5/31/2005

FTC Calls for CAN-SPAM Act Comments

"On May 12, 2005 the Federal Trade Commission published a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comment on proposed new rules implementing the CAN-SPAM Act (the "Act"). The Notice follows an advance notice period that generated over 13,500 comments.

The proposed rules cover the following primary topics:

-Reduction of the amount of time for senders to honor an opt-out request
-Clarification of steps necessary to submit valid opt-out request
-Definition of "person" under the Act
-Modification of the definition of "sender" where multiple parties are involved
-Clarification of scope of definition of 'valid physical postal addresses' "

Read more in this DWT LLP advisory.

5/28/2005

The Value of an Intellectual Property Audit

"Given the current business environment, in which the value of a company and its competitive advantages are likely heavily dependent upon its intellectual property, it is crucial that a company take reasonable steps to make sure it has rights to its important intellectual property and that it properly protects said property.

By conducting periodic audits of its intellectual property, a company can ensure that this property is adequately protected to preserve the company's earnings and growth potential resulting from the intellectual property. The audit can identify if there are areas in which the company should improve its intellectual property protection or if the company is potentially infringing a third party's intellectual property.

Further, if a company is a party to almost any transaction with another company that involves or affects intellectual property (whether in the sale of its assets or stock, in an investment or public offering, a joint venture, licensing or otherwise), the other party to that transaction will likely perform due diligence on the company's intellectual property to determine what intellectual property the company owns or has rights to use and the value of such intellectual property.

Prior to such time, the selling party should conduct due diligence on itself to make sure that its intellectual property is in order and the representations and warranties that it will make in the transaction are accurate."

Read more in this article from Vedder, Price, Kaufman & Kammholz via Mondaq.

Deter. Detect. Defend. Document; A Corporate Assets Protection Strategy

"Our corporate assets are under attack by a continuous barrage of new laws, new employees, new competitors and new exploits. Business survival in the next decade will require a more effective and robust risk strategy to deter, detect and defend against a myriad of new threats to the organization.

Modern day attackers include hackers, spies, terrorists, corporate raiders, professional criminals, vandals and voyeurs. Simply said, these attackers use tools to exploit vulnerabilities. They create an action on a target that produces an unauthorized result. They do this to obtain their objective.

Here are four key lessons to create a '4D' risk strategy in your enterprise..."

Read more in this article from 1SecureAudit LLC via Mondaq.

Update on Terrorism Risk Insurance

"The Terror Risk Insurance Act ("TRIA") is scheduled to expire on December 30, 2005. Congress is considering extending TRIA, but a decision is unlikely until summer. Policyholders should beware that insurers are responding to the uncertainty surrounding the reauthorization of TRIA by attaching to policies nuclear, biological, chemical, radiological or other terrorism exclusions that will become effective if TRIA is not extended or extended in its current form...

The new terrorism exclusion some insurers are adding to policies is quite broad. It would preclude coverage not only for foreign acts of terror, but domestic acts as well. The exclusion is also very subjective, as it could apply even if it only "appears" that the intent of an act is to coerce the government or further a political or social objective.

Policyholders may want to negotiate for a narrower terrorism exclusion or for no exclusion at all. At the very least, policyholders should be aware that a new terrorism exclusion could be added to any new or renewal policy in 2005."

Read more in this article from Reed Smith via Mondaq.

5/25/2005

New, Free SBA Online Classes for Small Business Owners

New online business classes will be available for small businesses throughout the nation through a cosponsorship between the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Thomson Corp. (Ed2Go). Ed2Go is a national provider of online instructor-taught training classes, offering courses through more than 1,000 community colleges and other partners around the country.

Small businesses and entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to enroll in three of Ed2Go’s most popular online educational courses at no cost. The courses being offered are:

• Creating a Successful Business Plan
Work through all of the major components of a business plan and turn your business ideas into a solid plan for financing and long-term success.
Committing your idea to paper in the form of a business plan increases your chances of obtaining financing and keeps your business strategically focused.

• Customer Service Fundamental
Develop new skills in identifying and satisfying customer needs, and become an indispensable asset to any organization. This online course will help you discover and master the essentials of customer service. You’ll learn the best ways to measure customer service, apply the principles of consumer behavior to your business, and differentiate between industrial and consumer marketing.

• Creating Web Pages
Create and post your very own Web site on the Internet in this extensive, hands-on workshop. Learn about the capabilities of the World Wide Web and the fundamentals of Web design. You'll also learn critical and timely information on securing the best possible location in search engine listings, and powerful no-cost or low-cost Web marketing strategies.

Each online course will be six weeks in length, and will be facilitated by an instructor. The courses will begin June 15, with the next course start dates beginning on July 20, Aug. 17 and Sept. 21.

Online registration for each course will be available starting May 25, 2005, to the first 2,400 individuals to register. Registration for each class will be taken at the SBA’s Small Business Training Network site at www.sba.gov/training. Go to the free online courses section and click on the “Instructor-Facilitated Courses” button to complete your registration.

Small Business Wiki

"The Small Business Wiki is a community project of smallbusiness.com

The Small Business Wiki is a wiki-model encyclopedia of community-generated knowledge regarding all aspects of starting and running a business. This is knowledge from the grassroots and they invite participation. "

From this Small Business Software post.

Balanced Scorecard Helps Organizations Improve Corporate Governance

"Directors and executives have separate but complementary roles in promoting well governed high performing organizations...

Roles of the Board of Directors
An active and engaged board is an essential part of shaping and executing a successful strategy. Boards contribute to organizational performance when they fulfill five major responsibilities:

­ -The Board approves the strategic direction of an enterprise.
­ -The Board oversees the financial actions of an organization.
­ -The Board plays an essential role in counseling and advising the CEO.
­ -The Board selects and motivates executives.
­ -Finally, the Board is a watchdog for uncompensated risk and a guardian for compliance.

Roles of the CEO
The CEO's responsibility to manage the company is distinct but complementary to the board's oversight responsibility. The CEO is the senior most management team leader and as such, he or she is accountable to the board for corporate performance. Four major CEO responsibilities contribute to organizational performance include:

­ -The CEO and the executive team must define and communicate the strategy.
­ -The CEO must fund the strategy and manage financial resources.
­ -The CEO must align the workforce to the strategy.
­ -The CEO must manage the execution of strategy...

When supported by cohesive information architecture as described [in this article from BetterManagement.com], the three-part Balanced Scorecard based system outlined in this paper offers a modern set of tools that enable leaders to better fulfill their distinct roles. As such, directors and executives achieve greater visibility and control of their organizations. They also have the information they need to make better decisions and they have the information safeguards to offer more reliable disclosures with confidence. This tools based approach provides corporate leaders with insight, alignment and confidence to effectively govern and grow shareholder value."

Big Corporations Back in VC Game

"Back in the boom days of the 1990s, everyone wanted to be a venture capitalist -- including many of corporate America's largest companies, which launched their own in-house funds. Corporate investors sank $17 billion into small and midsize companies in 2000 alone. But when the bubble burst, VC investing suddenly seemed a lot less sexy, and many of these funds scaled back or shut down operations entirely.

But corporate America is getting back into the game...

Bear in mind that corporate money can come with its own set of headaches. It's not uncommon for corporate backers to balk should you try to do business with one of their competitors, and they may even try to prevent you from doing so. That's why you have to do as much due diligence as they do."

Read more in inc.com article, Come to Daddy:

5/24/2005

Learning to Delegate in Five Easy Steps

"Delegation is about handing over authority, and for many small-business owners, that's a scary concept because you don't know what will happen when you give up control. But the good news is, delegating doesn't have to be scary - you have more control than you think. Because when you've clearly defined what's to be done and what the outcome should be, it's difficult for a skilled assistant, employee or virtual assistant to be unsuccessful.

