Friday, December 31, 2010

Where to find a lawyer or law firm

To find a lawyer, law firm, or legal services specific to your needs, I recommend Martindale.com. It is possible to browse or search for lawyers by popular practice areas or geographic areas.

Their 140-year-plus history began in 1868, when lawyer and businessman James B. Martindale first published The Martindale Directory. Its stated purpose was "to furnish to lawyers, bankers, wholesale merchants, manufacturers, real estate agents, and all others...the address of one reliable law firm, one reliable bank, and one reliable real estate office in every city in the United States..."

By 1896, The Martindale Directory included the basic information that still appears in the lawyer and law firm Profiles, as well as ratings and a section on foreign lawyers and firms.

In 1930, the Martindale Company purchased the publishing rights to Hubbell's Legal Directory, which contained a digest of state laws, court calendars and a selective list of lawyers and firms. The following year marked the first edition of the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory; a two volume set that combined the features of both predecessor publications.

Today, Martindale-Hubbell offers solutions for both professional and consumer markets. Their online destinations contain profiles for over one million lawyers and firms in the United States, Canada and 160 other countries, serving as a fundamental legal resource and marketing tool.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Accepting Credit Cards on Your Website

How to accept credit card payments on your site without a merchant account

Why Do It?
Credit card payments allow you to take advantage of the following types of customers:
1.Impulse buyers.
2.International customers.

Methods of Accepting Credit Card Payments
There are actually two ways in which you can accept credit cards on your site.
1.Using Your Own Merchant Account.
2.Through a Third Party Merchant.

Which Method Should You Use?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

SBA Unveils New Website, Launches SBA Direct

WASHINGTON – As part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s mission to ensure that small business owners and entrepreneurs have access to accurate, timely and helpful information, SBA Administrator Karen Mills today unveiled a newly re-designed SBA website. The new site also features the launch of SBA Direct, a dynamic new web tool with a variety of personalization features that will help small businesses start-up, succeed and grow.

...SBA Administrator, Karen Mills said, “While the SBA website has traditionally been an information-rich site, we wanted to make it easier for small business owners to navigate. With the new improved SBA.gov, business owners can access the answers they need, specific to their business profile, in an instant – it truly presents the face of the future of SBA.”

While the site features a variety of enhancements including a full re-design, new content, and improved navigation, the centerpiece is a dynamic new web tool called SBA Direct.

SBA Direct allows visitors to personalize their browsing experience according to their business type, geography and needs. SBA Direct then delivers relevant and targeted information on all aspects of running a business such as the steps involved in getting started, business growth strategies, and how to stay compliant with current laws and regulations. SBA Direct also provides information on the available SBA programs that can help businesses succeed, such as financial assistance, exporting and government contracting opportunities, counseling and training.

“Transforming the SBA into a proactive, responsive and ‘customer-centric’ organization that better serves the needs of the nation’s more than 29 million small businesses is an exciting, yet enormous effort,” said Mills. “We’ve made significant progress, and the new SBA.gov is just one example among many, including record growth capital financing, expedited loan approvals and the acceleration of disaster assistance resources and funds of how SBA has, and will continue to support the growth of small businesses and job creation.”

Other new features to the web site include:
• SBA’s small business search that improves the accuracy and relevancy of search results —saving time and frustration.
• Improved navigation that gives users one-click access to the information they need. Combined with the personalization features of SBA Direct, users no longer have to mine through pages of information to find answers.
• Integration of Business.gov content including a variety of guides and tools that collate information from across government agencies to help business owners comply with laws and regulations, and take advantage of government programs.
• Interactive location-based maps that allow users to quickly find small business resources in their area, including local SBA offices, and other sources of training and support.
• User-rated content gives visitors to the site direct control in determining the most useful and relevant information to feature by small business topic.

SBA’s commitment to using web services to provide small businesses with greater access to the pool of government resources available began in 2006 with the launch of the award-winning Business.gov website, and later with the Business.gov Community initiative in 2009 (the first government-sponsored online community built specifically for small businesses), and more recently with SBA’s own social media presence on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

The new SBA.gov built on these achievements and best practices as a driver for its transformation. The project is also a flagship for the agency’s Open Government Plan, with the goal of building an online presence for SBA that is transparent, participatory and collaborative.
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SBA.gov Demonstrates Agency’s Commitment to Transformation – Giving Small Business Owners Quick and Easy Access to the Resources they need to Succeed and Create Jobs

SBA NEWS RELEASE
Release Date: December 21, 2010
Contact: Carol Chastang (202) 205-6987
Release Number: 10-73
Internet Address: carol.chastang@sba.gov

Friday, December 17, 2010

Business Stages for Entrepreneurs

While it is unfortunate that the James J. Hill Library can no longer provide us with online databases, there are still offering resources for entrepreneurs. Extremely useful are Business Stages for Entrepreneurs. Business Stages for Entrepreneurs is a free online information resource for entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them grow. The five stages and the information provided for each are:

Exploring - Resources that will help you test your business concept against the current market place.

Beginning - The nine major steps in starting a new business.

Growing - Resources to help your business grow and expand.

Managing - Tips and tools to help your business stay successful.

Maturing - Options for when you've reached your business goals and are ready to move on.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SBA, Microsoft introduce resource to deliver essential tech info to small biz owners

WASHINGTON – A new technology tool for small businesses is now available to help them grow and create jobs. The new education resource, Business Technology Simplified, helps small business owners connect the dots between entrepreneurship and technology to give them a competitive edge.

The U.S. Small Business Administration and Microsoft have teamed up to develop this free, comprehensive guide on how technology can improve the small business owner’s chances for success. The Business Technology Simplified guidebook includes fundamentals on the importance of technology, and on how it can be used to achieve a business’s goals. In the guidebook’s foreword, Earvin “Magic” Johnson writes about his journey in developing a multimillion dollar company and the value of technology to remain competitive...

Business Technology Simplified offers straightforward tips on how to use technology and innovation to make businesses work more efficiently. The guidebook incorporates relevant and practical material on simplifying work tasks, do it yourself marketing, cloud computing, time management, finding and cultivating customers, and much more...

Business Technology Simplified is available in a printed format in SBA district offices and local SBA resource partners, or may be accessed online as an electronic publication and as an electronic distance learning course. The new online course has been created for self-paced access to practical guidance on applying technology to build and grow strong companies.

The Business Technology Simplified online course allows quick access by small business owners to learn more about basic technology tools that can help their companies run more efficiently. The course features an audio guided lesson indexed by modules that includes information on how to use technology to save time in day-to-day tasks, how to better manage a business, mobile solutions that work, and tips on expanding customer base.

To access the course, go to www.sba.gov/training, then click Business Technology Simplified in the Highlighted Courses section. It is one of nearly 30 online tutorials offered by the SBA, and is available 24/7.

About SBA: The U.S. Small Business Administration is the nation’s largest financial backer of small businesses. The SBA’s programs and services help business owners start, run, and grow their businesses, and provide a range of financial, technical, and management assistance. SBA also plays a major role in the government’s disaster relief efforts by making low-interest recovery loans to both homeowners and businesses. For more information on SBA’s programs and services visit www.sba.gov...

or more information on Microsoft technologies for small and mid-sized businesses, visit http://www.microsoft.com/business.

SBA’s participation in this cosponsorship does not constitute an express or implied endorsement of the views, opinions, products or services of any cosponsor or other person or entity. All SBA programs, services and cosponsored activities are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. Cosponsorship Authorization #10-7630-140.
***************
SBA PRESS OFFICE
Release Date: December 13, 2010
Release Number: 10-71
Contacts: Microsoft - Amy Messano (248) 304-2108; SBA - Cecelia Taylor (202) 401-3059 Internet Address: http://www.sba.gov/news

Saturday, December 11, 2010

SBA Renews Patriot Express Loan Initiative for 3 More Years

WASHINGTON – A very popular initiative that in just three-and-a-half years has provided more than $560 million in loan guarantees to nearly 7,000 veterans to start or expand their small businesses is being renewed for three more years, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Patriot Express, a streamlined pilot loan product based on the agency’s SBA Express program, offers an enhanced guaranty and interest rate on loans to small businesses owned by veterans, reservists and their spouses. Over the past two years, due in part to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, loan volume increased dramatically.

