Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Practices to Protect Your Small Business from Employee Lawsuits

From SBA.gov:

Getting sued by current or former employees happens more often than you might think. In fact, the number of lawsuits filed regarding wage-and-hour laws alone in 2011 went up 32 percent from just three years prior. Don’t be too busy to check in and ensure you aren’t breaking laws or otherwise opening yourself up to a potential lawsuit — no small business owner has the time, or money, for that.

There’s a plethora of advice out there on the subject of protecting your business from lawsuits. Before you read on, remember, you should always consult your legal counsel to ensure you are complying with federal and state laws. Laws regarding certain practices, such as non-compete agreements, vary widely from state to state.

SBA has compiled a list of some of the most helpful tips from around the Web.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Holiday Retail Lesson for Small Business: Be More Like Amazon

Here are three things we just learned about Christmas commerce in 2013:

1. Lots of shoppers skipped the mall, even as retailers kept slashing prices. Store traffic in the week leading up to Dec. 22 sank 22 percent, with sales growing at the smallest rate since 2009, ShopperTrak reports.

More from Business Week.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Blog Series - Affordable Care Act

There is a lot of information and then there are even more questions about doctors who are accepting Affordable Care Act.  There is also plenty of discussion and questions involving how patients can find doctors that do accept Affordable Care Act coverage.  Here are links to article and information provided both by the federal government and the news agencies.

I feel I must give a disclaimer regarding information provided from the news agencies.  These articles are to give you an idea of what people are saying and hearing, and there is no guarantee that what is being reported is accurate or current.

Factsheet: What You Should Know About Provider Networks

What’s a provider network? 

A provider network is a list of the doctors, other health care providers, and hospitals that a plan has contracted with to provide medical care to the plan’s members. These providers are called “network providers” or “in-network providers.” A provider that hasn't contracted with the plan is called an “out-of-network provider.”

From Healthcare.gov

Can I keep my own doctor?

Where can I find provider information?

What is the news reporting?

When will the Government Start Forcing Doctors to see Obamacare Patients

Top Hospitals Opt Out of Obamacare

The doctor won’t see you? Analysts warn ObamaCare plans could resemble Medicaid

Obamacare: Fewer options for many

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Vast Majority Of US Businesses Say Intellectual Property Is Not Important (oy)

This post is licensed CC-BY SA 3.0, and may be shared and reposted with attribution. Please include a link back to the original, which will contain the most up-to-date version.

by Gabriel J. Michael

Last year, the USPTO released a widely cited report entitled “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus.” This report emphasized the importance of IP to the U.S. economy, claiming “the entire U.S. economy relies on some form of IP,” and estimating that “IP-intensive industries” accounted for 40 million American jobs and 35% of the U.S. GDP in 2010.

While many pro-IP groups hailed the report as demonstrating the importance of IP to the American economy, the report was widely panned by critics who pointed out that the definition of “IP-intensive industries” was so broad as to be meaningless. Indeed, according to the report, the number one IP-intensive industry by employment in the United States was… grocery stores. Although supporters of stricter IP regulation and enforcement continue to rely on the report to justify policies relating to copyrights and patents, the vast majority of the report’s purported economic benefits were attributed to trademarks.

USPTO’s report was released in March 2012, and received a lot of attention. Just one month prior, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released the findings of a survey on business use of intellectual property. While a few sites picked up on the NSF report last year, it received far less media attention than it deserved. Why? Perhaps because it turns out that if you actually ask, the vast majority of businesses report that intellectual property is not important to them.

Infojustice.org was among the few noting that the NSF’s findings directly contradict the USPTO report. The initial NSF report, published in February 2012, reported data from 2008. However, it has recently been updated to include data from 2009 and 2010.

But wait – surely I’m making all this up. If “IP-intensive” industries account for 40 million jobs and 35% of GDP, intellectual property must be very important to businesses. What’s this “vast majority,” then?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

SBA Revises Size Standards for Utilities and Construction Sectors

SBA Revises Size Standards for Utilities and Construction Sectors

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) issued two final rules in the Federal Register today, revising size standards for firms in two North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) sectors, namely, Utilities (Sector 22) and Construction (Sector 23).

Size standards define the maximum size a firm can be and still be considered a small business. The revised standards reflect changes in marketplace conditions and public comments that SBA received to its earlier proposed rules.

New size standards will enable more businesses in these sectors to obtain or retain small business status; will give federal agencies a larger pool of small businesses from which to choose for their procurement programs; and will make more small businesses eligible for SBA’s loan programs.

For industries in Sector 22, Utilities, SBA increased revenue-based size standards for three industries and changed the basis for determining business size from megawatt hours to number of employees in 10 electric power generation, transmission, and distribution industries. SBA retained the current 500 employee size standard for the one remaining industry (NAICS 221210) in the sector.

The final rule also removes Footnote 1 from SBA’s Table of Size Standards, which stated that a firm was small if it, including its affiliates, was primarily engaged in the generation, transmission, and/or distribution of electric energy for sale and its total electric output for the preceding fiscal year did not exceed 4 million megawatt hours.

More than 400 additional firms will qualify as small under these new size standards for Utilities and become eligible for SBA’s loan and federal procurement programs.

A summary of current and revised size standards in sector 22, Utilities can be found HERE.

The SBA increased two size standards in Sector 23 (Construction) and retained the current size standards for the remaining industries in the sector. Specifically, SBA increased the size standards from $7 million to $25 million for firms in the Land Subdivision industry, and from $20 million to $25.5 million for businesses engaged in Dredging and Surface Cleanup activities, which is an "exception" to the size standard for NAICS 237990, Other Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction.

Nearly 500 additional firms will qualify as small under the new construction size standards and become eligible for SBA’s loan and federal procurement programs.

A summary of current and revised size standard in sector 23, Construction can be found HERE.

The new small business size standards will be effective January 22, 2014. To review the rules and public comments, go to www.regulations.gov. Each final rule has a separate RIN number, specifically:
Sector 22, Utilities – (RIN 3245-AG25).
Sector 23, Construction – (RIN 3245-AG37).

The SBA is reviewing size standards by taking into account the structural characteristics of individual industries, including average firm size, the degree of competition, and federal government contracting trends. This ensures that small business size definitions reflect current economic and market conditions in those industries. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 requires SBA to review all size standards at least every five years.
SBA issued a “Size Standards Methodology” White Paper, which explains how SBA establishes, reviews and modifies its small business size standards. This paper is available online at http://www.sba.gov/size. Also available on this site is the latest about SBA’s revisions to small business size standards. For details click on the article “What’s New with Size Standards.”

Monday, December 23, 2013

How Small Businesses Can Get Tax Deductions for Charitable Giving

Most small businesses make charitable donations. In fact, surveys have shown that about 75 percent of small business owners donate some portion of their profits — about 6 percent on average — to charitable organizations each year.

As we’re in the midst of the holiday season (and tax season looms), many small business owners are likely considering charitable contributions and wondering how such donations might impact the bottom line in terms of tax deductions. First, it’s important to choose the right charity and avoid certain pitfalls that could leave you in a bind.

Read more from SBA.gov.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Blog Series - Affordable Care Act

Many employers are still unsure as to their obligations under the Affordable Care Act.  The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace is a new program that simplifies the process of buying health insurance for small businesses. In 2014, SHOP helps employers with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees shop for, choose, and offer their employees high quality private health plans that fit their needs and budget. Beginning no later than January 1, 2016, SHOP will be available to employers with 100 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.

To start coverage on January 1, 2014, you must select a plan to offer your employees and your employees must enroll in the plan by December 15, 2013. We intend to extend this deadline to December 23, so check back here for an update. After this initial enrollment period, you may enroll in SHOP on a rolling monthly basis.

The deadline to enroll is always the 15th of the month for coverage to be effective the 1st of the following month. For example, if you enroll by April 15th, coverage will begin May 1st. If you enroll between April 16th and April 30th, coverage will begin June 1st.

