Thursday, March 29, 2007

Income Inequality – The US Falling Behind.

I heard two stories on the radio this morning – back-to-back. The first was about how the income divide is growing in this country between rich and poor (which you hardly need research to see).
The second was about how the US has fallen from 1st in the world for technology adoption to 7th according to the 2006-07 Networked Readiness Index put out by the World Economic Forum www.weforum.org , which measures the adoption of information and communications technology. This year, the number one spot was taken by Denmark, which has been steadily advancing, followed by Sweden, Singapore, Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and then the US, Iceland and the UK. To my mind, these issues are related – the fact that wealth is not spread, that cell phone use is a status issue here more than elsewhere. Requiring that people sign on for two-year plans in order to get a cell phone also is responsible for there being fewer cell phone owners than elsewhere.

US Drops in Information Technology Rankings
By VOA News
28 March 2007

Income Gap Is Widening, Data Shows
The New York Times
By David Cay Johnston
Published: March 29, 2007

“The new data also shows that the top 300,000 Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980.”

“The top 1 percent received 21.8 percent of all reported income in 2005, up significantly from 19.8 percent the year before and more than double their share of income in 1980. The peak was in 1928, when the top 1 percent reported 23.9 percent of all income.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Call for Your Stuff

Does anyone out there have a basic powerpoint presentation discussing the NYS SBDC and what we do? I bet someone does.

We'd like to help you share this type of information. At many special libraries, employees are required to submit copies of all their reports and presentations to the central library. The librarians then "sanitize" these documents- taking out personal information and the like, cataloging them, and making them available throughout the broader agency.

Now, don't start sending us everything you do. But when you have something that might be useful for someone else, why not share it? We'll be happy to take out (or leave in if you prefer) identifying information. I know I'm always asking for things for the public website, but what about sharing things internally? We can, and should do that too. And the Research Network would love to help.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sources for notification of company earnings announcements

Stolen from BUS-LIB:

The person was looking for "any kind of electronic source, preferably FREE, that would notify me in advance of an earnings announcement of a U.S. public company. Not sure if any one is the best one, but the majority of the ones recommended to me certainly do seem to provide exactly what I wanted."

Here's the summary:

Forbes has a pretty nifty site:
http://forbes.ccbn.com/earning.asp?date=20070213&client=forbes
It gives Highlights, Earnings, Webcasts, Conference Calls (with links!)and major Economic Events. You can search by company ticker or by date.

Earnings Whispers
http://www.earningswhispers.com/calendar.asp

Cantos
http://w3.cantos.com/cantos/dyn/main.php?t=a (Primarily limited to UK companies.)

Many firms also offer email notification of upcoming events of interest to investors...check the "Investor Relations" sections of websites of the firms you are monitoring. Of course, if you are monitoring a large number, that could be tedious.

Powered by Thomson: http://online.wsj.com/public/Markets_Calendar.html

http://moneycentral.msn.com/investor/market/earncalendar/

Earnings.com (also from Thomson, some free, some fee) http://www.earnings.com/highlight.asp?client=cb
also available here: http://fulldisclosure.com/highlight.asp?client=cb

Yahoo http://biz.yahoo.com/cc/

http://www.bestcalls.com Some free, some fee-based.

Offers transcripts for some calls, free. http://seekingalpha.com/transcripts

123Jump Offers Text Summaries of Some Calls back to 2005 http://123jump.com/earnings-calls-archive

Once you have a list of the companies you're tracking, you might want to take a
look at Website-Watcher http://www.aignes.com/ to monitor for updates.
Run it daily, hourly, several time an hour. It's up to you. This will work with any web page so you could also monitor a company's investor relations page. W-W also works as an RSS aggregator.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Internet Crime Report - 2006

Who among you haven't had a client who wonders or worries about being taken in an online scam? It's a topic I've written about since we developed this blog.

Since e-mail & the Internet aren't going away soon, it might be helpful to you & your clients to read the Internet Crime Report: 2006. It's a 27-page report issued from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (the IC3), and it provides insights into the current trends being used to con people out of their money via electronic means.

(You can just read the highlights here, too.)

