Thursday, July 31, 2008

Elevator Pitch

I'm sure a number of our clients could afford to practice their story or pitch. Here are few sites on developing an elevator pitch.

www.wikipedia.com
Elevator Pitch

Youtube.com
Elevator Pitch

The Art of the Elevator Pitch
www.businessknowhow.com
By Robert Pagliarini of SeekingCapital.com

The Perfect (Elevator) Pitch
BusinessWeek.com
by Aileen Pincus

One-Stop Source for Federal Forms

If you have a regular need for the forms issued by the SBA (or any other Federal government agency), then bookmark the Federal Forms Catalog at Forms.gov. Note in the left-hand margin, under the heading "Frequently Used Forms," that there's a link titled "Small Business Forms". All of them emanate from SBA. All of the links lead to a PDF version of the form, many of which can be filled out online.

Elsewhere, I can envision how quick access to IRS forms would be useful to certain clients as well.

I took a quick spin around SBA's website, but couldn't readily find a link there to the forms they've issued. Keep it handy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ways of saying "Hello!"

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a Wall Street Journal piece about the history of the necktie, and how changing rules about business attire have affected that industry.

Here's another change in business etiquette. The handshake may not be in any danger, but according to this USA Today article, the fist bump is making in-roads with the younger set (and presidential candidates):

Read more here:
"Can the fist bump mix with business? "

Time magazine offers a history of the fist-bump here:
"A brief history of the fist bump"

Of course there are other greetings in the business world, including the cheek kiss.
Make sure you're familiar with kissing etiquette by checking out this Wall Street Journal piece:
"Americans Learn The Global Art Of the Cheek Kiss"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Is Cuil Cool?

A new search engine, Cuil - pronounced "cool" - started today. You can read all about its claims of being "better than Google" here and here, among many other places. Apparently, it was having start-up jityters, as one person indicated that one couldn't access it at all fotr a time.

But I got through and tried New York State Small Business Development Center; it actually suggested the whole name after I had typed New York State Sm

My result:
We didn’t find any results for "New York State Small Business Development Center"
Some reasons might be...

a typo. Please check your spelling.
your search includes a term that is very rare. Try to find a more common substitute.
too many search terms. Please try fewer terms.
Finally, try to think of different words to describe your search.


It’s the first item on Google. Meh.

And as a matter of vanity, I cuiled my blogs and they showed on the 7th page, while they're on the first page on Google.

As this writer noted: Cuil Not So Cool.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Running a Business in a Rough Economy

With gas prices rising and the economy worsening, companies are trying to find solutions for the strain that businesses and employees are feeling. The article Should We Embrace the Four-Day Workweek provides a solution to alleviate employee stress while also benefiting the company. The article points out that a Community College in Florida converted to four-day workweek and saved over $200,000 on energy costs for the summer while also reducing sick leave usage by 50% and turnover by 44%.

For more information on solutions, check out Surviving a Slowing Economy and Surviving an Economic Downturn

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Enneagram of Personality

I am reading about enneagrams which seem to be a Myers Briggs-type personality type system. I was pointed to the book: The Nine Ways of Working by Michael J. Goldberg which looks at how people can work better if they understand the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are and how we function.

This made me wonder what an enneagram was and came across the following descriptions as well as a brief test to see what type I might be. So, if nothing else, you feel like entertaining yourself, check out these sites:

Enneagram Institute

Take a test: The New Enneagram Test

What Breed of Dog Are You?
Time
Anita Hamilton
This article reviews various sources of personality quizzes to help you get to know youself better.

Meeting Blues?

I'm not a fan of business meetings. My wife works for a company that seems to revel in them. Sometimes, entire days go by where she does nothing but shuttle from one conference room to another.

I don't hide my dismay. I prefer meetings that focus on a single thing, and then be part of an engaged group of people who share their opinions and reach some kind of consensus. It's a rare thing, but it is possible. (For instance, it's how we developed our presentation for this past year's staff training event.)