After you've offered your employees coverage, make sure those who accept the offer submit their enrollment forms to the agent, broker or insurance company.

The following links provide additional answers to your questions or the option to sign up for email updates.

NYS Health Plan Marketplace FAQ - Click on Small Business Marketplace in the box on the left of the webpage.

Key Facts About the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace

Affordable Care Act Email Updates

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top 10 U.S. and International Cities Poised for Growth

Whether you are looking to move operations to pro-business locations with low barriers to entry or seeking to meet customer demands in growing markets, your mid-sized business needs to seek out places that share certain characteristics: thriving local economies, an availability of educated workers, a favorable tax and regulatory climate, quality infrastructure, and a high quality of life. Consider the ten cities listed below. All offer many opportunities while being relatively bereft of the restrictive taxes and regulations that can choke growth.

These cities — half in the U.S. and half outside it — combine growing economies and low barriers to entry. These are the types of places you should look when you are looking to expand your midsize business.

More from Middle Market Center.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Downtime Calculator for your disaster recovery

From the DataCave:

You know that when your business experiences downtime, your services, employees, and operations will be impacted, but have you ever been able to place a dollar figure on what that impact would be? The Cost of Downtime.

Let our Downtime Calculator give you an answer! This tool takes several different factors into account, such as your business’ number of employees, sales volume, and how any amount of downtime you encounter could impact your bottom line. If you have ever experienced downtime in the past, this calculator can provide you with a financial estimate for the business impact it may have had.

We encourage you to use this tool to get a good grasp on just how damaging downtime can be to your business, and to better educate yourself on the importance of having a disaster recovery plan in place

Friday, December 13, 2013

Things NOT to ask on a job interview: Lou Grant and Mary Richards

From the pilot of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, September 1970:
LOU GRANT (Edward Asner)
How old are you?

MARY RICHARDS (Mary Tyler Moore)
[Straightforwardly] Thirty.

LOU
No hedging? No "How old do I look?"?

MARY
Why hedge about it? How old do I look?

LOU
Thirty. What religion are you?

MARY
Mr. Grant, I don't know quite how to say this, but you're not allowed to ask that when somebody's applying for a job. It's against the law.

LOU
You wanna call a cop?

MARY
No.

LOU
Good. Would you think I was violating your civil rights if I asked if you're married?

MARY
Presbyterian.

Blog Series - Affordable Care Act

About 1.2 million people have now gotten coverage through “Obamacare” nationwide. As of December 9th, 314.146 New Yorkers have completed applications, with 100,881 enrolled. Coverage starts as soon as January 1, 2014 and can begin any month after that.

There has been a lot of speculation as to what obligations small businesses will have when it comes to their their employees and the Affordable Care Act.  Media sources have spread inaccurate and unsubstantiated information regarding the law.  The best place to get non-opinionated information are the government websites at the following links.

Federal Affordable Care Act for Small Business Website

The Federal Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace makes it possible for small businesses to provide qualified health plans to their employees.

For 2014, the SHOP Marketplace is open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees (FTEs). You may qualify for tax credits if you use SHOP.

If you're self-employed with no employees, you can receive health coverage through the individual (not business) application process.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

100 Best Websites For Entrepreneurs

We've searched high and low to bring you the first annual list of FORBES 100 Best Websites For Entrepreneurs. Whether you’re seeking advice on raising capital, scaling your business or looking for general industry insight, these sites are worth reading.

The picks here are arranged in no specific order. Selected unscientifically, they have been chosen for their ability to address a range of topics of interest to entrepreneurs. Frequent posts and content quality helps get a nod. The list is a combination of practical tools – sites to crowdsource funding like Rock The Post or AngelList, or sites with educational resources, like Stanford’s eCorner – and inspirational advice from bloggers like Seth Godin and Steve Blank.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Consumers rage against lousy customer service

From Arizona State University:

A new customer-rage study shows more American consumers than ever are dissatisfied with the products and services we buy. Also, despite companies’ big-money efforts to create customer-care programs, we’re less happy with the service received when we complain. The study shows 56 million American households experienced at least one problem during the past 12 months, and about $76 billion in revenue was at stake for the businesses involved.

"The moral of the story: Don’t invest in improving your customer service unless you’re going to do it right," says Professor Mary Jo Bitner, executive director of the Center for Services Leadership at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, which helped design the survey. "If a company handles your complaint well, then you typically become a more loyal customer. However, if they don’t, then you become 12 percentage points less brand loyal than if you never complained at all."

This independent study is based on one originally conducted by the White House in 1976. The 2013 version is the sixth study wave, offering a clear comparison of customer satisfaction over the years.

From NBC News:

Customers are angrier than ever and no wonder: they're losing. The good news is with a few inside tips, they can get the satisfaction they deserve.

According to the 2013 Customer Rage Survey, customers are complaining more since 2011. And the tables have tipped: more than half the time consumers complain, they don't get results.

But as long as you have a reasonable complaint, there's no reason to just sit back and take it.

The four key consumer frustrations cited in the report -- too few customer service reps, too many automated phone menus, spending too much time dealing with the problem, and having to contact the company four times to get a result -- each have solutions.

*But here's something consumers can do.*

"Need to contact a company? Or have them call you? Get customer service faster and easier."

Go to GetHuman.com. Companies have more phone numbers and contact options than ever. GetHuman shows you how to get through fastest.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Email Marketing Mistakes that Could Cost You Big in 2014

While we are knee-deep in the holidays, 2014 is right around the corner. And if you’re like the majority of small businesses, email marketing will play an important role in your promotional efforts throughout the New Year. Don’t let the following small but common mistakes keep you from achieving your marketing goals!

Making it difficult for people to recognize you

For 68 percent of consumers, familiarity with the person sending the email is the top reason why they decide to open. Take the time to double check the “From Name” and “From Email Address” you’re using to send your emails.

More from the ASBDC.

Attracting Manufacturing Investment in American Communities

To compete in an increasingly global economy, the United States must come up with innovative strategies that will lead to economic growth and job creation around the country. The ‘Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership’ (IMCP) seeks to enhance the way we leverage federal economic development funds to encourage American communities to focus not only on attracting individual investments one at a time, but transforming themselves into globally-competitive manufacturing hubs.

An administration-wide initiative led by the White House and the U.S. Department of Commerce, the ‘Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership’ will encourage communities to devise comprehensive economic development strategies that strengthen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains. IMCP specifically brings together the resources of multiple federal departments and agencies involved in economic development.

In Phase One of the of the ‘Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership,’ 44 communities were awarded a total of $7 million to support the creation of economic development strategies that recognize the community’s comparative advantages as a place to do business, invest in public goods, and encourage collaboration between multiple entities to expand the area’s commercial appeal to investors.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has announced that the competition for Phase Two of the ‘Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership’ is now open.

More from the White House website.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Pinterest For Business: Don't Let Pinterest Pin You To the Wall

Pinterest offers a unique platform to business – a way to organically promote products while adding a personal touch through the creation of storyboard to support brand mission. Originally used by individuals as a way to discover and share items of interest, brands discovered a platform rich in active consumers and influencers. Pinterest has 4x the conversion per click of Twitter and a 27% higher conversion rate than Facebook, plus it drives 3x the traffic to sites than YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+ combined.

Now Pinterest is currently exploring promoted pins, which will show as regular pins with a “promoted label.” Time will tell the direction of promoted pins and the ROI on campaigns, but the introduction of this new business model has brands more interested than ever in Pinterest.

MORE from SmallBusinessNewz

Friday, December 06, 2013

As Holiday Shopping Season Gets Underway, FTC Reminds Internet Retailers to Ensure Consumers Have Access to Warranty Informatio​n

Federal Trade Commission staff is asking top Internet retailers to review their websites to ensure that they provide complete and accurate information about product warranties before consumers make their online purchases, as required by the FTC’s Pre-Sale Availability Rule.