The key to controlling delegation is to establish what the tasks are, how they should be completed and what the final outcome looks like before you assign the task to someone.

Now, no more excuses. Here are five steps, each with specific actions you can take to develop your what, how and the final outcome, to get you on the road to delegating effectively.

1. Determine what to give away and what to keep...
2.Create a plan...
3. Hire the right person...
4. Assign results and accountability...
5. Check in from time to time..."

Read more in this article from entrepreneur.com.

Welcome to the Tribe, Programmer

"To be a good programmer is difficult and noble. The hardest part of making real a collective vision of a software project is dealing with one's coworkers and customers. Writing computer programs is important and takes great intelligence and skill. But it is really child's play compared to everything else that a good programmer must do to make a software system that succeeds for both the customer and myriad colleagues for whom she is partially responsible."

In this essay [How to be a Programmer: A Short, Comprehensive, and Personal Summary], Robert L. Read attempts to summarize as concisely as possible those things that he wishes someone had explained to him when he was twenty-one.

5/23/2005

Space Technology Transfer to Small Business

"The Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program(SATOP) strives to transfer the knowledge and technology of the space program to small businesses. Any type of small business is encouraged to submit a technical challenge to SATOP. If SATOP is able to assist, the small business is provided with up to 40 hours of FREE technical assistance from a scientist or engineer in the Space Program. "

Via this BusinessPundit post.

Small Businesses in Denial About Security

This Security Pipeline article stresses the critical importance of small business disaster preparedness. Recommendations include those related to Physical Security, System Security…
Software Security, Security Maintenance and Security Services. Quoting:

"By the time small businesses start worrying about security, it's too late. We ignore risk until threatened by an attack or natural disaster. If we're lucky, the threat passes us by, and we fall back into denial. If we're unlucky, disaster hits, and it puts us out of business.

Denial about security is self-defeating because the cost of loss is devastating. That's especially true of small businesses, where profit margins are often razor-thin…

The time to think about preparing for a disaster or other loss is before the loss has occurred. It is not a trivial process."

5/22/2005

Angels Do It Better

Facts and quotes shared by Paul Allen: Internet Entrepreneur:

"-Angels fund 30-40 times more companies than VCs, but they do much smaller deals.
-VCs fund 1-3% of the deals they look at
-Angels fund 22% of the deals they seriously consider
-Angels fund 84% of rounds under $250,000
-#1 source of initial funding for startups is entrepreneur's own savings (74%)
-10-15% of entrepreneurs who pitch at non-profit capital forums raise money
-40% of entrepreneurs who pitch at venture forum meetings get funding
-Top two criteria for angels to invest in an entrepreneur are 1) enthusiasm of the entrepreneur and 2) trustworthiness of the entrepreneur.
-94% of angels consider location to be very important in their decision
-80% would have made more investments over the past 3 years if they had seen more good plans"

Technology Ventures Educational Website

"This website [Technology Ventures] provides instructors and students of high-technology entrepreneurship with learning resources complementing Technology Ventures: From Idea to Enterprise, a McGraw-Hill Higher Education textbook written by Richard C. Dorf and Thomas H. Byers (ISBN #0072853530). Containing a wide variety of recommended media, the website includes case studies, short video clips, articles, and PowerPoint slides all focused on the creation and management of technology ventures....

Book Contents provides relevant media for each chapter in Technology Ventures, including videos and case studies from Harvard Business School and Stanford University. Additional resources are provided regarding how best to best integrate the book's business plans and case studies into entrepreneurship courses.

Sample Course Syllabus is derived from an actual Stanford University class including 24 sessions with all related content.

This website is free and open to students and instructors alike. It is a part of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program's Educators Corner, which is a digital archive of entrepreneurship education materials."

Civility At Work: 20 Ways to Build a Kinder Workplace

by Tom Terez

"It's not always easy being nice. There are deadlines to meet, conflicts to settle, resources to share, promotions to snag -- all of which can pit people against each other. What to do? Here are 20 practical ideas. If you believe that workplaces work better when people get along, scan this list and start living it.

1. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. There's no substitute for authentic communication.

2. Be less inclined to give advice -- and more inclined to seek it.

3. Resist the urge to jump to conclusions about people and their motives. Go to the source, get the facts, and then decide.

4. Identify the biggest redeeming quality of that person who's always driving you crazy. Keep it in mind the next time the two of you interact.

5. When greeting a colleague, skip the mindless how-ya-doin'. Ask a question that shows genuine interest.

6. Go out of your way to say thank you. Sincere appreciation is powerful stuff -- it's feedback, recognition, and respect all wrapped in one.

7. If you're overdue in showing gratitude, make up for lost time. Contact everyone who's owed thanks from you, and let them know how much you appreciate their help.

8. When credit and compliments come your way, spread them around to all who helped. And if you think you're solely responsible for that honored achievement, think again.

9. Promise only what you can deliver. If what you deliver falls short, explain why.

10. When things go wrong, resist the urge to assign blame. It's the system that usually fails, so fix the system, not the people.

11. Widen your social circle. If you always go to lunch with the same group, invite someone new.

12. Give a gift for no reason. If you work with nature lovers, order some plants or flowers. If the group has a chronic sweet tooth, get a few candy dishes and keep them full.

13. When a rumor reaches your ear, let it go out the other.

14. Step down from the treadmill of daily tasks and have an inefficient chat with a colleague. If it's someone you rarely engage in conversation, all the better.

15. Show interest in someone else's interests. Okay, maybe you're not dying to hear about Pat's passion for stamp collecting, but Pat will be thrilled you asked.

16. When you take a stand and later realize it's the wrong stand, be honest enough to say so.

17. Involve more people in weighing options and making decisions. There's incredible brainpower all around you, so why not put it to work?

18. If you tend to send e-mails to colleagues who are an easy walk away, give the computer a rest. Get up, walk over, and have a no-tech conversation.

19. Try going a whole day without making judgments about people. Good luck -- it's tough!

20. Don't wait for kindness to come your way. Gandhi had it right: We must be the change we wish to see in the world.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tom Terez is a speaker, workshop leader, and author of the book "22 Keys to Creating a Meaningful Workplace." Visit him online at BetterWorkplaceNow.com and TomTerez.com. To contact Tom, use the online form.

Copyright 2002 Tom Terez. All rights reserved.

Reprinted with permission from BetterWorkplaceNow.com

An Overview of the Software Patent Debate

"In today's era of open source proliferation, beyond patent disputes themselves, there are people and groups that have called into question the validity of issuing software patents in the first place.

The European Union, for example, is currently in a state of legal limbo with regards to the legality of software patents, with some arguing that they are expressly prohibited. Yet companies are still being granted software patents that apply in the EU.

Prominent members of the open source community have come out against the granting of software patents in the EU. The nosoftwarepatents.com movement (which is nominally backed by MySQL and Red Hat) has made numerous pronouncements..."

For an overview of the issues involved, see this internetnews.com article.

5/21/2005

Time Management with PDAs

For an interesting and helpful site intended to "help folks who have a PDA (Pocket PC or Palm) to better use their PDAs for effective time management," see "Time Management with PDAs".

Specific topics convered include:

Getting Started
Managing Tasks
Prioritizing Tasks
Problem Solving
ex-Procrastinating
Goal Setting
Effective Writing
Macros
The Big Picture

5/20/2005

The Leap from Independent Contractor to Business Owner

"Many independent contractors dream of building a Web Design/Development business that is bigger than a one-person enterprise.