I don't call many staff meetings (I like to think I communicate directly). However, I recognize that this is just the opposite extreme from how my wife's company works. There ought to be a middle ground.

This is why I found this article so interesting. It ran in last Sunday's New York Times, and contains eminently practical suggestions for making meetings more efficient, and more useful to the time of everyone involved. I'm going to print it out, and keep it handy.

I can't be alone in this, right? Read this, and see how many people you recognize.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Boomers at work

The Urban Institute has just released a new report addressing the job market for the baby boomer generation. Will Employers Want Aging Boomers? discusses the fastest-growing occupations for those over 55 and the types of skills employers will be looking for in this working population.

From the report's abstract:
"Boomers will probably want to work longer than earlier cohorts, but their continued work requires that employers hire and retain them. Employers value older workers for their maturity, experience and work ethic, but worry about out of date skills and high costs. Slower overall labor supply growth will increase demand for older workers and occupations with higher shares of older workers will increase modestly as a share of all jobs. Future jobs will require less physical demands and more cognitive and interpersonal skills, trends that favor educated older workers, but job opportunities for less educated older workers may remain limited."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New Birth, Death, and Employment Firm Size Data

Advocacy funded, U.S. Census Bureau Statistics of U.S. Businesses dynamic data has been updated to 2005. The data contains firm/establishment births, deaths, and related employment creation and destruction data by firm size, industry, and geographic location.

From 2004 to 2005, firm births numbered 644,122 and deaths numbered 565,745. Firms with fewer than 500 employees accounted for 78.9 percent of the net employment growth during this period. See the dynamic data sections of http://www.sba.gov/advo/research/data.html for details.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Business Books for the Beach

While trying to figure out an idea on what to blog about today, I stumbled across the article Business Books for the Beach. A list of books that entrepreneurs are reading this summer, I thought that it would be the perfect article to highlight on a Friday afternoon with 90+ degree weather across the state. It is a rather short list, so other business book lists are available here and here.

Rebranding

I learned on a listserv this week the existence of ReBrand.com. It is a consulting firm that assists businesses in trying to overhaul the image of a brand in the mind of a consumer (and I'm sure that greatly simplifies the scope of their services).

What I like about the site is their annual list of top rebranding efforts. Here's their top 100 for 2008. This is a list of efforts by a variety of rebranding & marketing companies, so it's not limited to just them.

The name of each company brand is linked to their full story. In most cases, you'll see images of marketing efforts used in the rebranding process. At the bottom of each page is some narrative that outlines the challenges the brand faced, and how they were overcome.

(And, for a shamless local plug, check out the story of Brown's Brewing Company [the second listing underneath the "Best of Awards" heading]. It's in Troy, about 10 miles from where I'm typing this. Given that it's Friday afternoon, my mind naturally wanders to the local brewpubs.)

Go check it out. It's interesting reading. As for me . . . it's 100 minutes till the weekend!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Latest Additions to the Shelf

The New York State Directory 2007 - 2008

World Chamber of Commerce Directory June 2007

Las Mas Grandes Mentes De Marketing Del Mundo/How to Think Like The World's Greatest Marketing Minds: Lecciones De Negocios
Marcia Layton Turner

Cuando se mata una venta: Los 10 errores fatales que los vendedores cometen y como evitarlos / Kill the Deal
Todd Duncan

Negocios por internet para las pymes/ E-business for the Small Business
John G. Fisher

Anatomía de un plan de negocio / Anatomy of a Business Plan
Linda Pinson

Sea un propio jefe / Be Your Own Boss
David Mc Mullan

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Action!

We like to think and plan here at the Research Network, but one of our newer mottoes (thanks Nike), is "Just do it." We have lots of good ideas, but they could just sit around forever as we build consensus. Sometimes it's better just to take action, and if its not the right action, you can fix it later.