The Rule requires retailers to make warranties available at the time of purchase for all warranted consumer products that cost more than $15. However, a recent staff survey found several instances of Internet sellers offering warranted consumer electronics and appliances for sale without disclosing complete warranty information.

“During the busy holiday shopping season, it’s especially important that consumers get the information they need to make informed buying decisions,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Internet sellers can help by making sure their websites are providing complete and accurate warranty information.”

The letters also inform the Internet sellers that they can comply with these obligations easily online by, for example, using a clearly-labeled hyperlink, in close proximity to the description of the warranted product, such as ‘get warranty information here’ to lead to the full text of the warranty.”

The letters note that FTC staff plan to revisit the websites after 90 days to ensure compliance with the regulations. The FTC cannot disclose the names of the warning letter recipients, as that is nonpublic information.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

5 Reasons You Need To Give Away The Recipe For Your Secret Sauce

Don’t be afraid.

Every professional services firm (marketing, business consulting, accounting, medical, law, et al) in the history of ever struggles with content marketing. Not necessarily from a tactical perspective, although “finding time” to create content is often a presumed obstacle in these organizations. But the biggest issue is fear. Companies that are paid for what they know instead of what they make are paralyzed by the thought of giving away their “proprietary processes” and “secret sauce” through a content marketing initiative.

“Why would we write a blog that explains how we do things? Then our competitors will know our what we know, or our customers won’t need to hire us,” they say. (And they DO say this. All the time.)

WHY? See the answer from SmallBusinessNewz

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

America's SBDC Biz Blog Listed as Forbes' "100 Best Websites for Entrepreneurs"

Burke, VA - The America's SBDC 'Biz Blog' was featured on Forbes.com on November 12, 2013 as one of the "100 Best Websites for Entrepreneurs." The article stated that they searched high and low for the best of the best. Whether an entrepreneur was seeking capital, growing their business or just looking for general assistance the Top 100 sites listed were "worth reading." Natalie Robehmed, Forbes Staff wrote "America's Small Business Development Center blog presents friendly lessons from founders who have been there and done that."

"Recognition from Forbes is a real tribute to our blog contributors and partners. Content from leaders like Gina Watkins of Constant Contact, Ramon Ray, Eric Spellman, Benetrends and so many others is what makes us successful, relevant and a premier resource for our SBDC business advisors and their small business clients," said Charles "Tee" Rowe, President & CEO, America's SBDC.

The America's SBDC Biz Blog was launched in 2011 with over 12 contributors, all Sponsors or Partners of the Association. The blog boasts a variety of posts from low-cost marketing techniques to franchise funding opportunities. The blog is featured in the America's SBDC weekly Newsletter and posts are also shared via Facebook & Twitter. Its a valuable resource for our SBDC Professionals, their clients and small businesses all over the country.

America's SBDC (Small Business Development Center) Network is a partnership uniting private enterprise, government, higher education and local nonprofit economic development organizations. It is the Small Business Administration's largest partnership program, providing management and technical assistance to help Americans start, run and grow their own businesses. With about 1,000 centers across the nation, America's SBDC network provided business consulting to approximately 200,000 clients, training for more than 400,000 attendees, and other forms of management and technical assistance to approximately 600,000 small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs last year.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

IRS to Employers: Hire Veterans by Dec. 31 and Save on Taxes

From the IRS (Tax Tip 2013-15):

IRS to Employers: Hire Veterans by Dec. 31 and Save on Taxes

If you plan to hire soon, consider hiring veterans. If you do, you may be able to claim the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit worth thousands of dollars.

You must act soon. The WOTC is available to employers that hire qualified veterans before the new year.

Here are six key facts about the WOTC:
1. Hiring Deadline.  Employers hiring qualified veterans before Jan. 1, 2014, may be able to claim the WOTC. The credit was set to expire at the end of 2012. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended it for one year.
2. Maximum Credit.  The tax credit limit is $9,600 per worker for employers that operate a taxable business. The limit for tax-exempt employers is $6,240 per worker.
3. Credit Factors.  The credit amount depends on a number of factors. They include the length of time a veteran was unemployed, the number of hours worked and the amount of the wages paid during the first year of employment.
4. Disabled Veterans.  Employers hiring veterans with service-related disabilities may be eligible for the maximum tax credit.
5. State Certification.  Employers must file Form 8850, Pre-Screening Notice and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit, with their state workforce agency. They must file the form within 28 days after the qualified veteran starts work. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s WOTC website.
6. E-file.  Some states accept Form 8850 electronically.
For more about this topic, visit IRS.gov and enter ‘WOTC’ in the search box.

Additional IRS Resources:

How to Increase Email Marketing Conversions

Spending on email marketing is projected to reach $2.5 billion by 2016, but even all that money doesn't guarantee conversions. To help boost your email marketing conversions, check out the tips in the following infographic by Monetate.

Among Monetate's suggestions:

Avoid batch and blast. Your customers aren't all the same, so why send everyone the same email? Segmented email campaigns produce a much higher click-through rate than undifferentiated messages.


Read more at Marketing Profs.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Top 10 Mistakes for Businesses To Avoid When Dealing With a Disaster

Business Continuity Strategies Offered at Free SBA/Agility Webinar

What are the biggest and most common mistakes business owners make when dealing with a disaster? Whether it’s property damage caused by a flood, or the loss of sensitive data thanks to a hacked email account, how you respond within the first few hours of the crisis can make or break your small business.

Get tips on how to avoid the costly mistakes that could put the safety of your clients and your organization at risk at a free webinar hosted by Agility Recovery and the U.S. Small Business Administration on Tuesday, December 10. True stories about business owners’ pre-disaster missteps, plans not followed and errors made—as well as what they learned during the recovery phase, will be discussed.

SBA has partnered with Agility to offer business continuity strategies through its “PrepareMyBusiness” website. Visit www.preparemybusiness.org to access previous webinars and for additional preparedness tips.

The SBA provides disaster recovery assistance in the form of low-interest loans to homeowners, renters, private nonprofits and businesses of all sizes. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov/disaster.


WHAT: “The Top 10 Most Common Mistakes During a Crisis”

WHEN: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 -- 2 to 3 p.m. EST

HOW: Space is limited. Register at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/625471417.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Should Employees Have Freedom at Work?

...someone stood up and asked a very interesting question about employees having too much freedom. His basic question (slightly paraphrased) was: “there are a lot of employees that are already screwing around at work and doing nothing when they should be working, why do we want to give them even more freedom?”

The question got a lot of laughter from the audience, just imagine it being asked in a heavy English accent with a wee bit of profanity behind it.

The answer from SmallBusinessNewz.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

SBA Encourages Americans to Support Their Local Communities by Shopping Small on Small Business Saturday November 30

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is encouraging Americans across the country to shop small this November 30 as part of Small Business Saturday, a day that is dedicated to supporting the small businesses that anchor our local communities and strengthen our economy.

“From the Main Street shops to the high-tech startups, small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the cornerstones of a diverse and thriving marketplace,” said Acting SBA Administrator Jeanne A. Hulit. “By shopping small and supporting local business, we all have a role to play in giving millions of families the opportunity to achieve the American dream.”

America’s 28 million small businesses create two out of every three net new private sector jobs and are the backbone of our economy, with half of working Americans either owning or working for a small business. Small Business Saturday is a nation-wide initiative that brings Americans together to support small businesses, with the money you spend going right back into your local economy.

Started in 2010, Small Business Saturday has boosted holiday sales for Main Street businesses around the country. Last year, nearly 70 million people shopped small in their communities for an estimated $5.5 billion in sales to independently-owned small businesses. This year, we can do even more.

Small Business Saturday falls on November 30 and there are a number of ways people can get involved. For more information on how to support Small Business Saturday in your area, or to get great Small Business Saturday marketing tips and resources, check out www.sba.gov/saturday or visit www.smallbusinesssaturday.com.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Three Marketing Tactics to Tap Into the Emerging Apple Demographic

Apple customers are emerging as an important new demographic, accounting for a massive 89% of mobile commerce sales.