The report identifies nine broad types of online fraud, including identity theft, investment fraud, phishing, spamming, cyberstalking, and other nasty things. Appendix II of the report offers tips on how to avoid falling prey to perpetrators, too.

The report represents just a fraction of the online fraud that goes on. Most crimes don't get reported. If you or any of your clients feel like they've been victimized, have them go to this section of the IC3 website:
http://www.ic3.gov/

Valid complaints then get forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement or regulatory agency. Bookmark this site, and keep it in mind should you need it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Innovation & Brainstorming

InnovationTools provides entrepreneurs and innovators with a focused, growing collection of the best resources on business innovation, creativity and brainstorming. Our goal is to help you to learn more about the tools, strategies and techniques you can use to be more creative in your business -- and to help your company to increase its capacity for innovation and change.

Brainstorming tools:
http://www.solutionpeople.com/kbtool.htm

A little about creative thinking and problem solving:
Critical Thinking and Creative Thinking Skills
Scott Isaksen's and Donald Treffinger's critical thinking and creative thinking model.
By Mary Bellis adapted from materials written by the USPTO

Mindmapping blog:
http://mindmapping.typepad.com/the_mind_mapping_software/
focuses entirely on mind-mapping and lists many mind-mapping software products.

http://thinksmart.typepad.com/headsup_on_organizational/
is another blog – this time on organizational innovation and mentions the supposed end of innovation, or at least the end of the overuse of the term. Johnathan Vehar points out this article in BusinessWeek (which I, in turn will point out to you)

Businessweek.com
Innovation Backlash
A Chorus is calling for an end to the hype – and a focus on the fundamentals that drive real bottom-line-boosting innovation
By Reena Jana

They may be predicting a backlash against the over-use of “innovation” but that didn’t stop them from publishing this list not very long ago:

Best Innovation and Design Books for 2006
We looked past obvious titles to compile a list of books that will inform the thinking about innovation beyond this year
by Bruce Nussbaum

A really good idea never goes out of style.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Looking for a marketing plan?

Unfortunatly, we at the Research Network don't always have access to as many sample marketing plans as we (and you too) would sometimes like.

Palo Alto Software would like you to buy their "Marketing Plan Pro" software (much like our friend "Business Plan Pro"). But if that's not in the cards, they also offer a handful of free marketing plans at Mplans.com.

These include plans for a bed & breakfast, shoe store, accountant, car wash, catering, fitness club and more. So while they don't cover every type of business, there is some variety and some fairly common businesses.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Reading the Fine Print

Hooray for Edgar Dworsky.

Dworsky runs Consumerworld.org, which highlights consumer issues of general interest to the public. He says he scans 1,000 news stories a day to find links for his site. The site is funded by commissions from a shopping comparison tool and a long-distance service on the site.

Now he has started Mouseprint.org; the name refers to "print so small that only a mouse could see it." The site discloses that really small print at the bottom of some advertisements and those really fast-talking disclaimers on radio or TV ads. Here's one recent example:

A $400 airline ticket will require 60,000 points. To earn 60,000 points under Capital One’s revised system where every dollar spent earns 1.25 points on their regular card [up from 1 point], you would have to purchase $48,000 worth of goods and services.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Upcoming Staff Training

The Research Network will be giving a 90-minute presentation on Monday, April 30th, from 1:30 to 3:00. The four of us will each spent 15-20 minutes on certain topics that we feel would be of benefit to you in our new electronic age.

The presentation is still a work in progress, but the issues we'll focus on include:

* Overview of our new way of doing things
* Tips on using Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer 7.0, Windows Outlook, blog features, etc.
* Discussion of future projects

And other stuff, too. We'll be sending out e-mail invitations as the date draws nearer. (Obviously, the date and time might still be subject to change. The e-mail invitation will have the official info.)

Obviously, we'd love to have you all there. However, we realize that there'll be other interesting presentations going on at the same time. To help you plan that block of time, we'll be sending out an e-mail that gives a rough idea when each of the four segments will begin. If you can make time to see at least one, we think it'd be worth your time.

