Money Smart Week is April 20-27
Published: April 16, 2013
Money Smart Week is a series of financial literacy programs held at Springfield-Greene County Library branches. The Library has partnered with local financial and consumer groups to provide programs dedicated to saving money and spending it wisely.
There are programs on couponing, preventing identity theft, understanding your credit report, investing and more. The programs are free, and there’s something for every age at a variety of library branches. For a complete list of of programs, check out this flier [pdf].
The Library also has a great selection of books on personal finance topics:
The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money by Carl Richards.
Financial planner and Morningstar Advisor columnist Carl Richards explains why we keep making bad choices with our money based on our emotions and shows us how what we often think is right regarding investments rarely is.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Couponing by Rachel Singer Gordon.
By combining the wealth of coupons with a few simple changes in the way you shop, you'll quickly see your bills drop while your pantry and other stockpiles grow!
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Recovering from Identity Theft by Mari J Frank.
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, and in many cases the victim has no knowledge of the theft until the situation is dire. Author Mari J. Frank, an attorney and advocate for victims of identity theft, takes the reader through every step necessary to reclaim their identity and wipe the records of theft off of all reports.
The Everything Couponing Book: Clip Your Way to Incredible Savings! by Karen Wilmes.
The couponing world is expanding, with endless options like rewards cards, online coupons, loyalty programs and group deals. Karen Wilmes teaches you to stretch your purchasing power and create your own game plan for saving money.
The Everything Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s Book: Eliminate Your Debt, Manage Your Money and Build for an Exciting Financial Future by Howard Davidoff.
Do you feel like you'll never pay off your student loans? Worried about your mounting credit card debt? You're not alone -- millions of young Americans are finding it hard to save for the future and still pay today's bills on time. This book will help readers learn how to be financially independent.
50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age: New Financial Threats You Need to Know and How to Avoid Them by Steve Weisman.
It is better to stop identity theft from happening in the first place than have to fix the situation afterward. Steve Weisman reveals the threats of new identity theft attacks based on use of Facebook, iPad, iPhone, Android, cloud apps, iPod and other new technologies -- and shows you how to protect yourself, or how to fix the damage if you've already been attacked.
Financial Fresh Start: Your Five-Step Plan for Adapting and Prospering in the New Economy by Shari Olefson.
From depleted retirement accounts to underwater homes, it's been gloomy news for years. But the picture will get much brighter for those who take advantage of the laws and reforms enacted in the wake of the banking, real estate and economic meltdown. "Financial Fresh Start” explains it all -- simplifying the complicated reforms and motivating readers to shake off their malaise and radically improve their long-term financial prospects.
The Handy Personal Finance Answer Book by Paul A. Tucci.
Combining the most current data with a user-friendly format, this timely reference features more than 1,000 answers to questions on personal finance, its history and managing one's financial life. Providing financial lessons in a fun, approachable way, the book avoids financial jargon and offers facts for everyday life to help readers save money.
Identity Theft for Dummies by Michael J. Arata, Jr.
Identity theft costs people just like you billions of dollars each year. Learn to protect your personal information, discover risks you may not have thought about and learn whether you've already been victimized.
Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security by Jean Chatzky.
Jean Chatzky outlines simple steps for saving, investing, increasing and protecting income in order to achieve financial stability.
The Money Saving Mom's Budget by Crystal Paine.
Crystal Paine, who has helped busy women everywhere take control of their finances, presents her most effective money-saving strategies for families of all sizes and income levels.
The Only Budgeting Book You'll Ever Need: How to Save Money and Manage Your Finances with a Personal Budget Plan that Works for You by Tere Stouffer.
Everyone wants a simple and practical way to manage their money, but with countless financial planners, budgeting articles and websites available, it's not always easy to figure out where to start. Filled with only the most essential information on budgeting, this book shows you how to build a financial plan that not only meets your needs, but helps you stay on track.
Risk Less and Prosper: Your Guide to Safer Investing by Zvi Bodie and Rachelle Taqqu.
Somewhere along the way, something has gone very wrong with the way individuals save and invest. Zvi Bodie and RachelleTaqqu understand the dilemma that today's investors face and will help them find their financial footing.
7 Money Rules for Life: How to Take Control of Your Financial Future by Mary Hunt.
This no-nonsense book gives readers the keys to get their money under control and get prepared financially for the rest of their lives. It offers applications for each of the seven rules, as well as practical advice for how to recover from past financial mistakes. These simple, unchanging, basic rules work in every financial situation, for every income level and for every stage of life.
The Smartest Money Book You'll Ever Read: Everything You Need to Know About Growing, Spending and Enjoying Your Money by Daniel R. Solin.
Daniel Solin provides a no-nonsense guide to minimize taxes, buy or sell property, manage health care premiums or retire early, explaining how and when to do things to realize financial independence.
Worth It -- Not Worth It?: Simple & Profitable Answers to Life's Tough Financial Questions by Jack Otter.
Credit or debit? Rent or buy a house? Buy or lease a car? Take or decline the rental car insurance? Renovate the kitchen or finish the basement? Buy stocks or mutual funds? Every day we are forced to make financial decisions, but the right answers all seem to require complicated, mind-numbing research. This book demystifies complex, real-world dilemmas and breaks the answers down into simple, “Do This/Not That” solutions.
April is Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Month
Published: March 30, 2013
The Springfield chapter of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and AARP are hosting a workshop called "Simple Steps for Starting a Small Business for Ages 50+" on Wednesday, April 3, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Library Center in Meeting Room B.
The event is part of Encore Entrepreneur Month. SBA and AARP will work to match "encore entrepreneurs" with successful business owners and community leaders for advice and assistance.
According to SBA and AARP, entrepreneurship training is the toolkit that empowers people over the age of 50 to use their experience, knowledge and skills to become job creators. ln addition, entrepreneurship training focuses on helping experienced professionals leverage their career knowledge for a new business.
Mentor Month is an opportunity for SBA and its partners to leverage AARP's network to introduce existing and future encore entrepreneurs to existing resources. lt is also an opportunity for AARP to expose interested members to SBA's resources available to help them in starting and growing a business.
For more information, contact Janice Bowman at SBA, (417) 890-8501.
Training Opportunities for ReferenceUSA
Published: March 12, 2013
ReferenceUSA* offers business and residential information for reference and research. The database can be accessed at any Springfield-Greene County Library or outside the library with a valid library card. There are several different modules focusing on particular areas of research.
- U.S. Businesses -- find executive names, sales volume and number of employees for businesses
- U.S. Standard White Pages -- conduct market research or find contact information for friends and relatives
- U.S. New Movers/Homeowners -- find potential new customers among people that have recently moved into an area
To learn more about ReferenceUSA and all of its capabilities, take one of the upcoming free webinars conducted by Infogroup, the company behind ReferenceUSA. Webinars are being offered on several different aspects of database and there are multiple dates offered for each one.
Register and attend any of these webinars on your own by going to http://referenceusa-resourcecenter.com/learning-center/spring-schedule-april-june/ All you need to participate are an Internet connection and a phone line.
If you prefer, you can attend a webinar that will be hosted in a group setting at a Library branch:
Start, Manage Grow! Your Business Using Reference USA
Monday, March 18, 2013
Library Center – Harrison room
Entrepreneurs and business owners will learn how to use ReferenceUSA to find the mission-critical information necessary to start, manage and grow a business.
Uncovering the Hidden Job Market: Career Search Strategies Using ReferenceUSA
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Midtown-Carnegie Branch Library -- Community Room
Attendees will learn how to use ReferenceUSA as part of their career searching strategy.
ReferenceUSA Consumer & Lifestyle Data
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Brentwood Branch Library -- Community Room
Ever wonder how marketers and advertisers ‘target’ specific messages to you? Find out how you can access the same type of data for your neighborhood or city.
Search Essentials: the Basics of ReferenceUSA
Friday, May 10, 2013
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Library Center – Harrison room
Designed for the patron new to using the database, this hour-long session will cover all the basics of getting started with ReferenceUSA.
ReferenceUSA Mapping & Data Visualization
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Library Center – Grafton room
Data Visualization is the next big thing in data. Going beyond a static list of information, ReferenceUSA can help you ‘visualize’ data elements on a map.
For more information about ReferenceUSA or the Library’s other business resources, feel free to contact Jana Dimond, Business Librarian, at 417-883-5341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: February 20, 2013
These books tell the inside stories of some of today’s most successful companies. Learn about the innovative work structure at Google, why Zappo’s puts such an emphasis on customer service, or the philosophy behind TOMS shoes. Who knows? Maybe the story behind one of these successful companies will inspire you to launch the next great business.