They recognize the obvious benefits of creating an organization that has some scale to it:

-The financial benefits of increased revenues and, eventually, profits
-Building a firm with equity value, that can be sold for substantial rewards
-The status and esteem that comes from owning a 'real' business
-Leveraging your time, because other people are doing lots of the work (while you retain the profits)
-The satisfaction of employing and developing other people
-The enjoyment that sometimes comes from spending more time on big-picture, strategic issues, and less time on mundane details and daily 'fires' "

This article from SitePoint.com "provides a list of questions that the prospective small business owner should consider before they embark on building a business. It then provides a series of frameworks and models to help you take the leap from one-person band to owner of a small enterprise."

Testing Software Code for Open Source Components

"Software houses can check whether the code they develop has copied even just one snippet of code from any of 38 million open source files, using a new product that relies on source code 'fingerprinting' to reduce the risk of getting sued.

The product from San Francisco-based Palamida promises to give customers a full understanding of the origin, version, location and licence of open source and other third party code in their software products and applications.

While open source software can be used in commercial products, vendors must comply with the licence terms. The risk of misuse was highlighted last month when the UK subsidiary of security software firm Fortinet settled a lawsuit over its alleged non-compliance with the terms of the General Public Licence (GPL), which underpins the distribution of most open source software. So any software house need to be aware of what third party code has been used in development projects. "

For links, see this Information Policy post.

Private Placement Legal Issues

"This edition of the newsletter Business Law Commentaryis the first in a four part series dealing with the lawful sale of securities, by the company that issues them, in a transaction that is exempt from the general registration requirement imposed by the securities laws. These transactions are called “private offerings” or “private placements.”

Our series examines the fundamental attributes and limitations associated with them. Because the initial description of a private company is usually contained in its Business Plan, the feasibility of using that document to raise capital is the starting point for our analysis."

Traits of Successful Internet Entrepreneurs

"There are certain traits and skills that many successful online entrepreneurs have in common. Some mentioned in this article may seem simple, but don't overlook their importance.You may not personally be strong in all areas, but you can get by as long as you can delegate tasks that call for them to someone on your team that is.

Good Communicator...
Calculated Risk-Taker...
More of a Doer Than a Dreamer...
Persistent...
Cautiously Optimistic...
Goal Oriented...
Customer Oriented...
Passion for the Type of Business...
Flexible...
Skilled at Marketing...

Read more in this post by Marty Foley.

Small Business Planning

"Planning is a critical part of any business. Planning is a detailed method, formulated beforehand, for managing all or part of a business. It is not something that should be approached haphazardly. While many business owners think of planning simply as a process you need to go through to get funding, there are many other types of planning that may be useful to a small business to help it operate efficiently and effectively."

The table of contents gives you an overview of some of the topic areas covered in Planning in a Small Business by Judith Kautz:

Table of Contents:


The Planning Process
Business Planning
Business Plan Resources
Business Plan Competition
Business Plan Competition Directory
Financial Planning
Financial Management Plan
Legal Plan
Planning as a Business
Sample Plans
Human Resources Plan
Management Plan
Marketing Plan
Office Design Plan
Production Plan
SBA Business Plan Template
Setting Personal Goals
Strategic Planning

5/19/2005

Top Ten List on Pitching VCs

"Before you even attempt to contact a venture capitalist, be really clear about what you want and what you are prepared to give up in return. Be realistic and honest with yourself and the team about where your company is in its evolution and why someone would want to invest in you. And understand that the goal of your first meeting is to get the second meeting, period.

-Target your audience...
-Be prepared...
-Present your opportunity, not your product...
-Sell Your Value Proposition...
-Exhibit Leadership and Conviction...
-Identify your Market Opportunity...
-Know Your Customer...
-Present a Clear Business Model...
-Stay Flexible...
-Avoid Too Many Financials. Don’t get lost in the financial data in the first meeting. Instead convince them that they need to engage further with you. Don’t make ridiculous assertions on how you are going to be a $500 million company in 3 years; err on the conservative. Highlight your progress to date and make today’s reality vs. the future clear in your pitch...."

Read more in this Venture Momentum article.

12 Morale Building Ideas

"Here are twelve ideas for fostering morale, spirit and pride in your team.

1. Keep up-to-date...
2. Generate ideas...
3. Have a birthday party...
4. Solve a problem...
5. Get together for special events...
6. Take a field trip...
7. Do something as a group for the community..
8. Read and...discuss...
9. Dress the part...
10.Get some data...
11.Create a team room...
12.Share a snack..."

Read more in this Center for Creative Leadership article.

5/18/2005

Molecular Manufacturing At Hand?

Abstract of an article by Chris Phoenix:

"Molecular manufacturing emphasizes the use of precise, engineered, computer-controlled, nanoscale tools to construct vast numbers of improved tools as well as products with vast numbers of precise, engineered nanoscale features.

It has not been clear how to design and build the first nanoscale tools to start the process of scaleup and improvement, or how easily the operation of many advanced tools could be coordinated. This paper develops a roadmap from today's capabilities to advanced molecular manufacturing systems.

A number of design principles and useful techniques for molecular construction via nanoscale machines are discussed. Two approaches are presented to build the first tools with current technology. Incremental improvement from the first tools toward advanced integrated 'nanofactories' is explored. A scalable architecture for an advanced nanofactory is analyzed. The performance of advanced products, and some likely applications, are discussed. Finally, considerations and recommendations for a targeted development program are presented. "

Perils and Pitfalls of Provisional Patent Applications

"The United States provides a one-year grace period in which to file an application [for a patent] after a public disclosure, etc. Thus, particularly where a disclosure such as a public demonstration (as in a trade show) or publication is imminent, it may be necessary to file an application to preserve patent rights.

Under either the absolute novelty or one-year grace regimes, patent applications are frequently filed with a certain haste, to avoid patentability being barred by a prior art disclosure. Thus, the perception that a provisional patent application can be filed quickly, informally and inexpensively...

The common perception that provisional applications represent a low-risk, quick and easy way to obtaining a priority date with minimum effort is misplaced. In fact, the false sense of security with which inventors proceed to publicly disclose their inventions after making provisional filing may ultimately render the invention unpatentable. "

Read more in this McDermott Will & Emery article from Mondaq.

Complying With the SOX Whistleblower Provisions

"The governance reforms mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 have garnered a lot of media coverage in the wake of on-going corporate scandals. However, not as much attention has been paid to the Act�s whistleblower provisions, which prohibit companies from retaliating against employees when they report fraudulent activities. In addition to civil penalties that are applicable to publicly traded companies, the Act created a new crime, punishable by fines and up to 10 years in prison, for retaliating against employees who report any potential federal crime to law enforcement officials. The criminal whistleblower provision of Sarbanes-Oxley applies to private as well as publicly traded employers. So while private companies might consider themselves exempt from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, they aren�t completely off the hook. Private companies that implement procedures for reporting and handling whistleblower complaints about company wrongdoing are ahead of the game in terms of building employee morale and reducing legal risks.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Company?

To start, your company should establish a firm no-retaliation policy for employees who report suspected wrongdoing..."

Read more in this article from NFIB.

5/17/2005

How Much Should You Charge?

"One of the most difficult, yet important, issues you must decide as an entrepreneur is how much to charge for your product or service. While there is no one single right way to determine your pricing strategy, fortunately there are some guidelines that will help you with your decision."

This article from about.com reviews both pricing strategy and specific pricing methods you can use to calculate your optimum pricing, explaining in part:

"Here are four ways to calculate prices:

Cost-plus pricing - Set the price at your production cost, including both cost of goods and fixed costs at your current volume, plus a certain profit margin...