When Orbitz admitted that it ranks products differently for Mac users, citing 20-30% higher average order values, much comment was made about the difference between Mac and PC customers.

But that is only half the story. When you factor in mobile devices, the new Apple demographic begins to have significant implications for marketers.


Read more from Marketing Profs.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Investors Really Want to Know

Venture capitalists (VCs) make you work hard for their money by inundating you with question after question about your fundraising process, your company goals, your founding team, among other things. Many of these questions will seem reasonable. Some will seem ridiculous.

But no matter the question, you must have an answer. And your answers better be good.

Behind all of this interrogation, there is one key underlying question: what makes you different? Regardless of the variation on the theme, your potential VC is really asking why your business — as compared to others vying for their money — is worth their investment.

If you’re ready to join the ranks of funded entrepreneurs, you need to be prepared to answer this key question. How?

Read HOW from the ASBDC.

Monday, November 25, 2013

SBA’s Online Portal Now Accepting 2014 National Small Business Week Awards Nominations

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration’s online portal is ready to accept nominations for its 2014 National Small Business Week Awards, including the annual Small Business Person of the Year award.

Now in its second year, the dedicated web portal http://nationalsmallbusinessweek.sba.gov/ has made it easier to submit and track submissions of nominees for National Small Business Week.

Since 1963, National Small Business Week has recognized the outstanding achievements of America’s small businesses for their contributions to their local communities, and to our nation’s economy. For over 50 years, SBA will continue its tradition in honoring the nation’s 28 million small businesses.

SBA Awards given in celebration of National Small Business Week include the following awards:
• National Small Business Person of the Year (chosen from among state award winners from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam)
• Phoenix Awards (recognizing outstanding accomplishments during disaster recovery)
• Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year
• Small Business Subcontractor of the Year
• The Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for Excellence (recognizes large prime contractors who have used small businesses as suppliers and contractors)
• SBA 8(a) Graduate of the Year (for recent graduates of the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program)
• Exporter of the Year
• Small Business Development Center (SBDC)Excellence and Innovation Award (nominations of SBA-funded SBDC Service Centers)
• Women’s Business Center (WBCs) of Excellence Award (nominations of SBA-funded WBCs)
• Veterans Business Outreach Center Excellence in Service Award (nominations of SBA-funded Veterans Business Outreach Centers)

In addition to the portal, nominations can also be sent directly to SBA District Offices, which can be
located online at http://www.sba.gov/districtoffices. All nominations must be submitted online,
postmarked or hand delivered to the SBA no later than the end of the day, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014.
Winners of the Small Business Person of the Year award and other award categories will be invited to Washington, D.C., in 2014 to compete for national titles and to attend National Small Business Week events.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Free Social Media Tools & Apps to Track Your Business Expenses

Using free social media tools is a great way to improve your business and increase your overall traffic. There are a lot of paid social media tools, but the next few are completely free and is extremely useful when it comes to managing, generating post, sharing content and improving inbound marketing overall.

See them at Business Art of War.

Small business owners often find themselves responsible for all aspects of their business, from sales and marketing to HR and, most importantly, keeping finances in order.
Hiring an accountant is a luxury at first. Using mobile apps that help track business expenses is a great, cost-effective option.

See them at David Kiger

Thursday, November 21, 2013

NYPL - New York StartUP! 2014 Business Plan Competition - Win up to $15k!

The New York Public Library in conjunction with its sponsor, the Citi Foundation, is proud to announce the 5th Annual New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition for New York-based startup entrepreneurs with cash prizes totaling over $30,000.

New York 2014 StartUP! gives aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to bolster their business acumen. Entrants gain practical insights about starting and growing a business, while learning about the comprehensive small business resources at NYPL's Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL).

Eligibility:
• You must be 18 years of age or older, live in Manhattan, The Bronx, or Staten Island as a legal resident or US citizen, and wish to start a business in Manhattan, The Bronx, or Staten Island.
• Start up businesses only. Operating businesses that have earned revenue and/or have paid taxes are not eligible. Any business incorporated prior to October 13, 2011 is not eligible to enter.
• This competition is for For-Profit Businesses ONLY. Non-profits are NOT eligible.
Requirements:
• Attend one (1) Orientation Session - click here for the schedule
• Attend 3 out of 4 technical workshops scheduled January 2014 - April 2014 - Schedule to be determined
• Meet regularly with a business advisor throughout the Competition - Click here for a list of business advisors
• Upload your business plan to the Start UP! Competition Fluid Review room site no later than midnight, June 10, 2014
To Enter the Competition:
1. Create an account on the StartUP! 2014 site on FluidReview.
1. Submit an entry form on the StartUP! 2014 site on FluidReview by midnight, Thursday, January 30, 2014
Note: Creating an account doesn't mean you've submitted an entry form. If you previously participated in the 2013 New York StartUP! Competition your name may already be in the Review Room site and you will need to reset your password.

Your entry form must include the type of business you plan to start.

What Are The Prizes?
1st Place Award: $15,000.
2nd Place Award: $ 7,500.
3rd Place Award: $ 5,000.
4th Place Award: $ 1,500.
5th Place Award: $ 1,500

See the NYPL bizplan website for more details. http://www.nypl.org/bizplan

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pin Your Ideas

I invite you to visit and follow the Pinterest page for the NYS SBDC Research Network. You've probably heard a lot about Pinterest lately and noticed that familiar little P popping up at the bottom of articles and in catalogs and so on. This visual venue lends itself very much to the sharing of ideas, in our case, ideas about business. Most people who go on may not be impressed initially because having a good experience on Pinterest requires a bit of cultivation. Browsing the "popular" page will only show you things you've likely already seen and are the common denominator, and not tailored to you. However if you search for specific topics of interest to you, then you can begin choosing carefully the people and boards you wish to follow.

Using Pinterest to promote business is becoming more and more common although not everyone "gets" it. Authenticity is important in this medium and overt selling is out. But you can present the culture of a business or organization which is a large part of branding. For instance, a personal organizing business might set up a business page (not a personal one) and pin their client highlights or model jobs. In the blurb they could briefly describe what the goal was and include hash-tag keywords to allow search engines to find it. Pictures of people in the office is not particularly interesting to the average Pinner. But articles on the value of organizing services, how a lack of organization causes stress, possibly a board for every room of the house with tips for keeping things straight, can all go to populating a business page. Artists will often have a great number of boards on the arts as well as one or two on their own art work with links to their website. A plumber might have model bathrooms, successful projects and tile and wallpaper samples as well how to maintain equipment or humor (clean) such as you know you're in hot water when...

Browsing Pinterest can move fast so images should read well on a small format. They should also be large enough so that when a Pin is opened, the photo is well presented. Of course, repinning other people's work or images should give credit and should not be pinned from a Google image search but from an actual webpage so that whoever clicks on it can reach the originating webpage.

Pinterest is the domain of collectors. If you are into vintage American cars, you'll find a lot of others who are too. Japanese swords? Found it. Vintage locks? Ditto.You can tap into an audience that is very specific. Be choosy when deciding who to follow and people will be choosy in deciding to follow you, but when you tap into the right vein you can really find your people.

Our research network contains boards that cover a number of issues that face our clients.
Some of the topics are:
Marketing, Making Presentations, Social Media, New York State (beauty), Selling Online, Foodie Business, Sports & Fitness Business and Business of Art. There are a number of others as well.

Within these boards, you'll find articles on:

Art: How to find collectors and art business webinars
Fitness: Best fitness business networking groups
Foodie: How does an artisan baker market their business?
Entrepreneurial Lifestyle: Ethics Coach on Misrepresentation
Social Media: How to use Twitter to repair a reputation.

Have a look at the RN page and try searching for something that interests you. You may be surprised. And please share this page with any clients wishing to do a little browsing or reading.



