Friday, May 29, 2009

New Handbook for Resale Stores and Product Resellers

To echo Roger's post earlier this week, I wanted to mention that the Consumer Product Safety Commission recently released a handbook meant for owners of resale and used merchandise stores. It was written in response to the recent passing of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (which Amelia wrote about here last February).

According to the CPSC, it was created to help sellers of used products understand the new law and existing regulations. In their words, "[t]he purpose of this Handbook is to help you to identify the types of products that are affected and to understand how to comply with the law, so you can keep unsafe products out of the hands of consumers."

It's only 28 pages long. If you have clients in this industry, it's best if they read this.

Stimulus Update

It has been a few weeks since I've stimulated you with stimulating information about the stimulus, so today is your lucky day. Of course, there is so much new information coming out everyday from the SBA, local and national business publications, and government websites that it would be impossible for me to keep you constantly updated. The information below is what I believe is most valuable to you, the business owner or advisor. As always, please feel free to comment with links to information you would like to share on the stimulus and small businesses.

Q&A: New SBA Administrator Karen Mills on the Stimulus

Small Business Administration - America's Recovery Capital Loan Program

Stimulus gives SBA Loans a Boost

Sign Up for Updates from the New York State Recovery Website

Interest Groups, Legislators Call for Transparency on Stimulus Money

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bing

I guess we can look forward to the release of Bing, Microsoft's new search engine due out June 3rd. Everywhere I look today there is more speculation about Bing. This is meant to be a response to the shortcomings of web search and competition for Google, the lion of the search market. Microsoft is describing Bing as a "decision engine" apparently well suited to comparisons. The reviews I've read are saying good things about it, even that it is giving Google a run for it's money by helping searchers distill information, pulling it together in the search screen. In a couple of days you can decide for yourself whether it really is an alternative to Google or Yahoo! You can check out the teaser site here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Used merchandise stores on the uptick

Here's an unsurprising bit of info from the U.S. Census Bureau

Used merchandise stores employed more than 131,000 people with $2.1 billion in annual payroll and nearly $9.3 billion in sales in 2007, according to new economic census data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

As part of the 2007 Economic Census Industry Series, these new figures for the retail trade sector provide data on the number of establishments, sales, payroll, number of employees, value of product line sales and other data items at the national level by industry.

Other findings include:

* Women’s, juniors’ and misses’ clothing product line sales accounted for more than 15 percent ($1.4 billion) of total used merchandise store sales. Sales of antiques made up almost 13 percent ($1.2 billion) of the total sales of the 17,779 used merchandise stores in the United States.
* Total sales from used merchandise stores increased $1.5 billion (nearly 20 percent) since 2002, while the number of used merchandise stores decreased by 353 (nearly 2 percent) over the same period.
* Annual payroll per employee for used merchandise stores increased from $14,898 in 2002 to $16,382 in 2007, a 10 percent increase.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pithy Art on Twitter

Think that Twitter is all about people announcing what they ate for breakfast? Well, it is. But it also offers more interesting artistic possibilities.

Want to know how your favorite author feels about their process? While lots of authors just use Twitter to promote their book signings, the following list includes more than 100 authors who use Twitter to carry on a conversation with their readers and offer some insight: Literary Tweets: 100+ of the Best Authors on Twitter

And believe it or not, there are non-celebrities on Twitter with huge followings. They have mastered the story-telling possibilities of 140 characters and manage to make their tweets more useful for the reader than the author.

Read more in this Washington Times article: "Short(est) Stories: The Art of Twitterature Means Making 140 Characters Count"

What's Becoming of Empire Zones?

Alexis pointed out to me that there have been several articles in recent issues of the Capital District Business Review regarding the upcoming changes in qualifying for business tax credits under New York's Empire Zone program.

Here's what's happening, in a nutshell:

1) Recent legislation states that businesses that qualified under the 2008 provisions of the law will now have to re-apply in 2009 under new guidelines.
2) There are roughly 9,000 companies in New York that currently qualify. The new legislation a) will remove companies that fail to meet a ratio of at least $1 of wages & investment for every $1 received as a credit from the state; b) requires new applicants to meet a $20-to-$1 ratio ($10-to-$1 for manufacturers); and c) ends the program on June 30, 2010 (a year earlier than previously scheduled).

Empire State Development has been charged with verifying which companies among the current 9,000 are still eligible. ESD plans to have much of this process finished by June (which opponents to this legislation doubt can happen). No company can claim Empire Zone tax credits until they have been confirmed as having met the new standards. Those who do would be subject to repayment of the credit, plus interest.

As you can imagine, this is a political hot-potato. Republicans charge the legislation as being yet another disincentive to starting and running a business in New York. Democrats counter that the system has been abused for too long, and that this legislation will make its operation more fair, and more efficient.

