Friday, January 31, 2014

Blog Series - Affordable Care Act

Well, the Affordable Care Act has now been up and running for the last month.  So what are the news sources saying?  What are the people saying?  What advice is out there?  Here are a few examples, once again, with a disclaimer that popular news stories are not always accurate and up-to-date, and should always be taken with a grain of salt.

In Obamacare, Go For Bronze Health Plans -- Buying Platinum Is Often A Waste Of Money
Obamacare and your financial future
Dear Young People: Please Sign Up for Health Insurance
Obamacare: Uninsured Americans still staying away so far

Obamacare deadbeats: Some don't pay up

Obamacare open enrollment: Here's everything you need to know

Obamacare 2.0: More regulation

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Any business can benefit from a trip to the SBDC!

Khalid Abouelhouda said he knew little about running a business before opening Pita Kebob, a Mediterranean restaurant and catering company, almost a year ago...

“Initially I didn’t know where to turn,” he said. But then the Ruskin resident discovered the Small Business Development Center at Hillsborough County, which operates out of rented space in the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce. “They helped me from day one,” Abouelhouda continued. “And they’ve been with me all the way.”

That’s exactly what the SBDC is for, said Lynn Schultz, onsite business consultant and special projects coordinator for South Shore. “He walked into the office one day, and then based on our consultation, feedback and six months of workshops he attended, successfully started his business.”

“I benefited from every single one of them,” Abouelhouda said of the workshops. “They were all free, even the consultation.”

The SBDC provides free, confidential advice to entreprenuers who want to start or expand a small, minority, woman-owned or home-based business in the county. It provides a convenient, one-stop location for folks to obtain support, information and training for their new or existing businesses by offering workshops, business counseling, concept assessment and other resources – at no charge.

Its staff also makes “house” calls.

From the Tampa Tribune. (But true of the SBDCs in New York State and throughout the country!)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Business Owner Seeks an Alternative to Seven-Day Workweeks

FATHER AND SON PIZZERIA is a 900-square-foot, eight-table restaurant in Guttenberg, N.J., across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Opened in 1971, it was bought in 2007 by Carlos Vega, now 45, from its aging founder. Mr. Vega soon doubled sales by expanding the menu, improving service and selling the restaurant’s “gravy,” or red sauce, over the counter in 12-ounce Mason jars.

THE CHALLENGE Mr. Vega left a corporate job producing print publications for the financial industry to take over the pizzeria. He felt constrained by his business’s size and location: a small restaurant without a parking lot on the six-block main street of a blue-collar town. Even with his improvements, the business was bringing in only about $10,000 a week. It was profitable, but only because he was working long hours, typically seven days a week, to hold down labor costs. Mr. Vega knew he couldn’t continue like this.

More from the New York Times.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SBA Amends SBIR, STTR Program Policy Directives

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has amended its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program Policy Directives in response to public comments and input from all parties involved in the program. These amendments - - published on January 8, 2014 in the Federal Register - - can be found and reviewed HERE for SBIR, and HERE for STTR.

The SBIR Program Policy Directive makes several key changes to the SBIR Program relating to eligibility, the SBIR award process, SBIR Program administration, and fraud, waste and abuse. The changes to the STTR Program Policy Directive have been made to maintain concordance with the SBIR program. SBA also made several minor clarifying changes to ensure that the participants in both programs clearly understand certain program requirements.

On December 31, 2011, the President signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. That Act contained the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011, which amended the Small Business Act and made several amendments to the SBIR and STTR programs and required SBA to issue amendments to the Policy Directives and publish the amendment in the Federal Register. SBA did so on August 6, 2012.

SBA sought public comments on the final Directives, and stated that it may amend the Directives in response to these comments at a later time. This resulted in the January 2014 changes.
For more information about SBIR and STTR, please visit www.sbir.gov.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Facebook Revamps Ads to Compete With Google

Last June, Facebook released a tracking pixel, a snippet of code that allows advertisers to track customers who come to their websites from Facebook ads. For Amy Norman, co-chief executive officer of Little Passports, the pixel was a game-changer.