“America’s veterans have the leadership skills and experience to become successful entrepreneurs and small business owners,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “The impact of this program over the last three-and-a-half years has meant thousands of veterans and their families have had the resources to pursue their dreams as entrepreneurs, and at the same time create jobs and drive economic growth at a critical time for our country. Renewing it means we can continue to fulfill our sacred commitment to the men and women who serve our country by giving them every opportunity for success.”

Patriot Express was launched June 28, 2007, to expand upon the more than $1 billion in loans SBA guarantees annually for veteran-owned businesses across all its loan programs. SBA also offers counseling assistance and procurement support each year to more than 200,000 veterans, service-disabled veterans, reservists and members of the National Guard and their spouses.

Patriot Express loans are offered by SBA’s network of participating lenders nationwide and feature one of SBA’s fastest turnaround times for loan approvals. Patriot Express loans are available for up to $500,000.

The Patriot Express loan can be used for most business purposes, including start-up, expansion, equipment purchases, working capital, inventory or business-occupied real-estate purchases. Local SBA district offices can provide lists of Patriot Express lenders in their areas. Details on the initiative can be found at www.sba.gov/patriotexpress.

To learn more about additional opportunities for veterans available through the SBA, please visit the website at www.sba.gov/vets.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Occupational Wages in New York State

The New York State Department of Labor provides very useful statistics on wages, both by occupation and industry. Annual wages for each occupation are divided into mean, median, entry, and experienced levels. Wages can be examined at both the state level and by region. This is the best way to determine what a business owner should pay their employees.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Free5500.com

A nifty source. Tip of the hat to Hill Libraries:

Free5500.com contains PDFs of Forms 5500 from companies of all shapes and sizes. What is a Form 5500, you ask? It's a disclosure form required by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Depending on the Plan type and other factors, the accompanying schedules may include information such as ESOP (employee stock ownership program) information, financial information, service providers, financial transaction schedule, retirement plan information, and more.

Free5500.com requires free registration to access, but registration lets you search by company name, EIN, state, ZIP, area code, plan type or class, assets, and number of participants, and includes up to 10 years of historical forms. You can also print the PDF formatted documents. Note that the free access may limit you to forms that are at least 2 years old or so (a subscription may net you more current data, as well as other perks such as more robust searching).

Free5500.com is a service of Pension Data Resources, Inc., the publishers of the respected ERISA Red Book. Those who may find this site valuable include those in finance, insurance, securities, law, accounting, and many other related fields, as well as plan participants themselves.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

NEW American FactFinder available in January 2011

American FactFinder is the primary tool for accessing data on the 2010 Census, the American Community Survey, Population Estimates and eventually the Economic Census.

This link will help you navigate the new version of the American FactFinder page on the Census website. Please take some time to become familiar with the site before it goes live in January 2011.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Building Purchase Check-off List

Here's a link one of our SBDC advisers found. It's from 1997, and you have to wait for the commercial, but it's useful stuff.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Small Business Advocate

Release Date: December 2010

Volume 29, number 8

The Small Business Advocate is a periodic newsletter that details economic developments and regulatory trends related to small business as well as the latest initiatives of the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy.

In This Issue
Broadband Survey Published
Chief Counsel Calls for Repeal of 1099 Requirement
Where Will the Jobs Come From?
FCC Broadband Comments
H-2B Program Changes
and more

Thursday, December 02, 2010

One Page Form for Health Care Tax Credit for Small Businesses

December 2, 2010 letter from Karen Mills, SBA Administrator

Dear Small Business Owner,

As I’ve traveled the country this year, I have heard from many of you who are looking forward to the new tax credits, health insurance exchanges, and other tools that will help you provide health insurance coverage to your employees as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

The most immediate benefit of the new law is a tax credit that will help America’s smallest employers and nonprofit organizations (less than 25 full-time equivalent employees with average annual wages below $50,000) who have been hit hardest by premium increases in recent years. Today, I’m pleased to announce that the Administration is releasing a one-page form and instructions on how to claim this credit for the 2010 tax year. In addition, new guidance released today answers questions that many of you have asked related to: your current contribution arrangements, eligibility for certain religious institutions, and participation by multiemployer health and welfare plans. In each case, the Administration has worked to ensure that a broad range of small businesses can qualify.

These credits are available for tax years 2010 through 2013 and for any two years after that. Through 2013, the maximum tax credit is 35 percent of premiums paid by small employers and 25 percent for eligible tax-exempt organizations. Beginning in 2014, those levels increase to 50 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Importantly, these credits are just one of many benefits in the Affordable Care Act. Most notably, in 2014, firms with up to 100 workers will be able to pool their buying power and reduce their administrative costs by purchasing coverage through a health insurance exchange.

Finally, the new law strengthens America’s entrepreneurial spirit, overall. For example, it outlaws discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, giving more Americans the ability to break out of “job lock” and start their own companies. The new law also prohibits insurance companies from dramatically increasing premiums for a small business just because one worker gets sick.

Overall, the Affordable Care Act is a critical tool that will help millions of small business owners provide health insurance to people who you often consider to be members of your extended family – your employees. As a nation, we owe you nothing less as you work to grow, create jobs, and lead us toward full economic recovery.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

World AIDS Day

An estimated 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV, and yet one out of five don’t know it. World AIDS Day (December 1) is an opportunity to take action.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is chronic compromise the cause of business failure?

The mortality rate for small businesses is still scary. Approximately seven out of 10 new small businesses survive at least two years, half almost five years, a third more than 10 years, according to the most recent United States census...
The reasons for the high mortality rate changes little year-to-year, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. High on the list are insufficient funds, poor product or service, unqualified entrepreneurs, and lack of commitment.
But the most important, yet seldom discussed, reason most small businesses fail is fear of failure...

Read the rest of the Mark Cox article HERE.

Monday, November 29, 2010

OTC meds will need Rx for Health Flex Spending


I believe there are some really good aspects of the new health care bill. This is not one of them: Over-the-counter medications will require a prescription to buy them with flexible spending account funds next year under new health care reform regulations. "The health care reform law sharply restricts FSA reimbursements for OTC purchases such as nonprescription pain relievers, cold medicines, antacids and allergy medications." Insulin is specifically excluded from this ruling.

Specifically, "the IRS says OTC reimbursements require a prescription, which it defines as a 'written or electronic order for a medicine or drug that meets the legal requirements of a prescription in the state in which a medical expense is incurred and that is issued by an individual who is legally authorized to issue a prescription in that state,'" whatever THAT means.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Small Business Owners Don't Feel Government Support

The majority (82%) of small business owners feel that their interests are typically overlooked by the government, according to a new survey by Regus.

More than half (56%) in the U.S. believe banks should be forced to lend more to entrepreneurial ventures and small businesses. Seventy-five percent of U.S. entrepreneurs also stated that government venture capital funds should be available to support entrepreneurs and their business initiatives, indicating that maintaining cash flow continues to be of concern for businesses.

More HERE.

Friday, November 26, 2010

New York State sets aside $25M for small business loans

A recent article in the Albany Business Review brought to my attention that New York State has set aside $25M for small business loans.

The board of Empire State Development Corporation approved the funds Nov. 18. The money, in the form of a revolving loan fund, was included in the current state budget as an attempt to combat the problems small companies have had accessing credit during the recession.

The lenders are to provide an equal amount of matching funds—generating $50 million for lending to small businesses, particularly minority- and women-owned firms, over the next two years.

The low-interest capital will flow through 20 “alternative lenders,” such as credit unions and community development financial institutions. The money will support micro-loans of $25,000 and below, as well as larger loans of up to $250,000.

To see a list of the financial organizations receiving the money and to learn more, click here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving: thanks to the Census Bureau.

The "event became a national holiday in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month to encourage earlier holiday shopping, never on the occasional fifth Thursday."

