Friday, June 28, 2013

How to Ensure Longevity for Your Business

Small businesses often struggle to survive. In fact, 50% of American small businesses close up shop within their first year.

So what are the secrets to staying in business and locking down success? This infographic from Intuit takes a look at small businesses— what industries they’re in, what cities they thrive in, and what they’re doing to stay in business.

When it comes to longevity, small business is often the tortoise in the race. And we all know how that particular story turned out.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How to Tackle U.S. Employees' Stagnating Engagement

From the GALLUP Business Journal:

Since the financial meltdown of 2008 and the recession that followed, the American workforce has struggled to adapt to an uncertain economic climate. Sluggish growth, persistently high unemployment, and sharp spending cuts by businesses and consumers alike have taken a toll.

The Three Types of EmployeesThough the state of the U.S. economy has changed substantially, the state of its workplace has not. According to Gallup's State of the American Workplace: 2010-2012 report, employee engagement levels remain stagnant among U.S. workers. By the end of 2012, as the U.S. inched toward a modest economic recovery, only 30% of American workers were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.

Though this figure matches the all-time high since Gallup began tracking the U.S. working population's engagement levels in 2000, U.S. business leaders shouldn't be patting themselves on the back. An alarming 70% of American workers are not showing up to work committed to delivering their best performance, and this has serious implications for the bottom line of individual companies and the U.S. economy as a whole.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The best way to handle customers who don't pay

From CBS News MoneyWatch:

In its 13 years, my company has been unusually fortunate in that we have had -- as hard as it may be to believe -- only two or three bad debt write-offs (for very small amounts) and perhaps four or five credit card chargebacks (money taken back by card issuers, typically due to customer disputes or fraud). Other than that, our receivables have always been current.

I attribute this partially to good luck, but mostly to careful, disciplined processes and practices, from making open-account decisions, to manually reviewing any suspicious credit card charges before shipping (obviously not possible for all businesses), to being willing to pass up any order if we are concerned about getting paid.

Unfortunately, it happens that right now we are dealing with our first-ever serious collection challenge, for a relatively large amount of money, from an otherwise great and longtime customer.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Good, free resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs

In response to a query at BUSLIB:

MaRS Discovery District's online resource, The Startup Library, helps entrepreneurs in different tech industries answer common market research questions. All links are to free resources.

Bizstats.com has free business statistics and financial ratios. This is a partner site of BizMiner.com; BizMiner is not free, but has more up-to-date, detailed, and much more granular industry statistical reports.

Another list of free online business resources that entrepreneurs and the like might appreciate is bizologie.com/favoriteresources.

Manta.com is available free; a registration is required for optimal access, but that's free, too). It will give competitors, contacts, and other useful info for small, privately held businesses around the country.

Have a look at the Small Business Accelerator. While tailored to meet the needs of British Columbia entrepreneurs, you will find much valuable, transferable information.


Monday, June 24, 2013

John Narciso of Farmingdale SBDC: 2013 Veterans Business Outreach winner

The winner of the 2013 Veterans Business Outreach Center Excellence in Service Award is John A. Narciso, small business adviser at the New York State Veterans Business Outreach Center through The Research Foundation of the State University of New York. Narciso, who works out of the Farmingdale SBDC office, has had a 30-year career as a talented and successful U.S. Naval officer and decorated combat veteran, followed by two decades advising veterans in entrepreneurship.

This was announced last week the during National Small Business Week in the Entrepreneurial Development category.

Six Tips for Building Business Credit

From ASBDC:

What do established companies looking to expand and start-ups in the earliest planning stages have in common? They want access to money and credit without having to provide a personal guarantee. This sentiment is consistently and strongly expressed by entrepreneurs... It’s no secret that building and expanding a business credit profile has become a greater challenge over the last few years. Many established small companies’ cash flow sheets were hit hard during the recession and as a result, many lenders and suppliers have either added a personal guarantee policy or modified their current policy.

Most business owners know Experian, Equifax and TransUnion as the three major credit bureaus that provide information about their personal credit; however, they also may provide a credit profile about your company's creditworthiness.

Friday, June 21, 2013

SBA INCREASES SIZE STANDARDS FOR 70 INDUSTRIES

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration issued four final rules in the Federal Register, increasing size standards for firms in four North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Sectors and one Subsector: Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting (Sector 11), Finance and Insurance (Sector 52), Management of Companies and Enterprises (Sector 55), Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation (Sector 71) and Support Services for Mining (Subsector 213).

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 the 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.

