Friday, December 30, 2011

10 Ways to Win Back an Unhappy Customer

Very few problems can be as frustrating and difficult to address as an unhappy customer.

That's because there's no single way to "fix" a broken customer relationship. Every situation -- and every customer -- is different. Success depends on your ability to listen, adapt, evolve, and rise to the challenge.

See MORE.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

SBA Accepting Nominations for Small Business Innovation Research Awards

2012 SBIR Tibbetts Awards and SBIR Hall of Fame Awards to be presented in April

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Small Business Administration is seeking nominations for awards honoring the critical economic role small businesses play in federally funded research and development through SBA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

Three awards will be given, one for companies that have participated in the SBIR/STTR programs, one for individuals who advocate on behalf of the programs, and a third “Hall of Fame” award recognizing companies that have an extended period of extraordinary success of research, innovation, and product commercialization within the SBIR or STTR program.

The Tibbetts Awards are named after Roland Tibbetts, who was instrumental in developing SBIR, a highly competitive program to ensure small businesses get a chance to compete for federal research and development funding, along with the opportunities it provides to profit from commercialization of the technologies they develop.

The SBIR and STTR programs currently account for more than $2.5 billion per year in federal R&D funds and are coordinated by the SBA in cooperation with 11 other federal agencies with large external research and development budgets.

The awards are presented to companies and individuals that are beacons of promise and models of excellence in high technology. Typical of past award winners are a Maine company that created a self-propelled and eco-friendly “AquaPod” for sustainable aqua-culture. A previous Hall of Fame award winner that won numerous SBIR grants – a major west coast chip manufacturer – started with a staff of 35 and has expanded to a global work force of 17,500.

Selections for Tibbetts Awards are based on several factors, including the economic impact of the technological innovation, overall business achievement and demonstration of effective collaborations.

Nominations for these awards opened December 15, 2011 and will close 5 PM EST on January 31, 2012. Awards will be presented in Washington, DC, in April` 2012. To submit a nomination, please visit tibbetts.challenge.gov (Tibbetts Awards – companies and individuals) and sbirhof.challenge.gov (Hall of Fame Awards).

Release Date: December 27, 2011
Contact: Dennis Byrne (202) 205-6567
Release Number: 11-68
Internet Address: http://www.sba.gov/news

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 Harmonized System Code Changes

Did you know that there are major changes to the Harmonized System (HS) taking place in 2012? The bulk of the changes are in food-related chapters (1-21). Other chapters with notable changes include:
Water-pipe tobacco (24)
Biodiesel (27 and 38)
Mercury compounds (=> 28)
Water-jet cutting machines (85)
Video game machines (95)
Diapers, etc. (96)


Visit Export.gov to find out more.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Buying a Business – Key Legal Steps and Considerations to Bear in Mind

Buying a business is often perceived as a less risky option than starting your own business from scratch, however without proper research, due diligence, and consideration for the key legal steps and potential liabilities involved – it can be a risky path to venture down.

MORE...

Monday, December 26, 2011

The new New York State Statistical Yearbook

The New York State Statistical Yearbook provides more than 700 pages of data, tables, graphs and maps on the state's people, economy and government, as well as selected comparisons with other states. Who needs this information? Members of the news media, government officials, citizens and others. The data enhance understanding of the economic and social environment in which state government operates. Such improved understanding is increasingly important as tough decisions must be made in a challenging fiscal climate.

Originated 35 years ago as a joint project of the Rockefeller Institute and the state Division of the Budget, the Statistical Yearbook is now available both in print and online, where data appear in both Excel spreadsheet and PDF format. The Institute is exploring options for placing additional relevant data about New York State government online.

Friday, December 23, 2011

7 Money-Saving Year-End Tax Tips for Small Business

Now is the time to take advantage of a basket of tax opportunities that can help your small business reduce its tax liability and save money come April 2012.

More HERE.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2012 New York State Business Plan Competition! Applications Now Being Accepted

The College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering at the University at Albany, UAlbany's School of Business, the Lally School of Management & Technology at Rensselaer, and Syracuse University will host the third annual New York State Business Plan Competition on April 26, 2012.

The New York State Business Plan Competition is a venture creation and innovation competition that was established in 2009 to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship throughout New York State's colleges and universities.
The competition encourages students to fully engage in their research and allows them to gain valuable experience through presenting their business plan to potential investors and industry executives. The top applications will be selected by an external panel of judges to present in the final round of the competition and compete for over $100,000 in cash prizes.

Since 2010, over 35 student teams from 13 New York State colleges have presented at the competition. At the end of the 2011 competition, more than $150,000 in cash and in-kind prizes have been awarded.

