Thursday, January 18, 2018

Many Consumers Avoid Retailers with Strict Return Policies

From eMarketing:
Returns are a big thing for consumers. So much so that many avoid shopping at retailers that have strict return policies in place.

In fact, more than half of US internet users surveyed by coupon and discount website last November agreed that they avoid such places, while over a quarter of respondents agreed strongly.

When it comes to various return policy options, many consumers look for the same thing. For example, when shopping in-store, 37.9% of those polled said getting a full refund—not just an exchange or store credit—was their most important return-related concern. Almost as many consumers (33.6%) felt the same way with regard to digital shopping.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Small Business Success Story - Kingston Holiday Inn Express

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the Mid-Hudson SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report

Chan Patel 
Kingston Holiday Inn Express
Mid-Hudson SBDC

The Mid-Hudson region has long been a magnet for visitors from around the nation and the world. Yet it has been common knowledge that the local accommodations infrastructure was not able to keep up with demand, leaving travelers frustrated and the region missing out on a potentially lucrative and important economic development resource. Recognizing both the existing need and the untapped potential, a group of seasoned industry entrepreneurs lead by Chan Patel decided to invest in the development of a state-of-the-art 100-room Holiday Inn Express for the Kingston area. 
SBDC Advisor Sam Kandel met with the group and started working on a funding strategy. He contacted the Ulster County Executive’s office and it’s Industrial Development Agency for consideration of the Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) program, which would provide Chan and his group with significant benefits. In addition, Sam arranged for a meeting between client and the local Town of Ulster government authorities to elicit their support, and was instrumental in securing local construction and professional services to advance the completion of the project. 
Three years after the initial contact, and with the cooperative assistance of SBDC, the Ulster County Executive, the Town of Ulster authorities, Greater Hudson Bank, Ulster Savings Bank and NYBDC, the Kingston Holiday Inn Express opened in November 2016. The combined investment in equity totaled $11,300,000, which was injected into the local economy while creating 77 jobs for local residents. The hotel provides 100 new rooms to welcome visitors to the Mid-Hudson Valley region of New York State, all thanks to a multi-agency collaborative effort and stakeholder’s teamwork.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Pitching a product idea

From: Medium

Communication matters. Here are a few ideas to help communicate product ideas effectively:
Describe the problem you’re solving.
Every product should have a reason for existence and a story for why people’s lives will be better after this product comes to the rescue. But before you can talk about the superior future you want to create, you should set the stage by describing the dismal present we currently living in.
Envision the start of an infomercial, where people are stumbling around in black and white, wallowing in tears while cutting onions… because they don’t yet have the Slap Chop!
Describe how many people have this problem.
Now that you’ve broken it down to human terms, the next step is to expand this with market research to show just how large this problem is.

Monday, January 15, 2018

State Department’s New Travel Advisory System

From Afar:

On January 10, the U.S. Department of State unveiled a new-and-improved travel advisory system in an effort to make its rankings more easily understandable to the public.

The new system gives every nation in the world a travel advisory ranking from one to four. Level 4 indicates “do not travel”; Level 3, “reconsider travel”; Level 2, “exercise increased caution”; and Level 1, “exercise normal precautions.”

In addition, an interactive map color-codes countries by their official ranking: red for 4, orange for 3, and yellow for 2. Countries with a level 1 ranking are not color-coded.

“While we will issue an overall travel advisory level for every country, levels of advice might vary for specific locations or areas within a country,” the State Department said in a statement. “For instance, we might advise U.S. citizens to ‘exercise increased caution’ (Level 2) in a country, but to ‘reconsider travel’ (Level 3) to a particular area within the country.”

While the State Department has changed its system for communicating travel advisories, it has not changed its methods for determining the country-specific threats.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Why Costco Will Never Raise the Price of Rotisserie Chicken

From Eater:

It’s hard to believe, but before 1994, grocery stores did not sell packaged rotisserie chickens. Boston Market is credited with convincing consumers to pay for one of the easiest meals to make at home, in the early 1990s, and that’s when grocery stores saw an opening, according to a new Wall Street Journal report.

Last year, Americans bought 625 million rotisserie chickens at supermarkets; Costco alone sold 87 million, according to the Journal, 36 million more than they did in 2010.

Today, practically every major publication, from Bon Appetit to Buzzfeed, has published a list of ways to most efficiently transform a grocery store-roasted chicken into several meals. The pre-roasted birds, packaged in plastic or paper and sitting beneath heat lamps at national chains like Kroger and Costco, might be flavored with garlic and lemon or barbecue spices. In addition to the convenience, the smell is a draw, as the Journal points out. It’s enough to get people into the store in the first place, at which point they’ll likely buy other items, making them a loss leader, in industry parlance...