SBA increased size standards for businesses in 11 industries in the Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting Sector. More than 7,800 additional firms will qualify as small under these new size standards and become eligible for SBA’s loan and federal procurement programs.

SBA also increased size standards for 36 industries for firms in the Finance and Insurance Sector and two industries in the Management of Companies and Enterprises Sector. SBA changed the basis for measuring size from assets to annual revenues for the International Trade Financing industry and deleted the Real Estate Investment Trusts from its table of size standards. More than 7,400 additional businesses will qualify as small under the new size standards and become eligible for SBA’s loan and federal procurement programs.

Size standards for 17 industries were also increased for firms in the Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Sector. More than 1,450 additional firms will qualify as small under these new size standards and become eligible for SBA’s loan and federal procurement programs.

SBA also increased size standards for three of the four industries for firms in the Support Activities for Mining Subsector within the Mining, Quarrying and Oil and Gas Extraction Sector (Sector 21). Subsector 213 is the only subsector within Sector 21 which has revenues-based size standards. The remaining industries within Sector 21 have employee-based size standards, which SBA will review in the near future. More than 475 additional firms will qualify as small under the new size standards and become eligible for SBA’s loan and federal procurement programs.

The four final rules will be effective July 22, 2013. To review the rules and public comments, go to www.regulations.gov. Each sector has a separate RIN number:
. Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting – (RIN 3245-AG43).
Finance and Insurance & Management of Companies and Enterprises – (RIN 3245-AG45).
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation – (RIN 3245 AG36).
Support Activities for Mining – (RIN 3245-AG44).

The SBA is reviewing all size standards, and takes 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 conditions in those industries. Under the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, SBA will continue its comprehensive review of all size standards for the next several years.
The SBA issued a White Paper entitled “Size Standards Methodology” which explains how SBA establishes, reviews and modifies its receipts-based and employee-based small business size standards. http://www.sba.gov/size This paper is available online. 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.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Certification Requirements for Businesses that Contract with New York State

In certain instances, section 5-a of the Tax Law requires businesses that are awarded contracts with New York State to certify that they are registered to collect New York State and local sales and use taxes (sales tax) on sales delivered to locations within New York.

The purpose of section 5-a is to ensure that contractors do not get state work unless they, their affiliates, and their subcontractors making sales of tangible personal property or taxable services are registered to collect New York State’s sales tax. This means that certain businesses, including in some cases out-of-state businesses not currently registered to collect New York State sales taxes, will need to register for New York State sales tax purposes.

This bulletin explains the general rules related to the certification requirements for contractors and their affiliates and subcontractors. For more detailed information on the contractor certification requirements imposed under section 5-a of the Tax Law, see Publication 223, Questions and Answers Concerning Tax Law Section 5-a (as amended, effective April 26, 2006).



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Advocacy Study Highlights Top Locations for High-Growth Companies

The SBA Office of Advocacy study, The Geography of Employment Growth: The Support Networks for Gazelle IPOs, identifies specific states with the strongest support networks for companies to launch Initial Public Offerings (IPO). To create a fast growing company or gazelle, it takes an Entrepreneurial Support Network (ESN) including skilled labor, capital, customers, and suppliers. According to this study, ESNs with the necessary strength to launch an IPO are predominantly found in California, Massachusetts, Florida, New York, and Texas. However, one city stood out as an entrepreneurial hotspot despite the absence of an entrepreneurial support network. Minneapolis-St. Paul is home to numerous medical instrument companies and claims 10 percent of the IPOs for this industrial sector.

“We are a nation of innovators, and our entrepreneurs excel at the highest standards. The IPO process is a completion of a major financial milestone in a company’s development, creating more jobs and opportunity at home,” said Dr. Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy. “We must expand business sectors that can thrive without a support network and build support networks for other industries. With these steps in place and as the economy continues to improve, I believe Minneapolis-St. Paul will be one of the many cities outside the traditional geographical regions for gazelles.”

Basic highlights from the study include:
• California leads the nation in high-growth businesses with the potential to enter the stock market through an initial public offering (IPO).
• Massachusetts is home to the highest number of IPOs per capita.
• Minneapolis-St. Paul holds 10 percent of all the IPOs in the medical instruments industrial sector.

As a result of this study, the researchers believe next steps should include:
• Focusing on more successful firms that can be created despite an absence of a support network.
• Creating an environment that strengthens the partnership between university and high-growth startups.
• Moving away from the practice of recruiting businesses through financial incentives and instead creating an Entrepreneurial Support Network in the region.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Overtime, and other labor issues

Someone posted this question: "I have a client who has a business with 24 employees. She wants some employees to work more than 40 hours, but can't afford to pay overtime wages. Does anyone have experience with labor laws for these types of businesses? Is she right that she can't have people work more than 40 hours? Any insight or direction you have would be welcome."