We are thankful that FDR provided that extra shopping period. Otherwise, Thanksgiving would have been a week later in 2000, 2006 and 2007, and would be a week later in 2012, 2017, 2018, 2023, 2028, 2029...

Seriously, I am thankful for all sorts of good things.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pricing Strategies in an Inflationary Market

As supply costs in the food and beverage industry are inflating at alarming rates, now is a good time for effective food service managers to revisit their menus and develop some pricing strategies to position them for continued success in the marketplace. Quite a few operators are rightfully concerned about recent price increases. Still, this actually provides a nice window of opportunity to make some changes to menu prices and actually increase profit.

While I would like to provide a tried and proven formula food service managers could use for pricing their menus, the fact is that menu pricing is more of an art than a science. There are just too many different factors that come in to play and probably one of the biggest mistakes managers make is to price their menu offerings based on formula rather than thinking about some of these factors.Any business that is considering their menu prices should not only consider their supplier costs, but also a competitive analysis and some form of consumer price sensitivity research.

Having spent over 18 years as a manager in the food and beverage industry, I have heard so many of my colleagues make this erroneous statement – “You have to maintain a food cost of 33% or less or you can’t make it in this business.” Many food service managers take this to heart so much that they figure out their ingredient costs for an item and then multiply times 3 to get their menu price. This is a foolish pricing strategy, as there is significantly more involved in developing a successful menu.

The first thing to remember in pricing strategy is that it there is a difference between food cost/gross margins and gross profit. Gross margin is the percentage of the difference between your selling price and your supplier cost divided by the selling price (food cost is simply 100% – gross margin %)

Gross Margin = (Selling Price – Supplier Cost)/Selling Price

Gross profit is the dollar amount difference between the selling price and the supplier cost.

Gross Profit = Selling Price – Supplier Cost

The most important thing to remember is that gross profit is what pays the bills, not gross margin!

Below is an example of two restaurant managers with a company that owns a small chain of fine dining establishments. In this scenario, their supplier raised the cost of a bottle of their most popular wine from $6.00/bottle to $9.00/bottle. Each manager has a different strategy for dealing with the price increase.
Original PricingRestaurant 1Restaurant 2
Supplier Cost$6.00$9.00$9.00
Menu Price$20.00$30.00$24.00
Food Cost %30%30%37.5%
Gross Margin%70%70%63.5%
Gross Profit$14.00$21.00$15.00

In Restaurant 1, the manager believes in maintaining his margin, so he raises his price to $30.00 per bottle. All is good in his world, as he is now making $7.00 more per bottle of wine than he was before and he is still maintaining his 30% food cost.

Restaurant 2 features a savvier manager. She knows her customers and is afraid that with such a steep increase, more of her customers will skip the wine to keep their dinner bills down. She still raises her prices to increase her gross profit, but her increase is not nearly as much as her counterpart at Restaurant 1 and she is losing a bit of her margin.

Chances are that Restaurant 1 will lose some sales because their price increase is so steep. Restaurant 2 is more likely to maintain the same volume of units sold. They compare notes at the end of the following month and find the following results:



Restaurant 1 Last MonthRestaurant 1 This MonthRestaurant 2 Last MonthRestaurant 2 This Month
Food Cost %30%30%30%37.5%
Gross Margin %70%70%70%63.5%
Gross Profit$1,400.00$1,050.00$1,4000.00$1,5000.00


By keeping her price increase at a lower level, Restaurant 2 did not lose any units sold and made $100 more dollars than the previous month even though her gross margin decreased. Restaurant 2 made $350 less than the previous month, even though he maintained his margin.

This is obviously an oversimplification of what can happen in these difficult times, but as prices go up from suppliers, menu prices will have to go up, as well. If not, an establishment will have to get a lot more customers to make the same amount of money that was being earned prior to the supplier increases. At the same time, an overreaction and too much of a price increase may make it easier to lose customer loyalty to competitors who are not as aggressive with their price increases.

In developing a strategy to deal with higher supplier costs, food service managers should remember to focus more on profit than on margin. For many establishments that have a loyal customer base, it is fairly easy to site articles that are showing 200% - 300% increases in supplier costs and then tell customers that a price increase was necessary, but that the increases were kept to a bare minimum.

With a bit of attention to consumer spending habits, the competition and supplier costs, smart operators have the opportunity to turn the proverbial lemons into lemonade.

Rick Leibowitz, North Country SBDC
Note: This was originally written in March 2008, while Rick was working for the East Central Indiana SBDC...even though some supply costs have leveled a bit, we think this information is still relevant.
Previously published HERE.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to Hone Your BS Detecting Skills

Succeeding in business is all about accurately analyzing information and then making smart decisions. Falling for BS is antithetical to both. But with the world awash in half-truths, partial distortions, aggrandizing exaggerations and out-and-out lies you’ll have plenty of opportunities to fall prey to other people’s bull. How can you protect yourself from being led astray by their nonsense?

Read HERE.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why A Business Plan?

Many people come to the SBDC for assistance with creating a business plan. This is always a necessity when applying for financing at a bank or credit union. When someone is going to agree to give you money, they darn well want to know what the plan is for, how it will be spent, and how it will be paid back. But it is also a good idea to create a plan or the rest of the pack - the lone wolves who just want to get the business started, the folks who are self-financing or who have loads of experience in the field in which they are creating their start-up, or the individuals who have small-beans goals.

Why is this the case? Your plan can also be used internally by yourself as a living document as a way to understand your thought processes over time. This allows you to make adjustments to your life - err, that's a diary or journal and I mean business - but you see the similarity in the purpose of this type of writing, right? Of course, if you ever wanted to bring in a partner or private investor, they might like to see something in writing too, as opposed to simply your conversation from the neighbor's cocktail party last Friday night.

What should (or could) your plan look like? One reason folks tend to balk at creating a plan is that the perceived complexity of it creates a paralysis. Instead, consider your plan as a strategic document that is as simple as it needs to be for your current business incarnation. A detailed Executive Summary if you will - maybe around 5 pages would be a perfect start in many of these cases. Important items to always include would be a basic marketing plan, a basic financial analysis or cash flow, and a clear description of your current product or service.

Find your local SBDC

Frank Cetera, Onondaga SBDC

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How To Lose Customers

Noted pop culture writer Mark Evanier wrote:

I went into the first [sandwich shop], which was not a Subway, and scanned the menu, taking note of a meatball sandwich which was described as containing meatballs, marinara sauce, mozzarella and green peppers, all served up on a french roll. I told him I'd like one of them but without the green peppers. I do not like green peppers and what's worse is that they do not like me.

Check out the response!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Economic Indicator Search Tool

The Census Bureau has introduced a new, user-friendly Internet tool that takes all the guesswork out of finding, downloading and using data from economic indicators. For the first time, users can access data from multiple indicators in one place and all in the same format. This tool provides an easy way to create data tables in ASCII text or time series charts in your favorite spreadsheet format. Users can select an indicator and choose data by item, time period and other dimensions using drop-down menus. Of the Census Bureau's 12 economic indicators, four are operational in the new tool now — international trade, manufactures' shipments, monthly wholesale trade and quarterly services; the remainder are expected to be available in this database throughout the course of 2011. See also a blog on this tool.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hiring Incentives for Employers

Recently I received a request that asked if there were any "federal programs for hiring the unemployed". Through the course of my research, I found three programs that might entice employers to hire new employees regardless of the current state of the economy.

HIRE Act

Under the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, enacted March 18, 2010, two new tax benefits are available to employers who hire certain previously unemployed workers.

The first, referred to as the payroll tax exemption, provides employers with an exemption from the employer’s 6.2 percent share of social security tax on wages paid to qualifying employees, effective for wages paid from March 19, 2010 through December 31, 2010.

