Monday, August 31, 2009

State fact sheets for farms

State fact sheets provide information on population, employment, income, farm characteristics, farm financial indicators, and top commodities, exports, and counties for each state in the United States.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Entrepreneurism in a Recession

With the unemployment rate around 10% and five job applicants for every one job, there are many Americans who are finding themselves unemployed with little or no opportunity for employment in the near future. When this happens, why not create a new job (or jobs) by starting a new business. An article in the New York Times titled On to Plan B: Starting a Business recently said "CALL them accidental entrepreneurs, unintended entrepreneurs or forced entrepreneurs. A year and a half into the Great Recession, with the jobless rate hovering near double digits, corporate refugees...are trying to fend for themselves." For more information, read the articles below or contact your local NYS SBDC office here.

How to Become an Entrepreneur During a Recession

Becoming an Entrepreneur Can Provide Hope During the Recession

Breaking the Recession Illusion to Become an Empowered Entrepreneur

Thanks, Amy

Since May 6th, we at the Research Network have been damn lucky to be borrowing Amy Peker to help us out with the research. She started out in early 2009 as student help. We brought her back for a summertime gig because, well, we needed the help.

Some of you (well, 57, to be exact) have been on the receiving end of her work, which I consider to be professional grade. Today, sadly, we have to bid her goodbye, and good luck. She's a librarian now . . . all grown up, and no longer an intern.

Amy learns quickly, and has a laser-like focus. She was getting the hang of learning the art of reading between the lines of research requests (something that she'll never really stop learning), and then pick among the resources at our disposal to best answer what was asked.

We'll miss her unique sitting posture, her love of Wheat Thins & all manner of snack crackers, and her adventures in dog training. We've never had a rugby player/librarian before - such a person is good to have around in a pinch.

Most of all, we'll miss her work ethic, as it enabled the rest of us to have the time to pursue some other projects without making our clients have to wait for answers. When Amy started here just after Staff Training, our average turnaround time was at a respectable 7 days. Right now, it's down to 3. It will likely drift upward a bit, starting next week.

We'll miss Amy, and so will you. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teens aren't the only online trendsetters

Remember the intern at Morgan Stanley who shocked his bosses when he reported that he and his peers weren't all that into Twitter?

According to a recent New York Times article, he seems to be correct about teens and Twitter. "Who’s Driving Twitter’s Popularity? Not Teens" examines the demographics of Twitter users, and argues that technological tools can succeed, even without the trendsetting prowess of the teen crowd.

It's a good lesson - not every online tool needs to be marketed to the under-18 crowd, after all they are notoriously fickle, and some applications are just better suited to adults.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Customer loyalty

I found two interesting articles at ConnectIT USA last month. They seem to be two sides of the same coin. In Risky Business: How repeat customers may jeopardize your future, Jeff Mowatt suggests the possibility that "some folks who spend their money with your organization may not enjoy doing business with you at all. As a manager, how do you know that your customers are in fact loyal? Ask. In a round-about way, that is." When you read his example, I'm guessing many will nod with pained recognition.

Mark Cox, in Strengthening customer relationships in times of crisis, posits:
During times of economic crisis, organizations struggle to communicate unfavorable news, from lower earnings and shrinking market share, to cuts in service and increases in prices. The conventional wisdom is that bad news damages customer relationships and breeds mistrust among consumers. However, a new Simplicity Survey...finds that delivering bad news is an opportunity -- if done in the right way -- to strengthen customer relationships and lay the foundation for increased trust and loyalty when conditions improve.

The common theme, of course, is communication, proper communication with customers. Seems obvious; apparently, it's not.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

O Canada Business

Haven't stolen borrowed from the Hill Library lately:

A couple great resources to find statistics and resources on industry and business in Canada.

Industry Canada is the place to go if you're looking for information on the state of Canada's industry. It includes business tools for start-ups, as well as information on electronic commerce. Use the company directories to research companies, or search for information on statistics, financing, innovation, research, science and technology, regulations and standards, and more for Canada.