Here are a couple sources of information-

Overtime pay
An employer who requires or permits an employee to work overtime is generally required to pay the employee premium pay for such overtime work. Employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek of at least one and one-half times their regular rates of pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) , which prescribes standards for the basic minimum wage and overtime pay, affects most private and public employment.

Further - Compliance
Employees of firms which are not covered enterprises under the FLSA still may be subject to its minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor provisions if they are individually engaged in interstate commerce or in the production of goods for interstate commerce, or in any closely-related process or occupation directly essential to such production. Such employees include those who: work in communications or transportation; regularly use the mails, telephones, or telegraph for interstate communication, or keep records of interstate transactions; handle, ship, or receive goods moving in interstate commerce; regularly cross State lines in the course of employment; or work for independent employers who contract to do clerical, custodial, maintenance, or other work for firms engaged in interstate commerce or in the production of goods for interstate commerce. (This lists some of the exemptions)

See also this document.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Small Business Advocate - June 2013

vol. 32, no. 5
The June edition of The Small Business Advocate spotlights new Advocacy research on the geography of fast-growing firms and IPOs. It also features a firsthand account of successful high-tech manufacturing in Idaho and Washington State, the May small business safety and health roundtable, and Advocacy staff news.

Friday, June 14, 2013

“Yes, We Accept Checks!”

Those of us in the payments industry may often think “electronic is better,” but there are still those who prefer paper. Specifically: checks. 91 percent of U.S. consumers use checks, which is more than any other form of payment?1 In fact, the average U.S. consumer writes over five checks per month for retail payments, and 22 percent of total U.S. non-cash payments were made by check in 2010.2

However, checks often shift risk and hassle onto merchants who have to transport them to the bank, deal with bounced checks and worry about fraud.

Luckily, new advances in check acceptance technology make it safer and easier than ever before to include checks as a customer payment choice. These technologies provide merchants with more secure and convenient options when deciding whether and how to accept checks.

More from ASBDC HERE.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Small Business Quarterly Bulletin, First Quarter 2013

The Small Business Quarterly Bulletin, First Quarter 2013 shows small businesses across America trending up, along with the economy as a whole.

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

“Hang Out” with SBA and Industry Experts During National Small Business Week

Google+ Hangouts will feature daily tips for small business owners from major tech leaders and social media companies

WASHINGTON – As part of National Small Business Week, June 17-21, the U.S. Small Business Administration will host a series of Google+ Hangouts featuring an exciting lineup of social media companies, mentorship organizations and distinguished experts.
All Google+ Hangouts will start at 4 p.m. EDT and can be watched live at:
www.sba.gov/smallbusinessweek
www.youtube.com/sba
http://plus.google.com/+sbagov

Small business owners can tweet questions for the panelists using the hashtag #SBW2013. No prior registration is required to watch.

Topics and panelists include:

Monday, June 17: Getting Started with Social Media – 4 p.m. EDT
Panelists from Twitter, Google, Constant Contact, and W20 Group will hang out.
Bill Murphy Jr., author and columnist for Inc.com will moderate.

Tuesday, June 18: Managing Your Business’s Online Reputation – 4 p.m. EDT
Panelists from Yelp, LinkedIn, OpenSky, Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., Google and Manta will hang out. Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media will moderate.

Wednesday, June 19: How a Mentor Can Help Your Business – 4 p.m. EDT
Panelists from the SBA’s Office of Entrepreneurial Development, Small Business Development Centers, and Women’s Business Centers will hang out. Fran Tarkenton, NFL legend and entrepreneur will moderate.

Thursday, June 20: How to Get a Business Loan – 4 p.m. EDT
Panelists from Wells Fargo, SCORE, SBA’s Office of Capital Access, and SBA loan recipient Ninkasi Brewing Company will hang out. Calvin Goings, SBA’s Region 10 Administrator, will moderate.