NYS VBOC Program is the Best in the Nation

Michael Gragg, John Narciso, Amy Amoroso, John McKeone
The NYS VBOC was recognized at the SBA National Business Awards Ceremony in Washington, DC on June 21, 2013 as the 2013 Veterans' Business Outreach Center of the Year. We are especially proud of the services these staff members deliver directly to veterans as well as the support they provide to other SBDC Advisors who regularly work with veteran clients. The sponsoring SBA Office of Veterans' Business Services made the selection from among its national network of 15 VBOC programs.

The NYS SBDC network has been assisting veterans since its inception in 1984. For the first 15 years of its existence, the statewide program assisted veterans along with other entrepreneurial individuals in the state. In September 1999, assistance to veterans became a new priority when the NYS SBDC became one of four SBDCs in the nation to pilot the Veteran’s Business Outreach Center (VBOC) program that is funded through the SBA’s Office of Veterans’ Business Development. The NYS SBDC has been awarded subsequent grants, and has dedicated Veterans Business Advisers located at the Farmingdale, Albany, and Buffalo SBDCs.

Farmingdale Business Advisor John Narciso, who was in DC to accept the award along with the current VBOC advisors, has been part of the VBOC program since the beginning, and was the statewide coordinator of the NYS VBOC program from 2006 through 2013. The current statewide VBOC coordinator, Michael Gragg from Farmingdale, Amy Amoroso from Albany, and John McKeone from Buffalo were in DC with John Narciso to accept the award.

Advocacy Report Measures the Impact of a Proposed Internet Sales Tax on Small Business

A report published by the Office of Advocacy analyzes the impact of an internet sales tax on small business.

As the popularity of online shopping has grown, states have seen their sales tax revenues drop. Federal legislation has been introduced over the past several years to authorize online sales tax collection. With small business owners on both sides of the issue, the Office of Advocacy recognized the need for objective research for small businesses and policymakers. This report analyzes the number of firms that will be affected by the small seller exemption (SSE) if current legislation passes and how much e-commerce is likely to be affected.

The report, An Analysis of Internet Sales Taxation and the Small Seller Exemption, was written by Donald Bruce and William F. Fox of the University of Tennessee’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

SEC Issues Proposal on Crowdfunding

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted unanimously to propose rules under the JOBS Act to permit companies to offer and sell securities through crowdfunding.

"Consistent with the JOBS Act, the proposed rules would among other things permit individuals to invest subject to certain thresholds, limit the amount of money a company can raise, require companies to disclose certain information about their offers, and create a regulatory framework for the intermediaries that would facilitate the crowdfunding transactions."

Note the SEC is "seeking public comment on the proposed rules for a 90-day period," which will end sometime in mid-January.

See more from the SEC.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Is the STEM job advantage a myth?

Politicians, policy makers, parents and students assume that the straightest path to a great job is by majoring in what is often called a STEM discipline -- science, technology, engineering or math. Indeed, President Barack Obama has set a goal of creating a million new STEM college graduates in the next 10 years, along with 100,000 new teachers in those fields. Meanwhile some politicians are urging state universities to ditch unpopular liberal arts and embrace more STEM education instead.

The popularity of STEM majors can be explained in large part by the belief that there are plenty of jobs in these fields. Under this view, these jobs that are going begging because not enough Americans have the skills to qualify for these positions. Americans also widely believe that students who graduate in STEM subjects will earn higher salaries.

If many STEM majors aren't enjoying outsized salaries, maybe the assumption that there are many jobs available in these fields is wrong, too. In an in-depth article, The Chronicle of Higher Education took a long look at this question and concluded that the STEM job advantage is a myth.

MORE from MoneyWatch.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A study that crunches SBA loan data reveals the biggest lemons in the franchise world

Think in an uncertain economy there's some safety in buying a franchise of an already-established brand? A new report suggests that's true only if you choose very, very carefully.
Seeing a Pattern

The report found that 11 franchises—more than half ice cream or fast food—had the highest rates of failure of their federally guaranteed loans used to buy them in the first place, according to analysis of U.S. Small Business Administration figures done by BlueMauMau.com, a franchising news website.

This is the same list that the agency provides loan officers of its most trusted lenders and banks throughout the country, the site says.

See the list on Open Forum

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Yahoo's dumb - but smart - way of judging employees

From MoneyWatch:

Managers, you may rate 10 percent of your people "superior performers," 40 percent as "exceeds expectations," 40 percent as "meets expectations" and the remaining 10 percent as "below expectations." Sound familiar? This breakdown is known as a "stacked ranking" or "forced bell curve ranking."

Microsoft (MSFT) was one of the many big companies that used this method to classify how their employees perform. No more. The software maker has declared that approach a failure and scrapped it at precisely the same moment that Yahoo (YHOO) is embracing it...

But, what is so bad about stacked rankings?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Business-logic of cooperating with the NSA has changed

From BoingBoing:

In an Atlantic editorial, Bruce Schneier discusses the post-Snowden business-climate. The NSA relied on Internet giants to do surveillance for them (surveillance being a major part of the Big Data business model), and pre-Snowden, there was no real downside to cooperating with illegal NSA spying requests -- in some cases, spooks would shower your company with money if it went along with the gag. Post-Snowden, all surveillance cooperation should be presumed to be destined to be made public, and that's changed the corporate calculus.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ring in the Holidays, Ring Up the Sales

From BizFilings:

The harsh reality is that few small businesses can win by trying to imitate the big-box stores and slashing prices dramatically. Mega-businesses have a number of advantages in the price-slashing arena: They can demand low prices from wholesalers and they have a vast array of other products to offset the losses taken on the specials.

But, that doesn't mean that you can't have a successful holiday sales season. After seeing every permutation of the 'game' global thermonuclear war resulted in total destruction, Joshua the computer in the movie War Games observed: "the only winning strategy is not to play." And then, he suggested, "How about a nice game of chess." Playing a different game can be your winning strategy as well. Don't compete on price for mass production items. Instead, focus on quality service, unique product offerings and a deep knowledge of your customers and your community.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Profile of Veteran Business Owners: More Young Veterans Appear To Be Starting Businesses

An Issue Brief published by the Office of Advocacy shows the changing makeup of America’s veteran business owners.

Veteran business owner demographics and the economic and business environment are changing dramatically and rapidly. There is some evidence that the proportion of younger veteran business owners (under age 35) increased from 2008 to 2012, as did the share of veteran women business owners. (The share of women business owners appears to have increased among both veterans and non-veterans, but at a much greater rate for female veterans.)

See Advocacy’s Issue Brief Number 1, Profile of Veteran Business Owners: More Young Veterans Appear To Be Starting Businesses. For press inquiries or to speak with Advocacy’s Chief Economist Janemarie Mulvey, Ph.D., contact Elle Patout, Public Affairs and Media Manager, at (202) 205-6533 or elle.patout@sba.gov.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

SBA Announces New Measures to Help Get Small Business Loans Into the Hands of Veterans

WASHINGTON – The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) announced new measures to help get small business loans into the hands of veterans by setting the borrower upfront fee to zero for all veteran loans authorized under the SBA Express program up to $350,000. This initiative will start on January 1 and continue through the end of the fiscal year.

“Our nation’s veterans are highly-skilled and highly-trained leaders in their communities,” said Acting SBA Administrator Jeanne Hulit. “This initiative will set fees to zero for SBA Express loans to veterans up to $350,000, and is part of SBA’s broader efforts to make sure that veterans have the tools they need to start and grow a business. As we honor our veterans and thank them for their service and sacrifice, let’s continue to identify ways to support them when they come home.”

Of all SBA loans that go to veterans, 73 percent are $350,000 and below. The SBA Express Loan Program, which supports loans under $350,000, is SBA’s most popular loan delivery method, with nearly 60 percent of all 7(a) loans over the past decade being authorized through the program. Since the program’s inception, it has also been one of the most popular delivery methods for getting capital into the hands of veteran borrowers.

Building on SBA’s recent announcement that for the current fiscal year, fees on loans for $150,000 and under are set to zero, this policy announcement means that veteran borrowers will no longer have to pay an upfront fee for any loan up to $350,000 under the SBA Express program. This new initiative will go into effect January 1 and extend for the duration of the fiscal year. This will make the loans cheaper for the borrower, another way SBA is looking to serve small business owners as they look for ways to access capital.

