars from the e-mail campaign - a compelling demonstration of the peculiar economics of the Internet."
* "The more spam that is blocked, the greater the volume spammers will need to send in order to make money. If you used to have to send fifty thousand pieces of spam to get a response, now you have to send a million. Spammers just shrug it off and send a million."
* "Spammers today almost never use their ow…

Telling Your Story

Telling a Good Story
by Michele Miller
"You may have the greatest company in the world. But if you don't know how to convey that to customers, you may as well not exist."

Another way to tell a story...

Duct Tape Marketing, one of my favorite sites talks about an interesting idea in a blog post of theirs.
by John Jantsch
Mon May 14, 2007
Blurb Books a Great Tool for Telling Your Story
You've probably seen these as they are popping up everywhere. In iPhoto (if you use a Mac) you can order your photographs nicely put together in a book. Wedding pictures are also offered in this format to deliver your digital memories.
This blog suggests the use of polished books for businesses to use to sell themselves. Blurb shows some nice examples of how the books could be used. A sophisticated way to tell your story.


Here's one last article on storytelling:
How to Tell Your Story in the Media
by Ilise Benun
from The Art of Self Promotion #22

Web 2.0: Hip or hype?

“Don't get too attached to MySpace. You might want to pull up stakes from Second Life, too. And you'll probably want to stop posting inanities to Twitter. Why? All of these sites will be gone before the end of this decade.”

Thus begins “MySpace, Second Life, and Twitter Are Doomed” a recent PC Magazine article by Lance Ulanoff.

We’ve mentioned a lot of Web 2.0 applications lately, but are they really the wave of the future, or just a lot of hype? The author argues that MySpace pages are ugly, and sometimes dangerous. Second Life may not be as big as reported, and Twitter is way too random and useless.

As a librarian, I feel there’s a purpose in exploring all sorts of information sharing opportunities, since that’s what we do, and we want to be where our users are. And I also enjoy looking up kids I went to high school with. But while I may have a MySpace page, I rarely go there, and I don't feel any great sense of community. Second Life seems pretty neat, but I don'…