Note to media: If you would like to stream these hangouts or any other live National Small Business Week events, please contact Stephen Morris, stephen.morris@sba.gov.
---
Every year since 1963, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight through National Small Business Week the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. This year’s events will be held June 17-21, in Seattle, Dallas, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. offering tips, tools and trainings for small businesses to start, succeed and grow. In addition to in-person events, small business owners can participate in online-only panel discussions on hot topics like social media and business financing starting daily at 4pm ET. All events, in-person and online, will be streamed live on www.sba.gov/smallbusinessweek. Also visit this site for a full schedule of events and additional information. The event hashtag is #SBW2013.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Importance of Pay Fairness

Perceived pay fairness for employees is just as important as the reality of it. Employees need to feel that the hard work they put into their job matches what they get back from it—and pay is an important part of this evaluation. The importance of pay fairness to employees is obvious in its relationship to employee engagement, turnover intentions, work stress, psychological and physical health, and life satisfaction. But fair pay isn’t just important to employees—it’s also in your company’s best interest.

Go HERE to download your complimentary WorkTrends Report, “Perception is Reality: The Importance of Pay Fairness to Employees and Organizations.
***
To that end:
New York Sushi Restaurant Eliminates Tipping Because It Pays Waiters A Salary With Benefits:

Most restaurants use tips as an excuse to pay their servers less, even though surveys find employers often duck the federal requirement that only allows them to pay below minimum wage if tips make up the difference. As a result, servers’ poverty rate is nearly triple that of the entire workforce. They are also almost twice as likely to rely on food stamps than the general population.

And their ranks are swelling; the restaurant and service industries enjoy much stronger job growth than other sectors. Most of those jobs are low-wage, low-benefit, and part-time. Fast food workers are striking all over the country over unlivable wages and casual exploitation.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List® Will Headline in DC During National Small Business Week

WASHINGTON – National Small Business Week 2013 will feature business industry leader Angie Hicks, the founder of Angie’s List®, who will take part in an arm chair forum with U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen Mills. This year’s National Small Business Week events will be June 17-21, and will take place across the country featuring events designed to help small businesses start, grow and succeed.

Online registration for National Small Business Week opens today to take part in all the essential forums discussing the small business landscape, business coaching services, matchmaking events as well as networking opportunities and award ceremonies.

Interested small business owners, business groups, and other aspiring entrepreneurs can now register for National Small Business Week online at www.sba.gov/smallbusinessweek. Small businesses that attend will interact with small business experts, federal government officials, representatives from national businesses and local elected leaders.

The locations and dates for National Small Business Week are:
• Seattle – June 17
• Dallas – June 18
• St. Louis – June 19
• Pittsburgh – June 20
• Washington, D.C. – June 20 - 21

The week’s events culminate in Washington where the 2013 National Small Business Person of the Year will be announced. Candidates from all 50 states and territories will be competing for the award. The public can register for each day’s events before 12:00 p.m. EDT Wednesday, June 12.
In addition to the in-person events, National Small Business Week will also feature daily online forums that will focus on subjects such as Social Media 101 and Access to Capital. All events will be live-streamed on SBA’s website.


Friday, June 07, 2013

How to stop the mediocrity pandemic in business

From CBS News MoneyWatch:

There is a proven way to stop the mediocrity pandemic: Perform a quick diagnosis of the biggest problem in the company. If the problem is systems, tightening up is the right thing to do.

But if the problem is something else -- strategy, what the company offers to its customers or culture, "the way people talk about themselves, their work and each other" -- then tightening up creates an organizational death spiral.

Tightening up is to companies what antibiotics are to a human body. Given the right diagnosis, antibiotics can save a life. Given to a person who has a different problem, they can make a person sicker and vulnerable to superbugs that science can't stop.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Research on State Regulatory Flexibility Acts

The purpose of the research study on states’ regulatory flexibility activity was to evaluate to what extent states went to mitigate the impact of state regulations on small businesses. The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) at the federal level requires agencies to minimize the impact of their regulations on small entities without compromising their regulatory objectives. States versions of the RFA, the research indicates, are/have been following different paths to the requirements and are having mixed results.

Get the full report or summary.
Should you need further information, please feel free to contact Radwan Saade at (202) 205-6533 or advocacy@sba.gov.


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Eric Corey of EMC Fintech, NYS SBDC Growth Company of the Year



The client had extensive experience in the specialty tool and die industry, producing roll dies for radiator and automotive cooling components. After working for over a month without pay, the client was displaced when his former company became insolvent. Given his design and sales background he wanted to pursue this niche manufacturing market.

The client needed help determining the feasibility of the proposed project and finding financing. Client was additionally challenged by a credit rating that had been impaired while working without pay – because he and remaining colleagues eventually left, they were initially denied unemployment benefits which further exacerbated the client’s personal credit issues.

SBDC assisted client with a feasibility analysis, credit repair, and the development of a business plan. Many financing options were explored due to credit issues. The SBDC facilitated the client’s application process to local public loan funds. Other assistance included job costing systems design, local compliance issues, and employer responsibilities.

