Friday, February 27, 2009

Franchise Tax

The 2008-2009 New York State Budget Act has drastically altered the way that franchise taxes will be determined for businesses. Last night CBS 6 News reported that the Tax Changes Anger Small Businesses. A Mr. Subb franchise owner in the Capital Region had his franchise tax jump from $425 last year to $3,000 this year. The franchise tax used to be based on payroll and is now based on receipts.

A more in depth article was published on January 1st, 2009 in the CPA Journal. Written by Mark H. Levin, a copy of the article can be found here. The below tables were found in the original article.



And Still More Outrage

I wrote a piece last week with a similar theme, but it bears repeating.

Every day, I get an email from the National Federation of Independent Business, providing links to recent news stories on a whole spectrum of small business-related trends.

Lately, every day there's another article with a title that indicates the overall angry mood of our nation's entrepreneurs. Here are two new ones:

No Small Differences Over Obama’s Treatment of Small Business
(from the "Front Row Washington" blog on the Reuters website)

Obama's Budget to Raise Small-Business Taxes
(from an opinion piece by Donald Lambro, in the Washington Times)

And then this, with a much different point of view:
FACT CHECK: GOP Adrift on Small Business Claim


The numbers are so politicized, it's difficult to ascertain what's truth, and what is just spin. Anyone have a story from an actual business owner, who can compare and contrast his or her return from this year to one in the recent past? I'd like to hear the news from the front lines.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

wotartist

There are many sites available now to artists to exhibit their work. One of the difficulties I see in the sites I have visited is the time it takes to navigate, ugly or cluttered presentation, and the time it takes to gauge where on the spectrum of "art" it falls - absolute beginners? long-dead museum-level artists? Mishmash of both? My benchmark is usually: could I actually buy anything by these people? And how much time do I want to spend on trying to gravitate to art I like?
This site organizes artist by continent, and there seems to be a fair range of contemporary working artists represented by links to their own websites with 3 examples of their work. They state that they are making an attempt to weed out artwork that strikes the organizers as "formulaic".
I like that you can hover over the artist's name and see a thumbnail of a piece so you can decide pretty quickly how to direct yourself to work you like. The site attempts to streamline connection between artist and audience. For our artist-clients, it is another option to try to reach their public.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

10 minute break - go!

Stretch! Yup, I've got my arms up in the air again, and am getting funny looks from my coworkers. But I have a plan - I like to get tiny little bursts of exercise during my work day. It feels good, and makes going back to my computer a little easier.

Turns out, movement breaks of just 10 minutes can make a difference to employee health and productivity.

Check out this piece from NPR: "Expert: 10-Minute Workouts Can Have Big Payoff"

According to Dr. Toni Yancey of UCLA, a couple of short exercise breaks offer real health benefits, and working out in groups (with people like your co-workers) is motivating. It can increase productivity too. Fifteen years ago, employees at L.L. Bean's manufacturing facility began taking three, five-minute breaks a day to engage in a little group exercise. Management found that for those fifteen minutes per day, the company found 30-minutes return on productivity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Viral Marketing


The blog post How to Create Triggers That Get People to Spread Your Ideas was the introduction of sorts to a webinar I listened to earlier this month, Viral Marketing: How to Create a World Wide Rave.

Both venues made these cogent points:

"Nobody cares about your products (except you)...What people do care about are themselves and ways to solve their problems..."

"No coercion required...When you've got something worth sharing, people will share it..." The webinar example was a dentist who created a free e-book, Healthy Mouth, Healthy Sex! and ended up more than quadrupling her gross while allowing her to drop her expensive Yellow Pages ads.

"Lose control...Yes, you can measure success, but not through business-school Return On Investment (ROI) calculators." Think of the Grateful Dead, who allowed and even encouraged recording at their concerts.

"Put down roots...If you want your ideas to spread, you need to be involved in the online communities of people who actively share." A great story about an "unsalable" book about Alzheimers that ended up a New York Times best seller because the author became involved with the Alzheimers community.

"Create triggers that encourage people to share. When a product or service solves someone's problem or is very valuable, interesting, funny, or just plain outrageous, it's ready to be shared." The New York Islanders hockey team not only encourage their fans to blog, the team gives the bloggers opportunities to interview the players.

Point the world to your (virtual) doorstep.

Oh, and play nice.

Incidentally, as of December 2008, 11% of online American adults said they used a service like Twitter or another service that allowed them to share updates about themselves or to see the updates of others.