See you there!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Export Caution

Red Flag Indicators
Bureau of Industry and Security

Things to Look for in Export Transactions
Use this as a check list to discover possible violations of the Export Administration Regulations. You may also wish to visit our page that provides "Know Your Customer Guidance".

• The customer or its address is similar to one of the parties found on the Commerce Department's [BIS's] list of denied persons. Case example.
• The customer or purchasing agent is reluctant to offer information about the end-use of the item.
• The product's capabilities do not fit the buyer's line of business, such as an order for sophisticated computers for a small bakery.
• The item ordered is incompatible with the technical level of the country to which it is being shipped, such as semiconductor manufacturing equipment being shipped to a country that has no electronics industry.
• The customer is willing to pay cash for a very expensive item when the terms of sale would normally call for financing.
• The customer has little or no business background.
• The customer is unfamiliar with the product's performance characteristics but still wants the product.
• Routine installation, training, or maintenance services are declined by the customer.
• Delivery dates are vague, or deliveries are planned for out of the way destinations.
• A freight forwarding firm is listed as the product's final destination.
• The shipping route is abnormal for the product and destination.
• Packaging is inconsistent with the stated method of shipment or destination.
• When questioned, the buyer is evasive and especially unclear about whether the purchased product is for domestic use, for export, or for reexport.

If you have reason to believe a violation is taking place or has occurred, you may report it to the Department of Commerce by calling its 24 hour hot line number: 1 (800) 424-2980. Or if you prefer use our form to submit a confidential tip.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Credit Scoring; Small Firm Growth Rates; Competition

Survey Based Assessment of Financial Institution Use of Credit Scoring for Small Business Lending:
The introduction of credit scoring by banks for small business loans may help increase small businesses’ access to credit, according to a study released by the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The report also found that relationships continue to be the dominant factor in banks’ decisions to lend to small businesses.
Written by Drs. Charles and Adrian Cowan with funding from the Office of Advocacy, A Survey Based Assessment of Financial Institution Use of Credit Scoring for Small Business Lending, shows that banks, particularly those in urban areas, are moving towards the use of both owner and business credit scoring as a key metric in the small business loan decision.
A copy of this report can be obtained here, and the research summary here. Should you need further information, please feel free to contact Charles Ou at (202) 205-6533 or advocacy@sba.gov.
***
Volatility and Asymmetry of Small Firm Growth Rates Over Increasing Time Frames:
While previous research found many one year large expansions and contractions among businesses, NuTech researchers Rich Perline, Robert Axtell, and Daniel Teitelbaum under contract with Advocacy find that this volatility decreases very little over a longer time period. The results indicate that a firm's growth trend has persistence. The study also finds more large employment swings among shrinking than expanding businesses.
The report, "Volatility and Asymmetry of Small Firm Growth Rates Over Increasing Time Frames," can be obtained from here, and the research summary here.
Should you need further information, please feel free to contact Brian Headd at (202) 205-6533 or advocacy@sba.gov.
***
New entrants in local economies at first harm, then help, already existing firms, according to a working paper today by the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The paper examines how the entrance of new establishments within a 150-mile radius of young firms affects the existing firms’ profitability.

The working paper, Friends or Foes: The Spatial Dynamic Between Established Firms and Entrants, written by Lawrence Plummer with funding from the Office of Advocacy, examines whether new establishments harm existing firms’ profitability due to increased competition, or help increase profits due to positive spillover effects. The paper discovers that the effect of new entrants is not an either/or proposition. In the first year of entry, the effect on existing firms’ financial performance (return on assets) is negative. However, after three years the effect on performance reverses and becomes positive.

A copy of this study is located here, and the research summary is available here. Should you need further information, please feel free to contact Brian Headd at (202) 205-6533 or advocacy@sba.gov.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Small Business & Impact on a State Economy

You may have seen this already, but, in February, SBA's Office of Advocacy released a 40-page PDF version of a study called "Small Business and State Growth: An Econometric Investigation". (If you want to just read the highlights, go to the summary presented here.)

The authors looked at several years' worth of data that measures small firm "births" and "deaths" by individual state, and its effects on statewide personal income, employment, and other econometric tidbits.