Target return pricing - Set your price to achieve a target return-on-investment (ROI)...

Value-based pricing - Price your product based on the value it creates for the customer. This is usually the most profitable form of pricing, if you can achieve it...

Psychological pricing - Ultimately, you must take into consideration the consumer's perception of your price, figuring things like:

-Positioning - If you want to be the "low-cost leader", you must be priced lower than your competition. If you want to signal high quality, you should probably be priced higher than most of your competition.

-Popular price points - There are certain "price points" (specific prices) at which people become much more willing to buy a certain type of product...

-Fair pricing - Sometimes it simply doesn't matter what the value of the product is, even if you don't have any direct competition. There is simply a limit to what consumers perceive as 'fair'..."

Have You Hugged Your Support Staff Lately?

"Doubtless, you are familiar with the insecure type of boss who micromanages projects, picks out every weakness in her staff's work, never gives complements, criticises staff in front of others and otherwise demonstrates her superiority by making everyone else feel small.

Staff working under such a boss will...be motivated to minimise criticism from their boss rather than to try and impress her. They will have learned that the boss cannot be impressed. She can only complain. Anything that can minimise that complaining improves the working environment for the staff. That usually means follow directions closely and do not deviate. In other words, don't bother to innovate, your ideas will be met with harsh words.

Compare such bosses with those who compliment good work, let staff micromanage their own projects, finds and builds upon the strength of each employee and praises staff in front of others. Staff with such a boss will be more motivated to please her and live up to and beyond her compliments.

Staff will also be freer to innovate knowing that good new ideas will be met with praise and implementation, while ideas that do not work will not lead to censure or worse.

Doubtless you are like that latter boss, who supports and compliments her staff. Nevertheless, praise your staff today. It may be one of the most empowering things you do today."

From the latest Report 103.

IRS Small Business Resource Guide Released

"The Small Business Resource Guide CD-ROM for 2005 has a new look and enhanced navigation features. This year we have included the IRS Tax Map to help you find forms, publications and instructions by searching on a keyword or topic. This handy, interactive CD includes all of the business tax forms, instructions and publications along with all of the new tax law changes for 2005. Throughout the CD you will find a wide variety of web links to various government agencies, business associations and IRS organizations. Additionally, the 'Rate the Product' survey feature is your opportunity to suggest changes for future editions of the Small Business Resource Guide CD. To request a copy of this CD online, visit the Small Business Products Online Ordering page."

From the IRS Small Business Resource Guide Update:

When Employees Have Equity, Good Things Happen

"The attitude of companies with programs for employee equity runs something like this: This is our company, and we will do whatever is necessary to help it succeed. It's that can-do attitude that makes equity stakes not only good for morale, but good for business, says the authors [Corey Rosen, John Case, and Martin Staubus] of Equity[: Why Employee Ownership Is Good for Business]...

The research and interviewing suggest that there are three key elements and that without all of them, it won't work. One element is equity itself -stock ownership significant enough that it matters to employees' financial future. The second is a culture that helps people think and feel like the owners they are. The third, and often overlooked, element is a shared understanding of key business disciplines, and a common commitment to pursuing them.."

Read more in this HBS Working Knowledge article.

Habits of Effective Time Managers

"HABIT 1: BE PROACTIVE

HABIT 2: BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND

HABIT 3: PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
Make sure to distinguish the goals that are truly important (e.g. completion of a research project) from those that may seem urgent but are really not important (e.g. arranging the weekend's softball game for your buddies). You do not want to spend an inordinate amount of time doing busywork--work that appears productive but only keeps you occupied.

Every activity we do in a given day can be put into four quadrants:

QUADRANT 1: IMPORTANT/URGENT
CRISIS
PRESSING PROBLEMS
DEAD-LINE DRIVEN PROJECTS

QUADRANT 2: IMPORTANT/NOT URGENT
NEW OPPORTUNITIES
PLANNING
LONG TERM PROJECTS

QUADRANT 3: URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT
POPULAR ACTIVITIES
INTERRUPTIONS
PROXIMATE PRESSING MATTERS

QUADRANT 4: NOT URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT
TRIVIA
BUSYWORK
PHONE CALLS, TIME WASTERS

Which quadrant of activities do you think people tend to do the most? The answer is quadrant 4 because these activities usually do not cause any stress. The next is quadrant 3 because the "squeaky wheel" gets the grease, so to speak.

However, doing quadrant 4 and 3 activities at the expense of quadrant 1 and 2 activities is an insidious form of procrastination. When you manage your time, make sure that you emphasize quadrant 1 and 2 activities. You may even want to list the things you have to do and then place each item in the appropriate quadrant to help you understand which activities require attention and planning.

The secret to effectively managing time lies in quadrant two. If you focus on quadrant 2 activities, you will have enhanced your vision, perspective, balance, discipline, control, and have fewer crises. Try to set aside time each day to work on something that is important but not necessarily urgent as a way of getting ahead. In doing so, you buy extra time later to handle the unexpected events that invariably happen to everyone.

HABIT 4: LOOK AHEAD..."

Read more in this UTLC article.

5/16/2005

Qualities of a Successful CEO

"J. Daniel Matthews of Lincoln Business Consulting in Canton, Ohio, observes that his most successful CEO clients have the following qualities in common:

1. A passion for continual improvement. They are usually happy, but they're rarely satisfied with themselves and are continually striving to be better.

2. An obsession with lifelong learning. They read constantly, attend seminars frequently, and join groups that educate and inspire.

3. The ability to think strategically and execute plans effectively. They can focus on a long- or short-term strategy and execute it well to keep the company moving in the right direction.

4. The desire and ability to be a true 'servant leader.' They work to give their team members better tools, improved technology, more efficient work environments and clearer goals. In turn, their employees view them as resources for the employees' success."

From the e-newsletter of Family Business Magazine.

Business Proof of Concept Test

"The Business Proof of Concept Test is designed to explore whether the entrepreneur has thought through the concept from a market size, intellectual property, human resources needs, competitive position and financial requirements point of view. The outputs from the test can be used as the basis for a business plan. The test is the equivalent of an investor's short list of important questions for analyzing whether to invest in the concept. By focusing on these questions early, the entrepreneur can resolve issues critical for success early on"

IBM Issues Blogging Guidelines

"As has been reported on a variety of blogs around the net, IBM today is publishing an announcement on its Intranet site encouraging all 320,000+ employees world wide to consider engaging actively in the practice of "blogging"... The core principles -- written by IBM bloggers over a period of ten days using an internal wiki -- are designed to guide IBMers as they figure out what they're going to blog about so they don't end up like certain notable ex-employees of certain notable other companies. They're also intended to communicate IBM's position on such practices as astroturfing, covert marketing, and openly goading or berating competitors -- specifically, don't do it...While the final draft was polished up a bit by the corporate communications and legal folks, the bullet points were written by IBM's bloggers based on what they felt was important -- both for them and for the company...

Guidelines for IBM Bloggers: Executive Summary

1. Know and follow IBM's Business Conduct Guidelines.
2. Blogs, wikis and other forms of online discourse are individual interactions, not corporate communications. IBMers are personally responsible for their posts. Be mindful that what you write will be public for a long time -- protect your privacy.
3. Identify yourself -- name and, when relevant, role at IBM -- when you blog about IBM or IBM-related matters. And write in the first person. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of IBM.
4. If you publish a blog or post to a blog and it has something to do with work you do or subjects associated with IBM, use a disclaimer such as this: 'The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.'
5. Respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.
6. Don't provide IBM's or another's confidential or other proprietary information.
7. Don't cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their approval.
8. Respect your audience. Don't use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, etc., and show proper consideration for others' privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory -- such as politics and religion.
9. Find out who else is blogging on the topic, and cite them.
10. Don't pick fights, be the first to correct your own mistakes, and don't alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so.
11. Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective."

