Friday, October 31, 2008

Information you need...to find business solutions during an economic downturn.



Do you want to know more about what you can do as a business owner during times of economic downturn? Below are links to articles with solutions and guidelines on how to survive and possibly thrive during the current financial crisis.

Congressional Research Services: Economic Slowdown - Issues and Policies (PDF File)

Entrepreneur.com: Surviving a Slowing Economy

National Federation of Independent Business: Ten Ways to Reject the Recession and Build a Thriving Business

Business Week: Surviving the Storm

Small Business Trends: Four Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make in a Recession

WomenEntrepreneur.com: Surviving an Economic Downturn

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Books in the Collection

The Bed & Breakfast/Country Inns
Industry Study of Operations and Finance 2007-2008
Professional Association of Innkeepers International

Table of Contents
Introduction
About the Study
Glossary of Terms
Regions
Chart of Accounts
Bed & Breakfast Inns
Inns and Innkeepers - industry study (2006 data)
Bed & Breakfast Inn Amenities
Bed & Breakfast Inn Occupancy & ADR
Bed & Breakfast Inn Employees
Bed & Breakfast inn - Income Statements
Country Inns
Inns & Innkeepers - industry study
Country Inn Amenities
Country Inn Occupancy & Avergae Rate
Country Inn Restaurants
Country Inn Employees
Counutry Inn - Income Statements

Capital Expenditures
Renovation Cost


Business of Art
An Artist's Guide to Profitable Self-Employment

Table of Contents
Preface
Introduction
Center for Cultural Innovation
Chapter 1: Work Like an Artist, Think Like an Entrepreneur
Chapter 2: Getting the Most Out of the Public Relations
Chapter 3: Managing Money and Financial Planning
Chapter 4: LAW is Not a Four-Letter Word
Chapter 5: I've Written My Business Plan. Now Where's the Money?
General Resources
About the Authors
About CCI

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trends in Trends

How do you spot trends? What do you do about trends once they've been spotted? How will the financial crisis affect these trends and impact your business ? (For more answers to the latter, also check out this post from Alexis.)

These are just some of the issues Trendwatching.com addresses in it's November briefing. A few weeks ago they asked readers to send in their questions, and they've set about to answer 15 of them.

Among other things, they link to their trend watching tips, and their checklist of trendwatching tools, as well as updating some recently spotted trends in the face of our current economic situation. Some of their updated trend predictions: Indulgences? Big ones are out, small ones are in. Free stuff? People like free stuff, but advertising-supported businesses may suffer. Eco-chic? Look to "eco-cheap," efficiency and waste-reduction.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

USLBA: Congrats! Buy Your Plaque Now!

On a listserv I monitor, I saw a post about someone receiving notice that he or she had been given an award by the US Local Business Association. the question was, "Is this a VALID organization? or a 'scam' to get companies to buy their award plaque?"

Frankly, I didn't want to spend an inordinate amount of time on the question, since it wouldn't count in my monthly statistics,. But I did venture to the Better Business Bureau website, went to the national page, and found this about USLBA:

The BBB does not have a current report on this company, which means it has not had frequent enough inquiries or a reason to open a file. The red flags that the BBB sees with this organization's pitch are:

*There is no way to contact this company other than via email.

*Web site domain registration information is privately registered via Go Daddy. We consider this to be a red flag.

*Organization states that you have been awarded, and then presents you with the option of purchasing your own plaque. In order to receive your award you are first required to confirm your company's information. The web site states:
Receiving Your Award
In recognition of your achievement, a 2008 Best of Ft. Benton Award plaque has been designed for display at your place of business. Simply confirm your business contact information in the form below to receive your award.

*The BBB is unable to find anywhere on this organization's web site prior to confirming your business profile info how much the plaque will actually cost.

*Before ever agreeing to the award, this organization already has a "News Release" posted to its site stating that you are a recipient of this award.

BBB TIPS ON VANITY AWARD/DIRECTORY OFFERS

Vanity offers differ from conventional offers in that they generally offer to award you at your expense, and/or they solicit entries in awards, directories or lists patterned after "Who's Who" Directories, which bear prestigious sounding titles.

Businesses nationwide should question direct email or mail solicitations that offer to include the recipient in an award process or directory. In most cases, no returned solicitation, nominee or entry is turned down. The solicitation may be accompanied by a request for a membership fee (in this case payment for a plaque) or for an order of one or more copies of a directory.

Businesses that deal with vanity offers should recognize that their award may have little or no significance in the marketplace and should realistically expect no more than the self-satisfaction derived from seeing your plaque on the wall, but don't be surprised when or if someone asks you to substantiate the award and its merits.

