Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Program to Help You Grow

Small businesses and would-be entrepreneurs need all the help they can get. Networking, insight and free information can make the difference between success and failure. Small Business Development Centers are a national network of offices providing a resource to stimulate the growth and development of small businesses.

There are 1,100 locations across the country, including co-sponsors, like colleges and universities, as well as satellite and outreach offices.

Established in 1980 to spur job growth, the Small Business Development Center Program is a national effort financed by the federal Small Business Administration that offers businesses free planning, management and technical assistance. But generating publicity for the centers continues to be a major obstacle to their success.

Information about the center can be accessed through the Small Business Administration at 1-800-827-5722.

If you make the best use of the resources available to you, you’ll build a stronger business.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Fellowship Builds a Stronger Business

You can be at the top of your profession and have a loving family, but sometimes it just isn’t enough, as the article “A Society of Men Sharing Faith, Concerns and Wisecracks” from The New York Times reveals.

Some people are turning to faith based groups to give them the solace missing from other parts of their lives.

The New Canaan Society is one such group. It was started by Jim Lane, a former general partner with Goldman Sachs in 1995.

“We are a group of men who love each other and love Jesus,” said Lane. “The more successful you are, the more isolated and lonely you tend to be. Being Fairfield County, our men tend to be driven. Many high-powered executives get to the top, only to feel dissatisfaction.”

According to Lane, members of the group support each other and share stories on how to be better fathers, husbands and men. It’s deliberately kept to an all-male crowd because Lane believes men are far more likely to be open with others if women are not around.

The group has mushroomed from eight at its start to upwards of 250 at its Hibernian Hall meeting place in Stamford, CT.

People need all manner of support to build satisfaction in their lives. Having a group that can reaffirm your faith can help you build a stronger business.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

From College Contest to Commercialization

Innovation requires an open mind and enthusiasm. As reported in ”A Car Built by Two, Fast and Way Cool,” by Fischler in The New York Times, Eyal Angel and Seth Rosenberg built a car for their senior design project, as part of a mechanical engineering major at Hofstra University. Neither of them had any training in building cars, but they both had a passion for cars. Their car was modeled after the Ariel Atom 2, a British racecar. However, though exotic racecars can cost close to a quarter of a million dollars, they built their car for $12,000. They hope to manufacture more of the cars and market them for $45,000.

Pursuing your passions and expanding your knowledge can build a stronger business.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Always a Downside it Seems

Have You Considered What Your Buyers Want?

The New York Times article “Economist on Fair Trade,” flagged up a recent article in The Economist which wrinkled its nose and tried to pick apart the argument for encouraging practices such as fair trade, organic farming and locally grown products.

It singled out fair trade items, specifically coffee, for its inflated prices. Although there is a larger price tag so that farmers in developing countries can get a fair share of what the branded companies sell, the popularity and higher price tags for fair trade goods have made the sector more attractive to other companies and has increased the demand for a product at a time when policies are being developed to reduce overproduction.

It states that organic farming uses much more land than is currently cultivated and that, were every farm to switch over to this practice, the rain forests wouldn’t have much of a hope.

Bloggers such as Tufts University food economist Parke Wilde and Samuel Fromartz author of Organic Inc. and contributor to environmental blog Gristmill dismiss the The Economist’s argument and point out that its claims on fair trade and organic farming are exaggerated.

Don’t ignore the reality on the ground if you want to build a stronger business.

Cater to a Niche Market for Rewards on Many Levels

The article, “Toys for Disabled, Step 1: What Can a Child Still Do?” from The New York Times shows Dr Steven E. Kanor as a modern day Gepetto for a niche market. He makes toys for children with special needs whose ability to play is limited by their physical impairments.

“What we’re dealing with are children who may not have the use of arms or legs, who may not be able to see, to hear, or even move,” says Dr Kanor. “But we start with what the child has left and focus on what we can do.”

