Friday, July 21, 2017

The cost of care: new insights into healthcare spending growth

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is celebrating the first anniversary of experimental disease-based price indexes, which adjust expenditures on diseases for inflation. Statistical agencies have long collected price information on medical procedures, drugs, equipment, and services, but the cost of treating a patient is typically some combination of these goods and services. Many users of the Federal Statistical System have asked that medical care spending be reported on a disease basis.1 Creating price indexes on a disease basis helps provide a greater understanding of the cost of care for a given condition...

Why report prices on a disease basis?

Although health care statistics that are generated on a goods and services basis (i.e., hospitals and doctor visits) are important, we can learn more information if we add statistics on a disease basis. To get the fullest understanding of our healthcare economy, we need both sets of indexes. Users need the additional information to understand how much Americans are getting for each healthcare dollar that we spend.

People use medical goods and services to heal from diseases and to avoid getting them in the first place. When medical spending price indexes are broken out by disease, we can tell how much spending is growing for each disease, how much of the medical spending growth for each disease comes from price growth (inflation), and how much comes from increased medical output. Further, we can break down medical output growth to tell how much of this growth comes from greater prevalence for that disease and how much comes from greater output per patient treated.

Because healthcare accounts for 17.8 percent of the economy in 2015, it is important to be well-informed about this sector.3 Our medical goods and services PPI and CPI price indexes still serve a very important purpose in telling us how prices are increasing for each medical good and service. Our disease-based price indexes are constructed using the same prices for medical goods and services. When disease-based price indexes are growing at a slower pace than the medical goods and services prices, we learn that medical decision makers are using these medical goods and services more efficiently.

An additional advantage to reporting price indexes by disease is that we are able to account for the impact of substitution across medical goods and services in the treatment of diseases. Over the past four decades, medical technology has changed, and along with those changes came a shift from inpatient hospitals to outpatient facilities. For example, in the 1970s, most cataract and hernia surgeries were done in an inpatient hospital; today, these surgeries are done in an outpatient facility. In addition, more surgical procedures, such as biopsies, are done in a simple office visit rather than at an outpatient center. And treatment by physicians and hospitals has been substituted by the use of pharmaceuticals for many diseases. For example, when treating depression today, there is less reliance on therapy visits and more on antidepressants than there was 30 years ago. Similarly, new pharmaceuticals on the market for the treatment of Hepatitis C and cancer have greatly reduced the need for inpatient hospital treatment of this disease. All these substitutions generate savings. Disease-based price indexes account for these cross-industry or cross-product substitutions, whereas the traditional goods and services indexes do not.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Best Way to Handle Customer Complaints

From Bplans:

If you’re thinking about starting up a small business or you’ve just recently launched, fantastic customer service is undoubtedly on your radar.

You want your customers to come away from an experience with your company having seen you in the best possible light. In an optimal situation, the majority of them would not only become repeat customers but would also enthusiastically recommend your product or service to others.

This, however, is easier said than done. Handling customer complaints can be difficult, especially right when you start a new business. However hard it may be to take criticism, it’s extremely important to the growth of your small business. Even if a customer doesn’t necessarily give you easy-to-swallow feedback, learning to see past harsh words and hear valid complaints and suggestions for improvement is vital.

Don’t fret! Here’s what you need to know to handle customer complaints with ease.

Fear of failure is high on the list of reasons why people sometimes choose not to pursue great ideas. For some, criticism or complaints can be viewed as a failure—but they aren’t. They’re actually just the opposite; they are an opportunity to improve.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How to Write a Business Plan in Under an Hour

From Bplans:
Most people think that writing a business plan has to be hard. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be.

In fact, it’s possible to write your initial business plan in less than an hour. After all, you’re always thinking about your business and the strategies you’re going to use to grow, so getting those ideas down on paper shouldn’t be hard—it can even be an enjoyable experience.

A business plan no longer needs to be a long document that takes weeks to write and research. It’s not something that you print, bind professionally, and then stick on a shelf.

Instead, modern business planning is a simple process that helps you discover your ideal business strategy.

For modern business planning, I encourage you to embrace a concept called lean planning—it has all the benefits of traditional business planning without the pain and hassle of creating a long business plan document.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How to reinstate a corporation that has been dissolved

From the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance:


Corporations that have been delinquent in filing returns or paying taxes or fees for two consecutive years may be subject to sanctions imposed by the New York Secretary of State.