The Better Business Bureau routinely encourages caution. Thoroughly evaluate any solicitations as those described and determine if they are truly based on merit or are geared primarily to appeal to your vanity.


That seemed to be sufficiently blunt for me to send along. While not an indictment of USLBA, it was hardly a ringing endorsement.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rankings in State Investment in Technology

I've written about state rankings from the Milken Institute before. Here's another one, called the State Technology and Science Index. Published last June, this is their third version of this survey (they do it every four years).

The survey attempts to rank each state by its level of investment and commitment to high technology and science. To understand how they do this, it's easier to quote from their site:

"The State Technology and Science Index looks at 77 unique indicators that are categorized into five major components:

* Human Capital Investment
* Research and Development Inputs
* Risk Capital and Entrepreneurial Infrastructure
* Technology and Science Work Force
* Technology Concentration and Dynamism"

As you'll notice, New York ranks 15th in their list. This is where we ranked in 2004. Massachusetts ranks 1st, and they've held that spot in each of these surveys.

If you click on New York on the map, you'll see a breakdown of where we rank among the five components listed above. Notice that our worst showing (29th) is in the category "Technology Concentration and Dynamism". This is where you'd learn how New York has been doing in terms of enabling the startup - and survival - of high-tech businesses.

I dug a bit deeper into this, and noticed that we rank 44th in terms of "Net Formation of High-Tech Establishments per 10,000 Businesses" since 2002. You can understand, then, how improving this statistic is a motivator in the state political world, and how improving this ranking can become the focus of great policy within SBA & the SBDC community.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Top 10 Business Books of 2008

As a librarian, I am a voracious reader of all types of books. Although lately I have been on a James Patterson reading spree, every now and then I love an informative, non-fiction book. Booklist Online has published a list of the Top 10 Business Books of 2008 and although these are not the type of books that need to be purchased for a reference library, they may be of interest to our clientele that would like to learn about the history of business and some of the more successful businesses in the past, present, and future.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Google Shortcuts

There are a few things you can do on Google to save a few steps:

Type the airline and flight number into the search box and you can go straight to the departure and arrival times.

Find out the currency exchange amount: type in 80 dollars in danish kroner and presto. This works for other measurements/conversions as well.

The same goes for shipping tracking numbers.

Type in temp in San Francisco and it will give you the latest.

Type in a ticker in the search box and get price information.

Try using your airport code: ALB airport and you can see local conditions.

Use an area code to get a map of the area.

Type define and the word you are looking up and you can get a quick definition.

Use Google Image Search to gather information about a subject; like, for instance, looking up a name when you are not sure of the gender of the person holding it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New State Librarian Announced

Here's a press release that I just received. It's good to read that the State Library has found its new leader. We've been the beneficiaries of a lot of work done by the NYSL, and we wish Mr. Margolis all the best.

BOARD OF REGENTS APPOINT BERNARD A. MARGOLIS NEW YORK STATE LIBRARIAN

The Board of Regents today announced the appointment of Bernard A. Margolis as the New York State Librarian. He will assume his new responsibilities in January 2009.

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, “We live in an age of information, and libraries play a critical role in providing us with access to that information. They are vital to our economy and our communities. They promote literacy and lifelong learning. And in these trying economic times, they are vital to people seeking information about jobs. I am thrilled that the Regents have appointed a dynamic and innovative person like Mr. Margolis to serve in the critically important position of State Librarian.”

Mr. Margolis will have oversight responsibility for a $13.4 million operating budget, 180 employees, over 20 million collection items and nearly $100 million in State and federal aid to libraries.

Mr. Margolis served as the President of Boston Public Library (BPL), Boston, Massachusetts, from 1997 to 2008. BPL is the oldest municipal public library in the country, with 27 neighborhood branches. The Library’s collections of over 34 million items include the library of President John Adams, Shakespeare’s first folio, Gutenberg’s Catholicon, and many other unique and rare materials. BPL is a member of the Association of Research Libraries.

Mr. Margolis holds a BA in Political Science and an MA in Librarianship, both from the University of Denver. His library experience includes management and executive positions in libraries and library systems in Colorado and Michigan. Prior to moving to Boston, he served as Director/CEO of the Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs (from 1988 to 1997).

Mr. Margolis’s service includes a number of elected positions within the American Library Association, leadership in the Association of Research Libraries, service as a professional delegate to the White House Conference on Libraries, and service on the boards of library organizations in Massachusetts, Colorado, and Michigan. He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Library Administration and Bottom Line: The Magazine of Library Financial Management. He has contributed to several books and has published articles in American Libraries, Public Libraries, and Library Journal.