Ms. Norman, whose San Francisco company sends children a monthly package to introduce them to geography and history, began testing ads on Facebook to see which ones brought in more customers. In June, Little Passports spent about $30,000 on Facebook ads and the company’s revenue for the month was about $130,000. By the end of the year, the company’s monthly advertising spending on Facebook had grown to as much as $150,000 and its revenue for December was $700,000.

Ms. Norman acknowledged that $150,000 was a huge amount of money to spend on advertising in a month for a company with annual revenue of just under $2 million, but she said “we also tripled our customer base in six months.”

More from the New York Times.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Blog Series - Not-for-Profits - Grants

A very, very, very common question here at the SBDC is "Where do I find grants?".  Unfortunately, this is not the right question to ask first.  The first question should be "Do I qualify for grants?".

Who may qualify for grants:
  • Non-Profits
  • Special Populations (i.e. minorities and veterans)
  • Community and Municipality specific
  • Businesses related to children
  • Agriculture
  • Research
So now you've determined if you possibly qualify for a grant.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Yelp And SBA Team Up On Online Reviews Initiative

Yelp and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) have teamed up to launch the Success With Online Reviews initiative, which kicked off ... at the New York Stock Exchange.

“Sharing what you dig and what you don’t is nothing new, but today this consumer word-of-mouth happens at lightning speed online, in the form of reviews,” says Darnell Holloway, Yelp’s Senior Manager of Local Business Outreach. “What’s more is that in a recent national survey, 85% of consumers said that they read online reviews about local businesses. ”

That would be the Local Consumer Review Survey 2013 from BrightLocal.

More from WebProNews.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Career Mentoring Youth with Disabilities as a Business Strategy

US Business Leadership Network companies recognize that the “gold standard” of disability-inclusive hiring starts with building the talent pipeline through effective partnerships. While internships have long been recognized as an essential strategy in this regard, since Disability Mentoring Day was launched as a White House Initiative back in 1999, mentoring youth with disabilities has also gained prominence. Today, Disability Mentoring Day is hosted annually by the American Association of People with Disabilities and celebrated on the third Wednesday of each October.

During the 2011 USBLN Annual Conference, the discussion topic for the Industry Sectors Roundtable was, “How does your company develop the current and future applicant pipeline including young adults with disabilities?” Participating Fortune 1000 companies shared that their DMD involvement resulted in the recognition that mentoring youth with disabilities is a business strategy to increase sourcing of qualified future job candidates with disabilities. In fact, several companies reported leveraging their Employee Resource Groups and partnering with local high schools and colleges to include youth with disabilities in long-term mentoring opportunities. Some also expressed an interest in a more structured mentoring program.

More from Disability.gov.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Do You Have to Pay Employees for Snow Days?

You still need to hand over a paycheck for a snow day in most cases, according to the Labor Department. -


A "snowmageddon" such as the storm experienced by much of the United States this week isn't just a logistical nightmare for those trying to travel – it can create conflicts between workers and managers at small businesses.

The most-common question: Do you have to pay employees for snow days? (And the inevitable follow-up question: How much will they hate you if you don't?)

Here's what the U.S. Department of Labor wrote about snow days in a pair of opinion letters. (Opinion letters aren't the same as law, but courts tend to defer to them and they're a useful guide to how the DOL would rule, according to Business Management Daily.)

103 Creative Business Blog Post Idea Starters

Ideas for blog posts are endless, but sometimes it helps to have a little spark to get your ideas flowing.

In this post you’ll find 103 “sparks” for you along with 50 more places to look for inspiration.

These ideas range from serious to silly and you’ll find some are a better fit than others for your style of blog and your goals.

But before you choose any of these ideas, stop to answer these two questions:

1. How can I make this post valuable for my readers?

2. Will this post create value for me?

More from Michelle Shaeffer.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Major retail breaches highlight point-of-sale security weaknesses

After two major retailers, Target Corp. and Neiman Marcus, revealed that massive data breaches had compromised tens of millions of customers' data records, everyone from consumers to politicians has asked how such spectacular security blunders could occur. But if experts' anecdotes and insights on the numerous weaknesses in retail point-of-sale (POS) systems are any indication, it may be surprising major breaches don't happen more often.
...
And more retail breaches are likely to be revealed soon. A recent Reuters report indicated that other retailers also suffered data breaches during the holiday season. Undisclosed sources told the news agency that "at least three other well-known U.S. retailers" were breached, and the attack techniques utilized were similar to those in the Target breach.