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh.
Tony Hsieh, the CEO of online shoe retailer, Zappos, explains how he created a unique culture and commitment to service that aims to improve the lives of its employees, customers, vendors and backers. Even better, he shows how creating happiness and record results go hand-in-hand.
The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick had the full cooperation of Facebook's key executives in researching this fascinating history of the company and its impact on our lives. Kirkpatrick tells us how Facebook was created, why it has flourished, and where it is going next.
I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards.
Edwards, Employee Number 59, offers the first inside view of Google, giving readers a chance to fully experience the bizarre mix of camaraderie and competition at this phenomenal company. Edwards recounts the first, pioneering steps of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the company's young, idiosyncratic partners; the evolution of the company's famously nonhierarchical structure; the development of brand identity; the races to develop and implement each new feature; and the many ideas that never came to pass.
Inside Apple: How America's Most Admired -- and Secretive -- Company Really Works by Adam Lashinsky.
Lashinsky analyzes the systems, tactics and leadership strategies that have contributed to Apple's success; profiles such practices as the direct accountability of employees; and shares insider perspectives on Apple's plans after the loss of Steve Jobs.
Inside Coca-Cola: A CEO's Life Story of Building the World's Most Popular Brand by Neville Isdell, with David Beasley.
Neville Isdell was a key player at Coca-Cola for more than 30 years, retiring in 2009 as CEO after regilding the tarnished brand image of the world's leading soft-drink company. This first book by a Coca-Cola CEO tells an extraordinary personal and professional world-wide story.
One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com by Richard L. Brandt.
Amazon's business model is deceptively simple: Make online shopping so easy and convenient that customers won't think twice. It can almost be summed up by the button on every page: "Buy now with one click." Why has Amazon been so successful? Much of it has to do with Jeff Bezos, the CEO and founder, whose unique combination of character traits and business strategy have driven Amazon to the top of the online retail world.
Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz, with Joanne Gordon.
In 2008, eight years after stepping down as Starbucks' CEO, Schultz returned to oversee the company's operations during a moment in economic history that left no company unscathed. "Onward" tells the remarkable story of Schultz's return and the company's ongoing transformation.
Start Something that Matters by Blake Mycoskie.
Blake Mycoskie tells the story of TOMS, one of the fastest-growing shoe companies in the world, and combines it with lessons from such other innovative organizations as Method, FEED Projects and TerraCycle. No matter what kind of change you're considering, “Start Something That Matters” gives you the stories, ideas, and practical tips that can help you get started.
The Art of Selling Crafts
Published: November 21, 2012
Have you ever thought about turning your craft hobby into a business? The Library has books that can help you get started. They cover everything from product development and setting prices to selling on Etsy and navigating the craft-fair world.
Click on a title to see if there are copies available for checkout or to place a hold on a book if it has a waiting list.
Country Living: Crafting a Business: Make Money Doing What You Love by Kathie Fitzgerald.
The women artisans featured in this book provide invaluable practical information on what it takes to get started, develop a saleable product, organize a company, market your goods, manage the finances, and handle staffing. Many types of businesses are featured, from hand-weaving, doll making and rug hooking to travel, interior design and photography.
Crafty Superstar: Make Crafts on the Side, Earn Extra Cash and Basically Have it All by Grace Dobush.
If the church-basement sale isn't quite your scene, Crafty Superstar is your go-to resource for selling your crafty goods part-time. Packed with ideas for setting up and selling out, the book includes loads of advice from experts like Faythe Levine, Jenny Harada and Jenny Hart.
Etsy-preneurship: Everything You Need to Know to Turn Your Handmade Hobby into a Thriving Business by Jason Malinak.
This book will help you make the jump from enjoying your handmade/craft/art hobby to running a profitable business."Etsy-preneurship" offers step-by-step advice on what it takes to bring in extra income or even one day run a full-time business on Etsy.
Grow Your Handmade Business: How to Envision, Develop and Sustain a Successful Creative Business by Kari Chapin.
Applying her trademark "you-can-do-it" coaching style to the nuts and bolts of business planning, Kari Chapin covers all of the issues involved in turning your creative hobby into a successful business -- from mapping out a business plan to expanding production and distribution, finding funding and addressing legal matters.
The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin.
For crafters who have more confidence running a sewing machine than setting up a Web site, this book breaks down and makes sense of the global possibilities for marketing and selling crafts.
Handmade to Sell: Hello Craft's Guide to Owning, Running and Growing Your Crafty Biz by Kelly Rand.
An all-encompassing guide to starting and running a successful craft business draws on the expertise of the well-known nonprofit trade organization and provides authoritative coverage of everything from developing successful product lives and preparing taxes to forming LLCs.
How to Sell Your Crafts Online: A Step-by-Step Guide to Successful Sales on Etsy and Beyond by Derrick Sutton.
With over 400,000 sellers on Etsy, how can you make your shop stand out and increase your sales? This is a key question for many crafters and artists who are selling online these days. Now here are all the answers and much more from author and Etsy seller Derrick Sutton.
The Savvy Crafter's Guide to Success: Turn Your Crafts Into a Career by Sandra McCall.
Take your crafts out of your workshop - and into the spotlight. In this book filled with plenty of artwork for inspiration, renowned rubber-stamp and polymer-clay artist Sandra McCall provides advice about successfully marketing and selling your work.
Selling Your Crafts Online: With Etsy, eBay, and Pinterest by Michael Miller.
Miller provides step-by-step guidance for succeeding in the world's biggest online crafts marketplaces and attracting new customers where millions of them already hang out. He offers crafts-specific tips and advice on everything from creating listings to getting a fair price, processing payments to providing outstanding service.
Starting an Etsy Business for Dummies by Allison Strine and Kate Shoup.
This book offers expert advice for artists and entrepreneurs looking to build an online craft business from scratch. It includes information on setting up your online shop, writing compelling item descriptions, photographing your work, engaging the Etsy community, understanding fees and finding your muse when it takes a holiday.
October is National Women’s Small Business Month
Published: October 23, 2012
Businesses owned by women are one of the fastest-growing sectors of the small business community. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only 5 percent of small businesses in 1970 were owned by women, while today that number is close to 30 percent. The Library has a variety of books that provide advice and guidance for women interested in starting a small business.
Click on a title to see if there are copies available for checkout or to place a hold on a book if it has a waiting list.
Birthing the Elephant: The Woman's Go-for-it! Guide to Overcoming the Big Challenges of Launching a Business by Karin Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman.
This book goes beyond logistics to prepare women for the emotional challenges they will face, with expert advice on reshaping one's business identity, giving up the paycheck mentality, anticipating problems and avoiding costly mistakes.
The Boss of You: Everything a Woman Needs to Know to Start, Run, and Maintain Her Own Business by Lauren Bacon & Emira Mears.
You've got this great idea for a business, but how do you begin? What comes first? Authors and business owners Lauren Bacon and Emira Mears will walk you through each step in the process of finally turning your jewelry-making hobby or photography skills into the business you've always dreamed about.
Clearing the Hurdles: Women Building High-Growth Businesses by Candida G. Brush.
This book draws on five years of original research, performed as part of the Diana Project -- a major initiative that explores ways women grow businesses. Five leading experts on women entrepreneurs offer systematic solutions to the challenges, offering timely advice to women dedicated to achieving success and claiming the rewards.
Hired@Home: The Christian Mother's Guide to Working From Home by Sarah Hamaker.
Author and work-at-home mom Sarah Hamaker is ready to help Christian women in all stages of life discover the opportunities and juggle the responsibilities of at-home work.
How She Does It: How Women Entrepreneurs are Changing the Rules of Business Success by Margaret Heffernan.
Heffernan finds a striking congruence between the things that women excel at and the demands of the new economy. After interviewing hundreds of women running businesses of all sizes and in all markets, she reveals a new standard of excellence and a new way for any company to get from good to great that is fast becoming the new norm.
Making Money from Home: How to Run a Successful Home-Based Business by Donna Partow.
In tough economic times, conventional jobs can be hard to find. A home-based business could be the answer for many people. “Making Money from Home” compares the cost of working outside the home with the benefits of working from home. It provides readers with the tools they need to run a successful home business, such as time management advice, details on the foundations of a solid business, tips on marketing goods and services, and information on how to use the Internet effectively and how to create a business plan.