Information you need...to start a bike shop


Want to start a bike shop? Here are some free web resources that offer industry stats and advice to get you going.

National Bicycle Dealer's Association: Want to Start a Bike Shop?

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News: Bike Stats (Including the 2008 Bike Stats Issue)

Bikes Belong Coalition: Survey Says: High Gas Prices Are Fueling Bike Sales

The Outdoor Industry Association: The Active Outdoor Recreation Report, Bicycling

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

ASBDC Chicago: Triple Bottom Line and Sustainability


Most entrepreneurs have a pretty good idea that they need to know about the bottom line. But which one? Usually, it's the economic bottom line, involving capital, i.e., money. But in recent years, business folks have focused on other bottom lines such as social (people capital) and environment (natural capital).

People in this movement use terms such as performance, features, reliability, durability, serviceability, aesthetics, and perceived quality.

In this economic climate, an appetite for cheaply-made items with planned obsolence may have come to an end. But brands that provide for a more sustainable future, concerned with health and safety, honesty, doing good as well as convenience, will come to the fore.

To that end, the leaders of the Going Green workshop I attended in September recommended these websites:
Branding for Sustainability
LOHAS - Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability
U.S. Green Building Council
Pennsylvania Material Trader - a free online service established in 2004 by the PA SBDC's Environmental Management Assistance Program to "help businesses find users for materials they have traditionally discarded; to turn 'one business's trash into another business's treasure.'"
Natural Capitalism enables organizations to increase profitability and efficiency while becoming more environmentally and socially responsible

Attending the session was Diane Wolverton, Wyoming SBDC state director, who earlier at the conference had given a workshop on sustainability. The Sustainable Business Cafe ning includes her PowerPoint presentation.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Series on Small Business

Yesterday, the New York Times began a series that will focus on six individual small businesses in the New York City area, and how each of them is dealing with the current economic situation.

Here's their introduction:

"A butcher’s longtime customers stop paying their bills. A building contractor has half as many jobs as he did a year ago. A restaurant owner considers sharing space to stay afloat. Steadily, inexorably, the fallout from Wall Street’s layoffs and the credit crisis is trickling down to small businesses across the region. Over the coming months, The New York Times will track six of those businesses to see how they are weathering the economic storm."

Give it a read. Recognize what these people are saying?

By the way, in the past month, emails have been sent out from the Association of SBDCs, soliciting client stories on behalf of journalists from the Times, Business Week, and The Wall Street Journal on issues currently being faced by small business owners. I'm not sure if any of the businesses profiled in this Times article came from that inquiry, but it's interesting how the community of SBDC advisors have become, more and more, a go-to source for the media.

CIA World Factbook

Many of our businesses deal with exporting and importing. When dealing with business associates in foreign countries, it is essential to know detailed cultural information. The CIA World Factbook is an almanac-style resource that provides current and relevant facts on 266 countries and areas in the world. Updated every few weeks, country profiles include the following categories:

Introduction - Background
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Transnational Issues

Although not very applicable to our clientele, I also find the CIA publication Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments an interesting resource.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Widgets

I am most familiar with using widgets on my Mac where you can add elements to your desktop like a clock, various tickers, games or news headlines. You can make good use of widgets to keep up-to-date on what is going on in your sphere of interest. There are more and more available everyday. A widget is a small application that you can add to your desktop. Yahoo! explains how you can add elements to your desktop, as does WikiHow. Google Desktop stands opposite Yahoo! - you've probably been invited to download Google Desktop, which allows you to add stuff to your desktop as well as search your desktop. You can tailor your desktop to include mini-versions of the sites you visit for news, updates on political candidates, the weather or whatever catches your fancy. I personally don't use Google Desktop because I have most of my tidbits on my Google homepage but it is an option.
Here are a selection of widget sites.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

General Social Survey

Looking for information on how Americans feel about...well, almost anything? Check out the online data available through the General Social Survey . The GSS has asked the same core "demographic, behavioral, and attitudinal questions" since 1972, allowing us to monitor social change throughout this period.

You can browse variables (alphabetically) here. It's literally "abortion" to "zodiac."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

State Tax Department Touts Improvement to Business Taxpayers

The state tax department is portraying its website thusly: "Business taxpayers can refer to our new and improved web pages designed to help them comply with New York State tax law throughout the business lifecycle."