Why are attackers currently having so much success penetrating retail environments? While some may look to cast blame on weak legacy point-of-sale security, others say retailers' security woes extend far deeper into their payment-processing infrastructures.


Read how to shore up security, even in mom-and-pop stores, from Tech Target.

Friday, January 17, 2014

One in Seven Business Owners Are Minorities

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

The composition of U.S. business owners shifted slightly between 2007 and 2012. During this five-year period, the share of minority and Hispanic business owners had a moderate increase. These changes largely reflect the growth of Hispanics and minorities in the overall U.S. population and workforce. Meanwhile, women’s business ownership rates were stable.

Read Advocacy’s Issue Brief #2: Demographic Characteristics of Business Owners.

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, January 16, 2014

2014: The Year Social HR Matters

In 2013, organizations finally began in earnest to integrate social technologies into recruitment, development and engagement practices. In 2014, this social integration will become the status quo.


The digital immigrants have now caught up to the digital natives – we are now all digital citizens. The fastest growing demographic on Google+ is 45-54 and on Twitter it is 55-64!

And it’s a good thing that baby boomers and other older generations have embraced these tools, because using social media inside companies will be increasingly important in 2014 and beyond.



More from FORBES.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What To Do If You Overpromised During The Sales Process?

“What if you realize that you have indeed overpromised on what you can deliver?”

The best advice when something goes wrong is to communicate early and honestly with your client. When you make a mistake, take ownership and communicate honestly. In fact, if handled properly, you might end up in a better place than you imagined.

Here are common scenarios where you may need to recover after overpromising to a client. The most important thing to remember is that the sooner you can reset expectations, the better.

More from Grow My Revenue

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Small Businesses Need To Be Aware Of Cyber Criminals

The risk for cyber espionage continues to evolve as perpetrators are targeting small businesses at an alarming rate. Symantec, a bellwether in the web-security space, recently announced that attacks surged almost three-fold for small businesses or those with less than 250 employees. Small businesses now account for more than 31% of all web attacks or greater than 300 million incidents annually. Given this backdrop, should your business consider investing in greater security measures and cyber liability insurance?

Why are small businesses being targeted?

Attackers are recognizing now that it’s more effective to go after the weakest link than to focus on the largest companies in the world. If they can attack a million different websites with ease versus one large website, it’s more strategic for them to go after the small players. The data that these cyber criminals are targeting include bank account information, customer data and intellectual property.

More from America's SBDCs.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Small Business Advocate – December 2013/January 2014

The December-January issue of The Small Business Advocate newsletter features new research from Advocacy, the chief counsel’s review of 2013 highlights, and the chief economist’s perspective on the important policy choices of 2014. The issue also includes reports on regulatory activities in several areas that affect small business: crowdfunding, cybersecurity, reverse auctions, and critical habitat designations.

In This Issue (PDF)

The Year of Innovation: The Ride to Entrepreneurial Advancement

Factors Leading to Firms’ Hiring Their First Employee
Positive Small Business Indicators in 2013 and the Challenge Ahead

New York City Roundtable on Crowdfunding

Comments Filed on Fish and Wildlife Service Proposals
Congressional Testimony on GSA’s Reverse Auctions
Advocacy Comments on NIST’s Preliminary Cybersecurity Infrastructure

Friday, January 10, 2014

Blog Series - Business Valuation

Whether selling or purchasing a small business, determining the value of the business is essential. There are multiple different methods for valuing a business.  Below is a description of some of the most common methods of valuing/pricing a business. Descriptions have been provided by American Business Masters & Investments, Inc.

(1) Rules Of Thumb

Rules Of Thumb (ROT) can be useful tools for appraising small and medium size businesses. But, there is no one, universally acceptable, “Rules Of Thumb” method. All of them are only rough descriptions of reality. They are all gross simplifications, and can be as inappropriate as they are appropriate. Some are based primarily on “comps” (comparables with the sale of similar types of businesses), some are based on standard accounting approaches, some are based on the experience of the compiler/publisher of the ROT, and can be in conflict with ROT’s available, on the same business, from a different compiler/publisher. So, Rules Of Thumb can be a useful guide, but, should not be considered “the only answer” if you wish to have an objective opinion of value/price of a business.