101 Best Home-Based Businesses for Women by Priscilla Y. Huff.
For nearly two decades, bestselling author and home-based business guru Priscilla Y. Huff has run a successful writing business out of her home while balancing her family life. From start-up costs to potential income, Huff shows readers how to choose the perfect home-based business from 101 of the best.
Scrappy Startups: How 15 Ordinary Women Turned Their Unique Ideas into Profitable Businesses by Melanie R. Keveles.
Aiming to share stories of role models with other women, Keveles, a career and life coach and trainer, relates how 15 women entrepreneurs started successful businesses with little money, in the auto, clothing, food, music and other industries.
There's a Business in Every Woman: A 7-Step Guide to Discovering, Starting, and Building the Business of Your Dreams by Ann M. Holmes.
Based on extensive interviews with more than 80 women entrepreneurs from around the country, this book offers inspiring success stories (and instructive missteps) for a wide range of businesses.
New Business Books
Published: September 22, 2012
New business books on a wide variety of topics have recently been added to the Library’s collection. The topics they cover range from explanations of economics and investment theory to guides on how to use Pinterest for your business and how to avoid debt this holiday season.
Click on a title to see if there are copies available for checkout or to place a hold on a book if it has a waiting list.
Back to Full Employment by Robert Pollin.
Full employment used to be an explicit goal of economic policy in most of the industrialized world. Some countries even achieved it. In “Back to Full Employment,” economist Robert Pollin argues that the United States -- today faced with its highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression -- should put full employment back on the agenda.
The Clash of the Cultures: Investment vs. Speculation by John C. Bogle.
Over the course of his 60-year career in the mutual fund industry, Vanguard Group founder John C. Bogle has witnessed a massive shift in the culture of the financial sector. The prudent, value-adding culture of long-term investment has been crowded out by an aggressive, value-destroying culture of short-term speculation. In “The Clash of the Cultures,” Bogle urges a return to the common sense principles of long-term investing.
Debt-Proof Your Christmas: Celebrating the Holidays Without Breaking the Bank by Mary Hunt.
Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also one of the most stressful -- and most expensive. But you don't have to overspend or go into debt to have a fabulous holiday. Financial expert Mary Hunt helps readers assess their financial situation, commit to no new debt, and think creatively about their gift list.
The Economics Book, edited by Niall Kishtainy.
Easy-to-follow graphics, succinct quotations, and thoroughly accessible text throw light on the applications of economics, making them relatable through everyday examples and concerns. “The Economics Book” takes a frequently confusing subject and makes sense of it, clearly highlighting both historically important and emerging ideas in this critical field of science.
Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work) in Words and Pictures by Michael Goodwin.
With clear, witty writing and quirky, accessible art, this important and timely graphic novel transforms "the dismal science" of economics into a fun, fact-filled story about human nature and our attempts to make the most of what we've got . . . and sometimes what our neighbors have got.
Grow Your Handmade Business: How to Envision, Develop and Sustain a Successful Creative Business by Kari Chapin.
Applying her trademark "you-can-do-it" coaching style to the nuts and bolts of business planning, Kari Chapin covers all of the issues involved in turning your creative hobby into a successful business -- from mapping out a business plan to expanding production and distribution, finding funding, and addressing legal matters.
How Women Lead: 8 Essential Strategies Successful Women Know by Sharon Hadary and Laura Henderson.
Written by two women's leadership experts who are themselves successful leaders, “How Women Lead” gives women the information they need to build a career on their own terms, gain the critical business management skills needed to advance, and advocate successfully for themselves.
A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America's Financial Disasters by Scott Reynolds Nelson.
A history of financial crashes in the United States offers concise explanations of little-understood principles about consumer debt that were at the core of each recession, recounting lending practices and schemes that triggered large-scale crashes and controversies.
Pinterest for Business: How to Pin Your Company to the Top of the Hottest Social Media Network by Jess Loren and Edward Swiderski.
Two social marketing experts explain how Pinterest works, how businesses are using it, and how to get started the right way -- fast! Case studies and specific techniques help you choose the best approach for your business and industry -- from crafts to hardware, and wedding planning to restaurants.
Rethinking Reputation: How PR Trumps Marketing and Advertising in the New Media World by Fraser P. Seitel and John Doorley.
Public relations guru Fraser Seitel and John Doorley, founder of the Academy for Communication Excellence and Leadership at Johnson Johnson, examine a fascinating new set of case studies to glean the PR dos and don'ts for the new media world, covering both standard reputation maintenance and crisis management.
Sexy Little Numbers: How to Grow Your Business Using the Data You Already Have by Dimitri Maex.
Taps the latest breakthroughs by data analytics to counsel business growth professionals on how to identify profitable and potential customers, outlining strategies for predicting buying patterns and executing low-cost ideas.
"They're Bankrupting Us!": And 20 Other Myths About Unions by Bill Fletcher Jr.
From Wisconsin to Washington, DC, the claims are made: unions are responsible for budget deficits, and their members are overpaid and enjoy cushy benefits. The only way to save the American economy, pundits claim, is to weaken the labor movement, strip workers of collective bargaining rights, and champion private industry. In "They're Bankrupting Us!": And 20 Other Myths about Unions," labor leader Bill Fletcher Jr. makes sense of this debate as he unpacks the 21 myths most often cited by anti-union propagandists.
Small Business Resources
Published: September 10, 2012
Whether you are already well into the process or are just beginning to consider the possibilities of starting your own business, the Library has a number of resources that can help you along the way.
Books to check out:
BoomerPreneurs: How Baby Boomers Can Start Their Own Business, Make Money and Enjoy Life by M.B. Izard.
Izard provides you with a road map to the entrepreneurial future you want. It is a reader-friendly guide for Baby Boomers looking for life on their own terms after years in corporate America or for a way to make money and enjoy their retirement years.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Best Practices for Small Business by Gina Abudi and Brandon Toropov.
Using real-world examples and stories from everyday life, this guide explains how small businesses can make money, keep it, and use it to make more through time-honored, proven practices.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting Your Own Business by Ed Paulson.
This guide provides an introduction to planning a business, business structures, marketing, finance, expansion and related matters.
The Encyclopedia of Small Business Forms and Agreements: A Complete Kit of Ready-to-Use Business Checklists, Worksheets, Forms, Contracts, and Human Resource Documents with Companion CD-ROM by Martha Maeda.
This encyclopedia provides small business owners with ready-to-use checklists, worksheets, forms, contracts and human resource documents. It includes more than 250 documents for hiring, firing, intellectual property, Internet, technology, legal, merger, acquisition, money, fundraising, sales, marketing and starting a business.
The Everything Start Your Own Business Book: A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting, Managing and Building a Profitable Business by Judith B. Harrington.
This resource contains information on using the latest online marketing tools, starting a green business and making any business "greener," avoiding regulatory pitfalls as you start and grow your company and taking advantage of competitive concepts such as leased employees.
It's Your Biz: The Complete Guide to Becoming Your Own Boss by Susan Wilson Solovic, with Ellen R. Kadin.
This book presents tips and advice for creating a new business, utilizing the author's experience in creating her own successful business to guide readers in planning, funding, promotion, pricing and self-evaluation.
Legal Forms for Starting & Running a Small Business by Fred S. Steingold.
This collection of essential legal and business documents helps you create contracts to buy, sell, rent, or store goods; hire employees and consultants; protect your trade secrets; create noncompete agreements; prepare an LLC operating agreement; borrow and lend money; buy a business; lease commercial space; buy real estate; and much more.
Small Business for Dummies by Eric Tyson and Jim Schell.
This practical, no-nonsense guide gives you expert advice on everything from generating ideas and locating start-up money to hiring the right people, balancing the books and planning for growth.
The Small Business Start-Up Kit by Peri H. Pakroo.
User friendly and loaded with tips, this book explains, in plain English, how to choose from among the basic types of business organizations; write an effective business plan; file the right forms in the right place; be prepared for, and file, the required taxes; and acquire good bookkeeping and accounting habits. It also includes all the forms and instructions readers need.
The Women's Small Business Start-Up Kit: A Step-by-Step Legal Guide by Peri Pakroo.
Written by the author of the bestselling “The Small Business Start-Up Kit,” this book offers the same practical and concrete information of the parent book while giving attention to the issues and concerns commonly reported by women entrepreneurs of every kind. It covers choosing and developing the right business; drafting an effective business plan; government programs that give contract and loan-preferences to women-owned businesses; understanding and choosing a legal structure; and much more.
Doing a subject search for the term "Small Business" in COOLcat (the Library's catalog) will retrieve more books on small business topics.