Canadian businesses and start-up entrepreneurs can use Canada Business to reduce "the complexity and burden of dealing with various levels of government" when attempting to start or run a business. Canada Business covers a range of relevant topics, from starting a business to taxes to selling to government. You can access Canada Business services via Web, email, or phone.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Recession Survival Guide for Small Business

On the New York State Small Business Development Center's website today we have debuted a new section titled Recession Survival Guide for Small Business. The guide is intended to help small business owners' throughout the recession by focusing on certain topics that are universal to any small business. The subjects discussed are Advertising, The Internet, Doing Business with the Goverenment, Labor Force, Economizing, and Going Green. Each section is designed to help a business owner re-evaluate their current way of thinking to maximize the expenditures and effectiveness of each business aspect. As an ongoing document, we would welcome any comments regarding other topics business owners would be interested in reading about.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Starting Out

We see a lot of information on making the most of referrals, having reciprocal relationships with other businesses, but they all assume you've had your first customer. These are a few articles on starting somewhere to get that first customer.

Getting Your First Customer
Strategies: Getting your first customer takes work
8/7/2009 3:58 AM
By Rhonda Abrams
USA TODAY
Recognizing the difficulty of getting the ball running, the author suggests some ways to build clientele.

OnStartups
Startup Diaries: Getting Your First Customer

This blog entry offers a different point of view for a software developer.

Getting Your First Customer: 2007 Entrepreneurship Conference
Interactive presentation
by Chuck DeVita, Growth Process Group.
This is a video presentation from Stamford University on the same issue.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Communication devices of the future

Based on how often I talk about it, you would think that I really enjoyed the movie, “Minority Report.” Well, I didn’t hate it, but there’s one part that made me really excited. You remember in the beginning, where Tom Cruise is pushing around holographic images with his hands? I want that. I’m almost there, now that I have two computer screens and can drag open windows from one screen to the other, but it's still not quite as much fun.

If those holographic screens are the vision of the future for projecting images, what do you think the communication devices of the future will look like? Designers at Motorola had a go, and the results look like they’d fit nicely in almost any futuristic flick. Which one do you want? I like the bracelet….

Design World: What will communication devices look like in 2033?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Things not to have on your Web site

I came across this article by Jeff Wuorio.

"When it comes to your company's Web site, there's no shortage of advice on what you absolutely have to have there. But little is often said about those elements that should never see the light of day."

Wuorio lists his nine items and the reasons. I'm going to give my observations about his major points.

1. Your photo on the home page.

Interesting. Feels right. Heck, I don't even have my photo on my personal blog.

2. Visual (and audio) overkill.

I HATE sites that start music as soon as I go to them. Partly, it's because I'm usually already listening to music. Partly, it's because their music is usually treacle. It happens a lot at music and wedding-related sites I go to.

Sites that take too long long to load, I abandon relatively quickly. Virtually all studies suggests my reaction is the norm.

3. Too many confusing menu options.

I took this website design one-day course once - I was visiting a friend in Michigan and had to do something while waiting for the end of the workday - and it suggested a hierarchy very similar to what Wuorio calls for.

Not incidentally, nothing makes me crazier than going to a perfectly good website, only to find that the redesign makes it HARDER to find things.

4. Information that could lead to privacy or security breaches.

That's info that could lose customers forever.

5. Information that could tip off competitors.

Unless it's a public company whose SEC filings are a matter of record anyway. Then I think it's desirable to put that info right on the site. For small businesses, though, he's right. We often get questions about the competition and as often as not, I just check out the website.

That said, I always like websites that give me something for nothing. A restaurant that will give out a recipe or two, or other how-to info that doesn't compromise the bottom line.

6. Undue jargon and techno-speak.

Don't make your customers feel stupid.

7. Content that makes your business sound too good to be true.

Don't lie to me.

8. Unsupervised chat boards.

Moderation in all things.

9. Bad links and outdated material.

My personal pet peeves.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Internet Usage Information Source

comScore describes itself as "a global leader in measuring the digital world and the preferred source of digital marketing intelligence". I'm fond of their "press releases" page, as it provides links to brief articles featuring measurements of users of the Internet from countries around the globe. In the past, I came to rely on sites like this, only to see them stop publication of material without any warning. I'll keep my eye on this one, as it seems pretty hip. Pass it on to your e-clients, too.

