Thursday, December 31, 2009

Google Translate

As I was using my usual translation sites to translate a block of text, I plugged in my paragraph and was disappointed to see half the words left untranslated and giving me a garbled mess.
I remembered the Word Monkey gadget on my igoogle page and plugged the text in there and lo, it really worked. The entire paragraph made sense - a vast improvement on other translation tools.
In this case, I was translating from Danish to English. Usually translation tools can get the nouns and verbs but are confounded by context. Looking at the Word Monkey site, they make clear that are not affilated in any way with Google yet are powered by Google Translate. In Google Translate, you can search for information on foreign language sites and translate the results back into your home language. There is also an option to contribute a better translation. This wiki feature may be part of the reason this translator is more accurate than others. With the ability to learn, I am liking this tool.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Branding Issue

Surely you have tired by now of the whole Tiger Woods saga. All the articles about sex addiction, a world without privacy, being a role model, the future of professional golf, and whether we should care about any of it.

But, from a business POV, here's one more article: The Ultimate Case Study In Brand Identity Vs Brand Image. It explains that brand identity really is "the heart and soul of who you are as a company or a person."

Businesses can take a free "brand strength" test - go to the first link in the article - and that will be worth three minutes of a business' time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Do Good AND Do Well

I recently worked on a question about getting a business to want to contribute to a non-profit. (It was more complex than that, but that'll do for this purpose.)

In researching the query, I came across Business Nonprofit CONNECTIONS, Inc. The About Us page poses this question: "Is your company’s giving making a difference in your community...and your bottom line?"

The founder and CEO of the company, Susan Hyatt, "provides small and mid-sized companies with ideas and tools for actively managing their community impacts and giving strategies." Also, there's a lot of free, useful advice in blog articles and links to other resources at the site. And I've been getting some start-up e-mails from her that are commonsensical but useful; e.g., "Lesson One - Your Business is NEVER 'Too Small' To Make A Difference." One can sign up for a "free 12-page report, Great Gifts That Make a Difference, for ideas on alternative giving this holiday season and receive a complimentary subscription" to the Business Giving Strategies newsletter.

And Business Nonprofit CONNECTIONS "walks the walk", as can be seen in its participation with nonprofit/nongovernmental organizations.

It is well-known that charitable organizations are taking a hit in these recessionary times. A business can still find a way to give, and get something out of it as well.

Home for the Holidays

Well, not really, but I needed a title to tie-in the season with this recent article from Small Business Trends, called the "Top 10 Homepreneur Trends for 2010".

(Aside - why do so many year-end lists [or lists in general] come in a multiple of 10? Is it a common number of toes, or fingers? Anyway, it's not my list, so they can do what they like.)

The article reveals the neologism "homepreneur," which I wasn't familiar with until today. Regardless, we frequently receive questions from advisors as to what home-based businesses are hot. Keep these in mind.

Now, should a person enter into a home-based businesses because he or she is limited, for one reason or another, to the home, and that choosing amongst this list would yield something more promising than something that isn't hot? Or should this list be read by someone who has talent and experience in one of these fields, and decides to start out a career in the field by starting in the home? I realize that this is the subject for an entirely different blog post, but I'd assume the latter would have a better shot at making a home-based business work than the former.

Great clients bring their gifts for us to share. 'Tis the season for giving gifts. Enjoy the holidays, everyone.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Twitter makes some $$$$

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have been all the rage for the past few years, but the big question of profitability was always looming. Sure, they had a lot of members, but did these companies have any way to make money?

Well, Twitter seems to have figured it out, at least for the time being. Twitter has just signed two agreements which will allow Twitter posts to be searchable by Google and Bing (Microsoft). The respective $15 and $10 million dollar agreements will open up your Twitter tweets to data mining, and will make the company profitable (we think - Twitter is privately held, and isn't giving away all their financials.)

Read more at BusinessWeek: "Content-Search Deals Make Twitter Profitable"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Interesting Lists for Businesses

The following three articles are only related because they are lists and I thought that they could be interesting and useful to business owners.

19 Blogs You Should Bookmark Right Now - Inc. scoured the Web and came up with a list of the smartest business bloggers. Their advice just might help you run a better company. (Inc.)

30 Entrepreneurs Who Are Saving the World - A look at 30 entrepreneurs who built successful businesses that were also driven by a social mission. Because, let's face it: There's more to life than simply making lots of money. (Inc.)

The Best Money Management Sites - Although written as an article on personal finance software, the new generation of money management Web sites can help you take control of your financial life. (CBS Money Watch)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Educational Attainment, Brain Drain & Self-employment

From the Office of Advocacy, Small Business Administration

States looking to grow their economies must ensure that sufficient human capital exists to raise productivity, output, and incomes throughout the state.
Some of these gains will stem from the creation of new enterprises, which previous research links to higher living standards. Each state experiences ebbs and flows of people moving in or out, but some states experience “brain drain”
more than others. This paper explores the mobility of labor from one state to another, using data from the Baccalaureate and Beyond longitudinal survey and examining student outcomes as wage and salary and self-employed workers 10 years after graduation.

A full copy of this report is available here, and the research summary can be found here.

Should you need further information, please feel free to contact Chad Moutray at
(202) 205-6533 or advocacy@sba.gov.

Monday, December 14, 2009

3.6 zettabytes = lots of information

According to a recent survey from the University of California, San Diego, U.S. household consumed about 3.6 zettabytes of information in 2008. A zettabyte is 1,000,000,000 trillion bytes, and last year's 3.6 zettabytes are the information equivalent of thick paperback novels stacked seven feet tall over the whole U.S., including Alaska.