Reference books to use in the Library:
"Small Business Sourcebook"
Available at the Library Center and the Library Station.
"Business Plans Handbook: A Compilation of Actual Business Plans Developed by Small Businesses Throughout North America"
Available the Library Center and electronically through the Gale Virtual Reference Library* accessible at any Springfield-Greene County Library branch or from outside the Library with a valid library card.
Databases (accessible at any Springfield-Greene County Library branch or from outside the Library with a valid library card):
Combines extensive consumer household, market segmentation and demographic data with GIS mapping technology.
Reference USA Businesses*
Find address, phone, size, contact person, sales, competitors, number of employees, etc. for millions of businesses in the U.S. and Canada.
Funded in part by the Small Business Administration, the Springfield chapter of SCORE provides business counselors to existing and potential small business owners. SCORE counselors are current and former business owners and managers who volunteer their time and expertise.
Address: 830 E. Primrose, Suite 101
Phone: 417-890-8501, extension 218
The Small Business Technology and Development Center at Missouri State University provides business counseling and training to small businesses in the area to promote and support business development.
Address: On the MSU campus in Glass Hall (west entrance) - Room 113
The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce has an extensive list of Small Business Resources on their website, including a Starting a Business guide [pdf].
Money Smart Week: Embracing Frugality
Published: April 25, 2012
For some, saving money on everyday living expenses has become a creative way of life. There are many sources available for tips and inspiration on frugal living, including online blog communities, popular periodicals and personal finance books.
Bloggers all over the country are creating online communities dedicated to incorporating frugality into a creative, sustainable lifestyle. Blogger Bobbie Bushman posts her family's adventures in saving on her blog Budgeting With The Bushmans. For a list of other blogs, Money Crashers compiled a list of the Top 100 Personal Finance blogs. Click here to view the list.
The Library subscribes to periodicals such as Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, Smart Money Magazine, Money, Consumer Reports and Bottom Line Personal. You can access copies at several Library branches.
Books are a great way to start learning about the frugal lifestyle. Recommendations from the article "Frugal Living Book List - The Best Books About Frugal Living" by About.com Guide Erin Huffstetler include the following:
The Complete Tightwad Gazette
Not Buying It
Your Money Or Your Life
The Millionaire Next Door
The Penny Pincher's Almanac
Made From Scratch
Money Can Buy Happiness
Money Smart Week: Credit Report Tips
Published: April 24, 2012
Money Smart Week @ Your Library kicked off this week with two courses on Free Credit Report/Credit Improvement. Are you planning a big purchase or have concerns on identity theft? Periodic reviews of your credit report will help you track your progress and fix any errors as soon as possible.
If you were unable to attend these courses, a final session is scheduled for Saturday, April 28th at the Library Station from 10 am - 2 pm (drop in any time). The EDGE Community Technology Center will set up laptops in the Frisco Room and staff will be on hand to assist with navigating through the process of getting your credit report online and printing the report.
Here are a few tips on credit provided by our presenting partners BancorpSouth and Empire Bank:
Tip: Get your free credit report from the website AnnualCreditReport.com. The website provides the following details:
- AnnualCreditReport.com is a centralized service for consumers to request free annual credit reports. It was created by the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
- AnnualCreditReport.com provides consumers with the secure means to request and obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies in accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act).
Tip: Since you are legally allowed to get one free credit report per year from each of the three reporting agencies, spread these out over the year to more frequently monitor your credit standing. For example, get your Equifax report in January, your Experian report in June and your TransUnion report in October.
For more information on money and credit, click here for personal finance titles available from the Library.
Free Credit Report, Document Shredding, Money Smart Kids and More
Published: April 20, 2012
Money Smart Week @ Your Library kicks off Saturday, April 21, with several fun, hands-on workshops to help you learn more about managing your money.
First, the program Free Credit Report/Credit Improvement (at the Library Center from 10 a.m. - noon) will guide you through the process of getting your credit report online free of charge. Nickie Bland, Steven Clark, Cari Oughton and Casey Pyle from BancorpSouth will provide information on obtaining and understanding your credit report, correcting errors on your report, as well as tips to put you in the best financial position possible. Krissy Sinor of The EDGE Community Technology Center will also be on hand, providing laptops and technical assistance for participants to obtain and print their credit report.
Shredding personal documents is a money smart tip to help you avoid identity theft. Document management service company EDCO Group, Inc., hosts Document Disposal Weekend. The company is providing locked boxes available all weekend on the Library Center concourse. Drop off your sensitive documents for shredding at their centralized facility.
The following two programs will also take place Saturday at the Strafford Branch Library, both presented by Heim, Young and Associates:
- How to Raise a Money-Smart Child, 9:30 a.m. for adults. Parents will take home lots of tips and techniques for talking with their children and grandchildren about money.
- Roll It, Take It, Leave It: Learn the Basics of Retirement Plans, 10:30 a.m. for adults. It’s never too early to plan. Learn about the types of retirement plans, saving for retirement and options for making changes to those plans.
The money-smart programs continue all week long. Click here for the complete schedule (PDF download).
Census 2010 Data Added to BusinessDecision
Published: March 1, 2012
BusinessDecision is a consumer market and demographics resource available electronically through the Library. This resource provides information about local markets that can be used for competitive analysis, business plans, marketing plans and sales plans.
Two new reports are now available through BusinessDecision that integrate Census 2010 data. The Census 2010 Summary Profile report includes Census 2010 data compared to Census 2000 data. This report provides key Census 2010 data for a specified area. Up to three study areas can be compared in one report. The following data is included: race, sex, age, households by type, place of birth, marital status, school enrollment, educational attainment, employment status, occupancy, and industry, means of transportation to work, travel time to work, poverty status, income, housing units by value, mortgage, rent, occupancy, and year householder moved in, among others. Note that, in the 2010 Census, the definitions of some geographies have changed.
The other new report is the Demographic and Income Profile (2011 Data) which includes updated Esri data for 2011 (current year estimate) and 2016 (five year projection), as well as Census 2010. This report reveals trends in population, households, families, age, income, and race/ethnicity for a specified area, using the latest 2011 Census update. This report summarizes current-year estimate of population, five-year forecast, and Census 2010 data. Up to three study area can be compared in one report. It includes demographic variables illustrated with bar and pie charts to help you quickly quantify, analyze, and forecast market growth and change over time.
Both reports are available for preset and customized study areas.
BusinessDecision will continue to add the new reports as they are updated with Esri's 2011/2016 data.
For more information on using this or other Business resources, please contact Business Librarian Kelly Miller at email@example.com or 417-616-0540.
Best Business Books of 2011
Published: January 3, 2012
Looking back on the best business books of 2011 not only provides great ideas for reading material but also allows us to view the top news stories and political issues of the year through a business lens. Several sources published their picks for the best business books of 2011 (see the links for the lists consulted for this article below). The following books were featured in several lists and deserve special recognition.
Poor Economics: A radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty, by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo won the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award. This award, which began in 2005, seeks to honor "the most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues."
Another title included on several of the lists this year was Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters by Richard P. Rumelt. Does your organization have a strategy? The author argues that most strategies are at best bad, and at worst not even strategies at all. Rumelt, with a 40-year career in the field of strategy, shows how insight on the truth about your business situation can help your organization develop the good strategy it needs to succeed.
The biography of Apple CEO and founder Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson was another highly-praised business title, and proved to be a very timely one in the wake of Jobs' recent death. Based on 40 interviews over the span of two years, with Jobs as well as family, friends and colleagues, this book provides an honest look at this technological pioneer.
Another biography that also topped several business lists was Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. Though not an immediately obvious business choice, Washington's life provides a portrait of leadership applicable to the boardroom as well as the battlefield.
What is it that makes certain people or brands enchanting? Former Apple executive Guy Kawasaki explains how in Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions. Find out how to go beyond engagement with friends, colleagues and customers to create a delightful, deep, long-lasting and voluntary relationship.
How many times each day do you "Google" something? Steven Levy's In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives provides a fascinating history of the company so entrenched in our daily lives.
Another brand ubiquitous in our daily lives, whether passing an outlet on our way to work or indulging in one of its multisyllabic products, is portrayed in Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz and Joanne Gordon.
The lists of top business books also gave us some new vocabulary! Try Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage and Dirty Dishes by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson to learn how thinking like an economist can save your marriage. Explore how Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How To Profit From It by Amy Cortese can revitalize small business and strengthen local economies. Wonder why you can't stop thinking about the latest smartphone? Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy by Martin Lindstrom reveals the psychological methods companies use to get us to part with our hard-earned dollars.