Interesting (though not surprising) results came out of this. Check out the bulleted "highlights" from page 1 of the summary to read about them.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Customer Service Success

WANTED: Customer Service Champs
Fast Company
FC Expert Blogs
“It’s interesting to me that every time I read articles and newsletters about leadership, I find references to how true leaders treat their employees with respect and dignity, value their opinions, and ask for their feedback. When we feel treated fairly, we are better disposed towards others. A company culture spills onto the experience you have of its customer service.”


Microsoft Small Business Center
Keep your customers happy and coming back for more
By Joanna L. Krotz

Best Customer-Service Practices
“Today, competition is fierce, and customers have more options than ever -- a tough combination for smaller companies trying to gain market share. Read the articles below for tactics and case studies for improving customer-service for profit and gain.”
A good selection of articles on various techniques used by real companies that have made a name for themselves.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

2006 Product Placement Awards

While this may not be hot off the presses, I still thought Brandchannel's 2006 Product Placement Awards interesting enough to merit a little blog space.

2006 was the third year for this series, distributing such honors as "Lifetime Achievement Award for Product Placement," (Everlast. Every boxing movie has a set of gloves), "Wayne's World Award for Product Placement" (for making fun of product placement. 06 winner = Thank You for Smoking) and 2006 Award for Those Who Were Paying Attention (In mocking War of the Worlds, Scary Movie 4 created a scene with the same Penzoil box held by Tom Cruise in WotW).

The grand winner? Ford. Ford cars appeared in 17 of 41 of the top grossing movies of 2006.

If this is all too frivilous for you, check out some of the other offerings at Brandchannel.com, including articles, case studies and papers on modern branding and marketing concepts.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

American Community Survey meets Brookings

Since there seems to be some understandable confusion about the ACS, I was pleased to see that the Brookings Institution sponsored an internet class for journalists in November 2006. The class was given by D'Vera Cohn, Cynthia Taeuber, and Andrew Reamer.
The presentation, slides, and transcript are all available on the Brookings site.

The webcast provides a good overview to working with the ACS. It is targeted towards journalists so it is not very technical at all. The formal presentation lasts about 30 minutes and the rest of the time (20 minutes) is questions and answers.

Or you can just ask your favorite librarians for help.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Profiles of NYS House Members

To help the SBDC delegation on their current trip to Washington, last week I assembled information for each of New York's 29 members of the House of Representatives. Here's what I put together:

http://www.nyssbdc.org/RNFiles/NYS_House_Overview.doc

The idea was to prepare a one-page summation of each member - district, party affiliation, committee and subcommittee assignments, etc. Also, what issues are key to them? Where in the press (and in what context) do their names come up in the press?

Answering this last question was the fun part. I read a lot of articles about each of the twenty-nine. I wanted to excerpt from only those articles that made reference to a stand on an issue relating to the economy, or those which would affect their local business sector. I found these in local business papers, press releases, the representative's website, business journals, etc. When possible, I only selected items that have appeared within the last 12 months (though there are exceptions to that, now and again).

I'm not one who routinely assails the press for its shortcomings. The press is a big tent, covering all manner of opinion, with varying levels of quality. But, like I mentioned, I had to read through a lot of junk to find what I included here. Scandal sells, I guess, as does the easy psychological analysis behind why this candidate won the election, or (more likely) why this one lost it. I'm going to be reading articles a lot more carefully after going through this exercise.

If you weren't sure of what your local representative has been saying of late, this file will give you an introduction. It's not the last word, by any means. Dig deeper.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Conference Board

Sometimes I forget about some excellent sources for infomation when I don't have a call for them nowadays. One of them is The Conference Board. With the current market scares and worries about the economy, I had a peek at the website of this service that I have always been much more familiar with in their paper newsletters (circa 1991). Of course there is alot of stuff on their site, much of it for members only but with a number of free articles. This is one on the Conference Board Review Article: Outook 2007 A Long and Winding Road by Gail Foster They also cover other issues like older workers and many other management issues, like decision-making and marketing. They are known of course for their consumer confidence index, leading economic indicators, research reports on a wide variety of topics like directors' compensation, international markets as well as their organization charts.