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.