In addition, for each qualified employee retained for at least 52 consecutive weeks, businesses will also be eligible for a general business tax credit, referred to as the new hire retention credit, of 6.2 percent of wages paid to the qualified employee over the 52 week period, up to a maximum credit of $1,000.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is designed to promote the hiring of individuals who qualify as a member of a target group; for example, businesses can receive up to $2,400 in federal tax savings for hiring low-income individuals with barriers to employment. Two target groups have been established as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. These new groups cover unemployed veterans and disconnected youth who begin working for the employer in 2009 and 2010.

On-the-Job Training

On April 13, 2010, the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) issued a Request for Application (RFA) for a new State On-the-Job Training (OJT) program. DOL has $2.8 million in State Workforce Investment Act funds to offer businesses under the OJT program. This program is designed to:

- encourage new hiring, especially of peoplewho are long-term unemployed
- help train these new hires

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You Can't Cut Your Way to the Bottom Line

by Rick Leibowitz

With all the talk about the economic slowdown in the news, businesses are scrambling to find the best strategies to deal with the challenges of increases operating costs (mostly due to inflation in the energy & commodities markets) and anticipated decreases in consumer spending. Business articles talk about how now is a good time for small business owners to tighten their belts and watch their discretionary spending.

I’ve personally read a number of articles that suggest cutting advertising budgets and hours of operation as a means to cost savings. However, I caution all small business owners to think carefully about the consequences of cost cutting before you take action.

Developing a contingency to deal with the economic slowdown is a very smart strategy for every small business owner, but the key to a good plan is to dedicate time to forecast the expected results of each decision. Another thing to keep in mind is that it is highly unlikely that your business can maintain profitability levels strictly through cost savings.

Unless you have been a completely inefficient manager of operations for your business, your expense lines are there for a purpose, which is mainly to help you generate revenue. You need to understand that the rash reactions of cutting expenses may result in cutting revenues that might have remained with your businesses had you not made those expense cuts.

To help highlight this point, there is a well-known story that relates to a chain of quick oil change services. It is said that a corporate financial officer noticed that an average service center spent $5,000/year on coffee and donuts for customers in the waiting area. The corporate officer sent a memo to all the retailers telling them to stop offering free coffee and donuts to give a quick $5,000 per year increase in their bottom line performance. The retailers who complied with this advice averaged about a 10% reduction in sales performance. Apparently some customers valued getting free coffee and donuts while waiting for their vehicles more than this financial officer thought and the customers either reduced the frequency of their visits or went to a competitor instead. With the average business unit doing $500,000/year in sales and making a 30% margin on sales, the average retailer would have realized a $10,000/year net loss in profit by following this advice.

I once served on an executive committee for a large corporation in the hospitality industry and we discussed similar cost savings strategies at our monthly forecasting meetings. As ideas for expense reductions were brought up, our wise general manager would always say, “You can’t cut your way to the bottom line.” She would always encourage us to be creative in looking for new revenue opportunities.

So as you proceed with a strategy to deal with the economic slow down, remember, there are only three things you can do to increase your bottom line performance:

• Decrease expenses

• Increase prices

• Increase volume

There are implications to applying each strategy, and the intelligent business owner will think about each opportunity.

I wish I could offer a catch-all strategy that would work for every small business, but life is just not that simple. Each enterprise has a unique business model that is affected differently by the changes in the economy.

The one common suggestion I can offer is to research customer spending habits, come up with a plan for your business and project expected outcomes before taking any action. And remember to think about adding to your revenues, not just decreasing your expenses.

As Winston Churchill once said, “Let our advanced worrying become advanced thinking and planning.”
***
Originally published here on August 7, 2008, which just points out how long the economic slowdown has been going on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Where To Get the Green: Sources of Funds for Green Entrepreneurs

Many people struggle to figure out how they can obtain the capital required to start and/or scale a business. This guide may not offer all of the answers, but it does provide helpful insights into a wide variety of financing options available to aspiring entrepreneurs as well as existing small business owners.

ARTICLE RECOMMENDED by Walter Reid, Farmingdale SBDC

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Have Consumers Become More Frugal?

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York released its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for the third quarter of 2010, which shows that consumer debt continues its downward trend of the previous seven quarters, though the pace of decline has slowed recently. Since its peak in the third quarter of 2008, nearly $1 trillion has been shaved from outstanding consumer debts.

Additionally, this quarter’s supplemental report addresses for the first time the question of how this decline has been achieved and notes a sharp reversal in household cash flow from debt, indicating a decrease in available funds for consumption.

More HERE.


Quoting the American Consumers Newsletter: At the household level, the Consumer Expenditure Survey shows the same pattern. Household spending peaked in 2006 at $51,688. In 2008, the average household spent $50,486, or $1,200 less after adjusting for inflation. On many categories of products and services, the average household reversed the direction of its spending in the 2006-08 time period compared with the 2000-06 time period. Here are the 10 most telling U-turns in consumer spending, cf 2006 w 2006-2008:

1. RESTAURANTS: +8 percent to -6 percent. Americans are spending more on groceries.
2. MORTGAGE INTEREST: +21 percent to -5 percent. No age group has been hit as hard as 35-to-44-year-olds.
3. STATIONERY AND GIFT WRAP: +15 percent to -11 percent. Is there anything more discretionary than gift wrap?
4. DAY CARE: +16 percent to -8 percent. As the unemployment rate climbed, spending on day care fell.
5. FURNITURE: +1 percent to -22 percent. Houses were selling furiously during the housing boom, but spending on furniture was surprisingly lackluster.
6. HOUSEHOLD TEXTILES: +24 percent to -23 percent Towels, sheets, blankets, curtains.
7. BABY CLOTHES: 0 percent to -9 percent. When the recession set in, the number of births began to fall, and so did spending on baby clothes.
8. DRUGS: +6 percent to -12 percent. Behind the decline is the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, which went into effect in 2006.
9. ADMISSIONS TO ENTERTAINMENT EVENTS: +1 percent to -5 percent During the downturn, households continued to spend on high-definition television sets. But they cut back on other entertainment categories.
10. CASH CONTRIBUTIONS: +34 percent to -13 percent. Donations to charities are plummeting, says the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

American consumers spent $330 billion a year in borrowed dollars between 2000 and 2007, according to the Fed study. Now those dollars--and many of the businesses they built--are gone for good.

Grant money for your business


Someone posted this on my personal blog last week. It might be spam - the article itself was a couple years old - but thought I'd post it here:

"I am going to formulate my own, personal business since you don't see any positive jobs around the market.

"Could any individual provide any ideas or web sites about how to apply for government grant money to begin with my own business? I have already been looking on the web but just about every website asks for money and I've been told by the unemployment office to stay away from the websites that ask for money for grant information because they are scam. I'd personally be sincerely grateful for any help."

Well, first off, the unemployment office is correct. Those websites promising you lots of money for your initial outlay should send off a warning buzzer in your head. It's a very good likelihood that those sites make only the website owner wealthy.

The rest of the story is that, unless you are opening a not-for-profit - and there are definite tradeoffs doing that - there's no government pot of gold waiting for you to start your business. If that were the case, EVERYBODY would be opening a business. I'D be opening a business.

My recommendation is that you make an appointment with the Small Business Development Center nearest you and talk about what financial options - loans, et al. - may be available to you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ruling On New York State's So-Called "Amazon Law"

A recent State appellate court ruling upheld New York law requiring Internet retailers to collect sales tax on sales to New York customers.

To view the entire document please visit HERE.

New York State Climate Action Plan

The New York State Climate Action Plan: Interim Report was released on November 9, 2010.

The Challenge and the Opportunity

Climate change, resulting primarily from the combustion of fossil fuels and other human activities, is a significant threat to our environment, economy, and communities. Climate change is already occurring: its adverse effects are well documented across the globe and throughout our region. That realization, combined with the economic and national security vulnerability associated with our current, finite, fossil-based energy system, has created a sense of urgency in advancing a sustainable low-carbon energy future.

New York State is committed to reducing Green House Gas emissions. The plan is to reduce these gases 15% by 2015 and 80% by 2050. The state is is aiming for an energy portfolio of 30% renewable by 2015.

Businesses: Help New York State take the lead in this effort. Learn about the NYS SBDC Energy Savings Program.