2009 Industry Outlook: Auto and Tech, Media & Telecom (TMT) Predictions

Docuticker recently posted documents put out by Deloitte, LLP about the 2009 automotive and technology, media & telecom TMT) industries.  2009 Industry Outlook: Automotive discusses the challenges to the big 3 in the coming year; 2009 Technology, Media & Telecom (TMT) Predictions are broken down into three respective topics and "provide an in-depth look at the emerging issues that will have an impact on the technology, media and telecommunications sectors in the coming year. The 2009 series has drawn on internal and external inputs from conversations with member firm clients, contributions from Deloitte member firms’ 6,000 partners and managers specializing in TMT, and discussions with industry analysts, as well as interviews with leading executives from around the globe. Each report includes recommendations on how to leverage these trends."

-Tyler Krumm

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stimulus Package - Small Business Points of View

Everyone has an opinion, and there's been no shortage of them in relation to the recently-passed stimulus package. Here are links to three stories that I read, all of which were published some time this month, and each with a different point of view on what to expect from the Small Business Administration. Thought you might like to read them yourself:

"SBA Ill-Equipped to Handle Obama Stimulus Funds," an opinion piece by Keith Girard that appeared on Feb. 12th'

"Smaller Lenders See Opportunities in SBA Loan Programs," a story that appeared on the website of the Arizona Republic on Feb 17th;

"Stimulus: What's In It for Small Biz?," which appeared first on Feb. 18th in the Money section on CNN's website.

"Overhaul in the Offing at SBA," first available on the Entrepreneur.com website on Feb. 4th, which discusses recent political developments that affect the Administration.

TED

Ideas worth spreading

"TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design.  It started out  (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds.  Since then its scope has become ever broader."

This site collects the 18 minute talks from the conferences and they are released under a Creative Commons license so that they can be shared.  You'll recognize a lot of the people who speak or perform at TED, but you may also encounter interesting people you may not have. It's a conference of ideas, a community of thinkers. For inspiration and a wider view, check out TED.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

One bad apple

Take any management or psychology class and you'll no doubt learn about "groupthink" and the power of group dynamics. So you might think one slacker in an otherwise productive group probably won't make much difference. But according to some research, that one "bad apple" can make a large impact.

I'm a big fan of the radio program, This American Life, and when I heard the "Ruining it for the rest of us" episode, I had to share. The prologue of the episode focuses on the research of "Will Felps, a professor at Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, who designed an experiment to see what happens when a bad worker joins a team." Felps used an actor who took turns being a jerk, a slacker or a depressive, and watched what happen to the team.

The results? One "bad" team member can spoil it for the rest of us. The antidote? Good listening and asking questions. The whole episode is an hour long, but the prologue section is just 14 minutes and is good listening.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

SBA Resources for Boomer Startups

The U.S. Small Business Administration has a new package of resources for older entrepreneurs looking to start both for-profit and nonprofit businesses. The site, 50-Plus Entrepreneur, is targeted to those seeking to start a small business, but offers lots of practical advice for social entrepreneurs as well. For example, people can get help in analyzing their competition, counseling problematic employees, improving cybersecurity, developing a business plan and determining how much insurance is needed.

That audience might also be interested in Encore Careers. "The growing network of people in encore careers is transforming the workplace and the way that people think about work. More and more individuals in the second half of life are combining continued income with personal fulfillment and social impact." Here's a success story about a social entrepreneur.

(Thanks, JM)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Superstition

I suppose it should not be surprising to see how much people make decisions, including those in business, based on superstitions. Our cultural and daily habits will naturally spill over into work life. Here are a few articles that discuss how these beliefs can work for marketers.

Turn Superstition into Marketing Gold

When numbers are more than just numbers, they can be used to influence behavior, which should have business owners counting their blessings.
By Jennifer Wang February 11, 2009

Ides of March, other superstitions still have plenty of sway
Pantagraph.com
By Lisa Anderson - Chicago Tribune
Sunday, March 16, 2008

Superstition and time have marketing implications

www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com
By Guy Montague-Jones, 14-Feb-2008

Breakthrough Business Ideas for 2009

I was informed about a very interesting article earlier this week through a subscription email I get through J.J. Hill Library. The article, originally published by Harvard Business Review, lists 20 Breakthrough Business Ideas for 2009. An excerpt from the article is below.