The 2011 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award was established in 2005 and looks at business in the broader sense. Past awards tend to highlight books that provide a unique perspective on global financial trends.
strategy + business magazine's Best Business Books 2011 takes into account the wide reach that business plays in our lives, awarding top books in the categories of Ethics and Aspirations, Strategy, Management, Economics, Marketing, Leadership and Technology.
Bloomberg's Top Business Books also show an understanding of the broad category of Business, defining books into the separate categories Crisis Books, General Business, and Economics Titles.
Marketplace from American Public Media asked their regular contributors to select their favorite business title.
OPEN Forum from American Express published their Best Business Books of 2011, compiled from their weekly book review column Guru Review.
Library Journal's Best Books 2011: Business pulls from reviews compiled throughout the year.
Booklist Online's Top 10 Business Books: 2011 reveals the top picks from this much-used book review resource.
NFIB's Best Business Books of 2011 is a list featuring books recommended especially for small business owners.
"Top Drawer" Business Books of 2011 by Bill Bernbach of advertising agency DDB Worldwide, has a decidedly creative focus.
Remembering Steve Jobs, A Digital Pioneer
Published: October 7, 2011
Steve Jobs and his partner Steve Wozniak jump-started the personal computer revolution with the introduction of the Apple II in 1977 and followed that with the creation of the user-friendly Macintosh computer eight years later. When Jobs left Apple in 1985, he bought Pixar Animation Studios from George Lucas. Under Jobs' leadership, the digital film studio won awards with ground-breaking films like "Toy Story."
Jobs came back to Apple in 1997, and his reboot of the company created a digital powerhouse with the introduction of the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.
People all over the world are mourning the loss of Steve Jobs. Some are leaving floral tributes, lit candles and other tokens of remembrance outside of Apple stores. Others are using social media sites to express their thoughts about one of the giants of the digital age.
This New York Times article about Steve Jobs tells more about his life and legacy. Biography.com also has an updated article about Steve Jobs.
Titles about Steve Jobs from the Springfield-Greene County Library:
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Written with Jobs' cooperation by a former managing editor of "Time Magazine," this biography is based on over 40 interviews with Jobs himself.
The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different by Carmine Gallo
The author shares the Apple CEO's most original and effective strategies for sparking true creativity - and real innovation - in any workplace.
The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation by Jay Elliot
The author shares the lessons based on Jobs' intuitive approach to show how the creative and technological brilliance of iLeadership can be utilized to drive breakthroughs in any organization, irrespective of size.
Inside Steve's Brain by Leander Kahney
A tale of two Steves: a perfectionist, charming, charismatic executive but also a man who’s known as an elitist, manipulator, and sociopath, all in search of the dream of providing easy-to-use technology for individuals.
The Pirates of Silicon Valley by Martyn Burke
A DVD dramatization of the early lives and rivalries of computer pioneers Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
Photography, Food Trucks and Facebook: New Business Books
Published: September 28, 2011
New books on business startups, economics, finance and other business topics are continuously added to the catalog. In September, these business titles and more were added to the catalog.
ConcreteLoop.com presents Angel's laws of blogging : what you need to know if you want to have a successful and profitable blog / Angel Laws with Carole Moore. Once a beginner like you, Angel Laws, the founder of ConcreteLoop.com, was able to turn her blog into a money-making endeavor that receives thousands of unique hits per day. Offering readers simple, step-by-step lessons on how to turn a blog into a career -- or a way to make some extra cash -- Laws will help and inspire anyone with an interest in this ever-growing field.
The end of growth : adapting to our new economic reality / Richard Heinberg. Economists insist that recovery is at hand, yet unemployment remains high, real estate values continue to sink, and governments stagger under record deficits. The End of Growth proposes a startling diagnosis: humanity has reached a fundamental turning point in its economic history. The expansionary trajectory of industrial civilization is colliding with non-negotiable natural limits.
Start your own food truck business / Entrepreneur Press and Rich Mintzer. At over a billion dollars, the food industry is evolving, creating new trends and new opportunities for eager entrepreneurs like you. Learn how you can become a part of one of the hottest and most affordable food businesses—mobile food.
Business improv : experiential learning exercises to train employees to handle every situation with success
/ Val Gee and Sarah Gee. Based on the science of experiential learning, Business Improv uses improvisation activities from the theater to transform each employee into a great leader. The 75 hands-on activities in this proactive guide help you create an organization filled with people who engage with and “own” their work, generate creative ideas that drive profit, build innovative teams, solve problems effectively, and more.
2012 Photographer's market
- From the back cover: "Millions of successful photographers have trusted Photographer's Market as a resource for growing their businesses. This edition contains the most comprehensive and up-to-date market contacts for working photographers today: magazines, book publishers, greeting card companies, stock agencies, advertising firms, contests and more."
Information Mining for Entrepreneurs
Published: September 19, 2011
The Small Business Workshop Series kicked off last week with "Start Me Up: Information Mining for Entrepreneurs," presented by Kelly Miller, Business Librarian for the Springfield-Greene County Library District. This session focused on resources for business plans, business and company research, demographic information and market research. Here's a quick review of the resources presented in this session:
BUSINESS PLANS AND PROFILES
Business Plans Handbook: A Compilation of Actual Business Plans Developed By Small Businesses Throughout North America. A new volume of the Handbook comes out every year and features business plans that mirror current small business start-up trends. The most current volume includes actual business plans for buzz-worthy companies such as mobile app development, food cart, day spa and specialty bakery.
Small Business Sourcebook: The Entrepreneur's Resource. Want to quickly get up to speed in your industry? This resource provides a wealth of information on specific business profiles, with details on associations, educational programs, sources of supply, trade shows, franchise opportunities and more.
Use BusinessDecision to find out the demographic characteristics of the consumers in an area that you specify. Find out what people are buying, reading, and watching in your chosen location to help make powerful decisions about your business.
CONSUMER AND COMPETITOR RESEARCH
With ReferenceUSA, you can create lists of businesses using targeted search characteristics such as business type by SIC/NAICS, geography and radius, business size, and sales volume. The records for individual businesses are incredibly detailed, with a management directory, industry profile, maps, and more. Lists of consumers can be created using selections like geographic location, median home value, and median home income. This easy-to-use database can be accessed online with your library card.
There's still time to sign up for the last two sessions in the series! To register, call 882-0714 or email Kelly Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Small Business Workshop Series
Published: September 4, 2011
Thinking of starting a new business? Get an introduction to the fundamentals to help you on your way with a free three-part lunch and learn workshop series taking place at the Library Center this fall.
September 8: Start Me Up: Information Mining for Entrepreneurs Business Librarian Kelly Miller shows how to use Library resources such as BusinessDecision and Reference USA to mine information to use in starting your own business.
October 13: Financing Your Small Business Learn about types of financing available for small businesses from Bill McNeill, chapter president of Springfield SCORE. His career at Dow Chemical Co. included business management, investor relations, and mergers and acquisitions integration.
November 10: The Business of Social Media Learn from Jonathan Groves how social media and mobile technologies are affecting businesses and consumers. Groves teaches the undergraduate Web communication and graduate media and technology courses at Drury University.
Bring a bag lunch or pre-order lunch from the Mudhouse at 889-6938.
To register, call 882-0714 or email Kelly Miller at email@example.com.
Spotlight on Personal Finance
Published: March 31, 2011
Whether you're saving pennies in your first piggy bank or planning for retirement, these books can inspire you to achieve your financial goals. In honor of Money Smart Week @ your Library, here are some highlights from our personal finance collection.
Basic Personal Finance
Resource Spotlight: Business Plans Handbook
Published: March 8, 2011
Business Plans Handbook is a reference resource filled with sample business plans created and used by actual entrepreneurs. Each volume contains timely and inspiring plans that can serve as a guide to crafting your own business plan.
The complete set of books is available to peruse at the Library Center's Funding and Business Information Center. Plans for creative businesses such as Organic Food Store, Specialty Bakery, Montessori School and Wedding Planning Service are included in Volume 20, the most recent addition to the set.
In addition to the sample business plans, this resource also provides a template listing the essential components of a business plan, examples of financial documentation such as cash flows, balance sheets and income projections, and a small business glossary to define terminology commonly used by lenders.
Make an appointment with the Business Librarian to learn more about how library resources can help your business. Call Kelly Miller at (417) 616-0540 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources for Women Entrepreneurs
Published: February 7, 2011
The Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Drury University recently hosted the 2011 Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium. This was a great chance for women to learn about different aspects of entrepreneurship from other women and to network with other women in business.