For more information, select the links below:

Starting or buying a business
Expand a business
Close or end a business

Friday, October 10, 2008

Demographic Sources

Demographics are a very important part of the research that we do here at the Research Network. While demographic is defined on dictionary.com as "a statistic characterizing human populations (or segments of human populations) broken down by age or sex or income etc", this definition does not cover the many uses of demographics. Demographics can help a small business owner decide where to open a new business, who the business' target audience should be, and many other essential aspects of operating a small business. Below are links to demographics information that is available for free.

Bureau of Labor Statistics Demographic Data

American Fact Finder - Demographics from the U.S. Census

Social Statistics Briefing Room - The White House

I also found a useful pathfinder from the University of Michigan Documents Center on Statistical Resources on the Web - Demographics and Housing

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Coffee and Farmers' Markets

Two new items we have in our library are:

National Coffee Drinking Trends 2008
What You Need to Know, When You Need to Know It

Table of Contents
Highlights
Background
Research Methodology
Overview
Detailed Sections
Coffee Consumption Frequency
Coffee by Type
Coffee Consumption by Age
Coffee Consumption by Region
Coffee Consumption by Time of Day
Coffee Consumption by Location
Drivers and Barriers
Country Origins/Certifications
Coffee Additives
Consumer Profiles
Appendix

A Guide to Developing a Community Farmers' Market
from the Farmers' Market federation of New York, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Table of Contents
Introduction
Building Interest
Market Research & Assessing a Need for a Market
Market Organization
Preparing for the First Season
Evaluation
Appendices:
Checklist for Developing a Farmers' Market
Sample Survey for Farmers
Sample Survey for Consumers
Sample Rules and Regulations for a Farmers' Market
Sample Market Application
Contact Information

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Video: The Credit Squeeze on Small Business

We all know that it is increasingly difficult for even well-established small businesses to get credit. But your SBDC can help! Tom Morley (and I think I saw Geri Kavanah too) from the Westchester Small Business Development Center, and their client, Carol Conolly of Discovering Me Nursery School, discuss these issues with Business Week TV. Watch it here:


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Trade Show Handbook

Stolen from J.J. Hill Library blog because I found out about some sources I didn't know about before.

Trade shows are a tried and true way of reaching out to and interacting with numerous potential customers in a short period of time. But they can take some finesse to do right.

The Trade Show Handbook can help you put together that "just right" show. The site offers guides and tutorials for choosing and maximizing a trade show presence, links to directories of trade shows by industry, and a listing of convention centers by state. You'll also find lists of event planners and suppliers for help bringing it all together.

Trade shows, as with any form of marketing, should be entered into with forethought and a solid plan. Formulate that plan with the Trade Show Handbook.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Screening Employees

Here's an article that offers a few tips on screening employees through the Internet. Some of it is rather obvious (check Google . . . really?). It also cites a few fee-based sites that help with background checks. On a similar note, the Degree Check website is a useful tool to see whether or not a candidate for a position really has that MBA.

There are likely dozens of additional sites that perform similarly useful functions. Anyone know of any off the top of their head?

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Year That Was

Happy Fiscal New Year to everyone on the Federal calendar.

Tuesday saw the end to what's been a turnaround year for our library. We hired Alexis in March, and she seems to be the final piece to the puzzle. We just finished the busiest September in our 16-year history. Requests are up 31% over last year, to a point not seen around here since 2003. A few weeks ago witnessed the 25,000th request in our history. Turnaround time has been cut in half. In addition, we've incorporated an SBDC presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We've been defined in Wikipedia. We've been slowly building a Spanish-language collection, and a long-overdue LISTSERV has been built for SBDC personnel.

There's miles to go . . . we're about to embark on rigorous training in GIS services. We'd like to explore podcasting, both for what we do & how to help our clients do the same. There's lots more to come.

It's been a fun year. We're looking forward to the next one!

Recession Guide for Small Businesses in New York State

The central office for the NYSSBDC has created a document that can be used as a guide and information source for our clients in today's rough economy. Originally created in July, we recently found it was necessary to update and revise the document. The guide combines facts and figures regarding the current state of the economy as well as tips and stragtegies for surviving in down times. In order to create the document, we visited major and business news websites and found the most recent articles and blogs that are applicable to our client base. We would be happy to send the document to any advisor or NYSSBDC employee who requests a copy. Feel free to call, email, or leave a comment and we will send you what we are calling the "white paper".

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Multimedia Search

"Hmmm.... I think I heard about that somewhere..." Have you ever wanted a search engine that can search through multimedia content, including audio and video files without written transcripts? Here's a tool that might be helpful. EveryZing's ezSEARCH "is the web’s first integrated universal site search solution, enabling multimedia content to be indexed and searched just like any web document." Search results yield the multimedia file where your term occurs, and links you to the part of the file where your term is spoken.