For more see this post from James Snell.

5/15/2005

osCommerce -- Open Source E-Commerce Solutions

"osCommerce is an online shop e-commerce solution under on going development by the open source community. Its feature packed out-of-the-box installation allows store owners to setup, run, and maintain their online stores with minimum effort and with absolutely no costs or license fees involved.

osCommerce combines open source solutions to provide a free and open e-commerce platform, which includes the powerful PHP web scripting language, the stable Apache web server, and the fast MySQL database server.

With no restrictions or special requirements, osCommerce is able to run on any PHP enabled web server, on any environment that PHP and MySQL supports, which includes Linux, Solaris, BSD, Mac OS X, and Microsoft Windows environments."

Via this post from Marcus P. Zillman.

10 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills

"1. Develop your voice...
2. Slow down...
3. Animate your voice...
4. Enunciate your words...
5. Use appropriate volume...
6. Pronounce your words correctly...
7. Use the right words...
8. Make eye contact...
9. Use gestures...
10. Don’t send mixed messages..."

For more details, see this post from Open Loops.

Assistance for International Business Planning

"If you own a small business and are considering exporting U.S. products or services, a great place to start is the BUYUSA.GOV web site for the U.S. Commercial Service of the United States Department of Commerce. The U.S. Commercial Service helps U.S. companies find new international business partners in worldwide markets. Additionally, the service helps companies outside of the U.S to find U.S. suppliers of products and services. A database of offices is maintained on the web site as well."

For links and more, see this post from Small Business IP.

5/14/2005

The VC Business Has Changed

"Venture folks are fond of saying that they roll up their sleeves and work with portfolio companies. The reality is that, like most people, they'd rather not. As is superficially rational, they'd prefer to have a fully-formed company -- team, technology, market, and traction -- than have something missing in any of those key pieces.

Fair enough, but here's the problem: Almost everywhere in the U.S., Canada, and Europe other than Silicon Valley (and maybe Boston) that's a pipe dream...

Why? Because the venture business has changed. In most places you can't simply hang out a shingle and hope fully-former venture-fundable teams trip through the door way. And in the few places where that is the case, the amount of capital floating around is such that the investment immediately turns into an auction and the venture guy demonstrates dumbth by being forced to over-pay for the privilege of investing...

Read more in this excellent post from Infectious Greed.

Baby Boomer Brain Drain

"With 75 million baby boomers set to retire in the next few years, corporate America could be in trouble if those workers take their knowledge with them.

Accenture said last week that a poll of 500 full-time workers between 40 and 50 years old reveals that nearly 45 percent work at companies that do not have formal policies in place to capture what they've learned before they retire or leave their current workplaces...

Kathy Battistoni, a partner at Accenture, a management consulting firm, said companies should start putting policies in place or risk losing valuable institutional knowledge."

Read more in Boston Globe Article.

5/13/2005

Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation under the New Bankruptcy Act

"On April 20, 2005, President Bush signed into law the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (Act), which is generally effective for bankruptcy filings commenced after October 17, 2005.

The Act clarifies how certain Bankruptcy Code rules apply to employee benefits and enhances the protection of plan benefits in bankruptcy and contains new restrictions on executive compensation that may be paid by an employer in (or prior to) bankruptcy."

This article from McDermott Will & Emery via Mondaq contains a summary of the Act's principal provisions affecting employee benefits and executive compensation."

Being a Catalyst

"We can add a lot of value by being a positive catalyst. The term catalyst comes from the world of chemistry, but in business it has come to describe a person who accelerates, activates, or otherwise increases the rate of reaction to a situation. It's someone who, through his or her proactive dialogue or action, causes an important (and presumably beneficial) event to occur...

A good catalyst is worth his or her weight in gold. The right thing, said at the right time, can save an organization or give it a new and exciting direction...

We can learn to become better catalysts by practicing being curious, proactive, observant, and courageous... Very small amounts of these rare behaviors speed the progress of the organization."

Read more in post from Management Craft.

5/12/2005

Fundamentals of Franchising

"A franchise is a legal and commercial relationship between the owner of a trademark, service mark, trade name, or advertising symbol and an individual or group wishing to use that identification in a business. The franchise governs the method of conducting business between the two parties. Generally, a franchisee sells goods or services supplied by the franchisor or that meet the franchisor's quality standards.

Franchising is based on mutual trust between the franchisor and franchisee. The franchisor provides the business expertise (marketing plans, management guidance, financing assistance, site location, training, etc.) that otherwise would not be available to the franchisee. The franchisees brings to the franchise operation the entrepreneurial spirit and drive necessary to make the franchise a success.
There are primarily two forms of franchising:

-Product/trade name franchising and
-Business format franchising.

In the simplest form, a franchisor owns the right to the name or trademark and sells that right to a franchisee. This is known as 'product/trade name franchising.' The more complex form, 'business format franchising,' involves a broader ongoing relationship between the two parties. Business format franchises often provide a full range of services, including site selection, training, product supply, marketing plans, and even assistance in obtaining financing."

To learn more, visit the SBA's Startup Basics: Buy Franchise.

Why Startups Are Like Peacocks to a VC

Kevin Laws presents a cool take on why startups are like peacocks to a VC. More particularly why startups to a VC are like male peacocks to a female peacock, who faces the dilemma of deciding among the many candidates the best one to mate with:

"The tail resolves this dilemma. After all, it makes the peacock pretty easy for predators to spot and catch. It takes a clever, fast, healthy peacock to have such a ridiculous disadvantage and still survive. The bigger the tail, the bigger the disadvantage and the better the peacock has to be to survive. Though not useful by itself, it is useful in instantly communicating something that would normally take a long time to observe...

That's why VCs pattern match on credibility factors when deciding to spend more time with a company rather than diving directly into the details. When having such a wide selection of available mates, sorting out the good from the bad can be a matter of looking for a nice tail. Feathers in this tail include a high quality board of advisors, a good law firm, a good bank, management with a past track record, or the first paying customer.

While all of these things can be very valuable to a startup company, their value to a venture investor can appear out of proportion to the value they bring through their work. As a result, sometimes it may appear that management is sacrificing the long term goals of the company to establish the feathers necessary to get funded. In that case, they really can be peacock feathers - things that may slow down long term success, but that only good companies can take on. In certain models where significant funding can make the difference between success and failure, those actions may be required to succeed at all."

5/11/2005

So you want to be a consultant?

Then check out this guide from Steve Friedl's Unixwiz.net that is loaded with good advice, tips, anecdotes and instruction (most of which also applies to practicing law). A few samples:

"Why work 8 hours/day for someone else when you can work 16 hours/day for yourself?...

The single biggest surprise to prospective consultants is when I suggest that their technical skills will not be their biggest asset. Those skills are required, of course, and often help get you in the door, but the long-term customer relationships on which a consultant depends are built on one thing only:

Consulting maxim:
You must give the customer The Warm Fuzzy Feeling™

Your customer certainly has to believe you can do the job, but they cannot wonder if you're going to get back to them, or if you're going to do something stupid (again?), or offend one of their customers. Your practice is never more stable than when your customers trust you completely to take care of them..."

