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Showing posts from November, 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.

OTC meds will need Rx for Health Flex Spending

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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.

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.

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.

Thanksgiving

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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.

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 …

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.

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 p…

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!

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.

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 perio…

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 …

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

Have Consumers Become More Frugal?

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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 spend…

Grant money for your business

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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-f…

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, Farmingda…

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."


AR…

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.

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.

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.

The Consumer Issue

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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 re…

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.