New York State corporations may be dissolved by proclamation.
Corporations that have been formed under the laws of another state or country (foreign corporations) may have their authority to do business in New York State annulled by proclamation.
A corporation may regain its ability to do business in New York State through the reinstatement process.

New York Tax Law sets the requirements for reinstatement of New York State corporations (section 203-a) and foreign corporations (section 203-b).
Once the corporation is reinstated, it re-acquires the same powers, rights, and obligations it had before it was dissolved by proclamation or had its authority to do business annulled.

Procedure for Reinstatement

To start the reinstatement process, call the Tax Department's Corporate Dissolution Unit, currently 518-485-2639, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, closed on legal holidays.
Check to see if the corporation has filed all returns and paid all applicable taxes and fees.

File any outstanding returns and include payment for any taxes due, whether current or delinquent.
Be sure to calculate and pay any applicable penalty or interest.
Mail your returns and payments to the appropriate address (see the list below).
Be sure to write a separate check for each return.
Once the corporation is up to date with its returns and payments, we'll send you a written consent.

File with the Department of State
Once you have obtained our consent to reinstatement, file all of the following with the New York Department of State:
- the written consent along with the Certificate of Payment of Taxes that you received from the Tax Department, and
- the filing fee, by check or money order payable in U.S. funds to the New York Department of State. In most instances, the filing fee is $55. To calculate your filing fee, go to the Department of State's website.

Name change
Be sure to check with the Department of State to see if the original name of your corporation is still available. You can do this online or by calling General Information, Corporations.
If you changed the name of your corporation, you must also file a Certificate of Amendment with the Department of State.

Wait for the Department of State to process your paperwork. (The Department of State will contact you when they have completed the process.)

Mailing addresses

When filing a return or making a payment, be sure to use the correct address (See Publication 55, Designated Private Delivery Services, if not using U.S. Mail):

Form CT-3, CT-3-A, CT-3-M, CT-4
PO BOX 15181
ALBANY NY 12212-5181

Form CT-3-S
PO BOX 15182
ALBANY NY 12212-5182

Assessment payments
PO BOX 4127
BINGHAMTON NY 13902-4127

Monday, July 17, 2017

Data For Your Business: new Census Business Builder

The Census Business Builder (CBB) is a suite of services that provide selected demographic and economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau tailored to specific types of users in a simple to access and use format.

The Census Bureau is pleased to announce that the new edition of Census Business Builder is now live!

This new edition of Census Business Builder allows you to:

Add a Reference Layer from a Gallery or from your own ShapeFile or Map Service
Upload your own data via Excel
Access Agricultural data from the USDA
Access International Trade data from the Census Bureau
Use the new Census Business Builder to get the data you need to start or grow your business.

Check out the new features!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Phony OSHA Scam Banned from Conning Small Businesses

Government Imposter Used Threats to Sell Regulatory Posters

An operation that allegedly conned small businesses into paying for government-required regulatory posters will be banned from selling such materials, which government agencies provide for free.

The settlement resolves FTC charges brought in 2016, that the defendants pretended to be a federal agency and threatened to shut down or fine newly-opened businesses unless they bought occupational safety and other government-required posters for their premises. The court halted the operation pending litigation.

In addition to the ban on selling such posters, the order prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting that they are affiliated with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or any other agency, that consumers are required by law to buy goods or services, and any material facts about any good or service.

The order imposes a judgment of more than $3.8 million, which will be partially suspended upon the surrender of the defendants’ assets. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

The defendants are Sean K. Juhl; D&S Marketing Solutions LLC, also doing business as US Corporate Compliance Office, Office of Compliance and Safety Standards, and Occupational Safety and Compliance Administration; and Grand Marketing Solutions LLC, also d/b/a Employer Compliance and Safety Standards and Occupational Safety and Compliance Administration.

The FTC thanks the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Better Business Bureau of West Florida, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for their assistance in this case.