In just about two decades, grocery stores convinced American cooks to depend on a convenience that was once viewed as a simple, quotidian home-cooked meal.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018

From The World Economic Forum:

Ten years on from the global financial crisis, the prospects for a sustained economic recovery remain at risk due to a widespread failure on the part of leaders and policy-makers to put in place reforms necessary to underpin competitiveness and bring about much-needed increases in productivity, according to data from the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018.

The Global Competitiveness Index 2017-2018 presents a framework and a corresponding set of indicators in three principal categories (subindexes) and twelve policy domains (pillars) for 137 economies.

Drawing on data going back 10 years, the report highlights in particular three areas of greatest concern. These include the financial system, where levels of “soundness” have yet to recover from the shock of 2007 and in some parts of the world are declining further. This is especially of concern given the important role the financial system will need to play in facilitating investment in innovation related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Another key finding is that competitiveness is enhanced, not weakened, by combining degrees of flexibility within the labour force with adequate protection of workers’ rights. With vast numbers of jobs set to be disrupted as a result of automation and robotization, creating conditions that can withstand economic shock and support workers through transition periods will be vital.

GCI data also suggests that the reason innovation often fails to ignite productivity is due to an imbalance between investments in technology and efforts to promote its adoption throughout the wider economy.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Small Business Success Story - GIG Computers, Inc.

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the Queens-LaGuardia SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report

Tony Yang 
GIG Computers, Inc.
Queens-LaGuardia SBDC

Tony Yang started Gig Computers, Inc. from his dorm room while attending the University at Albany in 1995. Gig provides premium IT consulting service in upstate New York, including computer networking, VOIP phone systems, and data center solutions. He initially applied for a loan with NYBDC, who referred Tony to the LaGuardia SBDC for assistance with the financial projections. Business Advisor Rosa Figueroa prepared the financial projections that helped Tony obtain a $150,000 SBA guarantee loan to purchase equipment and expand the business to NYC. The loan enabled Tony to create four jobs and save six others. 
The challenge was to secure a location for Gig Computers at a reasonable price. Rosa suggested NYDesigns, which since the company would be new to NYC, would give them the opportunity to land at an affordable location. Initially, Tony was informed that he would not qualify because he was already in business. Rosa advocated for Tony, arguing that he is new to NYC and would need time to acquaint himself with the business environment. 
Ultimately Tony and his business were given a spot at the NYDesigns business incubator and will sign the required lease to expand the business to NYC. In addition to the expansion to NYC, Gig is also expanding in Albany with the purchase of property that will enable the hiring of additional staff within the next six months. “I want to thank the SBDC for all of their assistance in helping me obtaining the loan through the NYBDC,” says Tony, “This will help us sustain our business.”

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Justice Department Scraps ADA Guidance

From Disability Scoop:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he’s rescinding more than two dozen guidance documents including several clarifying the implications of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Among the 25 revoked documents are a number of ADA-related items dating as far back as 1995 offering guidance on everything from service animals to accessible building practices as well as a 2016 letter on employment of people with disabilities...

Disability advocates indicated they are particularly worried about the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to pull a statement issued under the Obama administration addressing the implications of the ADA’s integration mandate on employment.

“The civil rights of persons with disabilities, including individuals with mental illness, intellectual or developmental disabilities, or physical disabilities, are violated by unnecessary segregation in a wide variety of settings, including in segregated employment, vocational and day programs,” the Obama-era guidance stated...

“We are extremely concerned about the withdrawal of this guidance document, both because it sends the wrong signal to public entities that are seeking to comply with the ADA and because it may reflect a diminished concern with the importance of providing employment services in the most integrated setting...”

Taking away the guidance does not change any of the ADA’s mandates, disability advocates noted. Nonetheless, withdrawing the guidance, which serves as an interpretation of the law, can create uncertainty, they said.

Monday, January 08, 2018

How to Successfully Wed Creativity to Data

From Marketing Profs:

What does it mean to be human (and a marketer) in a world where even the most creative and intuitive endeavors are being turned into automated, optimized, and streamlined processes?

With the onslaught of stories about the launch of new, fantastic pieces of software or technological advancements that'll make life simpler and computers able to make essential data connections, it seems that we're quickly entering a full-blown "Artificial Intelligence Age."