WHO'S ELIGIBLE?
Current undergraduate and graduate students from accredited colleges located in New York State. Teams must have a faculty advisor. Ventures should fall into one of the following categories: Healthcare, Information Technology, Nanotechnology, Clean Energy / Sustainability, Services, Social / Non-Profit.

WHAT'S UP FOR GRABS?
Over $100,000 in cash prizes

WHERE AND WHEN IS IT?
The 2012 competition is being held on Thursday, April 26 at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany, NY.

HOW DO I APPLY?
All interested teams should go to http://www.nybplan.com/, complete the application, and submit it to Nicholas Querques at nquerques@albany.edu by 11:59 pm EST on Thursday, March 29, 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Agricultural Marketing Service

For more than 90 years, AMS has provided current, unbiased price and sales information to assist in the orderly marketing and distribution of farm commodities. Reports include information on prices, volume, quality, condition, and other market data on farm products in specific markets and marketing areas. Reports cover both domestic and international markets. The data is disseminated within hours of collection via the Internet and made available through electronic means, in printed reports, by telephone recordings and through the news media.

In particular, check out the Commodities Area, which provides current prices for COTTON, DAIRY, FRUIT AND VEGETABLE and LIVESTOCK AND SEED.

Monday, December 19, 2011

How name mixups can hurt an existing business

An interesting discussion on the internal SBDC listserv recently. Some of the info has been redacted for confidentiality reasons.

One of our advisors has a service provider client who has been in business for more than 10 years. He recently had a telephone call from a customer complaining about his work. He explained to the customer that he had not done work for her and after further investigation of her receipt she realized that the work was done by another company with a very similar name. Unfortunately both company’s are even located on the same street (different towns).

Upon further investigation of the new company my client discovered several dissatisfied customers. He contacted the new business owner who is not willing to change his company name. My client is wondering if anyone has any suggestions on ways to distinguish his company from the other. He is currently in the process of meeting with managers of local home improvement stores to make sure they are aware of the situation and referring the correct company to their customers.

Some of our colleagues chimed in.

*Who has the DBA or LLC?
It seems to me that whomever has registered the business first has the right to use the name. A lawyer can issue a “cease and desist” order to the other company on behalf of your client, IF you client legally registered the name before the other company started using it.

*I think we all need to know what a dba is and what it is good for. My understanding of a dba is that the name is filed in the county where one operates as a business and is allowed exclusive use of that name in that county. Here in our county, when a dba is applied for at the clerk’s office, that name is researched to see if it is already in use. If not, a dba can be issued. If the name is in use, the applicant chooses another name.

The original client may want to consider publishing a notice stating his position and having his attorney write a letter to the other party strongly suggesting SBDC counseling on business formation.

*A DBA filing is not exclusive. We had a new start-up purposefully usurp the outstanding reputation of a lady who had been offering services from her home for many years. The new filing was just down the road, same town, exact same name, etc. In some cases trademark protection makes sense, however, in this case perhaps investing money in advertising, signage, etc. would be effective.

*I’m by no means an expert on trademark law, but a foundation of it is to disallow the possibility of confusing the end user (in this case, a customer). One doesn’t necessarily have to register for a trademark in order to gain legal protection. If the client was first in the door with the name (i.e., registering as a DBA), and has a provable history of operating under that name, then someone who comes along with a similar name, and operating in the *very same* industry, is, by golly, confusing the end user (and damaging the reputation of another). I’m not someone who wantonly suggests legal action as the source of action, but it would seem to me (not knowing the whole story) that the client has a case.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wise Words with Chris Riley | Springwise

Wise Words with Chris Riley | Springwise:

'via Blog this'

I couldn't resist. This interview is with a local graduate (SUNY Albany) who has developed, with his partners, a great product that I can imagine a number of our clients would be interested in.

With the popularity of eBooks and the growing trend of self-publishing, Chris Riley has developed a product aimed at writers and artists. Moglue is a desktop application to create interactive eBooks.
Riley discusses the genesis of the company and the product.

Social media platform connects farmers with local buyers | Springwise

Social media platform connects farmers with local buyers | Springwise:

'via Blog this'

Not to beat the social networking drum too loudly, I believe networks will resolve themselves into something that is actually useful and needed. Once again, a favorite site of mine, Springwise, is there to show how people are innovating.

This article introduces Sustaination, a UK site that hopes to facilitate hooking up local buyers and producers. It is a review and recommendation site for local farmers, growers and buyers. Sustaination has produced a video to explain how it will work.

http://vimeo.com/eddowding/sustaination


Website: www.sustaination.co.uk
Contact: www.sustaination.co.uk/contact

Spotted by: Benj Street

Where Are Small Businesses Spending Their Marketing Budgets?