The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated order was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, entered the order on July 10, 2017.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Number of Minority-Owned Employer Firms Increased in 2015

From the United States Census Bureau
Minority-owned employer firms in the United States increased by approximately 4.9 percent in 2015 to 996,248 from 949,318 in 2014, according to findings from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs.
Payroll and employment for minority-owned employer firms in the nation also increased from 2014 to 2015 by approximately 7.0 percent ($237.5 billion to $254.0 billion) and 6.2 percent (7.6 million to 8.0 million people employed), respectively. Receipts for minority-owned firms in 2015 were estimated at $1,168.5 billion — not statistically different from the 2014 total of $1,089.7 billion.
“California led all states in the number of minority-owned firms with approximately 228,148 (22.9 percent of the U.S. total of minority-owned firms) and the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA metropolitan area led the 50 most populous metropolitan statistical areas in the number of minority-owned firms (approximately 127,736 or 12.8 percent”), said Kimberly Moore, chief of the Economy-Wide Statistics Division.
More than one-quarter (14) of the 50 most populous metropolitan statistical areas had approximately 15,000 or more minority-owned employer businesses. About one-third of employer firms (34.6 percent) in the accommodation and food services sector were minority-owned.
The Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs provides a timely, demographic portrait of the nation’s employer businesses by gender, ethnicity, race and veteran status. The survey represents a public-private partnership between the Census Bureau, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Minority Business Development Agency.
Tables released today provide estimates on the number of firms, receipts, payroll and employment for the nation, states and the District of Columbia, and the 50 most populous metropolitan statistical areas. Firm size data are available by sales (e.g., the number of firms with sales/receipts of $1.0 million or more) and employment (e.g., the number of firms with 500 employees or more).
Ownership of firms by women increased by 3.0 percent from 2014 (to approximately 1.1 million in 2015). Payroll for women-owned firms also increased from $277.9 billion in 2014 to $293.1 billion in 2015 — a change of 5.5 percent. California led all states in the number of women-owned firms with approximately 140,817 (12.9 percent of all women-owned firms in the United States) and the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA metropolitan area led the 50 most populous metropolitan statistical areas in the number of women-owned firms (approximately 94,577, or 8.7 percent of all women-owned firms in the United States).
Additionally, about one-quarter (268,629, or 24.7 percent) of all women-owned employer firms were minority-owned. More than half (approximately 146,101 or 54.4 percent) of these minority women-owned firms were Asian-owned. Among all employer firms in the educational services, health care and social assistance, and other services sectors, women-owned firms represented a proportion of approximately 25.0 percent or more. Women-owned firms also accounted for receipts totaling $1,353.3 billion in 2015  not statistically different from the 2014 receipts ($1,321.2 billion) for women-owned firms.
Meanwhile, veteran-owned employer firms decreased by 1.7 percent in 2015 (398,453) down from 405,235 in 2014. The New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA metropolitan area led the 50 most populous metropolitan statistical areas in the number of veteran-owned firms (approximately 20,199 or 5.1 percent of all veteran-owned firms in the United States) — not statistically different than 2014.
Other highlights include:
  • Hawaii and California led all states in the percentage of all employer businesses that were minority-owned, at 55.9 percent and 32.6 percent, respectively. The remaining states (or equivalents) in which approximately 20.0 percent or more of employer businesses were minority-owned were Texas (27.0 percent), the District of Columbia (26.3 percent), Florida (24.3 percent), New Mexico (23.4 percent), New Jersey (23.1 percent), Maryland (22.8 percent), New York (22.5 percent), Virginia (21.4 percent), Georgia (20.4 percent) and Nevada (18.7 percent).
  • Of the 996,248 minority-owned firms with paid employees, more than half (530,406, or 53.2 percent) were Asian-owned.
  • About 14.3 percent of black- or African-American-owned employer businesses had been in business for less than two years, compared with 8.9 percent of all employer firms.
  • The nation’s firms employed an estimated 118.4 million people and generated $33.6 trillion in receipts. Annual payroll totaled $5.9 trillion.
  • Among all employer firms, approximately 33.0 percent (1,824,735) were in business 16 or more years with approximately 8.9 percent (492,912) in business less than two years.
  • About 1.5 million employer firms, or 26.5 percent, had receipts of $1.0 million or more. In contrast, 98,484 or 1.8 percent, had receipts of less than $10,000.
  • Sectors with the highest number of employer firms were professional, scientific and technical services (787,376); construction (652,561); retail trade (649,870); and health care and social assistance (640,655).
  • Among all minority-owned employer firms, the accommodation and food services sector was the largest at 175,682 (17.6 percent) firms.
  • Most firms had fewer than 10 employees (4.3 million, or 78.2 percent).
Each year's release of the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs contain a module focusing on a different topic. This year’s survey highlights management practices. Respondents were asked a series of questions about worker types and types of tasks performed by each worker type included in the 2015 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs’ worksheet.  
Module data also provide estimates on the following tasks by type of worker:
  • Procurement, logistics, and distribution.
  • Operations.
  • Marketing, sales and customer accounts.
  • Customer and after sales service.
  • Product or service development.
  • Technology and process development.
  • General management and firm infrastructure.
  • Human resources management.
  • Strategic management.
The statistics released through the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs are not directly comparable to the Survey of Business Owners, which collects more detailed data on business characteristics and has significant differences in methodologies.
Note: Firms in this news release refer only to employer firms. The Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs does not distinguish between U.S. residents and nonresidents. Companies owned by other companies, foreign or domestic that have U.S. operations, are included in the category “Publicly held and other firms not classifiable by gender, ethnicity, race and veteran status.”
The Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs collected data from a sample of approximately 290,000 employer businesses that were in operation anytime during the survey year.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Got a Complaint About In-Store Shopping? Get in Line.