ARTICLE RECOMMENDED by Tony Presti, Farmingdale SBDC

Friday, November 12, 2010

Twitter for Business

A recent article in The Albany Business Review quoted a "serial entrepreneur and social media guru" stating that "businesses have 2.6 seconds to get an audience’s attention". In the article, Promoting your biz 140 characters @ a time, Peter Shankman states that "a 140-character tweet translates to 2.6 seconds, the new collective attention span". So how can your business use a mere 140 characters, or 2.6 seconds, to grab and retain a client's attention span? Below are some articles and tips to do just that.

Twitter 101 for Business - A Special Guide

The Ultimate Video Guide to Twitter for Business

An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Using Twitter for Business

50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business

5 Unique Ways to Use Twitter for Business

A Lesson in Control

DealBook: A Lesson in Control By STEVEN M. DAVIDOFF
November 10, 2010 New York Times

The Deal Professor examines the use of venture capital for a start-up, saying many entrepreneurs receive needed money, but lose control of their business

"A venture fund will negotiate a set of agreements with the founders at the time of its investment... Not only will the fund negotiate to ensure that an exit occurs, but the V.C. will insist that it be paid back before the founder.

"The key for entrepreneurs in deal negotiations is to make sure that when they do raise V.C. money, they have options. If they can get multiple term sheet offers from more than one venture capital firm, then they can negotiate to sell the smallest part of their company on the most lenient terms. If you only have one term sheet, you are not going to fare well.

"When the company is not performing to expectations, these legal rights negotiated at the beginning of the founder-V.C. relationship come into play."


ARTICLE RECOMMENDED by Sam Kandel, Ulster SBDC

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day: Facts for Features

Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation in 1954 to change the name to Veterans Day as a way to honor those who served in all American wars. The day honors living military veterans with parades and speeches across the nation. A national ceremony takes place at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Business Lessons from the Elections

HillLibrary.org notes:

5 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From the Midterm Election

No, this isn’t another “what the elections mean for your business” – though those opinion pieces are also worth looking at! Rather, it suggests some lessons entrepreneurs can learn from the winners and losers of the election.

Does money guarantee success? Is experience necessarily a good thing? Check out these thoughts from Mark Hall, founder of Input Ladder LLC and blogger at startup blog My Two And A Half Cents.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

How to Craft a Memorable Elevator Pitch

An MBA student sent me info on Elevator Pitch resources. Specifically, one from the Guide To Online MBA. He writes, "It has a ton of great elevator pitch resources, including competitions and writing resources that you and your users may find useful!"

And I wondered: Do Entrepreneurs Need Elevator Pitches? Guess what? The page addressed that very question.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Consumer Issue


I love Advertising Age magazine. Several of us read our office subscription. The October 11, 2010 edition is The Consumer Issue, and contains several useful articles, including:

How U.S. Assimilation Is Changing Marketing Rules
Will Ad Industry's Opt-Out Program Entice Consumers?
Marketers Still Struggling With Mommy Issues - they fail to recognize mommy is likely older, e.g.
Don't Be So Quick to Dismiss Power of Asian Consumers
'Urban' Trope Misses a Large Swath of Black Consumers
Tweens Embrace Makeup, Reject Miley
Media-Savvy Gen Y Finds Smart and Funny Is 'New Rock 'n' Roll'

There is a finite nymber of articles you can access online without a subscription. One suggestion: How U.S. Consumers Are Steering the 'Spend Shift'
Five Eye-Opening Takeaways From an in-Depth Analysis on How Americans Are Changing in a Post-Crisis Society
1. The New American Frontier -- the values of optimism, resiliency and opportunity
2. Don't Fence Me In -- the values of retooling, education and betterment
3. The Badge of Awesomeness -- the values of nimbleness, adaptability and thrift
4. An Army of Davids -- the values of community, cooperation and expression
5. We're moving from mindless to mindful consumption.

Market for Food-Allergy-Friendly Biz More Than Peanuts; Marketers Finding That Extra Effort for Customers With Dietary Restrictions Can Help Build Brand Loyalty, Sales
As a child with a peanut allergy, I can definitely relate. Don't label your food products, I won't buy your food products.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Qualified Census Tracts and Difficult Development Areas

"The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) supports the Department's efforts to help create cohesive, economically healthy communities.

"PD&R is responsible for maintaining current information on housing needs, market conditions, and existing programs, as well as conducting research on priority housing and community development issues. The Office provides reliable and objective data and analysis to help inform policy decisions. PD&R is committed to involving a greater diversity of perspectives, methods, and researchers in HUD research."

And that's where I found Qualified Census Tracts and Difficult Development Areas and other low-income data regarding housing, which can be applied to other uses.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The 2010 Statistical Abstract of the United States

The Statistical Abstract of the United States, published since 1878, is the authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States. Although emphasis in the Statistical Abstract is primarily given to national data, many tables present data for regions and individual states and a smaller number for metropolitan areas and cities.

Use the Abstract as a convenient volume for statistical reference, and as a guide to sources of more information both in print and on the Web. Sources of data include the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and many other Federal agencies and private organizations.

The PDF version is available for download here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, or DSIRE, is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Established in 1995 and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, DSIRE is an ongoing project of the N.C. Solar Center and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. Users can search for state or federal incentives, as well as benefit from other useful aspects of the website.

One such useful aspect of the website is the Library, which includes selected reports, technical papers, articles and presentations authored by the DSIRE staff. Related publications that were co-authored with colleagues in academia, government and the private sector are also included.

Another useful aspect of the website are the Links provided to National Organizations, Federal Resources, State Organizations, Regional Organizations, and International Organizations.

Overall, this is an incredibly useful source for finding information and resources related to energy efficiency and green business.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Data That Surrounds Us

For those visually inclined, here is an infographic of the information we share through the Internet. Some of these are such staggering numbers, it's difficult to get one's head around but neatly summarized at GOOD.

Other interesting infographics can be found at their site.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

World Statistics Day: Oct. 20

The United Nations General Assembly designated Oct. 20, 2010, as the first-ever World Statistics Day to highlight the role of official statistics and the many achievements of national statistical systems. Statistical organizations throughout the world will celebrate World Statistics Day at the national and regional level. The census, the U.S. Census Bureau and 13 other principal federal statistical agencies together have been collecting statistics about the nation's people, economy and society since 1790.

Here are some statistics, including statistics about statistics.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

4 tips for launching a successful business blog

Launching a blog for your business is an exciting way to generate continual buzz and to boost your word-of-mouth marketing efforts. Blogs are a more personal, conversational way to communicate with your customers, and they help foster customer loyalty. Through helpful, entertaining posts, you can start and maintain conversations with customers about your business and position yourself as an industry expert.

More HERE.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Franchising Webinar


On Wednesday, October 27th from 9:30-10:30 AM, the New York State Small Business Development Center (NYS SBDC) will be co-sponsoring a free webinar on Franchising. The webinar is being presented by Frank Dunne, Principal of the Hudson Valley FranNet, a company that provides no-cost guidance, information and support to individuals who are interested in exploring the purchase of a franchised business.

The program is primarily targeted at entrepreneurs who are seeking information on franchising. To register by phone call (914) 260-9082, or by email at fdunne@frannet.com.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grants by Topic and Geography

While searching for local grant writers the other day, I stumbled upon a website created by a grant writer in New York City. GrantWatch.com describes itself as "the only website that provides a comprehensive listing of the most current funding opportunities: Federal, State, Foundation grants for nonprofits, for-profits, preschools, education, community, faith based organizations, universities, small businesses and government." Users can search the website by grant topic OR by state. I found the state search particularly helpful and unlike the main grant site we search here at the Research Network, this site has a free search option. Finally, one of the topic searches was "For-Profits", a topic we rarely find grants for and another main reason I will use this site when searching for grants.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Business quotes

Every month, Forbes magazine has a page of quotes at the back of the magazine - "Thoughts and Quotes on the Business of Life". Here's the link to the online database.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Small Nonprofits in Danger of Losing Tax-Exempt Status

From Guidestar:

"Time is running out for small nonprofits facing loss of tax-exempt status because they have not filed Form 990-N or Form 990-EZ for three consecutive years. The deadline for the IRS's one-time filing relief program is October 15, 2010. After that, nonprofits that (1) are required to file a 990 and (2) whose filings are at least three years in arrears will automatically lose their exemptions. To regain tax-exempt status, they will have to apply to the IRS all over again, a process that can take several months and requires payment of fees."