According to Malcolm Smith (the Senate Majority Leader), the Democratic majority is planning to enact an improved version of this program in time for the vote on the 2010-11 budget. Groups like the Business Council of New York State are already preparing to contribute to the conversation.

Here's a link to ESD's page on the Empire Zone Program. Keep an eye on this. With all the rancor, compromise is likely.

GobiernoUSA.gov

During staff training this past week, I attended the session titled "How the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will Impact the Small Business Community - IRS Online Small Business Resources." While I learned useful information from Mr. Richard Torres from the IRS and Suzanne Reusch from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance about tax breaks that are included in the Stimulus Act, I also learned about an extremely useful website for our Spanish-speaking customers. GobiernoUSA.gov "offers up-to-date official information in Spanish on government programs and services at the federal, state, and local levels." The website is the Spanish language version of USA.gov. Both are portals to "all official transactions, services, and information that the U.S. Government has to offer."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Media Math

Whuffie Math
April 16, 2009 – 4:22 am

Tara Hunt writes a blog and now a book on marketing using social media. In this blog, she appreciates how social relationships work, using the promotion of her book as an example. The key is getting your product into the right hands so they will blow your horn for you.
For those hold-outs resistant to this new climate of information sharing, Tara Hunt illustrates clearly and colorfully what effective marketing looks like.

Check out the articles on TheWhuffieFactor.com

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The ACS Demographic Confusion

As you may know, 2000 is scheduled to be the last decennial Census that will gather "long-form" data. The information gathered from the long form of the census covered income/poverty, language, ancestry, education, homeowner/renter status and expenditures for same, plus much more.

Data users were frustrated about having nine-year-old figures in 2009. Thus was born the American Community Survey, which will eventually provide numbers every year starting in 2010.

Because there are different size requirements for geographies, this creates what might be confusion for the user.

2006: 2005 ACS - statistics for entities of 65,000

2007: 2006 ACS - statistics for entities of 65,000

2008: 2007 ACS - statistics for entities of 65,000 PLUS
2005-2007 statistics for entities of 20,000

2009: 2008 ACS - statistics for entities of 65,000 PLUS
2006-2008 statistics for entities of 20,000

2010: 2009 ACS - statistics for entities of 65,000 PLUS
2007-2009 statistics for entities of 20,000
2005-2009 statistics for all entities

Every year after 2010 will have a rolling set three sets of data for the largest geographies. So, in 2010, there will be reported surveys information gathered over 12-, 36- and 60-months periods for Queens County.

But which one should one use?

The multi-year reports are less current. Statistics are gathered over a larger period. However, multi-year reports are more statistically accurate because they include more records, more collected surveys. Particularly for figures with fewer occurrences, e.g., number of grandparents raising their grandchildren, I'd be inclined to opt for the longest period available.

When comparing geographies, obviously one must consider the size of each entity. There are no one-year ACS stats for 24 of New York State's 62 counties because the population of those counties are each below 65,000.

In any case, when doing comparisons, these two rules should be noted:
1. Do not compare one-year stats, three-year stats and five-year stats with each other. Compare one-year with one-year.
2. When comparing multi-year stats, do not compare overlapping years. For instance, do not compare 2005-2007 with 2007-2009 because both have the exact same records from 2007. This is not an issue yet but will be in 2010.

Finally, do all you can to support the 2010 decennial Census, which, like the 2000 survey, is one of the few attempts to get a full count, rather than a sampling. Therefore it becomes the benchmark of other calculations, both for Census products such as the ACS, and for the private firms that estimate demographic and consumer trends, such as Demographics Now and EASI.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Better Ways to Deliver Bad News

Good Ways to Deliver Bad News
By: Curtis Sittenfeld
Wed Dec 19, 2007

During the course of Staff Training, I heard a few people mention the counselor's role as the voice of reason. Jim mentioned that advisors must be there to tell the truth because most likely most others will find it difficult to do so. The fact it is, it is difficult to deliver news that is painful to hear. Dr. Robert Buckman, a cancer specialist having been through delivering the worst kind of news, developed a protocol.
The protocol that Buckman developed has caught on. He teaches it to doctors, to medical students -- and to businesspeople, including executives at IBM, Andersen Consulting, and Upjohn. "Begin a difficult conversation by listening," he says. "And end it by summarizing: Review the ground you've covered, identify a plan, agree on a 'contract' for the next contact."