From eMarketing:

A new study adds another data point to the pile of evidence: The most frustrating thing about shopping in-store is waiting in line to check out.

But the study from Mood Media did underscore that there are still aspects of the in-store experience that shoppers value.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of US internet users surveyed said it was important to be able to touch and feel products—women (77%) even more so than men (67%).

Almost as many, 66%, said they liked the “instant gratification” of shopping, and 48% said they liked to be able to browse and discover items while shopping in a store.

A significant number of shoppers also said they liked to be able to speak to a shop assistant.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

America’s Voice on Small Business

From America's SBDC:

Small businesses are an integral aspect of not only the economy, but also communities and families across the country. They are the face of America because they represent the creativity, ingenuity, and hard work that fuels this country’s economy. It is critical that we understand the state of entrepreneurialism in America and develop strategies to support and promote the success of current and future generations of entrepreneurs — whatever their age.

This national study is an important step toward achieving this goal. It was designed to uncover research-based insights into the entrepreneurial mindset of Americans, and how to engage them by understanding their perceptions, motivations, and behaviors when it comes to small business.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The 10 Most (and Least) Socially Responsible US Companies

From MarketingProfs:

Consumers in the United States rate Wegmans, Publix, and as the most socially responsible companies, according to recent research from The Harris Poll.

The report was based on data from a survey of 23,000 consumers in the United States. Respondents were asked to rate the 100 most visible companies in the US on attributes such as supporting good causes, environmental responsibility, and community responsibility.

Consumers say the most important corporate social responsibility issues are employee treatment (39% cite it), ethics (38%), and respectful treatment of customers (35%).

Monsanto, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs rank as the least socially responsible companies.

Monday, July 10, 2017

What, You Don't Have a Capability Statement?

From SampleTemplates:

When a private company wants to partner with a potential stakeholder, clients or supplier for a particular project, the capability statement shows the private companies' achievements, competencies, and qualifications to be able to get the deal on a proposed project. The presenting tool must be simple and short which only highlights the companies’ competencies and outstanding performance to do business with them.

A Capability Statement should be very brief (only 1 or 2 pages), to the point and written specifically to the individual agency's needs. Ideally, it is a living document that changes depending on the targeted agency.
Why is this? Because savvy companies know each agency has its own mission and focus, and the capability statement speaks directly to those needs

The five key areas included in a successful statement are:
1. Core competencies - This is NOT everything a firm is able to do, but the core expertise of a firm
2. Past performance - past customers for whom your business has done similar work
3. Differentiators - a succinct, clear statement that relates to the specific needs of the agency is what will help the procurement and purchasing staff, the program managers and end users understand why to choose your firm over others
4. Corporate data - Include one or two short sentences with a company description detailing pertinent history. Include the size of the firm, annual revenue, the number of employees and the typical geographic area you serve.
List Specific Pertinent Codes
􀁸 Socio-economic certifications: 8(a), Minority-Owned, HUBZone, SDVOB, etc.
􀁸 NAICS (all) - include code descriptions
􀁸 CAGE Code - SAM Active
􀁸 Payment Terms i.e. Accept Credit and Purchase Cards
􀁸 GSA Schedule Contract Number(s)
􀁸 Other federal contract vehicles
􀁸 BPAs and other federal contract numbers
􀁸 State Contract Numbers
5. Contact information
􀁸 Name (a specific contact person)
􀁸 Address
􀁸 Phone (main and cell)
􀁸 Email (a person’s email, not info@)

Friday, July 07, 2017

The Best Metro Areas For Manufacturing Jobs

From ThomasNet:

Think it's tough to get a job in the manufacturing industry? While that may be the common perception, the truth is that the manufacturing job market offers more opportunities than you think.