Friday, August 07, 2009

American City Business Journals

Last night I attended an event hosted by the Albany Business Journal. The Biz Mix was a networking opportunity that brought together individuals from all types of business throughout the Capital Region. The Albany Business Journal is an American City Business Journal, the nation's largest publisher of metropolitan business newspapers. ACBJ's metropolitan business newspapers reach 4 million readers each week with exclusive, in-depth coverage of their business communities. Every day I recieve emails from the Albany Business Journal that keep me informed about local and national business news. ACBJ operates in 42 metropolitan areas throughout the U.S. and the websites associated with the 42 journals reach 8 million unique monthly visitors. I also recieve invitations to events like the one I attended last night, which provide a great forum to meet other business indivduals in the community. I highly recommend to any business individual to check out their local business journal for an informative read and a great networking venue.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

New complementary and alternative medicine report

If you've asked us for any information about the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States, you probably saw the 2004 report, "Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults: United States, 2002," with a note that this was the most up-to-date and comprehensive info available.

Well, I'm happy to say there's a new report on the subject. "Costs of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Frequency of Visits to CAM Practitioners: United States, 2007" was released by the CDC on July 30, 2009.

The data covers a wide range of CAM practices, including energy therapy, acupuncture, biofeedback, hypnosis and massage, providing data on out of pocket costs, practitioner costs, and number of visits per year.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Census Bureau: Not Just What You Expect

The Census Bureau released three Economic Census reports last week:
2007 Economic Census: Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Industry Series
2007 Economic Census: Construction Industry Series
2007 Business Expenses for Wholesale and Retail Trades
Unsurprising, I suppose.

But Census has also recently released Reports on Residential Vacancies and Homeownership, which showed "National vacancy rates in the second quarter 2009 were 10.6 (+ 0.4) percent for rental housing and 2.5 (+ 0.1) percent for homeowner housing...The Census Bureau said the rental vacancy rate was higher than the second quarter 2008 rate (10.0 percent) and higher than the rate last quarter (10.1 percent). For homeowner vacancies, the current rate was lower than the second quarter 2008 rate (2.8 percent) and lower than the rate last quarter (2.7 percent). The homeownership rate at 67.4 (+ 0.5) percent for the current quarter was lower than the second quarter 2008 rate (68.1 percent), but not statistically different from last quarter’s rate (67.3 percent)."

"Public schools in New York spent $15,981 per pupil in 2007, which was more than any other state or state equivalent." Figures are available from the new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. (See Table 11.) "New Jersey ($15,691) and the District of Columbia ($14,324) had the next-highest spending. States spending the least per pupil were Utah ($5,683), Idaho ($6,625) and Tennessee ($7,113). On average, each state spent $9,666 per pupil in 2007, a 5.8 percent increase over 2006.

Did you know that September 20-26, 2009 is Unmarried and Single Americans Week? Didf you know there WAS an Unmarried and Single Americans Week?

Sometimes Census generates statistics on behalf of others. Commissioned by the National Institute on Aging unprecedented global aging is examined in a new Census Bureau report.
"The number of people worldwide 65 and older is estimated at 506 million as of midyear 2008; by 2040, that number will hit 1.3 billion. Thus, in just over 30 years, the proportion of older people will double from 7 percent to 14 percent of the total world population."

Monday, August 03, 2009

Software Directories

New software titles are added to the marketplace on an hourly basis. We don't subscribe to any database that promotes itself as being up-to-the-minute with their listings. However, for requests that seek software to perform a certain function, I typically look at one or both of these sites:

1) STORES Software Sourcebook (courtesy of the National Retail Federation) - This is updated annually, and the link here refers to their 2009 version. You can search by keyword, or by the category of software being sought.

2) SoftScout - The Business Software Encyclopedia - According to its latest tally, this website has information on 24,615 products. It also can be searched by keyword & category, as well as by broad industry category and operating system.

Remember these. Bookmark these. Refer these to clients who are looking for software help.