Friday, October 08, 2010

CIA World Factbook

The CIA World Factbook is an almanac that provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 266 world entities. Updated every two weeks, the Factbook can provide useful information to both importers and exporters. Entries are divided into the following categories:

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

When dealing with business associates in foreign countries, it is essential to know detailed cultural information, and this is an excellent source for the most basic information.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Senate Resolution celebrates 30th anniversary of SBDCs

From Tee Rowe, ASBDC President:

The Senate Resolution on the 30th anniversary of our nation's SBDC network recognizes the role of SBDCs in small business and economic development over the course of 30 years.

Special thanks go out to the Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Senator Mary Landrieu, and to the Ranking Member of the Committee, Senator Olympia Snowe, for their leadership on this legislation.

For the text of the Senate Resolution [S. Res. 638] on the 30th anniversary of the national SBDC network, click here.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

SBA Revisions of Size Standards To Expand SB Opportunities

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration published today a package of revised size definitions for three broad commercial sectors affecting businesses in retail trades, accommodations and food services, and other services.

The changes were proposed on October 21, 2009, and will broaden small business eligibility and help them gain access to SBA’s financial assistance, contracting and other programs. The agency estimates as many as 17,000 additional firms will become eligible for SBA programs as a result of the revised size standards.

“These increases in the size standards mean more of America’s small businesses will be eligible for and can access the resources and services the SBA and other federal agencies have available,” said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills. “This comprehensive review is aimed at making sure the factors that determine eligibility are aligned with current economic and industry indicators and ensure that small businesses across the country have the tools they need to drive economic growth and create jobs.”

Last year, SBA began the process of reviewing and updating size standards based on industry-specific data. Before this comprehensive review, the last overall review of size standards occurred more than 25 years ago. Since then, most reviews of size standards have been limited to in-depth analyses of specific industries at the request of the public and federal agencies.

The SBA also makes periodic inflation adjustments to its dollar-denominated size standards. The latest inflation adjustment to size standards was published in the Federal Register on July 18, 2008.

Under provisions in the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, SBA will continue its comprehensive review of all size standards for the next several years, as the law specifies.

The three final rules will affect the following industries:

Sector 44-45, Retail Trade (RIN: 3245-AF69) In retail trade, a change in the new car dealer industry from a revenue-based standard of $29 million in average annual receipts to an employee-based standard of 200 employees will allow 5,700 additional new car dealers to become eligible for small business programs and services. Also, size standards were also increased for 46 industries under retail trade. SBA estimates more than 14,400 retail firms will become eligible for small business programs and services.

Sector 72, Accommodation and Food Services (RIN: 3245-AF71) Size standards were increased for five industries. SBA estimates 2,050 additional firms will become eligible for small business programs and services.

Sector 81, Other Services (RIN: 3245-AF70) Size standards were increased for 18 industries. SBA estimates more than 1,400 additional firms will become eligible for small business programs and services.

For more information about SBA’s revisions to its small business size standards, visit http://www.sba.gov/size and click on “What’s New.”

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Governor Paterson announces launch of New York First

My Fellow New Yorker:
I am proud to announce the launch of New York First (http://www.nyfirst.ny.gov/), an innovative business website geared toward the needs of companies within New York State and those who are considering relocating here. Until now, anyone looking for information on the State’s economic development programs would have to contact every agency in the State. With New York First, the full scope of what our State offers its entrepreneurs and potential corporate partners can now be found at one centralized, easy-to-navigate website.
New York First brings new clarity, efficiency, and transparency to the State’s economic development efforts. This new site also offers an “Experts on Demand” guarantee. Any email or phone call will receive a response from Empire State Development staff within twenty-four business hours. I’m confident this site will act as a catalyst for long-term business growth, jobs, and prosperity in New York, building on my Administration’s larger efforts to make New York THE State for doing business. For more information about New York First, please enjoy an introductory video with an overview of the website and a demonstration on how to fully utilize it.

Friday, October 01, 2010

SME Medic

Earlier this week while doing research on the Hot Dog Industry, I stumbled across the interesting article directory SME Medic. A business resource blog providing advice for companies looking for help with growing their business, the website provides tips, articles, guides, and solutions designed to "Take Your Business to the Next Level". There are 3659 published articles and 3203 registered authors in the article directory. You can find articles with interesting and useful information on most popular business themes, including:

Advertising
Business Startup
Careers
Computers
Finance
Human Resources
Internet Marketing
Legal
Logistics
Marketing
Office Equipment
Real Estate

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Getting Paid

It will be interesting to see how innovators rethink how we do things that are currently in a state of flux. Improvements seem to come in stages, with a departure from how things have always been done (or not done) and the sometimes awkward stages before a new workable solution comes about. How we keep in touch, how we form communities, how we buy and enjoy music - all of these things are changing and perhaps we have not reached a long lasting solution yet. They are still in development. you have the converts, the skeptics, and at some point, we turn the corner and there is a new way of doing things that everyone just has to accept until the next sea change.

This article making the rounds is an example of an innovation that looks promising:

State of the Art
A Simple Swipe on a Phone, and You’re Paid
By DAVID POGUE
Published: September 29, 2010

Of course, other places, cell phone users have found it commonplace to pay via their cellphones. This service offers another option for getting paid for non-store purchases. Making use of the computer that is your cellphone, the Square up system allows users to exchange funds and track purchases/sales. It will be interesting to watch how these services pan out.

So let’s say someone from Craigslist comes over to buy your old junk. You snap the Square reader into your phone or tablet. You tap in the amount of the purchase; it could be $1 for a yo-yo, $25 for a box of old records or $12,000 for a used car (there’s no maximum amount). You type a description if you like, and maybe even take a photo of what you’re selling.

You input the payer's card information and bob's your uncle.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Social Media Deal Sites

In an email I received earlier this week from Portfolio.com, I read an article that taught me a lot about online coupon websites. Titled Coupon Clipped, the article discusses business owners and the mixed feelings they have about coupon sites. The article tells an interesting story about the business owner of a spa who posted a 60% off coupon for a hot stone massage to the coupon website Groupon. Within 24 hours, he sold 1,288 of the deals, exceeding his expectations and the expectations of "the trendy national couponing site". While the increase in sales was a good thing, the business was almost overwhelmed by the number of appointments made. The bottom line - advertising on a coupon website might be good for business, maybe even too good.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Karen Mills on House Passage of Small Business Jobs Bill

Includes extension of successful SBA Recovery loan programs, tax credits, other support for small business growth, job creation

WASHINGTON – SBA Administrator Karen Mills today issued the following statement regarding the passage of the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act by the U.S. House of Representatives:

“Today’s vote by the House to send the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act to the President for his signature is a key step forward in making sure small businesses have the resources they need to do what they do best – create jobs and drive economic growth. This bill includes billions in tax cuts specifically targeted to small businesses so they can put more of their own resources into growing their business. At the same time, this bill ensures those very businesses have access to the capital they need by extending SBA’s successful Recovery loan enhancements and putting local, community banks in a position to be a real partner for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
This bill is the right step forward for our nation’s small businesses and our economy.”
******************
Release Date: September 23, 2010
Contact: Hayley Matz (202) 205-6948
Release Number: 10-51
Internet Address: http://www.sba.gov/news

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sales Tax - Bad News, Good News

The exemption from New York State sales tax for clothing and footwear under $110 has been eliminated, for the period October 1, 2010, through March 31, 2011. Beginning October 1, 2010, clothing and footwear costing less than $110 will be subject to the 4% New York State sales and use tax and, if applicable, the ⅜% tax in the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (MCTD) downstate. Local sales tax rates are not affected. This means:

For jurisdictions that did not enact an exemption from the local sales tax, all sales of clothing and footwear are subject to the full state and local sales tax.