Some other consulting maxims from the article:

-"Trust" is your best job security
-You are primarily in the customer service business, not the technical business
-For a good consultant, your voice is comforting: Be very easy to find
-Customers hate "unhappy surprises" much more than "timely bad news"
-Ongoing business is much more important than maximizing every billable hour
-Detail is comforting to a customer
-If the customer doesn't know you did work off the clock, you don't get credit for it
-It's a huge asset to communicate well -- cultivate this skill vigorously
-Your references are your reputation in the consulting world
-The customer is NOT always right
-If you're booked up solid, your rates are too low
-Your long-term customers are your best customers
-Your customers are buying your judgment, not just your time
-Being known for your integrity is the Holy Grail of consulting
-Your references and your experience are far more important than your certifications
-"Education" is one of the best investments a consultant can make

What VCs Say They Want

"When VCs evaluate a business opportunity, they want to see that:
-- You have a sound company strategy and business plan.
-- Your management team has drive, ambition and relevant experience.
-- Your target market is substantial and growing rapidly.
-- You have a clear understanding of your business.
-- You have a clear understanding of the competitive landscape.
-- Your business has a proprietary or differentiated product.
-- Your business can realize significant gross profit margins and significant revenue growth.
-- Your business has the potential to be a home-run investment..

Business tip:

Don't fudge the projections in your business plan
Investors expect to see a business plan that paints a realistic financial picture of the anticipated growth of the company. If the plan is overly aggressive and inconsistent with growth in the industry, your credibility may be questioned.

Be realistic with your financial projections, and be prepared to explain how you arrived at the numbers. "

From this sfgate.com article.

Articles from Frank Demmler on Deals and Entrepreneurship

Follow this link to a useful series of articles written by Frank Demmler for TechyVent, a Pittsburgh-based information service dedicated to providing information about technology and enterpreneurship.

Frank Demmler (fd0n@andrew.cmu.edu) is Adjunct Teaching Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University.

Topics of these articles include:

-Why Investors Don't Want to Invest in Your Deal
-Arithmetic of Deals
-Valuation
-The Term Sheet
-What's So Preferable about Preferred Stock?
-Deal Structures
-Fund Raising Recap
-The Roles of the CEO and Founders
-Is a Small Piece of a Big Pie Worthwhile?
-Working with Your Board
-The Nine Drafts of the Business Plan
-Lessons Learned - Pricing
-Lessons Learned - Hiring
-Keeping Your Equity
-Dilution

5/10/2005

There Must 20 Ways...To Say No (update)

If you are like me and many others, you sometimes have difficulty saying no to new projects even when you are very busy. This list from Ramona Creel offers 20 statements you can make in appropriate circumstances. A couple of examples:

I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF SEVERAL PROJECTS

-let people know when you have accepted other responsibilities
-no need to make excuses if you don't have any free time
-no one will fault you for having already filled your plate

I HAVE ANOTHER COMMITMENT

-it doesn't matter what the commitment is
-it can even simply be time to yourself or with friends or family
-you don't have to justify -- you simply aren't available

I KNOW YOU WILL DO A WONDERFUL JOB YOURSELF

-people often ask for help because they doubt their own abilities
-let them know that you have confidence they will succeed
-you are actually doing them a favor in the long run

I WOULD RATHER HELP OUT WITH ANOTHER TASK

-saying no doesn't mean that you can't help at all
-if someone asks you to do something you really despise, refuse
-then offer to help with something you find more enjoyable

UPDATE:

For a hilarious take on the foregoing, check out OPTIMUSCRIME.COM: Getting To No.

The Lost Art of Note-Taking

I take notes, lots of notes. Taking notes helps me to remember what is being said. The double dose of listening and writing aids in learning and understanding. I automatically take notes using an outline format I A 1 etc. The outline helps me to organize my thoughts and the speaker's. I usually go over my notes later and condense them using the outline format, sometimes on my PC but often in longhand or as part of a checklist.

Note taking is not a lost art to me, but I observe, as does Michael Hyatt, that many do not take notes at meetings or presentations. In this post, "Recovering the Lost Art of Note Taking," Mr. Hyatt makes these observations and suggestions:

"Note-taking enables you to stay engaged...
Note-taking provides a mechanism for capturing your ideas, questions, and commitments...
Note-taking communicates the right things to the other attendees...

But how can you more effectively take notes? Let me offer four suggestions:

Use a journal-formatted notebook...Keep your meeting notes as a running journal...Use symbols so you can quickly scan your notes later...Schedule time to review your notes..."

5/09/2005

Analyzing Financial Ratios

"To complete a thorough examination of your company's effectiveness, however, you need to look at more than just easily attainable numbers like sales, profits, and total assets. You must be able to read between the lines of your financial statements and make the seemingly inconsequential numbers accessible and comprehensible.

This massive data overload could seem staggering. Luckily, there are many well-tested ratios out there that make the task a bit less daunting. Comparative ratio analysis helps you identify and quantify your company's strengths and weaknesses, evaluate its financial position, and understand the risks you may be taking.

As with any other form of analysis, comparative ratio techniques aren't definitive and their results shouldn't be viewed as gospel. Many off-the-balance-sheet factors can play a role in the success or failure of a company. But, when used in concert with various other business evaluation processes, comparative ratios are invaluable.

This discussion contains descriptions and examples of the eight major types of ratios used in financial analysis: Income, Profitability, Liquidity, Working Capital, Bankruptcy, Long-Term Analysis, Coverage, and Leverage. "

Onshore Outsourcing

"Why send IT work to India when you can pay a little more and have it done in middle America or the South? The concept of providing IT services from some lower-cost regions in the United States made so much sense to Kathy White, former CIO at health-care conglomerate Cardinal Health Inc., that she took $2 million of her own money and started a business around it. 'If we can outsource to India, then we can outsource to Arkansas,' White says...

The company specializes in developing applications for vertical industries with a large presence in the locations where it operates. For instance, staffers in Greenville will focus on building applications for many of the large health-care companies based in the Raleigh, N.C., area. Staff in Jonesboro will concentrate on supply-chain and distribution applications for the retail industry."

Read more in this InformationWeek article.

5/07/2005

Happy Mothers Day

"Things My Mother Taught Me

My mother taught me to appreciate a job well done:
"If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning."

My mother taught me religion:
"You’d better pray that will come out of the carpet."

My mother taught me about time travel:
"If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"

My mother taught me logic:
"Because I said so, that's why."

My mother taught me more logic:
"If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're not going to the store with me."

My mother taught me foresight:
"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."

My mother taught me irony:
"Keep crying, and I'll give you something to cry about."

My mother taught me about the science of osmosis:
"Shut your mouth and eat your supper."

My mother taught me about contortionism:
"Look at that dirt on the back of your neck!"

My mother taught me about stamina:
"You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone."

My mother taught me about weather:
"This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it."

My mother taught me about hypocrisy:
"If I told you once, I've told you a million times. Don't exaggerate!"

My mother taught me about the circle of life:
"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

My mother taught me about behavior modification:
"Stop acting like your father!"

My mother taught me about envy:
"There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do."

My mother taught me about anticipation:
"Just you wait until we get home!"

My mother taught me about receiving:
"Boy, are you are going to get it when you get home!"

My mother taught me medical science:
"If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they are going to freeze that way."

My mother taught me ESP:
"Put your sweater on; don't you think I know when you are cold?"

My mother taught me humor:
"When that lawnmower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."

My mother taught me how to become an adult:
"If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up."

My mother taught me genetics:
"You're just like your father."

My mother taught me wisdom:
"When you get to be my age, you'll understand."

Most important, my mother taught me about justice:
"One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you!"

From www.tonycook.org"

Reprinted from www.bruderhoff.com.

Protect IP When an Employee Leaves

"In 'How To Protect IP When Terminating Employees,' Caroline Horton Rockafellow reccommends

-taking inventory of all documentation and electronic information that may contain corporate intellectual property, prior to the termination.