(2) Book Method

The Book Method is based on an adjustment of the book value, to reflect the current market price of the assets. Under accounting principles, using the Book Method, the assets acquired are valued at current “fair market value”.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The 10 Best Interview Questions That Find Great Talent

Throw those standard interview questions out the window. Use these questions to find the best employees for your business.

While folks seeking employment may spend hours prepping for their interviews, the failure to adequately prepare typically comes on the end of the person asking the questions. The people you hire can be your greatest strength or your biggest liability, and we owe it to ourselves and our businesses to take the time to find the most talented employees who are also a good fit for our business model.
Prospective employees prepare canned responses to the questions they think you’ll ask. Their goal is to make themselves look good—to amplify their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Your goal should be to set up a discussion that reveals patterns in their behavior and predicts how they’ll fare in your company. Past behavior predicts future behavior, so make it your goal to collect some honest, thoughtful responses that will give you a better idea of how each candidate will actually perform. What are the key questions you should ask?


The questions from OPEN Forum from American Express.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Blog Series - DISASTER PREPAREDNESS & RECOVERY

 Don’t lose your business to a power outage, hacker disruption, fire, flood, earthquake or other disaster.

 A 2012 survey by Alibaba polled small-business owners to gauge how prepared they were to run their business if a natural disaster struck. The findings were alarming: 74% of American small businesses do not have a disaster preparedness plan; 84% of them are without natural disaster insurance.

Preparation, an Active emergency and later, Recovery. Sadly for many businesses, Preparation is the missing component that could have lead to a successful navigation of an active emergency and a graceful navigation of Recovery. More than half of all businesses affected by a disaster level event will not reopen their doors.  In this series we will dive into the three pillars and offer you guidance and routes of assistance to help you plan, prepare and act when the time comes for you to shepherd your business and your employees through an unforeseen (but not an un-planned for disaster)

There are immediate and cost effective ways to mitigate business interruptions whether they come from natural or man made disasters and the power outages, communications failures,and loss of productivity that follow.  Below you will find a brief, bulleted, suggestions list that we will explore more fully as this series progresses. 

I encourage you to share your thoughts, concerns and experiences with each other in the comments section. The wisdom gained by professionals in recent years, in reaction to myriad catastrophes,  has lead to an exponential sharing of knowledge. You may have derived the solution to a scenario through your hard won experience. Please share it.


New York State License Center

When trying to get to the NYS Online Permit Assistance and Licensing site is "temporarily unavailable."

The message reads:

For information regarding the status of your OPAL ID, please contact the OPAL Help Line at (518) 474-8275 during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday, except State observed holidays.

For information about starting or expanding your business, please visit the New York State License Center. [This page, which I was not familiar with previously, seems to have most OPAL stuff.] Under the heading, “Other NYS License Center Services”, click on the second bulleted hyperlink, “Find out what permits or licenses your business needs” to access the Business Wizard Home page.

To apply online for a Certificate of Authority to Collect Sales Tax or Certificate of Registration to Sell Cigarettes and Tobacco Products, please visit the New York State License Center at https://aca.licensecenter.ny.gov/ACA/Default.aspx and click on the “Login to get started” link.

For filing a Certificate of Incorporation or Articles of Organization, please visit the NYS Department of State’s Online Filing System at http://www.dos.ny.gov/corps/online_filing.html.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Should malls close during snowstorms?

Crossgates Mall is taking some heat for keeping stores open during last week's snowstorm.

Retail employee Alli Dillenbeck's open letter to the mall on the subject was passed from her blog, http://allidillenbeck.blogspot.com, to Facebook and Twitter users. Commenters on the mall's Facebook page joined the chorus calling for the mall to let stores close and workers go home during such storms.

After recounting how she struggled to get to the mall Thursday in the storm, Dillenbeck notes that she called the management office only to be told all those responsible for deciding whether stores could close left at 5 p.m.

"Obviously, you care exponentially more about money than the people that work there," Dillenbeck wrote on her blog.
...
"I have like 13,000 views on my post," she said. "I was shocked. It went up from 5,000 the day I posted it."