Based on responses to a survey, local media spend in the US is forecasted to hit $149.4B in 2015 with $37.9B of that being online/digital.

Local search is forecasted to hit $9.1B by 2015 – up from $5.1B in 2010.

The percentage of ad budget spent online continues to sit around 25%.

Businesses that are between 4-6 years old spend 33% of their budget on online advertising.

Businesses that are less than 3 years old spend 38%.

40% have a Facebook page, 14% have a blog, 14% use twitter, and 10% have YouTube videos.

22% intend to create a YouTube video in the next 12 months!

Those siting the importance of online ratings and reviews rose from 42% to 54% since last year.

Over 50% are buying online advertising on their own – though sometimes with assistance.


More HERE.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Career Pathways Toolkit

Improving the skills, knowledge, and credential attainment of American workers is an urgent priority. Labor market forecasts point to significant skills shortages looming in the future, despite high unemployment. If left unaddressed, these shortages could slow the process of economic recovery and reduce our competitiveness in the global economy.

Career pathway systems offer an effective approach to meeting these challenges. Through better alignment of education, training, and employment services among public agencies, they hold the promise of increasing the number of workers in the U.S. who gain the industry-recognized and academic credentials they need to work in the most in-demand occupations.

The new toolkit, released by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, provides a road map for States and local areas interested in applying the career pathway approach to solving pressing workforce challenges.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How tax professionals can use NYS Tax Department's Online Services

Businesses: you may wish to inform your tax preparer about this free webinar

The Tax Department is offering two webinars on December 19 and December 20, 2011, that will explain how tax professionals can use the Tax Department's Online Services to manage their clients' accounts. There is no charge to participate.

The webinar will explain how to create an Online Services account for clients and preparers' own business to:
-file returns on behalf of clients
-sign up for email notifications from the Tax Department
-access other available online services offered by the Tax Department

Expanded e-file mandate
This year, the e-file mandate has been expanded. Now, all tax professionals must e-file their clients' returns. View the e-file mandate information.

The first webinar will be conducted on December 19 from 10:30 am until 12:00 pm. The webinar will be repeated on December 20 from 10:00 am until 11:30 am. Participation is limited to 150 individuals on a first come, first serve basis. You can join the meeting 10-15 minutes before the webinar starting time to assure yourself placement in the meeting.

Sign up:
for the December 19 webinar
for the December 20 webinar

Audio conference information: Provide your phone number when you join the meeting to receive a call back. Alternatively, you can call:
Call-in toll-free number: 1-866-3942346 (US/Canada) Call-in number: 1-404-6659224 (US/Canada) Conference Code: 943 209 8479

Friday, December 09, 2011

Top 6 Social Media Marketing Trends of 2011

Top 6 Social Media Marketing Trends of 2011

Reflect on what has been happening in social marketing in 2011 in this article by Todd Wasserman on Mashable.
While not a year for big changes, this article discusses how it has been more confirmation of who the main players are and for the small business owner, an indication of where they should invest their marketing energy.

Always on Women: Technology

Here is a survey of how women are really using technology today [PDF], from laptops to mobile, from AdAge in collaboration with JWT.

The single most interesting thing was the Millennial Profile of Aimee MacDonald (page 9), who, despite her high-tech lifestyle, learned "the value of a good old-fashioned person-to-person phone call."

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Green Building: Federal Initiatives

Source: Government Accountability Office

Economic, environmental, and health concerns have spurred interest in "green building" — construction and maintenance practices designed to make efficient use of resources, reduce environmental problems, and provide long-term financial and health benefits. Federal laws and executive orders direct agencies to meet green building standards in federal buildings and to foster green building in the nonfederal sector; the latter includes private, state, local, and tribal entities and accounts for the majority of the nation's buildings. GAO was asked to (1) identify current initiatives by federal agencies to foster green building in the nonfederal sector and (2) determine what is known about the results of these initiatives.

Full report (PDF)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

How to prove you're a certified small business

I've written here before about the fact that, unlike for women-owned, or minority-owned businesses, there is no certification, as such, for small business in New York State. Yet, certain vendors that offer set-asides for small businesses are looking for such documentation; calls to our office confirm this trend.

Generally speaking, most government procurement entities allow for self-certification; what one US President once called "trust but verify." It appears, though, that some companies have decided to have small business set-asides, and erroneously believe that ALL states have a more systematic procedure, as California reportedly does, or did. What is a small business to do?

If the business is listed in a database such as Reference USA or a Dun & Bradstreet product, perhaps a record from those sources would do. Perhaps a file business certificate a/k/a a DBA, might be enough. But maybe not.