Here's some more evidence for the "just do it" camp-

3 Good Reasons to Stop Thinking So Much, And How to Do It

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Real estate online

Trulia is a "real estate search engine that includes demographic information," according to the Albany Times Union's Chris Churchill.

The fascinating but slightly spooky Google Maps, street view "allows you to take virtual...tours of about 30 U.S. metropolitan areas," including Albany and Buffalo. One of the pictures of my house was either taken on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, based on the location of the garbage cans.

There may be local resources as well, such as the City of Albany search and Times Union real estate.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Work From Home Opportunities

With gas prices continuing to rise with no end in sight and unemployment rates slowly rising due to the worsening economy, now would be the perfect time to get a "work from home" job. Unfortunately, the majority of "work from home" jobs are scams to make money off of people who don't have the money to spare. To find legitimate "work from home" business opportunities that are available, you just need to know where to look. Here are a few of the sites that can help.

- bbbonline.org – Click on "For Consumers" when you want to research a specific business opportunity.
- WomenForHire.com - Offers resources and ideas on working from home.
- FTC.gov - Type "work at home" in search box for good and bad business opportunities, as well as information on how find a legitimate business.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Small Business & Health Care

Today's New York Times features an article called "Small Business is Latest Focus in Health Fight". It focuses on the efforts of individual states around the U.S. in helping small business employers to provide health care to their workers. (New York isn't mentioned by name, though.)

Two sentences jumped out at me:

1) "Of the 47 million uninsured people in this country, at least 20 million are employed by small businesses or work for themselves — a figure that has increased by an average of more than 500,000 a year since 2000."

2) "State laws now typically make it impossible for businesses to cross state lines to create their own purchasing pools, and small companies have had little success to date in being able to band together in sufficient numbers within state borders."

Regarding the latter, Federal legislation has been introduced that would ease restrictions on small business' forming pools, even across state lines.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses is heavily involved in this issue. I get an email newsletter from them, and there will assuredly be updates on this in the near future. I'll keep you posted.

Dabbawallas

You may have come across articles celebrating this very old-school business as an example of extreme customer service success. Dabbawallas are tiffin-meal delivery men in India and have a remarkable success rate for accurate delivery of hot meals.
Now, the business journals are looking at this human-driven, personalized service model with interest.

The cult of the dabbawala
The Economist
Management trends Jul 10th 2008
From The Economist print edition

Business-school gurus take lessons from an unexpected source

The Dabbawalla's Secret
Seth Godin's Blog

Dabbawalla
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Changing demographics

Here's something I didn't know:

The average age of a U.S. head of household is 49.5 years old.

According to Advertising Age's "The Changing Face of the U.S. Consumer: What We Can Learn from Census Data, and Why It Matters for Brands," households headed by two age groups, 35 to 44 and 45 to 54, currently account for almost half of U.S. consumer spending. But these groups are shrinking, so in the future more spending come from households headed by someone 55 or older.

And they may be looking for different things to spend their money on.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Be Prepared

Survey: 40 Percent Of Small Businesses Have No Disaster Preparedness Plan

"A new national survey reveals that a startling number of small businesses remain unprepared to face a potential disaster, be that a hurricane, tornado, wildfire or computer virus, and the majority of these businesses have no plans to change. Commissioned by Office Depot, the survey of small businesses shows 40 percent admit they are not ready for a disaster and one-third indicate having no current plans to get prepared."

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Finding School Districts in NYS

We'll get inquiries once in a while on finding contact information for school districts around the state. For years, we'd rely on a database generated by the State Education Department that was a bit cumbersome to navigate.

Here, then, is an alternative, from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics:
http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/districtsearch/

Regardless of the geographic scope of your results, you can choose to download your findings directly into a spreadsheet.

Note that this database is for public schools only.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Weather or not

There is a future of droughts and downpours for the U.S.A., according to the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. The specific report is here with the press release here.