In fact, Forbes recently looked at the state of the hiring within the industry and found that all but 18 of the country’s 70 largest metropolitan regions have seen an uptick in industrial employment since 2011. They also ranked all 357 metropolitan areas to determine the locations with the best, most thriving manufacturing employment situations.

Rankings are based on a number of factors, including recent growth trends (year-over-year and the last two years) mid-term growth (2011-2016), long-term growth (2005-2016) and regional momentum.

So, which areas topped the list? Here's a partial list...

*Albany-Schenectady, in upstate New York, is the only metro area in a "blue" state ranked in the top 10. With local factories producing everything from steam and gas turbines to computer chips and medical supplies, the area has seen a 17.6% gain in manufacturing jobs since 2011.

Our friends at Industrial Equipment News reviewed the rankings in depth. Watch the video to learn more.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Uber, Airbnb Lead the Way as Sharing Economy Expands

From eMarketer:
As trust and familiarity with sharing economy services continues to grow, so too will the number of users.

According to eMarketer’s latest estimates, over a quarter (26.0%) of US adult internet users—or 56.5 million people—will use a sharing economy service at least once in 2017. This is a higher figure than previously projected due to stronger-than-expected uptake of both ride- and home-sharing services.

eMarketer’s definition of the sharing economy includes community-based online services that coordinate property, goods and services. It excludes crowdsourcing, group buying, incorporated professional services and online marketplaces like eBay.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

101 Small Business Ideas to Inspire You to Start a Business

From The Balance:

Coming up with a business idea is the first step in starting a business. But how do you come up with a business idea that is right for you?

If you are looking for a small business idea to kickstart your path to entrepreneurship, you are in the right place. This list of 101 small business ideas includes everything from personal services, to retail opportunities, to environmental services, to pet-related ideas, to technology businesses.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

American Workers Use Only Half of Their Vacation Time

From 24/7 Wall St:
Work hard, play hard. For American workers, that old bromide might more appropriately be “work harder, play a little.” According to a recent study, in the past 12 months, an average U.S. employee who is entitled to vacation or paid time off work uses about half (54%) of that time to get away.

The somewhat better news is that 91% of employees reported having taken at least some time off during the past 12 months, up a bit from 85% who said they had done the same thing in 2014.

But even when they do manage to get away, 66% report that they do work while on vacation. Only 23% report that they took their full allotment of paid vacation in the past 12 months and another 23% took just a quarter or less of their allowed time off. A full 9% took no time off at all.

Monday, July 03, 2017

The Seattle Minimum Wage Study

From Fortune magazine:

For decades, conservative ideologues have insisted that raising the minimum wage will hurt, not help, low-wage workers. Mandating higher wages will cost jobs, the old canard goes, and the obvious solution is to let the free market function unfettered.

This argument received a significant bump from a recent study by the University of Washington (UW) looking at the impact of the minimum wage increase in Seattle, where in 2014 the city council voted to phase in a $15 wage over the next few years.

The UW study appeared to show that the 2015–2016 wage floor increase from $11 to $13 per hour, one phase on that journey to $15, caused low-wage workers’ annual pay to go down, not up, and overall low-wage jobs to also go down.

Free-market fanatics around the country flung praise at the study, and serious publications like the Washington Post deemed it “very credible.” But fortunately for working people, it turns out the study’s findings are far from that.

The research has significant flaws—most glaringly that its data excludes 40% of the Seattle workforce.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The 'World Wide Wait' Is Still a Thing in Retail

From eMarketer:
The promise of online sales and traffic has got retailers across the board focused on investing more money online, but many retailers are still falling short in some of the basics of digital.

According to a study by Retail Systems Research (RSR), retail websites take an average of 9.5 seconds to load on mobile devices, and 16.6 seconds for desktop. The study of 80 major retail sites was conducted in April and May and was commissioned by Yottaa, which helps retailers speed up loading of their pages.

Among the reasons for slow page loads were digital bells and whistles: live chat, product recommendations, and personalized offers, to name just a few. Retailers in the study used an average of 70 third-party e-commerce applications, and waiting on them takes up as much as three-quarters of the time required to load a page, the study found.