You can read about how to apply the protocol in this article. Maybe we can take something from this to help to keep the other side receptive when they'd rather run from the room.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Econonic Impact of the Non-Profit

Here are a few sources of data about the non-profit:

One primary source is the Economic Census. For 2002, it can be accessed either through a series of PDFs or via American FactFinder. The EC identifies establishments that are "not subject to federal income tax" in several of the service sectors, specifically 54-Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; 61-Educational Services; 62-Health Care and Social Assistance; 71-Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation; and 81-Other Services (except Public Administration). These reports show the receipts for these establishments at the state, MSA and county level. There is even some place data, but the smaller the geography, the more likely it will be suppressed in order not to reveal confidential information. Also, public schools, colleges and universities, governments, and churches are excluded from the Economic Census. The 2007 data won't be out until late in 2010 and will be available only via American FactFinder.

The NYC Nonprofits Project surveyed nonprofits in the five boroughs to estimate their impact in several areas, including the economy. The website is http://www.nycnonprofits.org/, with links to detailed papers and the final report, which came out in 2003.

CGR completed a project in 2006 for Dyson Foundation about the Mid-Hudson Valley. The early comments on methodology will give an idea of how the data were compiled.

CaRDI published a 2007 brief on the topic, specifically for Rockland County.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Recession, the Economy, and the Future

Most of the news that I read in the Business Review and other business-oriented periodicals and websites detail the extreme losses that many major companies have experienced in their first quarter for 2009. Luckily, the more time that I spend reading up on the Stimulus Act, the economy, and even the recession, the more hope I have that things will turn around, possible even soon.

2009 Industry Outlook - Challenging Times, Emerging Opportunities (Deloitte)

Report: National recession to end by Sept. (Albany Business Review)

The 2009 Economic Landscape - How the Recession Is Unfolding across Four U.S. Regions (FDIC)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Keeping Customers in the Loop

The latest Trendwatchers mentions an innovative use of Twitter for small business: keeping them posted for time-sensitive updates like when the next loaves come out of the oven at the bakery or when the ice cream truck is coming round. Of course they also cover a lot of other interesting ideas for business. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

H1N1 Flu

Flu information from the US Centers for Disease Control and the NY State Dept of Health

The Web 2.0 Guide to Swine Flu from Salon

Should You Fear Swine Flu? from About.com."No, but a healthy respect is called for."

Apparently, pork producers were peeved that the original appellation was problematic in promoting their product, partially causing the name change. Others were bothered as well.

How to Wash Your Hands


From the techies at UAlbany: As the Swine Flu story unfolds, we anticipate that scammers and cyber thieves will try to take advantage of the interest in this topic by sending out phishing messages and malicious attachments that purport to contain information and updates about the illness. The US-Computer Emergency Response Team has already issued the first alerts about such messages being circulated. In this case, the message contained a malicious .pdf file called "swine influenza frequently asked questions.pdf."

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Mailing Services Prices Effective Monday, May 11, 2009

"On May 11 the price for a 1-ounce First-Class Mail stamp will increase from 42¢ to 44¢. Prices for other mailing services — Standard Mail, Periodicals, Package Services (including Parcel Post), and Extra Services — will also change."

"Prices for mailing services will continue to adjust each May. Prices for most shipping services, including Express Mail and Priority Mail, were adjusted in January and will not change in May."

More info here.

Now would be a good time to buy some of those Forever stamps.

I wonder what the significance is that the rates go up just after Mother's Day, but before Father's Day?

First-Class Mail Price
Letters – first ounce $0.44
Large envelopes – first ounce $0.88
Parcels – first ounce $1.22
Additional ounces $0.17

Postcard $0.28
Stamped Card $0.31
Stamped Envelope $0.54

Friday, May 01, 2009

Lovely Charts

There are simply so many tools popping up all over the place, I don't know where to look. I seldom have the need to make presentations but lately have been introduced to a few tools that can help make any presentation pretty. LoevlyCharts.com is one such application that allows you to create fowcharts and diagrams to add to your presentation or publication.
You can check out examples here. This is a free service but for a fee you can also incorporate your own logos and graphics. The diagrams you produce are private unless you choose to share them.

Successful Unconventional Business Ideas

Sometimes the requests that we receive here at the research network are incredulous. There have been a few requests where I thought "How could anyone think that this could be a successful or profitable business?" But as the articles below prove, sometimes weird business ideas aren't just good, they are fantastic. For example, in the 1960's, who would have thought that bottled water would become such a phenomenal industry that by 2011, it is predicted that have 86.4 billion dollars in sales globally. We all know now that bottled water is a lucrative industry, but forty years ago, who knew?

'Bacontrepreneurs' Building Bacon Empire - From Bacon Salt to Baconaise, Bacon-Lovers Catapult 'Uber-Meat' into $1.4 Million Business

10 Unconventional But Successful Online Homebusiness Ideas

Weird, but Successful Business Ideas Blog

The point of this blog is that no matter how weird or strange or even stupid your business idea is, don't let someone like me tell you it is never going to work. You might just be the next successful, unconventional millionaire.