Read more from the Albany Times Union.

What is YOUR business's policy in case of inclement weather?

Monday, January 06, 2014

Older workers less likely to have severe work injuries, but they miss more work days to recover

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work to recuperate was 112 cases per 10,000 full-time workers in 2012, down from 117 cases in 2011. The median days away from work—a key measure of severity of injuries and illnesses—was 9 days in 2012. Workers age 65 and older had the lowest incidence rate in 2012 at 89 cases per 10,000 full-time workers, but they required the longest time away from work to recover, a median of 14 days.

Friday, January 03, 2014

NEW NYS CONTRACT REPORTER WEBSITE LAUNCH – January 6th, 2014

The new NYS Contract Reporter will launch the morning of January 6th. The current site will go down at 2 pm on Friday January 3rd, with the new site going live on Monday January 6th. Your current account will NOT be transferred to the new site. When you visit the new site you will be prompted to create an account and will have the opportunity to register your business in the new Business Registry.

If you created an account on the new site during the pre-registration period, you will receive an eAlert bid notification from the new system and you will be able to log onto the new site to view all open solicitations. The new NYS Contract Reporter is well designed and offers new features, functionalities and resources to help you find opportunities in state contracting. New tutorials will help you learn how the site functions.

Please note that after launch on January 6th the NYS Contract Reporter’s new domain is: www .nyscr.ny.gov and eAlert messages will come from nyscr_noreply@nyscr.ny.gov . If you go to the old web address, you will be transferred to the new site. If you have any problems accessing the site, please review the technical guidelines at the following link: http://esd.ny.gov/nyscr/faq/PUBLIC-USER-TECHNICAL-FAQ.pdf.

If you have problems with the new site, don’t hesitate to contact the NYSCR through the “contact” link on the site. Please give specific details if you need to contact them.

Blog Series - Affordable Care Act

There are many key dates to watch for in the Affordable Care Act rollout. To start, here is what happened on January 1st.

-Coverage begins. Many low-income Americans who didn't qualify for Medicaid in the past can use it now. People who signed up for private insurance in a state or federal marketplace by Dec. 24 (or later in some states) and have paid their first premium are now covered, too.

-Coverage begins for workers at companies that have signed up for new small business plans through the marketplaces, also called health care exchanges.

-Coverage lapses for people whose existing plans were canceled, if they haven't signed up for a replacement or received an extension. At least 4.7 million people got cancellation notices, despite Obama's promise that Americans with insurance they like could keep their old plans. Obama recently gave insurance companies the option of extending old plans for existing customers for a year, but only where state insurance commissioners give their OK.

-The clock starts on the "individual mandate." Nearly all U.S. citizens and legal residents are required to have "minimum essential coverage" for most of 2014, or pay a penalty. Most people already are insured through their jobs, Medicare, Medicaid, or military coverage and so don't need to do anything.

-Insurance companies are no longer allowed to turn away people in poor health or kick customers out of plans when they get sick.

-Women and people with pre-existing conditions pay the same rates as healthy men in the new plans. The law also limits how much more insurers can charge older people.

-New insurance plans can't put an annual dollar limit on care, or require individuals to pay more than $6,350 in out-of-pocket costs per year.

To read more about key dates, click here.


Thursday, January 02, 2014

The Best Data Visualizations of 2013

Gizmodo, the design and technology blog for Gawker Media, presents a rundown of the best infographics and data visualizations of 2013. Not all are based primarily on public data, but showcase the strengths of the medium just the same. Want more? Check out Cool Hunting’s Information is Beautiful Award Winners for 2013.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Employment Projections: 2012 - 2022

Occupations and industries related to healthcare are projected to add the most new jobs between 2012 and 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Total employment is projected to increase 10.8 percent, or 15.6 million, during the decade.

In addition to projecting employment for each detailed occupation, BLS depicts the education, related work experience, and on-the-job training typically needed for occupations. Occupations that typically require postsecondary education for entry are expected, on average, to grow faster than occupations that require a high school diploma or less.

This news release [PDF] focuses on several areas of projections data: labor force and the aggregate economy, industry employment, occupation employment, education and training, and replacement needs.