For jurisdictions that provided for this exemption, only the New York State tax (and MCTD tax, if applicable) will be charged. These counties: Broome, Chautauqua, Chenango, Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Hamilton, Madison, Schuyler, Tioga County, Wayne will charge only the 4% state sales tax. New York City businesses will charge 4⅜% (the combined state tax and MCTD rate).
***
The Office of the Taxpayer Rights Advocate, an independent organization within the New York State Tax Department, is committed to helping New York State taxpayers by balancing taxpayer assistance against enforcement efforts.
This office:
-Provides free and independent assistance to taxpayers -Assists taxpayers whose tax problems are causing undue economic harm -Helps taxpayers who have been unable to resolve protracted tax problems through normal channels

If you need help, you are invited to use the new online service, Request for Assistance from the Office of the Taxpayer Rights Advocate.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Business Valuation Resources And More

The key to providing good industry research is knowing where to look. Sometimes I start doing research on an industry and am not sure where to start looking. I have found the website ValuationResources.com to be incredibly helpful when I have difficulty locating information. According to the site, "ValuationResources.com is a free guide to business valuation resources, industry and company information, economic data, and more. Designed as a comprehensive resource guide for business appraisers, the site's audience includes a broad mix of business owners, professionals, students, and other parties interested in business valuation and industry information." Although the information listed in the guide isn't always available free of charge, knowing where to find the information is a step in the right direction.

For resource guides specific to a particular industry, see Industry Information Resources, which covers more than 400 individual industries in the following categories: agriculture, fishing, and forestry; mining and construction; manufacturing; transportation, storage, communications, and utilities, wholesale; retail; finance, insurance, and real estate; and personal and business services. Individual pages for each industry list resources and data available from trade associations, publications, and research firms which address subjects such as industry overview, issues, trends, and outlook, financial information and financial ratios, compensation and salary surveys, and business valuation resources. Individual industries are listed below by industry category and standard industrial classification code.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Made in NY" is a high-value label

Products made in New York generate comparatively high levels of wages and spinoff economic activity, according to a new report prepared by the Rockefeller Institute for the Manufacturing Research Institute of New York State. Even after recent losses, the state ranks sixth in the nation in total manufacturing jobs, according to the report. Including other jobs that depend on manufacturing, the sector supports one in three payroll dollars in much of upstate New York. Yet New York City is the largest single center of manufacturing in the state, with more than 81,000 jobs and $4.2 billion of payroll in 2009.
In economic terms, the wealth created and added to the economy through manufacturing processes represented 52.7 percent of the total value of products shipped from New York in 2008, compared to 41.5 percent nationally. The state’s largest manufacturing sector, computers and electronic products, employs nearly 65,000 New Yorkers, with total payroll of $5.5 billion and average salaries of $84,292. Other major sectors include fabricated metal products, food processing, machinery and chemicals (including pharmaceuticals).
The report, released Monday at a Syracuse event announcing the launch of the Manufacturing Research Institute, is now available on the Rockefeller Institute Web site.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Marketing for Hippies

Tad Hargrave is a self-described "hippy who developed a knack for marketing," and started Marketing For Hippies.

From the site:

We work with good businesses.

That could mean: “green business”, local business, sustainable business, social entrepreneurs, holistic practitioners, life-affirming and otherwise conscious entrepreneurs.

I find that, for the most part, they keep ‘meaning’ to handle their marketing but are a bit ‘allergic’ to notions of sales, marketing and self-promotion. They think it’s kind of gross. They look at what many of the bigger names in ‘conscious wealth’ do and secretly hate it (but sometimes do it because they think it’s the only way to grow their business). A lot of them have sort of given up hope that there’s any way to market what they do that resonates with them and feels in integrity.


I found this guy through an e-mail someone sent me a link to Building a Customer Psychographic Profile. "Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of defining their target purely based on things like: gender, age, income, geography and ethnicity. But you can't ignore that people group based on passions and values not skin colour and wallet size." I had a couple problems with it, not the least being the misspelling of the word "psychographics" on the title card. But it's still worthwhile.

In fact, Hargrave has a whole Radical Business YouTube channel.

Monday, September 13, 2010

University at Albany's accreditation

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education acted to reaffirm the University at Albany's accreditation and commended UAlbany "for the quality of the self-study process."

The final self-study document, along with the statement of reaccreditation, is available on the wiki HERE.

Friday, September 10, 2010

EventsEye - Trade Shows, Exhibitions, Conferences & Business Events Worldwide

EventsEye bills itself as "the most complete, practical and reliable free web source dedicated to key exhibitions & trade shows worldwide." With a database featuring over 8,000 events for 2010 and an additional 6,000 more through 2012, it isn't hard to see where the description comes from. Featuring a classification of 149 Activity Topics, EventsEye's purpose is to cover major Trade Exhibitions all over the planet. Finding the information you are interested in is very easy thanks to the leftmost pane that allows you to access the information by Trade Show name, activity topic, exhibition date, location, organizer and also by entering keywords. For example you can get access to all Fashion Industry related Trade Shows in Paris by typing "fashion paris" in the Keyword text box.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Before the Internet Was Your Local Library

Harvey Mackay On Business
Published: 12:00 a.m., Sunday, September 5, 2010
Albany Times Union

Studies show that children who use the library tend to perform better in school. They are also more likely to continue learning and exploring throughout their lives.

If you don't use the library for business, now is a good time to start. We can obtain a high percentage of the information we need via search engines using our home or work computers. But there are a lot of hidden business jewels available at your local library, and many of them can be accessed online.

The average small business or job seeker is penalized by having limited research capabilities. Big companies with big budgets pay for expensive databases. With a mouse click, they can instantly access company data, sort through research reports, and locate current and archived newspaper and trade journal articles. Small companies and individuals who can't afford premium access are left out. Unless they have a local library card.

Most libraries pay for premium subscription databases that you can use for free. Want to use Dun & Bradstreet, ReferenceUSA, or Hoovers to research companies, competitors and build lead lists? There's a good chance your library subscribes to a company search database.

The complete article may be read HERE.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS) is the primary resource for determining tariff classifications for goods imported into the United States. The U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule, like Harmonized System tariff schedules generally, classifies a good (assigns it a ten-digit tariff classification number) based on such things as its name, use, and/or the material used in its construction.

The tariff schedule is divided into Chapters 1 through 99 plus numerous additional sections such as various appendices and indexes. There are over 17,000 unique ten-digit HTS classification code numbers. Chapters are divided into a varying number of headings, and headings are divided into a varying number of subheadings. Raw materials or basic substances often appear in the early chapters and in earlier headings within a chapter, where highly processed goods and manufactured articles often appear in later chapters and headings. Agricultural products are generally provided for in chapters 1-24, for example, whereas vehicles, aircraft and vessels appear in chapters 86-89. There is no hard and fast rule, however. Toys, for example, appear in Chapter 95 and works of art are found in Chapter 97.

Updated periodically by the United States International Trade Commission, the most recent revision was released on August 26th, 2010.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sales Tax Publications

I find this list useful because it addresses the requirements of specific industries, as well as general information such as what new businesses need to know. Some examples: Veterinarians, Hotel and Motel Operators, Drugstores and Pharmacies, Broadcasters, the Film Industry, Snowmobile Dealers, Manufacturers, Exempt Organizations, and Residential Energy Sources and Services, the latter updated as of September 1, 2010.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Demographics of Hispanics

I read an interesting article the other day in Advertising Age. Hispanic Market Hits Tipping Point provides important information on the Hispanic Market and how businesses should market their products and services to Hispanics.

"The market is growing: The 2010 Census expected to count a record 50 million Hispanics, or one in every six U.S. residents, meaning the Hispanic population will have increased a stunning 42% from the previous census in 2000. (By comparison, the non-Hispanic population will have edged up just 5% in that decade.) It's also got scale: Hispanics are now the nation's second-largest consumer market after white non-Hispanics, who are still the largest group at about 200 million."