The announcement came during SBA’s National Veterans Small Business Week, an initiative on the part of the U.S. Small Business Administration to reach out to veteran entrepreneurs and business owners. During Veterans Small Business Week, SBA staff all across the country have been working with partner organizations on educational efforts, mentoring, and trainings to make sure veterans have the tools they need to start or grow their business.

SBA provides veterans access to business counseling and training, capital and business development opportunities through government contracts. In FY 2013, SBA supported $1.86 billion in loans for 3,094 veteran-owned small businesses. And since 2009, the dollar amount of SBA lending support to veteran-owned firms has nearly doubled.
For more information about these and other SBA programs, visit the SBA website at www.sba.gov, or contact your local SBA field office. Here's contact information for your local SBA office.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Advocacy Report Measures the Small Business Benefit of Federal Tax Expenditures

A report published by the Office of Advocacy measures the small business benefit of federal tax expenditures.

Tax expenditures are provisions in the tax law designed to benefit specific groups of taxpayers. They are similar to spending programs but generally do not involve direct federal outlays. Rather, they work through the income tax system, taking the form of special credits, exemptions, deductions, exclusions, and preferential rates. This study estimates the utilization of federal tax expenditure provisions by small and large businesses in 2013.

The report, Measuring the Benefit of Federal Tax Expenditures Used by Small Business, was written by John O’Hare, Mary Schmitt, Judy Xanthopoulos of Quantria Strategies, LLC.

For press inquiries or to speak with Advocacy’s Chief Economist Janemarie Mulvey, Ph.D., contact Elle Patout, Public Affairs and Media Manager, at (202) 205-6533 or elle.patout@sba.gov.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Most companies fail customer service test

From MoneyWatch:

Do you think your customer service is more on point than ever? That the cutting-edge technology you've put in place has brought your customer game to a new level? That your self-help processes make it easier and more frictionless than it's ever been for customers to get their needs met and issues resolved?

Well, there's a good chance you're wrong.

So suggests a recent study of what customers are looking for by American Express. According to the report (which was produced by an independent testing firm and is based on customer surveys), regardless of technology, resources or access to multiple modes of 24/7 communication, the attitude and desires of the customer -- and the things that determine whether she is likely to be happy or disappointed -- haven't changed with the times.

In other words, despite all the hype and noise of modern business, the customer service wheel has not been reinvented; in fact, according to most customers, "old-school" still rules.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Stop trying to please everyone. Seriously. Stop it!

The message behind today’s marketing post may sound a little counter intuitive. I’m going to explain why the key to gaining the visibility your business needs, is to be LESS visible.

In fact, every entrepreneur who achieves meaningful success, sees their products or services ignored by the vast majority of people. It has to be that way!

Allow me to explain.

More from Jim's Marketing blog.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Three Ways To Show Your Employees You Appreciate Them

From Toolkit:

The approaching holiday season provides an opportunity to show your employees that you appreciate the contributions they make to the success of your business. While there is some truth to the currently popular quip, "haters gotta hate," and you often can't please everyone, most employees appreciate gestures that you make to show them that they are valued and respected.

To be well-received, the gestures of appreciation must be about the employees, not about you and not about the business. This means you must evaluate what the recipient would appreciate by looking at your plans through your employees' eyes. To do this requires that you know your employees and have an appreciation for the stresses and joys of their everyday life. (This pays dividends year-round because taking a few moments to interact personally with your employees is in itself an excellent way to show they are valued.)

Many employers opt for a holiday party. However, this is a tradition that many workers fail to appreciate, seeing the party as an obligation that cuts into family or personal time, forces them to incur costs, or places them into socially awkward situations. This year, before you plan the party, consider these three options for showing employees that you appreciate the work they put in day -in and day out.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Are healthier employees more productive?

From MoneyWatch:

The popularity of workplace wellness programs suggests that more employers than ever believe that healthy employees are more productive. Ivan Misner, founder of networking organization BNI.com, which has over 150,000 members worldwide, believed it and challenged his staffers to a 90-day diet makeover -- what he called "The Misner Plan Challenge."

Followers ate fresh, organic produce, small amounts of seafood, and food rich in healthy fats like olives and avocados, while avoiding processed, packaged foods and saturated fats. Here's what he's finding with his healthy experiment.

Friday, November 01, 2013

New NYS Contract Reporter Website: Pre-Registration Is Open

If you have a current NYS Contract Reporter account holder, you should have received an invitation from Empire State Development to create an account for the new NYS Contract Reporter website. The new site is scheduled for launch in later this month. If you haven't yet registered, please do so soon. And if you registered, but didn't yet create your Business Registry account, please do. To facilitate registration and communication with the new pre-registration site, please tell your computer that the NYS Contract Reporter is a trusted site, and that you want to receive mail from: @nyscr.ny.gov

Pre-registration will ensure a seamless transition from the current site to the new site, which will have many new features and functionalities. NYSCR is requiring all current account holders to create their new account during this pre-registration period which will end on 11/22/13.

All services on the new site will be free, but if you don't create an account during pre-registration you may encounter an interruption in service when the new site is launched in November.

The new site will offer:
• More precise selection of categories
• Pre-filtering of ads geographically and by ad type
• A Business Registry that will enhance the agency procurement process and connect prime contractors to subcontractors and suppliers
• More robust electronic communication with ad updates, bookmarking of ads and sharing of information
• Other procurement resources and information designed to connect your business with contracting and subcontracting opportunities
If you don't create your new NYS Contract Reporter account during this month-long pre-registration process, you will be able to create your new account when the site is launched in late November.

So create your new individual account for the new NYS Contract Reporter: start at https://www.nyscr.ny.gov/pre-registration/.

Note: If you are a state agency or municipality receiving this message PLEASE DO NOT create an account now. This message is intended for business account holders only. Your agency account will be transferred to the new site, and you will be notified.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

People find plenty of time for Internet -- at work

From MoneyWatch:

Conventional wisdom suggests that as we spend more time on the Internet, we also spend less time on face-to-face interaction and other traditional kinds of socializing. But a new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that these online hours come less at the expense of family and friends than they do from another source: people's jobs.

The study, by Scott Wallsten of the Technology Policy Institute, a research organization that focuses on innovation, found that Internet users carve 27 percent of the time they spend online out of productive work hours. By comparison, people spend 15 percent of their time on the web instead of watching television, while 12 percent comes from sleep.

Pinning for Success

There are many options for keeping in touch with each other, with clients, to gain inspiration or keep abreast of the world around us. And we know that each of us has our own way of absorbing information. Sometimes things just click. I'm not a collector.  The only thing I collect is books but I find that in a virtual world, all the postcards I've ever bought in a museum gift shop, every article I clipped and saved, every tidbit or fact that entertained me I can re-manifest on Pinterest. Whether it's Twitter or Facebook etc.., we can choose how we use these new vehicles and you can see that in practice: collections of recipes, or mustangs, expensive watches, dogs or political outrage. But for visual learners, Pinterest can be a very useful medium. To that end, I've begun a new collection of boards aimed at both advisors and clients or anyone interested in the issues facing small business owners. We still have a profile for NYS SBDC, but this profile is from the point of view of the RN.

On the NYS SBDC RN boards, you'll find articles, videos, infographics, images relating to what our clients do. For example, there's a board for Downtown Revitalization with stories and examples of efforts made in cities who are battling a shared problem. Articles and presentations on Crowdfunding including how to make a good video; lots of information on Social Media, Home-Based Businesses, Selling Online, Corporate Identity and running a Food Business.