Another speed block is images. The RSR study found that 55% of site content is images, many of which simply wouldn’t load.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Choose Which Social Media Platforms Are Right for Your Business

From Bplans:
So, you know by now that having a presence on social media is important for your business. Not only that, you’re interested in the potential benefits of social media marketing, and you’re getting a sense of what marketing on the various social media platforms entails.

Maybe.. marketing your small business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube...

The trouble is, you can’t do it all. Unless you are planning on creating a position within your business for someone to take charge of your social media accounts, focusing on any social media marketing is going to come out of your time. As a small business owner, that time is precious, so it’s important to put it to good use.

Ultimately, you’ll have to choose which social platforms to focus on—you won’t be able to do it all. While you may intuitively know right away that some are a good bet and that there are others you’d rather avoid, I’ll go over a few questions to ask yourself before you pick.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Leveraging the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for your business

From Complete Payroll:

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a tax credit the federal government provides to employers for hiring people who typically struggle to find employment. We're going to go over how WOTC works, the types of people employers can hire to become eligible for the credit, how the credits are calculated and how employers can apply for WOTC.

To become eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, an employer would have to hire a qualifying member that meets at least one of the following criteria...

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients
Food stamp (SNAP) recipients
Designated community residents (living in Empowerment Zones or Rural Renewal Counties)
Vocational rehabilitation referrals
Supplemental Security Income recipients
Summer youth employees (living in Empowerment Zones)

For more details on each of the target groups, and how to determine if an employee is eligible, check out this page from the United States Department of Labor.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

35 Great Ways to Fund A Small Business

From Bplans:
When it comes to funding, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on where you’re at in your business, what type of funding you are seeking, and the amount you need, where you’ll look can vary widely. We’ve compiled a list from a variety of places to help you research and narrow down the options that are best for you...

Alternative lenders are institutions that provide loans or lines of credit as an alternative to traditional bank loans or the government... Venture capital is really only an avenue if you fit the specific criteria...

Depending on what kind of business you’re starting or running, there could be funding from an industry-related fund or organization.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Three Customer Feedback Myths That Deserve Busting

From MarketingProfs:
What if we thought about customer feedback the way we think about interior design?

Around the middle of the last century, the "it" aesthetic was a clean, open look. Free of the ornamentation that ruled other eras—when the value of a building was literally weighed in gold, marble, and limestone—mid-century modern was about airy spaces, natural light, and beauty through simplicity.

That aesthetic is having a moment again among design fans, but its lessons can be applied beyond showroom floors and furniture studios.

Take customer feedback, for example. Today, marketers can add more flourishes than ever to surveys. They can ask customers questions at the cash register, the online shopping cart, in an email, or via text—or in all these places. They can also pile on as many questions as they want... They have the technology to do it, so why not?

As it turns out, there are many reasons why less is more when asking customers for their input. The "decoration"—all the extra stuff in those surveys—creates areas for dust to gather. Customers don't respond well to the clutter, and companies don't get the actionable information they need to make real improvements to products or services—or the customer experience.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

FTC Announces First Economic Liberty Public Roundtable

From the Federal Trade Commission

Roundtable info

The Federal Trade Commission announced that its Economic Liberty Task Force will host a roundtable in Washington, DC on July 27, 2017 to highlight approaches that make it easier for workers in state-licensed occupations to offer their services across state lines or move between states.

Most occupational licenses are not portable, meaning that workers who move to a new state often face financial or administrative burdens of applying for a new license. Restrictions on the portability of occupational licenses are especially hard on military families, who move often.

The July 27 roundtable, which will take place from 2 p. m. to 4 p.m., will be the first public event held by the FTC’s new Economic Liberty Task Force. Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen established the Task Force earlier this year as her first major policy initiative for the agency. The Task Force is considering how occupational licensing reform could reduce barriers to entry, enhance competition, and promote economic opportunity for all Americans.

Nearly 30 percent of U. S. jobs require a license today, up from less than five percent in the 1950s. Occupational licensing can sometimes be necessary to protect public health and safety, which benefits consumers and serves important state policy interests.

But even in those situations, state-specific licensing requirements can impose barriers to entry on qualified workers who have moved from another state, or want to work across state lines. Often, there may be no legitimate justification for each state to impose different requirements. These barriers restrict the labor supply and reduce competition. Thus, unnecessary or overbroad restrictions on license portability impose costs that harm workers, employers, consumers, and our economy as a whole.

The roundtable, Streamlining Licensing Across State Lines, will bring together legal experts, representatives of professional organizations, and other officials who have worked on the issue at the state level.

