Friday, June 27, 2008

Namaste, Bonnie

At a Staff Training event years ago, I encountered Bonnie Gestwicki in the lobby of the hotel. She had a glow about her (she usually did). I asked where she got it from. She mentioned that she attended a kind of meditation session, which ended with the instructor saying that he "honored the light within you".

From there on out, this became a running greeting between us. Today is the last day of Bonnie's run as director of the Corning SBDC, and I'll miss her insight on Finger Lakes wines, her wit & wisdom, and how she sent birthday email greetings to so many of us. Most of all, I'll miss that glow.

So long, Bonster! We honor the light within you. Just don't head for the light any time soon!

Balancing Work vs. Life

Roger blogged about Canada earlier this week. Since Canada Day is next Tuesday, I'll continue the theme.

Recently, Health Canada published Reducing Work-Life Conflict: What Works? What Doesn’t? While Canadian in focus, it discusses issues that transcend borders.

From its summary:

"More and more workers are finding it difficult to balance the roles of employee, parent, spouse, and eldercare giver. Trying to balance paid work, family responsibilities, and personal needs takes a toll on employers, families, and workers. And it shows up as higher absenteeism, reduced employee commitment, declining job satisfaction, lower workplace morale, and reduced satisfaction with family life . . . the report examines what employers, employees and their families can do to reduce work-life conflict."

It's lengthy (325 pages), but if you're facing this conflict (and have the time), I recommend giving it a read.

Franchise Directories

Earlier this week I stumbled onto The Franchise Mall, an online directory of franchises. The reason why I prefer the Franchise Mall over other franchise directories is the amount of information given about the company. The Franchise Mall lists the number of franchises in operation for the past five years, start-up costs, statistics on business operations, similar franchises to look at, and much more.

There are many other excellent franchise directories to choose from and since results vary from database to database, I would suggest using a few when searching for franchise opportunities.

The Franchise Registry - SBA list of franchise companies whose franchisees enjoy the benefits of a streamlined review process for SBA loan applications.
Franchise Search - Resource for franchising lifestyles and personal ownership.
Franchise Opportunities - Directory of available franchise and business opportunities.
Best Franchise Opportunities - Best franchise opportunities, franchises for sale, and small business information.
Franchise Gator - Search franchises, opportunities and business for sale listings.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In the news: Visa's new Facebook application for small business

Are you on Facebook, but wondering what it can do for your small business?

On June 24th, Visa unveiled a new Facebook application, the Visa Business Network. While still in beta, the application claims that "Here you can connect with other small business owners, learn ways to manage your business more efficiently, and grow by reaching the millions of potential customers on Facebook."

Visa's also partnered with the Wall Street Journal, Google and Entrepreneur to bring small business content and applications to its Facebook presence.

Read more about the Visa Business Network in this article from ComputerWorld:
Visa, Facebook unveil social network for small businesses

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Flickr


Sharing your best pics


Beautifully crafted cabinets, comical before and after plumbing or electrical shots, clothing, jewelry, interesting photographs of anything - this is an opportunity to be creative and show the beauty in daily life. While you cannot use Flickr to advertise your business, you can still use it to store and share photographs. And like LinkedIn, and Facebook, it is another social networking resource. Build a repository of photos to share with colleagues or the world at large and you can decide who can see which photos. Label them with your website name and without screaming your message, you can still show your stuff. In this situation, less is definitely more. But check out Flickr and just browse and see the beautiful and interesting things you can see.

O Canada

Canada at a glance presents the current Canadian demographic, education, health, justice, housing, income, labour market, economic, travel, financial, and foreign trade statistics. This booklet also includes important international comparisons, so that readers can see how Canada stacks up against its neighbours. Updated yearly, Canada at a glance is a very useful reference for those who want quick access to current Canadian statistics.

Remember, Canada Day is July 1.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Supplier Directory

When a new business is started, it is rare of the entrepreneur to own the necessary machinery and supplies. While the Yellow Pages might be the first place an entrepreneur thinks of to search for supplies, there are better options. Earlier this week I learned about ThomasNet, where users can search for manufacturers, distributors, and service providers.