Dr. Regina Waters of Drury University promoted public libraries as a rich source of information in a session on guerrilla marketing. She specifically highlighted the BusinessDecision* database available at the Library. This database allows users to create detailed demographic reports based on geographic location.
Dr. Waters also recommended a few books to help women entrepreneurs. The She Spot gives insight to the female consumer, and The Yahoo! Style Guide is a great source for web design.
Other books for women entrepreneurs and marketing to women available at the Library include:
Learn more about the BusinessDecision database and other resources for small business owners by visiting the Funding and Business Information Center at The Library Center or by contacting business librarian Kelly Miller at 417-616-0540.
Best Business Books of 2010
Published: January 19, 2011
Start the new year off by catching up on some of the best business books of 2010. Many of these top titles are available at the Library in print, audio or e-book format.
Inc. magazine’s list focuses on entrepreneurs, with their Best Books for Business Owners of 2010. Initiate change by learning how to Switch; find out the business lessons to be learned by studying Keith Richard’s Life; or link into social networking with The Facebook Effect and MacroWikinomics.
Get ahead at work this year by reading the Five Best Business Books to Read for Your Career 2011 from FINS. These books include strategies on Getting More (perhaps with the help of The Personal MBA), and discovering The Soul of Leadership.
See the following lists for more top business picks:
Published: December 14, 2010
Entrepreneurship has quite the buzz these days. Besides the potential personal benefits, new business growth is also seen as a force that will contribute to a stronger economy. The cover story of a recent “Inc.” magazine sums up the excitement: “Bring on the Entrepreneurs! Our highly practical, eminently doable, totally reasonable plan to revitalize the American dream and create thousands (upon thousands) of new companies and millions of new jobs.” Sounds great! But where to start? Business magazines and the most sought-after business books found both on the library shelves and online can get the entrepreneurial juices flowing.
The last few years has seen fresh books providing inspiration and encouragement to would-be entrepreneurs. Younger entrepreneurs see starting a business as a way to break free from traditional career norms. Bloggers-turned-authors like Timothy Ferriss and Chris Guillebeau are motivating people in their 20s and 30s to increase their income, while freeing up more time to do what they love, by starting a business.
Though Seth Godin is best known for "Purple Cow," his latest book, "Linchpin," was just named one of the Best Entrepreneurship Books of 2010 on About.com's "Mitchell's Entrepreneurs Blog." Steven Johnson’s "Where Good Ideas Come From: The natural history of innovation for inspiration" is an additional source for creative ideas.
The Baby Boomer generation is another group seeking personal and financial fulfillment through entrepreneurship. The Kauffman Foundation highlights that in 2009, adults aged 55-64 continued a two-year upward trend for entrepreneurial activity. New books such as "BoomerPreneurs" provide targeted advice to this group.
For more inspiration, try these resources:
On The Web
Their 8,000 contributors are constantly scanning the globe for up and coming business ideas.
Targeted advice for the 50+ age group, direct from the SBA.
From Entrepreneur Magazine, this site gives specific advice for women entrepreneurs.
Check out this site for the latest news on green and sustainable businesses and practices.
“Change: Lessons on What’s Next,” Entrepreneur, 12/10, p. 28.
Entrepreneur explores the innovation behind three companies - Foursquare, Square and Zappos.
“Dream Companies,” Inc., 10/10, p. 64.
How to launch your dream company. Includes profiles of several successful start-ups, including an artisan ice cream truck business and a creator of a children’s book application.
Books, audiobooks, CDs, e-books and e-audiobooks
"32 Ways to Be a Champion in Business" by Earvin "Magic" Johnson, 2008.
"Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur" by Richard Branson, 2008.
"Crush it! : Why Now is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion" by Gary Vaynerchuk, 2009.
"The Small Business Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed in Your Small Business" by Steven D. Strauss, 2008.
Area Health Access
Published: August 14, 2010
As early as June '08, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department not only recognized, quantified, and evaluated Greene County health-care deficits, but pulled together a consortium of providers to address some very pressing issues.
The director of the health department estimated at that time that about 37,000 people in Greene County had no health insurance. Another 74,000 were estimated to be underinsured (defined as having to pay more than 10% out of pocket for health care). These numbers accounted for 43.57% of the total population, a figure that can only become more bleak since national health care spending has increased at an annual average rate of 10% since the Sixties. Without some sort of remediation, it seems inevitable that more than half the population of Greene County will become uninsured or underinsured in the foreseeable future.
The problem doesn't stop there. Of that part of the Greene County population that had some degree or form of health insurance, 33% had some type of public insurance. With an aging population and both large and small employers cutting back or eliminating health coverage, it remains to be seen how that number will hold up.
Fast forward to 2009. The number of uninsured people in Greene County is now estimated at 40,000, an 8.1% annual increase. The Kitchen Clinic, a typical safety-net clinic operating at capacity, turned away 230 people in June. Data released in late September by the Census Bureau show 11.3% of children in Missouri's 7th Congressional District to be uninsured. The percentage of uninsured adults (ages 18-64) in the 7th district is 22.8; that's nearly 100,000 people.
Signs of the Times
Published: July 15, 2010
Driving back to Kansas City from St. Louis on I-70 recently, a newspaper commentator and his wife counted 61 billboards that were blank or had no paid advertising.
Advertisers' growing fascination with online media is part of it. But the economic downturn continues unabated for the outdoor advertising/billboard industry, resulting in their worst profit drop-off in three decades. An industry analyst expects those 14-by-48 foot billboards along a highway near you to have vacancy rates in 30%-land, which translates into a 15% revenue decline this year.
One of the bigger signs--around 100 feet tall--can cost about $200,000 to install; add the cost of insuring it and any substantial down time means balance-sheet red ink. Companies large and small are responding by mothballing their least profitable locations, downsizing staff, and shelving high-tech display upgrades. Louisiana-based Lamar Advertising, third-largest billboard operator nationwide, has closed 1,800 billboards and smaller displays but still reported an $11.8 million second-quarter loss.
Many companies would like to revitalize by moving to the luminous, LCD-style signs, but are being thwarted by cost (twice that of a conventional sign) and opposition from some states and communities that view the flashing and animation as a nuisance and traffic hazard. Banks have been less than enthusiastic about providing financing.
What Advertising Will Say About Us
Published: June 15, 2010
"Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful daily reflections any society ever made of its whole range of activities." --Marshall McLuhan
If so, what will the yet-to-be-born scholars make of the American Tourister Gorilla, for instance? Those of a certain age will remember the ad campaign, which ran from 1970 to 1982 and featured a primate severely maltreating luggage. The "gorilla" actually was the world's foremost pseudo-simian actor dressed in a $20,000 suit with moving eyes, lids, brow, mouth, lips, and smile. The brand was so associated in the popular mind with this gorilla that American Tourister became deeply involved in wildlife preservation campaigns long after the ads had ceased to run.
And what of the Energizer Bunny? Will our great-grandchildren see the Bunny as "the ultimate symbol of longevity, perseverance and determination" that its ad creators envisioned? Longevity surely is a possibility--the ad campaign began in 1989 and the "Spokes Hare" continues to show up in every conceivable promotional venue.
Longevity also characterizes Elsie, originally one of four cartoon cows (Mrs. Blossom, Bessie, and Clara were her associates) that began representing Borden dairy products in 1936. In 1939, a live Elsie appeared at the World's Fair in New York; the cow's real-life name was Lobelia. After the World's Fair, Elsie/Lobelia starred as "Buttercup" in the film Little Men, but died in a tragic auto accident in 1941. To date there have been 29 Elsies; they have received the keys to more than two hundred cities. Briefly put out to pasture by Borden in the late Sixties, Elsie's sweet face and daisy necklace soon returned. The current Elsie travels almost a quarter of a million miles a year, meeting more than eleven million people! It is said that nine our of ten people in America recognize her. Perhaps Elsie's legacy will be to symbolize some bucolic, agrarian aspect of our society.
Published: May 23, 2010
When I became Business Resources Librarian in 1981, virtually all of the sources I could tap into were made out of trees. Paper sources had been the standard for "timely" information since Gutenberg began to make use of movable type in 1455.
While we still use and provide many paper-format information sources, today many of our most-used sources are made out of electrons. The computer and the Internet have been gamechangers. Information that was inaccessible or unavailable to the small entrepreneur or investor in 1981 is now readily available at little or no end-user cost. The sort of up-to-date data that was available in once-daily sources such as the Wall Street Journal (the Library received its copies the day following publication) is now available instantaneously. We subscribe to databases that give in-depth, current information on even the smallest company or detailed demographic information--with five-year projections--on any portion of geography in the US. The playing field has been levelled for players large and small.