"But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Hispanics in America is how closely they exemplify our idealized concept of 1950s America. They are young (their median age is about where the whole nation was in 1955) and more often live in large, traditional, married-with-children families with lots of participation from grandparents."

Also from Advertising Age, the Hispanic Fact Pack 2010 can be purchased and includes data on marketers, advertisers, media, demographics and agencies in the U.S. Hispanic market. For more information, you can also check out Hispanic Market Weekly or the blog ahorre.com - ahorre tiempo y dinero.

A Longitudinal Analysis of Early Self-employment

From the SBA Office of Advocacy:

The purpose of this research is to provide policy-relevant analysis of the characteristics and career paths of those Americans who have chosen self- employment. Specifically, the study uses the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth to provide new empirical findings regarding the dynamics of self- employment and documents generational changes in self-employment patterns in early adult work life between two cohorts born in the second half of the 20th century. The key finding is that early exposure to self-employment increases individuals’ engagement in self-employment during the early- and mid-career years. There is a strong positive link between an indicator of self- employment during ages 20-22 and the self-employment outcome measures in ages 22-41.

A copy of the report is located HERE and the research summary can be found HERE.

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Finding Same-Sex Couple Statistics

It has been written that the Census Bureau has no data on same-sex couples; this is incorrect. Go to Families and Living Arrangements and scroll near the bottom. Not only will one find tables, one will discover a couple working papers that describe the political and statistical challenges about gathering such information. Gay marriage is a particularly complicated statistical issue.

Also, on American Factfinder, look for Table B11009. UNMARRIED-PARTNER HOUSEHOLDS BY SEX OF PARTNER in the American Community Survey.

There's a UCLA professor named Gary Gates, who has put together some statistics based on 2000 Census data and other sources, including the Gay and Lesbian Atlas.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Business Plans and Profiles Index

The Business Plans and Profiles Index provided by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh lists types of small businesses and a corresponding sample business plan, profile or book about the business with sources provided after each entry. Entries that refer to actual sample plans are in bold print. If the plan or profile is online, a link is provided. This is one source I use quite frequently and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gender and Establishment Dynamics

This report examines the gender characteristics and business dynamics of establishments that were in operation as of 2002 for the 2002-2006 period.

This paper is the first to report matching data from the 2002 Survey of Business Owners (SBO) and the 1989-2006 Business Information Tracking Series (BITS) in an Advocacy publication series. The series focuses on business dynamics by gender, race/ethnicity, and business type (publicly held vs. non-publicly held businesses). Business owners’ gender, race or ethnic characteristics can be identified only for non-publicly held enterprises.

Employer establishments—establishments with paid employees—owned by women had higher closure rates and lower contraction rates than those owned by men or owned equally by men and women over the 2002-2006 period. The average four-year survival rate for all 2002 employer establishments was 70 percent; for female-owned, 66 percent; for male-owned, 72 percent; and for male and female equally owned, 69 percent. It is important to note that business births are not included in this data base since it focuses on the group of establishments that were already in existence in 2002. For related reasons, “survival rates” here cannot be compared with the survival rates of startup firms, since firms of all ages are included in the database.

The research summary can be found here.

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

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides access to a variety of useful statistics, but there are two publications that I find particularly useful while doing research.

Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011 - The Handbook is a nationally recognized source of career information for hundreds of different types of jobs, designed to provide valuable assistance to individuals making decisions about their future work lives. Revised every two years, the Outlooks include:

Nature of the Work
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Employment
Job Outlook
Projections Data
Earnings
Related Occupations
Sources of Additional Information

Career Guide to Industries 2010-2011 - The Guide is a companion to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, providing information at the industry level, for dozens of different kinds of industries. Categories for each industry include:

Nature of the Industry
Working Conditions
Employment
Occupations in the Industry
Training and Advancement
Outlook
Earnings
Sources of Additional Information

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Procurement 101

Many programs that are less than $25,000 are listed at FedBizOpps; ones over $25K MUST be, but smaller ones are not prohibited.

One should sign up with the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) and the SBA, as it says here.

Beyond that, creating a relationship with the particular department is a good idea.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Tax Tips for New Business Owners

The Business Owner's Toolkit - Total Know-How for Small Business is a useful website that provides guides, tips, and pertinent information for small business owners. This week, I received an email about an article on Tax Tips for New Business Owners. Based on the a checklist from the IRS, the article provides information on common tax issues that all new business owners must address, including:

Choice of Business Entity
Tax Obligations
Employer Identification Number
Recordkeeping
Accounting Period
Accounting Method

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Holiday

So, you want to know, for business or cultural reasons, what holidays are celebrated in various countries. Here are some suggestions:

Time and Date lets you choose a date until 2015 and choose the country.

CountryReports is also useful. Though you need to scroll through the months to see the holidays, you can choose a country or region.

My favorite may be Earth Calendar, a "daybook of holidays and celebrations around the world. For the purpose of this web site a 'holiday' is any day that recognizes a cultural event, and not necessarily a day when businesses are closed.
***
Madonna - Holiday
The Bee Gees- Holiday

Friday, July 30, 2010

Stats about all US Cities

City-Data.com is a useful website that has collected and analyzed data from numerous sources to create as complete and interesting profiles of all U.S. cities as possible. The website has over 74,000 city photos not found anywhere else, graphs of latest real estate prices and sales trends, recent home sales, home value estimator, hundreds of thousands of maps, satellite photos, stats about residents (race, income, ancestries, education, employment...), geographical data, state profiles, crime data, registered sex offenders, cost of living, housing, religions, businesses, local news links based on their exclusive technology, birthplaces of famous people, political contributions, city government finances and employment, weather, tornadoes, earthquakes, hospitals, schools, libraries, houses, airports, radio and TV stations, zip codes, area codes, air pollution, latest unemployment data, time zones, water systems and their health and monitoring violations, comparisons to averages, local poverty details, professionally written city guides, car accidents, fires, bridge conditions, cell phone and other towers, mortgage data, business storefront photos, a forum and a social network with 800,000 registered members and 12,000,000 posts, blogs, 5,000 user-submitted facts, 20,000 exclusive local business profiles with photos, restaurant inspection results, and more demographics. If you ever need to research any city, zip code, or neighborhood to start a business, this is an excellent site to visit.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The WorkingPoint Blog

I've been checking out the blog put out by WorkingPoint, an "online, small business solution." They have been putting out some interesting articles such as Essential Ingredients for Small Business Success and 19 Ways to Drive a Steady Stream of Traffic to Your Website. It's fun site - periodically, you'll come across the Botpreneur, who is ready for (business) action.

WorkingPoint offers free invoicing, bill & expense management and bookkeeping, with additional services for $10 per month. This article explains that the founders of WorkingPoint "worked for Intuit and were behind the creation of QuickBooks and Quicken. They believed Quickbooks had become too complicated and that the small business software segment was ripe for SaaS-based innovation."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Industry Snapshots from the Economic Census

When I am assisting a business with start-up information, I find that industry statistics are particularly helpful. A wonderful source for industry statistics is the Economic Census. A useful information tool available from the Economic Census are Industry Snapshots. 2007 data is available for the majority of 6-digit NAICS codes and snapshots can be obtained for 3, 4, and 5-digit codes as well. Each snapshot provides comparisons between the current census and the previous one. Maps of the United States divided by state are provided that show various industry statistics, including sales per capita, number of establishments, payroll per employee, etc. There is an option titled "Compare YOUR Business" that compares a single business to national averages. And a "Did You Know" feature provides interesting factoids on the Industry. All in all, this is a useful AND interesting tool from the U.S. Census.

Heath Brothers

The authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Other Die and Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard have made some related resources available on their website heathbrothers.com.


Free with registration, the tools available here are probably most useful if you have read the corresponding book(s), but are helpful even without that additional context.

There is a framework and first chapter available for each title, plus a podcast series, a guide for creating successful (“sticky”) presentations, and more.

(Tip o the hat to hillsearch.org)