Dr Kanor, 71, who trained as a biomedical engineer, is the founder and president of Enabling Devices in Hastings on Hudson, a 30 year old company that designs toys and leaning devices children with disabilities ranging from missing limbs to muscular diseases, quadriplegics and degenerative brain diseases.

Product inventions are tailored to specific needs. In one instance, Dr Kanor created an eye blink switch for a child paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident. The device allows him to manipulate devices by blinking and facilitates communication.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the number of children with disabilities is growing; it estimates that there are at least nine million children with a physical or mental disability. One reason the rate has increased is the increased survival rate of premature babies.

In a nod to the need for toys that can reach a broader audience the Toy Industry Association released a brochure detailing toys from the general market that can used by children with disabilities. But while other toy companies have shown interest in adapting some of their toys for specific children’s needs and abilities, Kanor’s company remains the only one to address special needs across his product line.

Elizabeth Bell, Enabling Devices marketing director, puts sales at $6m and estimates that 100,000 toys and devices are sold each year.

Sometimes, finding a niche in the market can also mean giving much needed benefit to a neglected group, and help you build a stronger business.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

University Students Take on Detroit Innovation requires open mind and enthusiasm

The article “A Car Built by Two, Fast and Way Cool,” from The New York Times offers a refreshing view of modern day car designers with a dash of bracing business basics.

If you see a gap in the market and want to produce a product, don’t let a lack of experience stop you. It certainly didn’t stymie Eyal Angel or Seth Rosenberg, two Hofstra University mechanical engineering students who built a sports car based on a combination of coursework, library and Internet research.

They developed an understanding of suspension design, electrical systems, fuel pumps, cooling and exhaust systems. They designed a paper mock up of a chassis and developed a computer model and from that they welded together a chassis composed of tubular steel parts in Rosenberg’s grandfather’s Floral Park machine shop.

The roadster is modeled after the Ariel Atom 2, a British racecar. It has a 2.4 liter turbocharged engine and is designed to vroom from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds or less.

With prototype costs at $12,000, Rosenberg and Angel plan to market the car at $45,000, a fraction of the cost of a brand name sports car.

If you want to build a stronger business, don’t let inexperience slow you down. Research, trial and error win the day.

These Power Lunches Fulfill a Different Need

Build a stronger business by thinking broadly about your customers

The Philadelphia Inquirer article “Higher-power Lunches” describes how city denizens in search of a bite sized portion of churchgoing have a solution in Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia.

The Episcopal church has launched “Twenty Minutes with God,” a 20-minute lunchtime church service on Tuesdays starting at 12:15pm; it gives enough time for people to pray, have a bite, and return to work without overextending their lunch hour.

By working around people’s schedules, this church has found a useful way to grow its audience and perhaps gain more parishioners in the long run. It offers a useful model on how to build a stronger business.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Review Your Priorities to Build A Stronger Business

The article “Final Take” from The New York Times What’s Offline section reveals some startling research about people’s spending priorities.

According to research from AllianceBernstein published in Money magazine, some 58 percent of parents “spent more on restaurants and takeout last year than they saved for college.”

Look at your priorities and long term plans this year and see how they compare with your overall strategy for building a stronger business.

Microbusinesses Thrive Under Flexible Business Models

Microbusinesses enjoyed a milestone and a little affirmation this year, according to the article, “Wanted: Nobody” from USA Today. There are now 20 million microbusinesses in the US; that’s one for every six private sector workers.

The micro-revolution offers self starters a chance to channel their interests and create an ensemble cast of specialists similar to a Hollywood film.

“They come together, do the work, and then disperse,” says Terri Lonier of Working Solo, which advises self employed professionals and the companies that work with them.

The fact of the matter is, as hard as entrepreneurs may strive to keep their staff sizes small, it’s inevitable that success will force them to outsource work to avoid getting bogged down in scut work that prevents them from building their businesses further.

Here again, the Internet provides a handy tool. Microbusinesses can track down specialists on the Internet on dedicated websites and find people whose talents and work schedules fit in with your own. With your talent pool only limited by the reach of the web you can build a stronger business one click at a time.