Check out the boards, your might be inspired to create your own collection. Please direct your clients to them for further reading and videos on a wide range of issues.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SBA Lending Activity in FY 2013 Shows SBA Continuing to Help Small Businesses Grow and Create Jobs

WASHINGTON – The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) announced its third highest year of SBA lending to date, surpassed only by SBA’s two record years of supporting more than $30 billion in FY 2011 and 2012. In FY 2013, SBA supported more than $29 billion in lending to America’s small businesses, giving small businesses critical access to the capital they need to start and grow their business.

“Under President Obama, SBA lending has reached record levels and we continue to get more capital into the hands of small business owners than ever before,” said Acting SBA Administrator Jeanne Hulit. “Small businesses are the engine of our economy, and reaching our third highest year of SBA lending in FY 2013 demonstrates the strength and resiliency of America’s 28 million small businesses as they continue to recover from the Great Recession and drive our economy forward.”

One of SBA’s primary missions is to ensure that small business owners have access to the capital they need to start and grow their business. Since President Obama took office, SBA has supported more than $126 billion in lending to more than 260,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs. During the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, SBA loan approvals supported $29.6 billion (54,106 loans) to small businesses in its two main loan programs, 7(a) and 504, compared to $30.25 billion (53,848 loans) in FY 2012 and $30.5 billion (61,689 loans) in FY 2011.

SBA’s streamlining of the Small Loan Advantage (SLA) programs also continued to produce dramatic results, increasing the number of lower-dollar SBA 7(a) loans going to small businesses and entrepreneurs in underserved communities. The program, which is a key 7(a) loan initiative designed to expand access to loans under $350,000, was first launched in Feb. 2011, and revamped in June 2012. SBA has significantly reduced paperwork for the SLA program and expanded our pool of lenders—changes that have resulted in a more than 300 percent increase in SLA loans and an over 700 percent increase in the number of lenders using the program. In FY 2013, SBA backed almost 5,000 loans for nearly $745 million through the SLA program.
As with SLA, CAPlines, our program that provides working capital lines of credit designed to help small businesses with their short-term working capital needs, saw a successful year in part because of measures to streamline loan processing, making it easier for loans to get into the hands of small businesses that need them. In FY 2013, CAPlines approved 682 loans for more than $500 million. In the two full fiscal years since the program was re-designed, SBA has cumulatively approved 1,200 loans after only doing 1,300 over 15 years—a significant increase over the 1,300 loans issued over the 15 years prior.

In FY 2013, SBA also supported more than 7,700 504 loans, which provide small businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing to acquire real estate and major fixed assets, for a total of more than $11.7 billion. Although this is a slight decrease compared with FY 2012, this decrease demonstrates the importance of SBA’s 504 Refinancing Program, which temporarily allowed small business owners to use our 504 program to refinance commercial real estate and other fixed assets and gave SBA a record year for 504 lending in FY 2012. That program was authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act and expired in 2012, but a one year extension of the program was included in the President’s FY14 budget.

For more information about these and other SBA programs, visit the SBA website at www.sba.gov, or contact your local SBA field office. You can find contact information for your local SBA office at http://www.sba.gov/localresources/index.html.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Online Security Course Available to Small Business Owners

WASHINGTON – Small businesses can help keep their business information safe and protect their online information with a new free course from the U.S. Small Business Administration. SBA is launching this new course, designed for small businesses, to provide an overview on how to secure business information, identify security threats and guard against cyber-attacks.

Cybersecurity for Small Businesses is one of SBA’s newest online courses to help business owners safeguard their information from computer attacks and determine their readiness against security breaches. The course, available at www.sba.gov/tools/sba-learning-center/training/cybersecurity-small-businesses, teaches best cybersecurity practices and protection against cyber threats for the nation’s small business community.

The protection of sensitive data such as business invoices, payroll records, client and employee data and other proprietary information is essential to a company’s success. A computer failure or other system breach could undermine a company’s reputation, expose it to costly recovery expenses, and disrupt the business’ overall operation.

Cybersecurity for Small Businesses will help to identify information security vulnerabilities that can put a small business at risk, and the protective tools and techniques used to measure, maintain and guard business information and systems.

Small business owners will learn the types of information that should be secured, how to protect themselves from intentional attacks or unintentional damage, guard themselves from decreased productivity caused by security breaches and evaluate the needed security tools and techniques. The course also gives useful and practical steps to take to protect a business’ operations.

Cybersecurity for Small Businesses is self-paced and also offers best practices for guarding against cyber threats, potential computer weaknesses and the corrective actions for risk management.
Course participants completing the online course can earn a certificate of completion from the SBA. The SBA Learning Center offers free courses covering topics such as Starting, Managing, or Financing a Business, and can be found at www.sba.gov/sba-learning-center.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Signs Your Project is Headed for Failure

How can you recognize that your project is headed for disaster? Look for these warning signs.

Not every project we work on is our crowning achievement. Only a few projects make us rush to our LinkedIn profiles to record how much wonderfulness we accomplished in how little time, with a budget this tiny.

Into every project manager’s life a few clunkers must fall. Some failures are preventable; others are out of our hands. But all of us like to imagine we can avoid the worst of the catastrophes… or at least escape with our reputations intact.

How can you tell that your project is aimed directly at #headdesk territory? Take heed of these warning signs. If you identify the uh-oh moments soon enough, perhaps you can take remedial action and save the situation. Maybe you can walk away, take a deep breath, reanalyze the requirements, and reset the team. We’d like to think so!

See more at Quickbase.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pitch Advice for EntrepreneursL LinkedIn

From ReidHoffman.org

At Greylock, my partners and I are driven by one guiding mission: always help entrepreneurs. It doesn’t matter whether an entrepreneur is in our portfolio, whether we’re considering an investment, or whether we’re casually meeting for the first time.

Entrepreneurs often ask me for help with their pitch decks. Because we value integrity and confidentiality at Greylock, we never share an entrepreneur’s pitch deck with others. What I’ve honorably been able to do, however, is share the deck I used to pitch LinkedIn to Greylock for a Series B investment back in 2004.

This past May was the 10th anniversary of LinkedIn, and while reflecting on my entrepreneurial journey, I realized that no one gets to see the presentation decks for successful companies. This gave me an idea: I could help many more entrepreneurs by making the deck available not just to the Greylock network of entrepreneurs, but to everyone.

Today, I share the Series B deck with you, too. It has many stylistic errors — and a few substantive ones, too — that I would now change having learned more, but I realized that it still provides useful insights for entrepreneurs and startup participants outside of the Greylock network, particularly across three areas of interest:

how entrepreneurs should approach the pitch process
the evolution of LinkedIn as a company
the consumer internet landscape in 2004 vs. today
—Reid Hoffman

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Certify Your Small Business by Registering as a Government Contractor

From the Small Business Administration:

If you’re a small business owner interested in making the federal government one of your next customers, you can benefit greatly from certifying your business first.

Many government agencies require that a certain percentage of its work is set aside for small businesses (and woman-owned, veteran-owned and more), so certifying your business can help you successfully compete for government contracts. These resources can help:

When and How to Register Your Business as a “Small Business” – Get the scoop on small business certification from this blog post, concerning D-U-N-S number and the System for Award Management (SAM)
Am I a Small Business? – Make sure you meet the qualifications for "small" before you certify and register your business.
Register for Government Contracting – As you register for government contracting, you'll also be "self-certifying" your business as small.

You can also read up on additional certifications that can give your small business a competitive edge when pursuing government work. These include programs designed to help small businesses in historically underutilized rural and urban areas (HUBZone Program), socially and economically disadvantaged businesses (8(a) Business Development Program), as well as Woman-Owned or Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned businesses.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

START-UP NY announcement by Governor Andrew Cuomo

Dear Fellow New Yorker,

Hundreds of business leaders and CEOs from around the globe came together today for the official launch of START-UP NY – the most ambitious economic development program in New York State’s recent history. This game-changing initiative, starting today, will create tax-free zones to attract and grow new businesses across the state.

START-UP NY seeks to accelerate entrepreneurialism and job creation across the state on a large scale, with a particular focus on Upstate New York.