So that's a lot of information. More interesting is where that information is coming from. Computer games, TV and movie-going were the largest sources of information consumed, and Americans spent 16% of their information hours on the internet, second only to their 41% watching TV.

Read the full report here: How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers

Toys

'Tis the season to point out The Bloom Report, a website that covers the toy industry that was pointed out to me by Walter Reid (in our Farmingdale office). Walter, who had worked in the toy industry for several years, calls this "the best free resource for information on the toy industry that I have come across."

If it's that good enough for Walter, then I feel obliged to pass word of it on here. The site (which requires free registration) is useful mostly for its dedication to linking to nearly every toy-related item in that industry's trade publications. Philip Bloom, its creator, has been in the toy industry in some capacity since the 1950s, and this website seems to be a new outlet for the knowledge that he's accumulated.

Yes, registering for it will require yet another user ID and password, but please keep this site in mind to refer to any toy store (or toy invention) clients that you meet.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Securing a Bank Loan for Your Small Business

The last two years have seen a decrease in business loans from lending institutions, despite the best efforts of the government and other organizations that assist businesses with securing financing. Below are some articles that can help you secure a loan for your small business.

Come Prepared - Small businesses can improve the chances of getting a bank loan by laying the groundwork (The Albany Business Review)

Trust Me - For entrepreneurs looking to gain credibility, it's often the little things that count (The Wall Street Journal)

How to secure financing for your small business (SmallBusiness.com)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The New Normal

Spending may not be where it was, but it looks like we are inching up ever so slightly with upper incomes leading the pack as would be expected. Apparently we are now in the "new normal".
You can see this Gallup research here: http://www.gallup.com/poll/124634/Upper-Income-Spending-Reverts-New-Normal.aspx They are not especially optimistic, saying this may be the look of things to come for some time.
For retailers, small businesses, and the companies that supply and support them, a new normal spending pattern can mean complex changes involving downscaling, upselling (people taking advantage to buy upscale for less), inventory management, and people-related adjustments. The U.S. economy is designed to allow the private sector to make such adjustments in order to optimize performance when faced with such a rapidly changing business environment. Of course, the same does not apply to maintaining the social safety net, particularly in the face of double-digit unemployment and even higher underemployment.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

NORAD sees Ol' St. Nick when he's sleeping, knows when he's awake

Children of all ages are now able to track Santa live through a variety of social media services and OnStar, thanks to updates to the North American Aerospace Defense Command's annual Santa tracking public service.

New this year, children and the young-at-heart can track Santa through mobile devices and the Internet via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, TroopTube.mil and OnStar. To follow Santa on these Web sites, users should type @noradsanta into the search engine. Dedicated Santa trackers who are also OnStar subscribers can follow the jolly old elf in their vehicles by pushing the blue OnStar button to get status reports on Santa’s whereabouts.

The NORAD Tracks Santa Web site, www.noradsanta.org, is now live and features holiday games and activities that change daily. The Web site is available in seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese. On Dec. 24, the Web site will stream videos, captured by NORAD “Santa Cams,” from cities along Santa’s journey.


More here: NORAD enhances Santa tracking abilities.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Gift Cards

I'm taking a break from traditional posts directly relevant to our small business clients to mention that I began my holiday shopping in earnest last Saturday afternoon. Like most folks, I find myself unable to think of something worthwhile for certain people in my family. They're usually recipients of a gift card (given with love, of course).

Being a librarian, though, I should have realized that research has been done on the various types of gift cards. This chart shows the features of the most popular types of cards (such as whether it's renewable, whether it requires a PIN, whether it expires, and so on).

And, remember, it's the thought that counts.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Family-Owned Businesses

Running a family-owned business certainly has it's appeals and drawbacks. Working day-in and day-out with your closest relatives creates the opportunity for honest dialogue and a wonderful team environment where everyone knows their duties. It can also lead to disagreements over minute business decisions, constant bickering both at work and at home, and in a worst case scenario, even the failure of the business. Below are a few articles I have read recently that discuss owning a family-owned business and how to work AND get along with your family.

Family Business - Something Has to Change, So Do It (Baltimore Business Journal)

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (Inc.)

Running a Family Business is Tricky, But You Can Do It (USA Today)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Property Prices

I am working on a request for average property lease rates in a city and so I thought I would outline a couple of places I looked at to get an average price per square foot. These are real property listings so this is not an agregate but anecdotal prices to inform.

All of these sites allow you to search by city or zip code, price, square footage including ranges, both for lease and for sale properties:

LoopNet

CityFeet

LeaseMLS

Grubb Ellis

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

2009's Best Business Books

It's probably no surprise that the 2008-2009 recession has been a big deal for the professional book industry. In May 2009 sales of professional books were down 6.8 percent from the previous year, and the recession plays a major thematic role in many of the most recent business-related books.

If you want to check out some of the best business books of this year, strategy+business magazine has published their list of the "Best Business Books 2009." Winners come from a variety of categories, including management, leadership, strategy, technology and marketing, as well as the meltdown.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The States of Marriage and Divorce

Again, from the Pew Research Center:

In Arkansas and Oklahoma, men and women marry young — half of first-time brides in these states were age 24 or younger on their wedding day. These states also have above-average shares of women who divorced in 2007-2008.

It’s the opposite state of affairs in Massachusetts and New York. Their residents marry late — half of ever-married New York men were older than age 30 when they first wed. These states also have below-average shares of men and women who divorced in 2007-2008.

Looking at rates, about 6% of Texans who ever have been married have wed three times or more. That is similar to the national average (5%), but well below the leaders in this category — the neighboring states of Arkansas and Oklahoma — where about 10% of all ever-married adults have had at least three spouses.

Marriage and Divorce: A 50 State Tour