The roundtable will consider several existing measures for enhancing occupational license portability, such as interstate compacts and agreements, and state legislative initiatives to help military spouses.
Topics of discussion at the event will include:
  • Barriers to entry raised by cross-state occupational licensing requirements;
  • License portability strategies;
  • The status and effectiveness of interstate licensure compacts, agreements, and model laws to ease licensing requirements across state lines for specific professions;
  • State-based initiatives to improve the portability of licenses held by military service members and their spouses, and the extent to which these experiences may help civilian license portability efforts; and
  • The potential impact of portability measures on licensee mobility, market entry, provider supply, and competition among service providers.
The FTC invites comments from the public on the topics covered by this roundtable. For further information on the roundtable and the public comment process, including a list of suggested questions open for comment, please view the roundtable website.

The roundtable is free and open to the public. It will be held at the Constitution Center, 400 7th St., SW, Washington, DC 20024. An agenda will be published at a later date. Information about reasonable accommodations is available on the roundtable website.

In line with its overall focus on helping service members and veterans, the FTC is holding a separate workshop in San Antonio, Texas on July 19 on financial issues and scams that can affect military consumers.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Alan Alda on the Secrets to Better Communication

From Entrepreneur magazine:

The fact that he’s a famous actor is probably the least fascinating thing about Alan Alda these days. A likable and inquisitive guy, Alda spent 11 years interviewing scientists for the documentary show Scientific American Frontiers.

The experience of trying to understand brilliant minds doing important work inspired him to partner with Stony Brook University to establish the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, which teaches scientists strategies for conveying their ideas to laypeople.

It also inspired him to launch a deeper investigation into how people -- scientists, teachers, businesspeople, dentists and so on -- communicate. The fruit of that research is his surprisingly useful new book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating.

Entrepreneur: I was surprised to learn you used to work in sales.

Alan Alda: Yeah. I had to do something as a young actor to support my family. And I didn’t get it at first. I thought of selling as manipulating people, because that’s how I had been sold, and I really resented that.

But I eventually figured out that focusing on the other person’s needs and not my own was the most effective way to make a sale. Later I came across this guy Daniel Goleman, who had written pretty much the same thing.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

5 Mid-Year Tax Planning Strategies

From the Small Business Administration at

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
For many small business owners, thinking about taxes occurs only twice a year … when returns are being prepared and perhaps at the end of the year. This is a mistake. With half of 2017 over, now is a great time to assess where you stand and to take action that will be helpful to your 2017 tax bill.
1. Meet with your tax advisor
The vast majority of small business owners use CPAs or other tax advisors to prepare and file their returns. These tax pros can also serve as business advisors throughout the year, providing guidance on what the business can to do to optimize profitability while minimizing taxes. If your tax preparer doesn’t provide this service, consider finding one who will. Schedule a meeting with your advisor to review your profits or losses, and to craft a tax plan that you can implement going forward.
2. Assess your profitability
If 2017 is shaping up to be a good year for you, consider strategies to help with expansion while saving taxes:
  • Buy equipment. In 2017, you can opt to expense up to $510,000 of equipment purchases (even if you finance them) instead of depreciating the cost over a number of years. Find details in IRS Publication 946, How to Depreciate Property.Download Adobe Reader to read this link content
  • Hire wisely. As you add to your staff, keep in mind that the work opportunity credit rewards you for hiring someone from a targeted group, such as a qualified veteran. Find details about these targeted groups and the amount of the credit in the instructions to Form 5884, Work Opportunity Credit.Download Adobe Reader to read this link content
  • Set up a qualified retirement plan. You can save for your retirement years while cutting your current tax bill through contributions to a qualified retirement plan. If you don’t already have a plan there are several plan options; the one to choose depends on whether you have employees and how much of the contributions the business can afford to shoulder. Find more details in IRS Publication 560, Retirement Plans for Small BusinessDownload Adobe Reader to read this link content.
3. Expand your R&D
You don’t have to be a drug manufacturer or a technology company to invest in research and development. Whether you do R&D to develop a product or simply find new methods for your operations by creating internal use software, you may qualify for a tax credit; this helps to underwrite the cost of research. Find more details about the research credit in the instructions to Form 6725, Credit for Increasing Research ActivitiesDownload Adobe Reader to read this link content.
A “qualified small business” can opt to use the credit as an offset to the employer’s share of Social Security taxes (up to $250,000) rather than using it against income taxes. Which business is qualified? One with less than $5 million in gross receipts for the current year and no gross receipts for any year preceding the fifth year prior to the current year. For example, a business with $4 million in gross receipts in 2017 and no gross receipts prior to 2012 may use this option. Find a more extensive explanation of this option from the IRS.Download Adobe Reader to read this link content
4. Issue stock
If you’re a C corporation in manufacturing, technology, retail, or wholesale, you may qualify to issue stock (referred to as small business stock or Section 1202 stock) that will allow the shareholder to eventually obtain tax-free treatment for any capital gain. More specifically, if you issue the stock now and it’s held for more than five years, then all of the gain is tax free. The stock must be acquired in exchange for cash, property, or services (i.e., not received through a gift or inheritance). Thus, it can be used to:
  • Bring in new investors
  • Reward employees
Find more details about a qualified small business for this purpose in the instructions to Schedule D of Form 1040Download Adobe Reader to read this link content .
5. Review your income tax payments
If you’re paying your income taxes on business profits through estimated taxes, you have two more times to get it right for 2017:  September 15, 2017, and January 16, 2018. You don’t want to overpay, which is an interest-free loan to the government (recouped when you file for a refund), or underpay, which can result in costly tax penalties.
Remember that estimated taxes include not only regular income taxes (including the alternative minimum tax), but also:
  • Self-employment tax
  • 0.9% additional Medicare tax on earned income
  • 3.8% additional Medicare tax on net investment income
Find more information about estimated taxes in IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated TaxDownload Adobe Reader to read this link content.
The summer has begun. Don’t miss this opportunity to review your tax position and to determine the strategies you can use between now and the end of the year to optimize your tax bill for 2017.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Your overview of Paid Family Leave coming to New York