Client successfully acquired local public loans (Chautauqua County IDA and STEDO) which combined with private investment (Mitsubishi Financing), trade credit, and equity for a total project of just under $600K. Nine jobs have been created at EMC Fintech.

Update regarding business expansion. Sales are now at 2.5 million, up from $250K year business was launched (2-12 FTEs). Sales to Valeo Mexico were significant in 2012, almost 1 million (40%). May have more machines for them this year. Also exporting to Canada and Europe. Renovations are underway - roof is done. They hope to do lighting, airlines, and electrical work soon.



Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Product Innovations by Young and Small Firms

http://www.sba.gov/advocacy/7540/621871

This study investigates whether the age of a business is linked to innovation and productivity, specifically whether young firms have an edge on older firms. Previous research on innovation has shown that small businesses are more efficient at innovation than large businesses.

Background/History

Innovative productivity is closely related to the life cycles of firms: the flow from exuberant startup to mature firm. Large and older firms are expected to have an innovative advantage because of their resources (large labs, equipment, financing, experience, etc.); small and younger firms have a different kind of innovative advantage in the ease with which they may engage in unrestrained brainstorming (with no cost justification needed).

Monday, June 03, 2013

Matt Baglia of Slick Text, NYS SBDC Technology Innovator of the Year



The idea for Slick Text was born in 2012 when founder Matt Baglia worked for a company that was considering adding text messaging to its marketing mix. After reviewing several providers Matt recognized some common flaws among all of them. Each platform was fairly difficult to understand and use. None of them placed emphasis on educating their customers on how to be successful with their product, and all lacked personal customer service. Matt and his partner Ryan Kinal realized that if they could create a service without those flaws, there would be an excellent opportunity for a piece of the industry’s pie.

“When Slick Text first launched, the platform had very few features. It was intended to be a minimum viable product so we could get it in front of customers and start covering our costs. Even though it was relatively basic, we stuck tight to the core ideology of simplicity and it really resonated with the early adopters,” commented Matt Baglia. “Over the past year, new customers have continued to come aboard and ask for new features and functionality. We’ve been able to manage those requests in a timely manner and develop new features that everyone finds valuable. We test, measure, learn and refine on a daily basis in efforts to maintain the best text marketing platform in the industry.”

From a technical side, both Ryan and Matt have a background in website programming, design and development. Their skills and knowledge in the marketplace allowed them to start developing the service, and then countless hours both of them poured into the website got it up and running.
“From the business side, we found the guidance from the Small Business Development Center at JCC as an amazing shoulder to lean on with all of our business related questions and needs. With so much on each of our shoulders, we really had no interest in the business side of things in the beginning. Irene Dobies was there to set us straight and keep us from making mistakes in the beginning that may have cost us the company” added Matt.

Matt further describes the obstacles he faced, “Our biggest obstacle so far has been marketing ourselves. You may have an awesome product but if no one that cares can see it, it’s really not worth much. In the beginning we had zero dollars for advertising so we literally had to go door to door to business all over the area explaining what we had and how it would benefit their business.”

A few months after the initial launch, an excellent salesperson was added. After a solid cash flow was secured, marketing funds were then applied to email, print, paid search engine ads and SEO. This is one of the biggest hurdles for businesses in any industry. How do you get in front of the right people, at the right time, in the right place with the right product? “It’s a much taller obstacle that you might expect”
There are currently 3 officers for Slick Innovations, LLC all sharing responsibilities to keep things running smoothly. There is a need for sales and customer support staff within the next year.

Every day the employees at SlickText build new relationships and learn about new issues that their technology can address. One of the most important projects is an API (application programming interface). This will allow the Slick Text platform to plug into third party systems giving organizations like doctor’s offices and other health care networks the ability to send tailored text message alerts and reminders to their patients.

Matt’s best advice for new entrepreneurs is, “Make sure that what you’re doing is something you’re truly passionate about. Then make sure it makes sense from a business perspective and pursue it relentlessly. You must be constantly hungry for more and be willing to do whatever it takes win.”

See for more information

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Patent Trends among Innovative Firms during 2007-2009 Recession

From the SBA Office of Advocacy:


According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the Great Recession commenced in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. This research examines whether observable differences in patent behavior between small and large firms occur during this 2007-2009 period.

According to NBER, recessions are typically indicated by a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.1 Research and development (R&D) plays an important role in economic productivity. The United States spends approximately 3 percent of its GDP on R&D, and labor productivity growth has been linked with high levels of R&D. Further, the United States accounts for more than 50 percent of the world’s patents.