In a tax-free environment, no one can match what New York has to offer. We are leveraging our world-class SUNY system and prestigious private universities to partner with new businesses, providing direct access to advanced research, development resources, experts in high-tech and other industries, and all with zero taxes for ten whole years.

Click here to learn more about START-UP NY.

Businesses that are looking to startup or expand, and most importantly create jobs, should look no farther than the Empire State. Visit www.startup-ny.com to learn more about the program, find answers to frequently asked questions, and search for eligible space.

START-UP NY continues the Governor’s steadfast commitment to creating jobs and growing the economy.

New York is rising once again.

Sincerely,

The Office of the Governor

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Controlling cash flow for business growth: A CIMA case study

CIMA is the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. Its members are trained and qualified in the vital area of management accountancy. Businesses can only compete effectively if they have the best financial information and the best people to make decisions based on that information...

CIMA is the world”s leading and largest professional body of management accountants. Its training means it produces financial managers with the many and varied skills necessary to handle global competition. From its headquarters in London and 11 offices outside the UK, CIMA supports over 172,000 members and students in 168 countries.

This case study looks at how management accountants forecast, monitor and control cash flow in order to maintain the ongoing financial health of businesses.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

16 WAYS TO BUILD A BUSINESS NOT A STARTUP

There is a perfect storm for Start-up failure. The combination of the cultural shift towards entrepreneurship, the trendiness of tech start-ups, the removal of barriers to build products, and government policies has created an oversupply of start-ups. Starting a start-up is easy, building a business is hard.

Here are a few golden rules for business building:

Invest in your business – don’t take angel money too early, self fund your business.

More from BRAINRACK

Friday, October 18, 2013

PRE-REGISTRATION FOR YOUR NEW NYS CONTRACT REPORTER ACCOUNT

TO: ALL CURRENT NYS CONTRACT REPORTER ACCOUNT HOLDERS
FROM: NYSCR SYSTEM ADMINISTRATOR & THE NYS DEPT. OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The new NYS Contract Reporter website is scheduled for launch in November 2013. To insure a seamless transition from the current site to the new site, with all of its new features and functionalities, we are requiring all current account holders to create their new account during a pre-registration period.

Pre-registration is open from 10/17/13 through 11/22/13.

All services on the new site are free, but if you don't create an account during pre-registration you may encounter an interruption in service when the new site is launched.

The new site will offer:
• More precise selection of categories
• Pre-filtering of ads geographically and by ad type
• A Business Registry that will enhance the agency procurement process and connect prime contractors to subcontractors and suppliers
• More robust electronic communication with ad updates, bookmarking of ads and sharing of information
• Other procurement resources and information designed to connect your business with contracting and subcontracting opportunities
If you don't create your new NYS Contract Reporter account during this month-long pre-registration process, you will be able to create your new account when the site is launched in November.

To create your new individual account for the new NYS Contract Reporter: start here or copy and paste this URL into your browser: www.nyscr.ny.gov.

Note: If you are a state agency or municipality receiving this message PLEASE DO NOT create an account. This message is intended for business account holders only.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How To Calculate Customer Retention

Along with measuring your business traffic and conversion, success also relies on customer retention to complete the big picture. You may be getting attention, turning visitors into users or paying customers but are you able to keep them around month after month? Or are they leaving after one experience or one transaction?

If you want to build a sustainable and scalable business, you need to cut down on churn, the rate at which people are discarding your products and services. To do so, calculating your customer retention is the first, and important, step in this process.

First, retention refers to a certain point in the customer lifecycle and it can come at different points for different businesses

More from Evergage HERE.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Top 6 Free Collaboration Tools for Freelancers

From Make Tech Easier:

If there’s anything I learned while freelancing, it’s that you have to treat it like a small business. There’s no way you’re going to be able to handle the high workloads and stresses of keeping up with multiple clients unless you adopt creative ways to stay organized just like a retailer would. The entrepreneurial mindset is a must-have, and you’re not going to go anywhere if you don’t have the tools necessary to collaborate. That said, we will discuss all the free collaboration tools that you need to get your groove on!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

5 Services To Use If You Can’t Come Up With A Domain Name On Your Own

When it comes to finding the right Domain name for your website, it can be nearly impossible to get a good vacant domain name. Many people often come up with great ideas, however, they are unable to keep a domain name that reflects their website content because of unavailability of domain names. In my experience even friends and family can be of little help in such a case, as thousands of domains are getting registered as we speak. This means that every idea that you can think of, has probably been used already.

If you are looking for a good Domain name that reflects your website content or can help you keep a novel name such as perhaps, “YouTube”, then it might be worth seeking help from a few handy web services given below.

More from Techwalls HERE.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Corporate Culture: the Biggest Asset Not on the Balance Sheet

The balance sheet for any company will list all kinds of assets and liabilities, except company culture. There should be a way to account for this, because culture is a critical factor in the success of any company. A great corporate culture is like a propellant – it helps accelerate an organization toward achieving its goals. Likewise, a toxic corporate culture is like dragging a boat anchor behind you: no matter how high the throttle is set you just can’t seem to pick up speed.

Great leaders understand the value and impact of culture, and that’s why they put effort into creating a healthy one. Culture is the collectively held values, ideology, and social processes embedded in a firm. Every organization has a culture, whether it was created intentionally or is the product of evolutionary chance. For example, a set of contrasting corporate cultures is empowerment and fear.

Lessons in Corporate Culture

Friday, October 11, 2013

Five ways the government shutdown is slowing down small businesses

From the Washington Post:

Small business owners and entrepreneurs from around the country have started to feel the ripple effects of the closure — some left waiting for contract updates, some left waiting for loans, and some left waiting to see whether customers are going to keep walking through their doors.

"We have all seen the offices locked down, the monuments closed," President Obama said during a speech on Thursday. "But the impacts of the shutdown go way beyond those things that you are seeing on television."

See also:
Headaches Loom for SBA Borrowers in Shutdown's Second Week

Thursday, October 10, 2013

5 Hidden LinkedIn Tricks You Didn't Know About

As an avid LinkedIn user, I have discovered some wonderful tips and tricks that don’t seem to be universally known to the LinkedIn community. Most people know what LinkedIn is, but many don't know how to use it to its full potential. It’s taken some time to learn these tricks. LinkedIn can be a little hard to initially navigate, but don’t let this scare you away. It is one of the absolute best tools you can use to build your personal brand! Here are 5 LinkedIn tricks I wanted to share to make your LinkedIn experience just a little bit easier.

What you did not know about LinkedIn

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

10 Career Tips From Up-and-Coming Women in Communications

There has been no shortage of conversations about women at mid-career and the challenges they face.

Offering some clarity are 10 rising stars in the field of communications, who are the winners of the inaugural New York Women in Communications' WiCi Awards.

Drawing on their careers in advertising, journalism, marketing and social good, the WiCi Award winners shared words of wisdom, including the best advice imparted upon them by the people they look up to most.

Lesley Jane Seymour, editor-in-chief of More magazine, asked the honorees on Sept. 18 about the turning points in their careers and their biggest influencers, which ranged from encouragement from Steve Jobs to sage advice from their parents.

More from Mashable here.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Obamacare Will Revolutionize the Startup Game

It's one of the first things people ask you when you tell them about your new job: What are the benefits? Health insurance is such an integral part of life that people take jobs just so they will be guaranteed issuance. Now that the Affordable Care Act application process is up and running, people have been buzzing about how it will affect their lives. Startups and entrepreneurs, though, have the potential to be the biggest winners come January when the Obamacare plans go into effect. Chris Mihm, owner of Medicoverage, believes that for a few different reasons the Affordable Care Act is going to revolutionize startup hubs around the country.

"Group insurance offers guaranteed issuance – every single employee will get approved no matter if they have cancer or any pre-existing condition of any type," Mihm said of the way health care traditionally worked. "On January 1, 2014, every single person who signs up for insurance is guaranteed issuance. So even if you have a pre-existing condition, you’re going to get approved at the same rate as me. That changes everything."

MORE HERE.