A few days away from retirement, I consider myself uniquely privileged to have been on deck for the information revolution. But perhaps developments are forthcoming at some point that will cause my times to be described as the Informational Stone Age! In any event, I prize the many and various interactions that I've had with patrons and peers near and far over the years. Good-bye and best wishes to all.
Living with Less Stuff
Published: May 18, 2010
"It's cooler not to spend." --Faith Popcorn, trends guru
Or as an everyday, run-of-the-mill non-guru says: "I started to wonder why I was so frugal at the grocery store if I was spending $3.50 on a mocha at the beginning of each (shopping) trip. That could buy nearly two pounds of ground turkey or a whole chicken."
Certainly the economic doldrums play a part, but it seems that a substantial number of people are at least open to considering a lifestyle that could be characterized as simple and sustainable. They tend to be the people who would be uncomfortable knowing that Americans throw out 200,000 tons of edible food daily and that there are more shopping malls than high schools.
The business community is trying to stay ahead of this curve with initiatives such as Levi Strauss & Company's "Care to Air" contest. That company is looking for the next generation of air drying design ideas that will improve or replace the typical clothesline, while decreasing the use of clothes dryers. Their "Care Tag for Our Planet" campaign encourages consumers to think differently about their laundry habits and come up with simple changes that also would include washing in cold water, washing less, and donating unwanted or unused garments to clothing banks.
We didn't develop our prodigal, thriftless ways overnight and change will come slowly and grudgingly . As brand strategist Russ Meyer says: "Just as we find it amazing that there were no air bags in automobiles 40 years ago, in 40 years time we will be amazed at how far we have yet to go to live sustainability--and how much progress we'll have made."
When Athens Comes to Main Street, USA
Published: May 11, 2010
"This Greek issue shows you how all the financial markets are interrelated. And, unless Americans can accept this as a short term solution in Greece, the markets are going to remain a bit jittery for a while," said economics professor Jerome McElroy. When Greece's problems became Europe's problems, the whole mess became the problem of Wall Street and the US investor.
It is no longer possible to insulate US stock markets from globalization and its implications. Noting that everything is interconnected, prominent financial manager Robert Kelly commented: "This planet is way too small to have multiple accounting systems. We need better international standards with capital liquidity."
While the Greek situation seems damped down, the continuing vulnerability of the other PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) nations will test any established go-to safety net and could send decidely negative signals to the market.
Going Where the Grass Is Greener
Published: May 5, 2010
Only 7.3% of people looking for work in fourth-quarter '09 were willing to move even so far as another town to get a job. That was the lowest quarterly relocation rate recorded since the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas began compiling this statistic at the beginning of 1986. John A. Challenger said: "Relocation is still a last resort for the overwhelming majority of job seekers.... When job seekers perceive their chances of finding work as poor regardless of the geographic area in which they look, they are likely to stay where they have an established support network." Challenger thinks the relocation rate is unlikely to ever again reach the high levels of the Eighties; the annual average relocation rate for 1986 was 41.8%.
Sometimes the issues involved go far beyond a desire to remain near familiy and friends. Blogs abound with stories such as: "My wife's employer relocated ... the director of the finance department. They promoted her to vice president, then they sold the company and she was among the first to be laid off. She moved all the way from back east to the west coast only to lose her job. Single mom too." Real estate is also an issue, as in: "We are still trying to unload our home on the other side of the country from 2 or 3 jobs ago. Why would anybody in their right mind consider relocation just for a job?"
Persons who have just graduated from college tend to be more flexible. As in this January 2010 posting: "I'd relocate even for an okay job. I graduated from college in May (2009), am still unemployed, and currently have $70 to my name at the moment. There's nothing in particular tying me to where I am, so let's move."
Dipping into the VAT
Published: April 27, 2010
The national debt, for the moment, is at its highest level since the close of WWII. Now equal to 84% of the gross national product, it jeopardizes the federal treasury's AAA Moody's rating. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke sums up the thinking of many in saying that "the nation will ultimately have choose among higher taxes, modifications to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, less spending on everything else from education to defense, or some combination of the above."
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone account for about half of the government's noninterest spending. If tax revenues continue to equal 18%-19% of gross domestic product while government spending constitutes 25% of GDP, within the lifetime of many people the government will have to borrow just to pay interest on the national debt's interest!
Hence the revived interest in a value-added tax (VAT). (Bill Thomas, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, flirted with this idea in 2005.) Used by more than one hundred countries. the VAT is a consumption tax, a tax on both goods and services that is collected at every step along the production and distribution chain. (Here's how a toaster would be taxed.) Thus the VAT differs from a sales tax, which is collected by only the product or service retailer. Like the sales tax, however, ultimately the VAT ends up being paid by the consumer.
Unlike an income tax, the VAT does not discourage saving. This link plainly explains why the VAT is efficient, broadbased, and self-enforcing. The VAT, however, has the rare capability of alienating both conservatives and liberals. Conservatives see the VAT as a money machine, promoting Big Government and Big Spending. Liberals, on the other hand, deplore the VAT's regressive nature; the VAT raises revenue on the backs of the poor, who spend a larger share of their income as consumers.
One path toward fiscal sanity and sustainability might be to combine the carrot (a greatly simplified income tax code with lowered tax rates and a broader tax base--but without the credits, exemptions, deductions, shelters, etc.) and the stick (a comprehensive VAT).
Published: April 20, 2010
Until January of this year, Social Security checks had gone up routinely every year since 1975, when the first automatic cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) took effect. The 2010 COLA didn't happen and without intervention it's unlikely that there will be a 2011 COLA either.
These COLAs are based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) version which represents the consumer spending of urban wage earners in clerical or other positions. Since the CPI has been esentially flat due to the economic downturn, it hasn't triggered the COLA. Questions are being raised, however, as to the suitability of this benchmark. This CPI version seems not to reflect the consumption patterns of older people, particularly when it comes to medical and health expenditure.
When 92% of retirees in one survey report that Social Security is the major source of their income, this issue looms large. As of March, 43.5 million retirees (and 10.2 million people with disabilities) collect monthly benefits. Millions of these retirees have claimed their benefits early to replace income lost to layoffs or to supplement income due to underemployment.
Because lawmakers are afraid of voter backlash, no major Social Security reform legislation seems likely this election year. However, since Social Security is the only post-retirement revenue source that retirees cannot outlive, as 2011 draws nearer as a second straight non-COLA year legislators will find it difficult to keep this issue on the back burner. This may give impetus to the bipartisan CPI for Seniors Act. This legislation would establish the CPI-S to correctly measure seniors' actual costs and expenses.
Published: April 13, 2010
In some countries, the "black economy" is about the size of the official economy. Variously called the black, informal, underground, or shadow economy, this alternative to the familiar everyday economy is peopled by nannies, construction and domestic workers, street corner peddlers, drug dealers and others who are remunerated off the books and bear little if any of the tax burden. Economists can only guess at the size of the US underground economy; a 2005 figure of $970 billion (roughly nine percent of the total economy) is at least realistic. If so, the $1 trillion figure has surely been passed by now, driven by the weaknesses and woes of the economy that most of us experience.
This informal economy interacts with "our world" in surprising ways.& The scalpers at concerts and sports events, for instance. This activity, described as "cheerfully illicit," has its own rules and etiquette. Both buyer and seller are bound by a certain tradition and ritual.
Sudhir Venkatesh, in Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor, takes us to just one poor black neighborhood in Chicago. The unregulated, unreported, and untaxed free enterprise there includes a woman who prepares lunches for a local hospital, a shade tree (actually alley) mechanic, a salon owner who rents her store out for gambling parties, and a preacher who provides mediation services. Flexibility, ingenuity, and survival tend to be the common ingredients.
Published: April 6, 2010
Last week we provided an annotated list of a few recent--and diverse--business and financial books available through the Library.
This week we'll do the same for books to which you can listen. At home and in the car are the most popular venues for these, but we also have a number of over-the-road truckers who are voracious consumers of audiobooks.
Google Speaks: Secrets of the World's Greatest Billionaire Entrepreneurs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. About fifteen years ago, Brin and Page started out with a basic search engine. Today's megaprofitable operation tops sixteen billion dollars in annual revenue.