At the root of AI are perception and cognition, which also happen to be two of the fundamental tenets of the marketing industry. It's no surprise, then, that software, algorithms, and AI applications are consistently used to help marketers and make their job of "adaptive persuasion" more effective and efficient.

Far from being a substitute for the creative process, though, data is empowerment. By offering deeper and more comprehensive consumer insights, data fuels curiosity and raises enlightening questions that help creatives cultivate the emotional connections essential to impactful marketing.

Data is, in fact, invigorating, then, and much more relevant and necessary for marketers today than ever before.

Friday, January 05, 2018

The Workforce of the Future

From ThomasNet:

Currently, the industrial and commercial labor worlds are facing an unprecedented rate of rapid change. New technologies are becoming old-news almost as soon as they hit the marketplace, social attitudes fluctuate with the share of a Tweet, and government policies struggle to keep up with high tech developments.

All of this adds up to the inability to predict how the workforce will evolve over the course of the next decade. With the future so uncertain, how can companies and individuals continue to maintain relevance?

According to a report compiled by PwC, a global industry-focused service provider and consulting company, keeping up with the unknown realities of tomorrow means reshaping the traditional business conventions of today into flexible practices that can adapt and vacillate with the changing tides. The report’s conclusions are derived from the findings of a research project that began in 2007 and are based on the collected surveys from 10,000 people in the US, the UK, India, Germany, and China.

Using all of this compiled information, the report identifies several “megatrends” that will play a substantial role in molding the future global workforce over the next decade.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Starting a New Business? Here’s What You Can and Can’t Deduct

From Bplans:

If you’re planning to use your personal savings to launch a new business, you’ll be happy to hear that many of the costs you’ll incur are tax deductible.

Business startup expenses are categorized differently from standard business expenses. Distinguishing between the two depends on when the cost is incurred.

In the eyes of the IRS, you are technically in “startup phase” until you open up your doors for business, or until you start earning income from the business—whichever comes first. Your costs during this period are categorized as startup costs.

Once you have launched or made your first sale, costs are categorized as business expenses.

However, not everything can be claimed as a startup expense during the startup phase.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Small Business Success Story - Versa-Tel T.S., Inc.

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the Farmingdale SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report

Michael D'Antoni
Versa-Tel T.S., Inc. 
Farmingdale SBDC

Retiring from the U.S. Air Force in 2004 with more than 20 years of honorable service, Technical Sergeant Michael D’Antoni has stated that with his military experience; “there is no telecommunication or fiber optics scenario he can’t handle.” Today, the owner of Versa-Tel T.S. Incorporated, a leader in telecommunications, boasts a successful history for performing installations across Long Island to include Long Island MacArthur Airport, US Armed Forces Command Center in Amityville, NYS INFORM traffic control signal / information systems, Theodore Roosevelt Executive Building in Nassau County, SUNY Stony Brook MART/Tower, SUNY Farmingdale as well as public schools, libraries, and other large-scale data and voice networks all over Long Island. 

The company designs and installs cutting edge commercial telecommunications systems, specializing in full scope fiber optic network systems for high speed data and voice. Along with Michael, his highly trained certified technicians provide a 25-year warranty on all Versa-Tel projects. Several years ago Michael consulted with the SBDC regarding sources of financing for additional equipment regarding an upcoming $4 million contract with the Long Island Dept. of Transportation for road work. Most recently Advisor Dave Chiaro provided assistance with business expansion, financing, and government contracting helping Michael apply for, and obtain his NYS Service Disabled Veteran Certification. NYS SDVOB certification helped Versa-Tel win a $2.6 million prime contract award from Stony Brook University and a $150k loan through NYBDC. In 2016 Michael was awarded the New York SBDC Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year Award. 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

A bad job with a Good Boss is Better than a Good Job with a bad boss

From LinkedIn:

My boss made a mistake on a project we were working on and instead of owning his mistake, he said it was my fault. I sat through that meeting feeling shocked and disappointed. Although this happened a couple of years ago. I remember the details quite well.

When we left the meeting he told me, "You are a good sport.” I knew I needed to start planning my exit strategy. I loved my job but I couldn’t trust my boss. He would throw you under the bus in a heartbeat to make himself look good. In spite of how good a job is, once you don’t have a manager that has your back, you will be miserable in that job.

A bad manager can take a good staff and destroy it, causing the best employees to flee and the remainder to lose all motivation.

People don't leave bad jobs, They leave bad bosses.