According to the website, "ThomasNet is the leading online industrial destination site where buyers and engineers from companies of all sizes, including the government and the military, go to search for and purchase everything needed – from printed circuit boards to laboratory equipment to machinery." The site provides an easy-to-use keyword function for the user to search products, services, companies, brands, news, and more.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mashups

A mashup is an application that is developed out of existing APIs (application programming interface). The same way an operating system integrates various functions, a programmer can develop a new service or product out of freely available applications. So, when two or more tools are married you see new products like PolicyMap that uses Pushpin Location Data which gives lots of place data tied to maps. The creators take an existing tool and expand or marry it to another to create something new. Another is Big Contacts that pulls together three different tools to create a new web-based organizer. It consolidates email, phone, documents, syncing and task lists.


API Dashboard
A source for many, many applications used in mashups. Aimed at designers and programmers, it is still interesting to see the variety of tools that are being incorporated into new applications. It descibes which API are used and has links to the site.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vehicle Graphics and Free Gas


I thought this was an interesting article from Friday's Business Review:

"Web site turns cars into moving billboards--and extra gas money for drivers" discusses a new Saratoga Springs business that offers free gas cards to drivers willing to advertise for local businesses.


Interested drivers volunteer to soup-up their cars and trucks with vehicle graphics, and hand out cards and brochures. Local businesses can select drivers based on their age, what type of car they drive, how much they drive, and where they go.


And all that driving is made possible by the gift cards for gasoline.


Win/win?


The next edition of What's Your Signage? will include a section on vehicle graphics/wraps, maybe discussing concepts like this one.


Until then, don't forget about Whatsyoursignage.com for all sorts of information about signs and small business.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Entrepreneurship and the Barrier to Exit:

Here's a section of the business cycle that may not be well understood. The study "Entrepreneurship and the Barrier to Exit: How Does an Entrepreneur-Friendly Bankruptcy Law Affect Entrepreneurship Development at a Societal Level?" received the SBA's Office of Advocacy Best Paper Award at the 2008 Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference. "The authors examine the relationship between bankruptcy law and the value-creating activities associated with risk-taking behaviors by entrepreneurial firms. They argue that an entrepreneur-friendly bankruptcy law may paradoxically increase the number of corporate bankruptcies, which may be indicative of a vibrant entrepreneurial economy."

A copy of the report is located here and the research summary can be found here.

Should you need further information, please feel free to contact Jules Lichtenstein at (202) 205-6533 or advocacy@sba.gov.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Email Overload

"Lost in E-Mail, Tech Firms Face Self-Made Beast" is an article that appears in last Saturday's New York Times. While its premise (that desk-bound workers have their productivity affected greatly by a steady barrage of email throughout the work day) is hardly new, I was intrigued by the technology implemented by Google Mail. I don't have a Gmail account, but I like the idea of clicking a button & having my email made inaccessible to me for a fifteen-minute period. I might have to switch over to that service, just so I can catch my breath.

***

Just so you know, Research Network turnaround time is down to five days.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Business Plans Handbook

One of the most common items requested here at the Research Network are Sample Business Plans. For access to Sample Business Plans, we primarily use two resources: Business Plan Pro and the Business Plans Handbook.

Business Plan Pro is available through a downloadable interface that currently costs $99.95 for the 2008 version.

Business Plans Handbook, of which there are twelve volumes, is available online through a few different sources. NOVELny, which is available for use to all New York residents, includes the Gale Virtual Reference Library, providing access to volumes 1-10 while Reference for Business provides access to volumes 1-11, as well as other valuable business research sources.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Online Surveys

You are probably familiar with SurveyMonkey, an online survey service we have used in the RN, but as this method of taking surveys becomes more popular and effective, there are others: PollDaddy, Zoomerang.
As far as I know, all of these offer a basic, free service and an expanded service for a fee. Another service is called; Ask500People which is what it says. It is in beta and allows users to ask sometimes random questions and counts the responses.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Keeping Track of Web 2.0

Do you have trouble remembering your Web 2.0 technologies? There are a plethora of collaborative online tools for everyone and every purpose.

I'm not sure this will help you keep them straight, but you might discover something new and helpful.

Go2Web20.net is a directory of web 2.0 applications and services. The home page displays a screen full of logos for different applications. In the mood to play? Just scroll up or down with the little purple arrows, and click on what moves you.