"Caught between two elemental forces – one called Calamity and the other called Change – we launch our latest edition of breakthrough articles into the teeth of a gale. A new administration has taken charge in the United States at a time of major challenges on many fronts. The world economy staggers toward stabilization and whatever comes next. Business soldiers on, controlling what it can and coping with what it can’t."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and Your Business

If your business has anything to do with products for children I hope you are aware of and are following changes to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Passed by Congress in August 2008, the CPSIA enforces new lead and phthalate standards for children’s products, and requires extensive testing of all products marketed to children 12 and under. Many small businesses, crafters and used merchandise retailers have been particularly concerned about this legislation, as they feel that the testing requirements may be unduly burdensome for their products. The law was intended to go into full effect on February 10, 2009, but on January 20, 2009 the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a document to delay particular requirements for testing and certification.

Many are still concerned about how this act will affect their businesses, and are lobbying for changes. The following resources offer more information on the legislation.

From the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

Information on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)
http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html

Guide to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) for Small Businesses, Resellers, Crafters and Charities http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/smbus/cpsiasbguide.pdf

Subscribe to the email list for CPSIA updates: https://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsialist.aspx (I’d highly recommend signing up, since updates seem very likely!)

CPSIA - Full Text of the Law: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpsia.pdf

Forums & blogs with perspectives from crafters and retailers:

Etsy Blog: CPSIA Posts http://www.etsy.com/storque/search/tags/CPSIA/
Etsy Forum: CPSIA http://www.etsy.com/forums_board.php?forum_id=5000002
Upscale Baby Blog: CPSIA Archive http://upscalebaby.com/blog/topics/cpsia/

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

USA.gov goes web 2.0

The website USA.gov, "Government made easy", has added Web 2.0 tools to the portal: a governmentwide news feed service, a gallery of online gadgets, and a word cloud that depicts the most popular online government content.

The Government News Aggregator lets users receive consolidated news and information from across the federal government, delivered through RSS feeds.

The Government Gadget Gallery is a collection of gadgets and widgets organized by topic and created by subject-matter experts, which can be embedded in home pages, blogs, and other sites.

USA.gov Word Cloud allows one to see at a glance which key words are most often searched.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Bailout: Do We Use the Shovel, or the Ax?

This was an interesting juxtaposition. On the one hand, this site features the results of a 153 city-survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, proposing a roster of "shovel-ready" projects (mostly relating to infrastructure creation & improvement) that just need a bit of funding to get them off the ground. Obviously, these projects are being touted to Congress in the hopes that it will spur badly-needed job creation.

On this same site, and not much later, however, was a retort by two different taxpayer watchdog groups (call it the Fairness Doctrine in action, if you want). They argue that the bulk of the Mayors' proposed projects were not long-term solutions to job creation. Instead, they believe that the projects were pork in the guise of a stimulus package, and were worthy of the axe.

These appeared during the lame-duck period, and things have certainly changed since then. I find the back-and-forth fascinating, but am not quite sure whom to believe.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Updated: Recession Guide for Small Businesses in New York State

The central office for the NYSSBDC has updated a document that can be used as a guide and information source for our clients in today's rough economy. Originally created in July, this is the third version of the paper. 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, February 04, 2009

Home Is Where You Hang Your Winter Hat

Why do we stay where we live? Winter's halfway mark passes us by today. Here in Albany, it's about 15 degrees outside, with a wind chill effect giving us that tasty, subzero feeling. I spoke to a sales rep in San Francisco, who asked about the weather. When he heard, he only said, "Really?" As if we were in some supernatural state.

But weather happens, every bloody year. This survey, from the Pew Research Center, states that, on the one hand, 46% of the public would rather live in a different type of community from the one they're living in now. On the other, it also finds that most are satisfied with where they live now.

Oy. Just make up your mind. Myself, winter is the only time I can skate in my boots on the driveway with my stepdaughter & dog while waiting for the bus. That's a good enough community for me, during any season of the year.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Making the Grade(r)

Grader.com offers a "family of tools that helps measure all that matters in inbound marketing." Read "inbound marketing" as the Internet, social media and blogs. And they are all free.

Website Grader is a tool that measures the marketing effectiveness of a website or blog and provides recommendations for improvement.

Press Release Grader evaluates press releases and provides a marketing effectiveness score.

Twitter Grader measures one's Twitter profile. (Last I checked, the NYS SBDC Twitter feed had a score of 87 out of 100.)

These are all services of Hubspot.com, an Internet marketing company that also offers a website redesign kit gratis, as well as some useful seminars.

Oh, and Are You Using Your Business Cards to Socialize?; i.e., to use social networks. It's All About Networking.