Monday, January 01, 2018

xkcd: Immune Systems

From xkcd:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Turn Your YouTube Subscribers Into Customers

From MarketingProfs:

Video plays an important role in driving consumers' purchase decisions: 79% of consumers say they would be willing to spend more money on a product after they watch a social media influencer's video about it, has found. So using your YouTube channel could be a perfect option for you to drive sales. At the same time, you may face some challenges in converting your subscribers into customers.

In this article, you're going to learn three ways to turn YouTube subscribers into valuable customers. However, you still need to keep the basics in mind, such as adding a clear call to action at the end of the video, prompting subscribers to take the desired action.

You should also include easy access to a relevant landing page to drive conversions. You could embed the link in the form of a button at the end of the video.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

You fired your top talent. I hope you’re happy.

From Startups and venture capital:
I recently read a story here titled "We fired our top talent. Best decision we ever made..."

Let's dissect this because there is so much more than meets the eye here. Presumably, if you have read the story, you understand that the author describes a problem worker that he has dubbed “Rick”. Rick is the local genius with a ton of domain knowledge about their product and a member of the core development staff for this product...

Personally, I'm of the opinion that if you find these people and you are in the process of interviewing them, regardless of whatever modicum of talent they have, they aren't worth your time because of the loss of morale and teamwork they bring to the team. This is actually something brought up in the story itself — about how Rick ignored team meetings and belittled his co-workers. About how after Rick left, productivity soared and they managed to pull together to save the day! The author does this to make you hate Rick, and say “yeah! Screw that guy!...

If you were paying attention though, there were some troubling things that you might have picked up along the way...

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Marketers Can Implement a Customer-Centric Mindset

From MarketingProfs:

For marketers, a mindset that puts the customer first is critical to competitive success. That's something marketers know. Yet, during day-to-day execution, that customer-centric mentality tends to get pushed aside, more so in Marketing than in other, client-facing parts of the business, such as Sales and Customer Support.

It happens easily, even to the best of us.

With so much going on in our pipelines at any one moment—from lead gen campaigns, events, new product launches, and more—marketers can't help but get caught up in the weeds of project execution. We run fast, focusing on what needs to get done now; in those moments, the customer-centric mindset is important, but not mission-critical. Or so it seems.

The truth is that a customer-centric mindset is necessary for our marketing to be successful. It helps campaigns resonate with prospects and customers, leading to more sales and enhanced client satisfaction and engagement. Those results benefit everyone, and taken together they can offer a powerful differentiator from your competition.

So how can busy marketers implement a customer-centric mindset? Here are five ways.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Do You Make These Thinking Errors?

From Medium:

Have you ever made a decision that seemed illogical looking back? We’re all highly illogical beings even though we think the opposite!

Every person creates their own social reality. The way you view the world is completely subjective because we all have cognitive biases.

The concept of cognitive biases was introduced in 1972 by two psychologists, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. A cognitive bias is a systematic thinking error that impacts judgments, and therefore, our decisions.

As of this writing, there are 106 decision-making related cognitive biases known! We all make these errors. So there’s no point in trying to become a perfect thinker. It’s impossible.

However, with practice, you can avoid some thinking mistakes that many of us make. And by avoiding these errors, we can improve our decisions, and consequently: Our lives and careers.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Workplace Rules For Business Owners & Employees

From BizFilings
Managing the employees in your workplace effectively necessitates that even the smallest of businesses set up work rules. Work rules protect your business and your workers and if correctly implemented and executed, create and maintain a better work environment for all.

 Having formal work rules in your business, even if they're not required, are a good idea because they can help you protect your business from litigation and maintain a high quality of work life for your employees. You need to make sure that your employees understand what is expected of them, not only in the work that they do, but in their behavior and in other areas of your employment relationship. If the rules are carefully selected, clearly related to the business, and fairly enforced, they can help you to better manage your workplace and your workers.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

How Mall of America Is Changing with the Times

From eMarketing:
Mall of America has introduced a chatbot that uses AI and natural language to answer customer questions in real time.

Through the technology, visitors accessing its website, mobile app or Facebook Messenger can get answers immediately, whether they're looking to shop or find the nearest restroom.

Next year the chatbot, developed by tech startup Satisfi Labs, will also be incorporated with Mall of America's three new Pepper humanoid robots, which it recently brought to its 5.6 million-square-foot property for the first time since Black Friday weekend. What's more, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant feature is also being included so that mall patrons can ask questions without typing.

In addition to the new chatbot, Mall of America—which draws 40 million visitors annually and is known for entertainment features from an aquarium to an amusement park—Tuesday unveiled an updated website. It features not just the new chatbot, but also rich media and virtual reality that its various brand tenants may use to make their traditionally “solid” tenant pages more “robust.”