If you're looking for a specific application type, you can either search or browse the tag cloud (click on "Select Tag"). Visually it's a lot to take in, but there's some pretty interesting web applications included here that you might not have found otherwise.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

FFIEC

Until recently, I had never heard of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council. "The Council is a formal interagency body empowered to prescribe uniform principles, standards, and report forms for the federal examination of financial institutions by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FRB), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), and to make recommendations to promote uniformity in the supervision of financial institutions."

I used the Census data to get, for a state, metro area, county down to census tract, Income Level, Distressed or Underserved Tract, Median Family Income, % 2007 HUD Est., Est. Tract Median Family Income, Minority Population and Owner vs. Rental Occupied Units.

Monday, June 09, 2008

2006 Traffic Count Data in NYS - in print form!!!

We've gone a bit mad for digitization around here, but you don't need me to tell you that sometimes PDF files of print documents are much easier to use.

Back in May 2005, dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, our blog was only a week old, and Roger wrote a post about a NYS Department of Transportation website that provided links to PDF documents, each of which gave traffic counts for county roads. I know many of you took that link to heart, and used it frequently. Life was simple.

I think it was last year that DOT decided to "improve" the site by creating the Traffic Data Viewer. In their own words, it provides "a web-based index system that allows users to search for current traffic data available from NYSDOT. Users can obtain individual volume, speed and vehicle classification counts while viewing locations where the data was collected on an interactive map."

Good . . . in theory. In reality, I can't figure out how to make the thing work. I've read emails from several advisors who also were left scratching their heads, too.

But print rides to the rescue. The "2006 Traffic Data Report for New York State" is out there, in all its 544-page glory. The fun really begins on page 71. Data is provided for every county highway in the state, which are listed in numerical order. Pages 64-66 help explain how to read the data.

So, in defiance of Egon Spengler, we submit that print is not yet dead.

Friday, June 06, 2008

More Cyber Security Blues

I read this article yesterday (ironically, while waiting for my PC to re-boot). It discussed findings presented at a conference here in Albany on Wednesday afternoon concerning the ongoing battle against identity theft & cybercrime. To me, its most compelling part focused on the software used by a UAlbany professor to "lift" credit card numbers from the RFID chips on "swipeless" credit cards - software that can be purchased relatively cheaply.

The article also mentions that American Express & other credit card companies are aware of this situation, and often code "alias" numbers that are different from those imprinted on the card itself.

The game - which isn't much of a game if you've had your numbers stolen - continues.

Mentors for Microentrepreneurs

Although the information and service that we provide to our clients in starting and maintaining their small business is invaluable, sometimes they need some weathered advice from someone in their own industry, someone who has "been there, done that". For this type of help, send your client to MicroMentor.

According to the MicroMentor website, "MicroMentor connects low-income business owners - called "microentrepreneurs" - to individuals who have successfully navigated business ownership or management in the same industry. Although there are some existing mentoring opportunities available to business owners, MicroMentor is the only one that utilizes technology to pair two people in the same industry."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

AHundredMonkeys.com

Ahundredmonkeys is a corporate branding and naming consultancy. Their site offers news items about what is going on in this field and some insight into how companies should be thinking about their names. They give some ideas about what to look for in a naming company. Although they are a commercial site and naturally selling their service, I liked it because it is nicely put together. They even look at their competitors to show how their approach differs. Their meditation garden allows you to ponder some ideas about naming and branding. Check out the many articles on their site, it can be a very entertaining read. Just an interesting site and food for thought.

Here are some other pointers on the subject:
Naming Your Business
Entrepreneur.com
By Phil Davis
April 07, 2005

18 Pithy Insights for Naming Your Small Business
Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Mon, Jan 08, 2007

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Neckties - a timeline

Lately, neckties seem to be a recurring theme in my life. Two weeks ago, I learned to tie a tie (yes, I'm a late bloomer). Then this week at lunch we discussed office dress codes, and the fact that ties from fifteen years ago might be noticeably unfashionable today.

Want to know more about the history of men's neck wear? In, "Short, Bold, Skinny, Paisley" the Wall Street Journal presents a timeline of necktie history. We all know that styles change, but I thought this brief piece did an especially nice job illustrating the effect of changing styles on an industry and its trade association.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008