From Complete Payroll:

New York’s Paid Family Leave program is designed to provide wage replacement to employees for a variety of family and/or medical reasons, including maternity/paternity leave, caring for a close relative with a serious health condition and relieving family pressures when someone is called to active military service.

The program also guarantees that employees are able to return to their job and keep their health insurance, provided they continue to contribute their portion while on Paid Family Leave.
The law was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on April 4, 2016 and will begin the first of four phases of implementation on January 1, 2018.

Just like the payroll deduction is mandatory for all New York employees, it's mandatory for all New York employers to set up the payroll deduction and offer Paid Family Leave for all the employees that qualify.

That means businesses must work with their payroll provider, insurance broker/carrier and HR person to create the written documentation and begin planning for staffing gaps.

Update: New York State has released the employee payroll deduction rate. Read more about it here.

Here is the link to the PFL text and summary

What's the difference between FMLA and Paid Family Leave?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Validate Your App Idea Before You Build

From Bplans:

Almost on a weekly basis, I meet new aspiring entrepreneurs looking to execute on their ideas.

Some believe in the all-in approach to product development: build an advanced app. If it works, they’ll hit it big, and if it doesn’t, they’ll make some changes and do it again. Others believe in the start small, grow strong approach: build a small version of the app, test user demand, and then take it from there.

In both scenarios, it seems that startup venture initiation and idea validation are strictly dependent on the app...

Early stage idea validation can be accomplished without building an application. It’s possible to simulate user experience through existing, lower-tech resources.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sample Business Introduction Letters

From SampleTemplates:
Commerce Introduction Letter serves as an introductory piece for getting into the business world. The main aim behinds its writing is conveying all the essential details related to any firm or product/service to the potential clients. It ensures the correct understanding of clients about the company’s businesses. It helps in seeking client’s attention and being noticed. You can even customize such letter in your own way so as to meet certain requirements or needs as well.

See also, from Template Lab, 40+ Letter of Introduction Templates & Examples

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Amazon Patents Tech to Block In-Store Comparison Shopping

From PC magazine:

Amazon may have started as an online-only experience, but today the company is very much blended into real-world retail. This week, the company was granted a patent for technology that can prevent in-store shoppers from comparison shopping online. The patent - for "Physical Store Online Shopper Control" - is pretty self-explanatory.

If you're in a store and logged on to that store's Wi-Fi, the network will see if you navigate to a rival's website to compare prices. The store can then block you from doing so, offer up a discount to purchase in-store, or even send a store employee over to persuade you to make that purchase.

Amazon is expanding its brick-and-mortar presence so this technology could be deployed at its own stores, but it could also make a pretty penny licensing the tech to rivals. Call it augmented retail.