My favorite suggestion, from one of our SBDC advisors, which one should do after checking out Steps to Registering as a Federal Contractor:
"One way to show small business based on SBA’s size standards is by registering in the CCR (Central Contract Registry). As a business register’s in the CCR and sets up their SBA profile, it will confirm based on their NACIS codes and their revenues whether or not they are considered a small business. Yes, it is a self-certifying process, but also with the SBA profile it is confirmed within the system. The small business can direct the larger business to their CCR registration which show’s SBA’s approval that they are considered a small business."

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

SBA’s Web Chat to Focus on Tax Essentials For Small Business Owners

Thursday, December 15, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., EST

WASHINGTON – With the end of the 2011 tax year right around the corner, small business owners can help prepare themselves for the upcoming filing season by clicking in to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s free December web chat for tips on potential year-end tax savings.

Chat participants can get valuable information on how to prepare now with useful tax savings tips and a set of red flags on mistakes to avoid.

WHO: Edward S. Karl, CPA, vice president of taxation for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, will host SBA’s free December web chat on “Tax Essentials for Small Business Owners.” Karl will answer questions about tax deductions and credits business owners can use to reduce their tax payments, as well as other tax-saving tips.

WHAT: SBA’s web chat series provides small business owners with an opportunity to discuss relevant business issues online with experts, industry leaders and successful entrepreneurs. Chat participants have direct, real-time access to the web chats via questions they can submit online in advance and during the live session.

WHEN: December 15, at 1:00 p.m. EST
Karl and AICPA staff will answer questions for one hour

HOW: Participants can join the live web chat on Dec. 15, and also post questions in advance by going online at www.sba.gov, and clicking the web chat event under What’s New.

Advisory Date: December 5, 2011
Contact: Cecelia Taylor
Advisory Number: MA11-31
Internet Address: http://www.sba.gov/news

Monday, December 05, 2011

Top 100 Canada blogs

What are the influential blogs in Canada? Try Blog Rank. Noticed that Travel blogs dominate the rankings.

You can use the main site to check out other categories as well.

Friday, December 02, 2011

20 Cool Trends in College Marketing

"College marketing is at an interesting crossroads today. Students and colleges have become more concerned with saving money, while at the same time, more technologies for marketing and communication have developed. Often, this means that college marketing departments are able to work smarter and leaner, saving money while at the same time more effectively targeting and attracting the right students to the right campus. Other times, it means that they’re able to better pinpoint what works and what doesn’t, focusing their efforts on what really brings students to campus and keeps them there."

More HERE.

Is any of this applicable to YOUR business?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

SBA’s Disaster Assistance Lending Marks $50 Billion Milestone

Since 1953 the SBA has approved more than 1.9 million loans to U.S. Residents and Businesses

WASHINGTON – Emergency lending by the U.S. Small Business Administration to survivors of natural and man-made disasters since 1953 has surpassed $50 billion, SBA’s head of disaster response told members of the U.S. House Small Business Committee at a hearing on federal disaster response programs.

“Since the agency’s founding in 1953,” said SBA Associate Administrator James Rivera, “the agency has made more than 1.9 million low-interest disaster loans worth more than $50 billion to homeowners, renters, nonprofit organizations and businesses of all sizes.”

The $50 billion in SBA assistance represents loans made to help residents and business owners recover from many of the most devastating disaster events in U.S. history. Since FY 1989, more than $36 billion in SBA disaster loans have been made, with significant portions of that total going to those rebuilding after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994 ($4 billion), 1997’s Upper Midwest Floods ($738 million), Hurricane Ivan in 2004 ($2.2 billion), and the 2005 Gulf Coast Hurricanes ($10.9 billion).

“Over the years SBA’s disaster assistance program has made it possible for small towns and large cities to rebuild, saving jobs and supporting the long-term economic recovery of areas that would have otherwise failed without the help,” said Rivera. “The SBA’s disaster loan program, with its low interest rates and reasonable terms make it possible for disaster victims to handle the cost of rebuilding and take the steps necessary to prevent the risk of being hit by a similar disaster.”

Disaster loans are the only form of SBA assistance not limited to small businesses. The SBA makes low-interest loans to homeowners, renters and non-farm businesses of all sizes. Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 to repair or replace damaged real estate. Individuals may borrow up to $40,000 to cover losses to personal property.

Non-farm businesses and non-profit organizations of any size may apply for up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged business assets and real property. Small businesses and non-profits that suffered economic losses as a direct result of the declared disaster may apply for a working capital loan up to $2 million, even if the property was not physically damaged.

More information about the disaster assistance program is available at www.sba.gov/disasterassistance.

Release Date: November 30, 2011
Contact: Carol Chastang (202) 205-9876
Release Number: 11-66
Internet Address: http://www.sba.gov/news