-terminating the former employee's electronic access immediately prior to termination or, in the alternative, monitoring access in accordance with company computer policies.

-ensuring that the company continues to have access to all electronic records, corporate documents, and notebooks of the former employee

-using exit interviews to educate the former employee as to the proper treatment of these assets."

For a link to the article, please see this post from I/P Updates.

Guidelines for Protecting Consumer Privacy Issued

"TRUSTe, a non-profit online privacy group, issued its first set of data security guidelines Monday to assist companies — small and large — evaluate new or existing policies for protecting consumer and employee personally identifiable information. These guidelines are available as a resource for companies that hold TRUSTe's Web and other members of the public...

TRUSTe suggests ten "high-level" requirements every company should consider to protect their customer's personal or sensitive data:

-A company-wide data security policy and employee training program
-Internal control over the collection, use and sharing of confidential or private data
-Access procedures that are based on an individual's "need to know"
-Internal control over the management of third-party vendor or outsourced relations
-Administrative control and physical security
-Perimeter controls, such as firewalls and VPN
-Encrypt sensitive data when transmitting across public networks, especially when using wireless or Bluetooth technologies
-Updates for anti-virus software and security patches
-Identity management and authentication procedures (when feasible)
-Regular tests and monitoring

Read more in article from smallbusinesscomputing.com via ths Small Business Brief post

5/06/2005

Prioritize, Plan and Participate in the New Normal

The following are excerpts from a speech delivered by Roger McNamee at the Software 2005 conference in Santa Clara, CA on April 27, 2005:

"I’m here today to talk about life . . . to talk about making the most of your life in a time I call the New Normal.

The New Normal is a time when there are four unshakable issues that each of has to deal with. First, technology is changing just about everything. Second, globalization is changing the nature of economic opportunity. Third, every individual is on his or her own. We have more power than ever before, but no safety nets. And fourth, none of us has enough time to deal with life...

Throughout the 90s, technology and globalization worked hand-in-hand to transform the world economy...Globalization is a fact of life. It’s not going away...Globalization and technology remain intertwined. Together they give rise to seven really important trends that affect us all. First, and most obvious, is the rise of Asia....The second trend is industry consolidation... The third trend is the unending demand for new and better forms of communication.... The fourth trend is collaboration...the fifth trend is the rise of mass customization...The sixth trend is the rise of the consumer...The seventh trend is time management. The biggest opportunities will be those that leverage people’s time...

The great challenge for every individual is to balance family, career and personal finance with no safety nets. It is all too easy to feel isolated...to feel that each of us is alone in trying to maintain a balance. Alone in the sense of having no safety nets. Alone because we don’t appreciate that there are millions of other people facing the same challenges that we are. Each of us faces a never-ending stream of decisions . . . life has come to imitate a visit to Starbucks. At Starbucks, life can be as complicated as a half-cafĂ© mega sweet double extra grande latte...or as simple as a cup of coffee.

The problem is not lack of data. We’re drowning in data. The problem is not even a lack of tools. Technology has given us an amazing array of tools to help in our decision-making. The problem is lack of time. There doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to get done all things we have to get done. Worse yet, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to change our personal business processes to get ahead of the curve.

If you want to leverage the power of the Individual, you have to manage your time effectively. Most of us are faced with a huge pile of things to do and decisions to make. More often than not, we start at the top of the pile and try to work our way through. Wrong answer. The pile never gets smaller. Here’s the key insight: Most of the stuff in our inbox is just not that important. The challenge is to figure out which two or three things really matter...and focus your energy on them.

At the highest level, the most important stuff is family, career and personal finance. The challenge is to maintain a balance among the three...

Success in the New Normal is ALL about time management... How do you do this? Focus on the three Ps: Prioritize, Plan, Participate..."

Read the entire speech here.

5/05/2005

14,000 Volunteers Needed for Pittsburgh Disaster Drill

"One of the largest emergency response drills in the country will be held this Saturday at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, and the Red Cross is looking for 14,000 volunteers. Free Pirates tickets, a free Red Cross first-aid kit, free concert by the Pittsburgh All-Stars and other giveaways are the return for about three hours of your time. Not counting the chance to participate in a simulated terrorist attack.

The coolest volunteer roles have already been taken - the ones who get to be made up to look like accident victims. But if you have three hours to volunteer to sit in the stadium, enjoy a free concert, visit the food vendor stands (offering reduced prices), and see what a terrorist attack might feel like in real life, then visit PNC Park Disaster Drill or call 412-253-3146 to volunteer."

Via this about.com post.

Free Internet Course on Starting a Small Business

My Own Business, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization committed to helping new businesses succeed in every community. MOBI offers a free online course in entrepreneurship that appears to offer good practical advice.

Course topics are:

Session 1: Deciding on a Business
Session 2: The Business Plan
Session 3: Computer and Communication Tools
Session 4: Business Organization
Session 5: Business Insurance
Session 6: Location and Leasing
Session 7: Accounting and Cash Flow
Session 8: How to Finance Your Business
Session 9: E-Commerce Business
Session 10: Buying a Business or Franchise
Session 11: Opening and Marketing
Session 12: Expanding and Handling Problems

Beware of Boardroom Bullies

"Chairing the board traditionally requires strong leadership - but a board chair who bullies the top team into cowering submission can do more harm than good, and risks killing the business altogether, a consultancy has warned.

A study...found boardroom bullying to be endemic, with high-powered executives routinely complaining that chairs are arrogant, over-bearing and out-of-date.

The issue of boardroom bullying has been highlighted by high-profile American financier Warren Buffett, who last month issued a damning critique of the way many companies suffer from over-dominant chief executives."

Read more in this Management-Issues article.

Employee or Independent Contractor?

"In an audit IRS agents will most always examine worker classification issues, i.e. to determine whether individuals who should be classified as 'employees' have been wrongly classified instead as 'independent contractors.' Reclassifying the individual as an employee can not only have unpleasant consequences for the employer, but also for the individual who is no longer being treated as an independent contractor...

Two things to note here:

(1) Employers should beware of reclassifying employees as "independent contractors" just to avoid coverage under benefit plans. Such actions can lead to ERISA section 510 claims as well as problems with the IRS in an audit, which can impact both the employer as well as the individual being reclassified.

(2) An individual or a business may ask the IRS to determine the whole matter of employment status by filing Form SS-8..."

For more details, a discussion of relevant recent cases and links to useful resources, see this post from Benefitsblog.

5/04/2005

Microsoft offers R&D to Small Businesses & Startups

"Microsoft said Wednesday it has opened up a library of technologies developed by its R&D teams to small companies and startup companies."

Under the program, called Microsoft IP Ventures, the Redmond, Washington, software maker will license technologies to these companies to help ease their development of new products and services, Microsoft said in a statement.

Microsoft is offering licenses for technology related to gaming, databases, multimedia, and security, among others."

From this infoworld article via this Venture Chronicles by Jeff Nolan post.

I'm going to sue YOU, not just your company

The following is from a post by Michael Harris. I agree with his advice that the article referred to is worth reading in its entirety and suggest following the above link for access to the article:

"This article provides a nice summary of some important issues, including WHY plaintiffs may sue you (e.g., it exerts more pressure on the company to settle the case and avoid bad publicity; and plaintiffs' counsel may hope to create sufficient conflict between the employer and the manager).

The article also summarizes court trends in terms of allowing individuals to be sued for discrimination, FMLA, tort suits, etc.

You will also find some suggestions for avoiding being named in an employment-related lawsuit, including:

1. Follow the law and not strictly marching orders;

2. Know how to respond to authorities;

3. Know when to get help;

4. Know your organizational policies and procedures and implement them consistently.

I strongly recommend you read the entire article!"

Categorizing Your Investors

"When raising money for your business, it makes good sense to categorize the types of private investors you're pitching...

Investing is about risk. The risk that you'll lose your money or not earn a decent return is the most obvious risk faced by private investors. But for most entrepreneurs, raising money is about managing emotional risk in addition to financial risk…

In the area of financial risk..., you need to determine the answers to these questions:

-Is the potential investor able to lose their investment in return for a chance for a significant upside? If so, their comfort with financial risk is high, and you can consider them savvy.

-Does their enthusiasm for you or your idea overshadow their investing experience? If so, their comfort with financial risk is low, and you should consider them supportive.

In the area of emotional risk...:

-Would the investor withhold their money if they thought it would damage a relationship? If so, their comfort level with emotional risk is low, so consider them worried.

-Are they far enough removed that the emotional risk feels low? If so, their comfort level with emotional risk is high, and you can consider them distant.

Using your responses to these questions, place your investor in the quadrant below that you think best fits their comfort level:

Savvy & Worried…
Savvy & Distant…
Supportive & Worried…
Supportive & Distant…”

Read the details in this article by Asheesh Advani in Entrepreneur.com.

5/03/2005

Questionable Employee Interview Questions

Q. "My partners and I started a small company and we're ready to start hiring employees. I know there are things we shouldn't ask during interviews. Are there any guidelines?"

A. "There are many questions you should not ask during a job interview, even if your motives are pure. This is because they could make you vulnerable to a charge of discrimination if the prospective employee isn't hired. You also have to be careful about information volunteered by potential employees for the same reasons. You can take comfort, however, in the fact that most "illegal" questions are unrelated to any legitimate hiring criteria."

Read more in this article from allbusiness.com.

Time for the 28 Hour Day?

"Did you ever feel like there just weren't enough hours in the day? Have you ever stayed up late because you weren't tired enough to go to bed? Have you ever felt like you didn't get enough sleep and it was, too soon, time to get up? Have you ever wished for more free time to pursue different activities and goals?

If you can relate to these feelings, you will be interested in the 28 Hour Day. Under the 28 Hour Day system, the current week would remain at exactly 168 hours. (24x7=168) However, this 168 hour period would be divided into six 28-hour days rather than 7 24-hour days.

Some of the benefits of extending the length of the day are relatively clear: you would simply have more time to do the things you wanted to do. Everything you do now in a typical day could be done for a little longer: you could sleep longer, work longer, spend longer blocks of time with your family and friends, and have more leisurely meals.

Other benefits become apparent when you realize that 'daily' activities would occur less frequently: only six times each week instead of seven. Work, for example, could be accomplished in larger blocks of time, with fewer trips to and from the work place.
There are also benefits that come from the fact that, on a 28-hour day, our wake-sleep cycles would not be synchronized with the earth's cycle of light and dark.

There are strong philosophical and scientific arguments in favor of the 28 hour day. Serious proponents of the 28 hour day share their views here."

Tips on Managing a Patent Portfolio

"1. Use preliminary and supplemental claim amendments...
2. Manage continuation or divisional patent applications and/or RCE’s...
3. Partition your technology into inventions...
4. Consider the strategy or cost of pursuing improvements or extensions of your existing technology...
5. Consider low-cost procedural options...
6. Utilize appeals, teleconferences, and affidavits during prosecution...
7. Meet your duty of disclosure to the USPTO of known prior art...
8. Learn to let go when you need to and consider alternative approaches...
9. Identify licensing opportunities as well as litigation possibilities...
10. Use reissue, reexamination and interferences."

Read more in this article from Fernandez And Associates from Mondaq.

Summary of Business Changes to Bankruptcy Act

For an executive summary of the material changes made to the Bankruptcy Code that affect businesses, see this article from Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft from Mondaq (free registration required).

The Sedona Guidelines on Managing Information and Records

"The Sedona Working Group has published The Sedona Guidelines: Best Practice Guidelines and Commentary for Managing Information and Records in the Electronic Age. The guidelines are designed to promote effective approaches to addressing the key issues of electronic records management.

Unlike the recent ANSI/ARMA or ISO standard-setting efforts, The Sedona Guidelines focuses on legal imperatives that are driving the issue. Compliance with these new requirements can best be fostered by adopting the approach underlying the five Sedona guidelines….

Guideline One: Adopt a Practical and Reasonable Approach...

Guideline Two: Carefully Assess Retention Requirements...

Guideline Three: Deal with the Overwhelming Volume of Electronic Communications...

Guideline Four: Make Effective Use of Technology...

Guideline Five: Enhance Your Litigation Hold Process

Most organizations now understand the need to implement an adequate legal hold process. Generally speaking, a legal hold consists of practices and procedures, usually managed by the legal or tax department, which suspend deletion or destruction of electronic and other forms of information. Legal holds also lay the groundwork for identification and collection of such information…”

Read more in this article from Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw from Mondaq.

Passion Breeds Success

Frank Maguire, co-founder of Federal Express, had about 400 Bowling Green community members, University administrators, faculty members and students laughing, clapping, singing and even holding hands during a talk he gave recently.

“Maguire…talked with audience members in a 'one-on-one conversation' about the essentials of entrepreneurship: passion, attitude, leadership and character…

Anyone can have a dream and even enough money to start a company, Maguire said, but it's passion that produces realities…

'There's a light in each one of you and it's bigger than you ever thought and it's on your side,' he said. 'Turn on your light. You can do it, regardless of your circumstances.'"

Read more in this article from The BG News.

The Business Plan Cover Page: Executive Summary of the Executive Summary

This article from MoreBusiness suggests using the cover of your business plan as an executive summary of the executive summary, stating:

"Here are the ten critical pieces of information to include on the cover page of your business plan.

1. Headline...
2. Company...
3. Contact...
4. Type of business...
5. Business summary...
6. Management...
7. Product/service and competition...
8. Funds requested and collateral...
9. Financial data...
10. Exit... "


5/02/2005

How VCs Evaluate Investment Opportunities

To learn about the frameworks VC firms use when evaluating potential venture opportunities, Mike Roberts, executive director of the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, and HBS senior research associate Lauren Barley recently interviewed four venture capitalists from leading firms in Silicon Valley.

What follows are exceprts from their responses:

"The most important requirement is a large market opportunity in a fast-growing sector...The second factor involves a competitive edge that is long lasting...The third thing is team..."

"We track four things and relate them to the success of our investments: market size, the team, unique technology, and whether the product is developed at the time we invest..."

"In no particular order, for us they are team, market opportunity, and the product/value proposition for the solution. Technology differentiation or business model differentiation is also important to sustain a competitive advantage."

Read more in this HBS Working Knowledge article.


The following are excerpts from their responses."

5/01/2005

EE Times List of 60 Emerging Startups Updated

"The EE Times 60 Emerging Startups list [the Silicon 60], first published as the Silicon Strategies 60 Emerging Startups list in April 2004, has been updated to version 3.0 to reflect the latest corporate, commercial and technological conditions...

Editors have selected companies based on a mix of criteria including: technology, intended market, maturity, financial position and investment profile. Startups on the Silicon 60 list include companies involved in semiconductors, fab equipment, packaging, foundry, materials, MEMS and EDA software that made an impression."

Access the list via this EETimes.com post.

Five Myths About Changing Behavior

Myth: Crisis is a powerful impetus for change

Myth: Change is motivated by fear

Myth: The facts will set us free

Myth: Small, gradual changes are always easier to make and sustain

Myth: We can't change because our brains become "hardwired" early in life

For the reality, see this article from FastCompany.