Little Red Book of Sales Answers: 99.5 Real World Answers That Make Sense, Make Sales, and Make Money. If you've got a sales question, this author's tips, strategies, and advice may provide the answer.
Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive. Incorporate a subtle range of changes that can positively affect your advertising, writing, and speaking.
Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time. High-tech, low-cost, and low-hassle, one of the Internet's hottest social networking tools can keep customers and business partners in the know in real time.
Accidental Billionaires: Sex, Money, Betrayal and the founding of Facebook. A real-life adventure, the pages of which are peopled with slick venture capitalists, stunning women, and 6'5" identical-twin Olympic rowers! The astounding creation of a company that has revolutionized the way hundreds of millions of people relate to each other.
Start Over, Finish Rich: 10 Steps to Get You Back on Track for 2010. Covers the gamut of credit card debt, student loans, real estate, retirement, saving, and more.
The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Wizards Took Over Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It. Quantitative analysts swapped hunches for complicated algorithms and supercomputers in an attempt to game the market. Their mind-bending formulas and genius-level IQs just skirted a financial apocalypse.
Panic!: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity. An informative and eye-opening look at how we get into these messes and how--with work and perseverance--we can get out of them.
Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable. Consumers are tired of the same old brown cows. How can your product or service be a purple cow?
Published: March 30, 2010
For the best understanding of business and finance, it is necessary to be able to process and integrate information on a variety of subjects and from multiple sources and viewpoints.
A few of our recently-received titles show directions that information can take.
No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller. The author, Harry Markopolos, is the whistle-blower who uncovered Bernie Madoff's machinations ten years before the rest of the world caught on. One chapter of the book is entitled More Red Flags Than the Soviet Union.
Who Turned Out the Lights?: Your Guided Tour to the Energy Crisis. This is a primer on how the energy crisis came about, how serious it is, and what options make sense.
On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's first-person account of the decisions that had to be made to avert potential global financial meltdown.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. Successful changes follow a pattern, whether you're changing the world, your waistline, or the woeful leanness of your wallet.
Practically Green: Your Guide to Ecofriendly Decision-Making. Full of useful information, this book is divided into six chapters that cover most aspects of our lives. For instance, the Where Can I Recycle That? chart will answer a number of questions.
Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements. A veteran New York Times book critic has put together a selection of the funny and the formal, the subtle and the sensational. You're surely have at least one favorite--the author has a partiality for a jingoistic 1907 putdown of French writers!
The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health--And a Vision for Change. We are amazingly adept at ignoring our patterns of consumption, given the fact that the US is using 30% of the planet's resources and creating 30% of the planet's trash. By the way, we only have 5% of the world's population.
Published: March 22, 2010
Recently there has been considerable local media attention given to the payday loan industry. Much of this attention is driven by a payday reform bill (HB 2116) that has been filed by State Representative Mary Still; this bill has 71 co-sponsors. Here are some uncontested background facts:
Eleven states prohibit payday loans.
Missouri law requires the Consumer Credit Section of the state Department of Finance to publish a report every two years on the payday lending industry. The first such report appeared in 2003. The latest report appeared in Janurary, 2009.
The reporting period for the 2009 report is calendar year 2008. During that period, about 1,275 such lenders were active at any given time. An average loan was $290.29, with a fourteen-day interest/fee of $47.95. The resultant effective interest rate was 430.68%.
Missouri allows as many as six payday loan renewals. Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, and Oklahoma are among the 21 states that allow no such renewals.
In 2008, customers of payday loan companies filed 473 complaints with Better Business Bureaus alleging lender wrongdoing.
According to the subscription database Reference USA, there are at least 94 payday lending (Standard Industrial Classification 6141-13) locations in the 417 area code. In contrast, there are only 23 locations in the entire state of Arkansas.
According the same database, at least 35 payday lending locations are in Greene County. Madison County, IL, which has approximately the same population as Greene County, has only thirteen locations. San Luis Obispo County, CA, which has approximately the same population as Greene County, has fourteen.
Published: March 17, 2010
"May have been disgruntled about a poor work evaluation." That is the suspected motive in the recent Ohio State University mayhem that left two dead, including the 51-year-old gunman.
According to Larry Barton, an expert in workplace violence, the recession has changed the violence parameters. The image of the violent employee has been a person under thirty years of age; the greatest threat now seems to be coming from people over the age of forty. Recently in Indiana, a sixty-year-old employee fired two shots inside an office during a job review; faulty ammunition prevented a tragedy. Employee assistance program counselors report that their 2009 call intakes rose thirty percent, with much of the volume related to financial concerns.
Incredible and terrifying stats: nearly one thousand workers are murdered and 1.5 million are assaulted in the workplace each year! A contributing factor driving those numbers: domestic violence doesn't stay home when its victims go to work. One study found that 74% of employed battered women were harassed by their partners while at work.
But an especially troubling emerging concern for employee assistance counselors is the fact that depleted retirement funds are forcing numbers of older employees to remain in the workplace, regardless of health problems or cognitive impairment.
Published: March 10, 2010
One of the things the Internet does best is to facilitate changes and updates to existing data and material. Timeliness is absolutely critical for many kinds of business information and is highly desirable in almost all other kinds. The superiority of a conscientiously updated web site over paper-based products of a similar nature is one of the givens of the information revolution.
This certainly can be seen in business timelines, a very valuable way to quickly track the past-to-present development of a company, industry, or business, financial, or economic situation.
To understand the background of a company, it is often useful to see how it has progressed over time. Many company web sites include chronologies or timelines; be aware that in using them you are getting what the company itself wants to include and/or emphasize. Independent sources may add to or subtract from the "party line." Wal-Mart provides a concise yet informative example of a self-provided timeline. On the other hand, the General Motors timeline from CBS News furnishes details that GM itself might not have been inclined to emphasize. Our subscription database, Business and Company Resource Center, often provides timelines for the many companies that it covers.
An industry timeline often is a way to effectively summarize growth and change. The History of Cars Timeline covers critical events from 1769 to 2002. The History of Soft Drinks Timeline might not be quite as pivotal; still, it covers nearly the same time frame (1798-1981) and does so in considerable detail.
For an overview of an event or development, a timeline is at least a good entry point. The BBC's timeline, Credit Crunch to Downturn, clearly shows how a potential financial armageddon could have been developing. From potential to actuality, here are some timelines that attempt to document and possibly explain the Great Depression.
Published: March 3, 2010
The Internet has made it possible to draw together, from numerous sources, the best (and the worst) examples from the history of advertising. While many efforts in this direction further scholarly research, they are also of interest to the amateur historian of popular culture. Our health concerns, morals, mores, stereotypes, attitudes--all are artistically reflected and frozen in time.
An interesting approach is to take a single product--such as Coca Cola--and see how the advertising focus and emphasis have changed over time. History Matters gives access to a number of sites that are entertaining and educational.
A few excellent examples from our book collection--Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements, by Dwight Garner; Great American Billboards: 100 Years of History by the Side of the Road, by Fred E. Basten; Accept No Substitutes: The History of American Advertising, by Christina Mierau; More Porcelain Enamel Advertising, by Michael Bruner; and Those Were the Good Old Days: A Happy Look at American Advertising, 1880-1950, by Edgar R. Jones.
Get It Right the First Time
Published: February 24, 2010
Business etiquette is nothing more nor less than interjecting sense, courtesy, and respect into your business interactions. Since success and failure are the only two possible outcomes of those interactions, this deserves some serious consideration.
Whether you are a business owner, manager, or employee, this pertains to you. Even if you have little or no exposure to the public, your interactions with management or peers are crucial. For instance, are you a prairie dog? Prairie-dogging is a social gaffe committed by persons tall enough to pop their heads over the top of a cubicle to disrupt its occupant. The omnipresence of the cubicle has occasioned the development of a cube etiquette, which attempts to balance privacy and accessibility. (It is notable that almost every exploration of this topic mentions cube odor.)
Meetings present countless possibilities for positive or negative interactions. The fidgeter, the pen tapper, and the paper rustler do not contribute to either harmony or productivity! And what is more maddening than the forty-minute meeting that becomes a ninety-minute meeting through the addition of self-serving, immaterial, or unscheduled agenda items? ("Any other business?" so often becomes "Any old bull?")
First impressions are so important in a business context. With a sales call, it's very much like a first date. Slouching, gum chewing, cell phone interruptions, irrelevancies, or other examples of thoughtless behavior do not make the sale, either at a trade show or on a one-on-one sales call.
Investing from the Heart
Published: February 17, 2010
"Successful investors in the stock market might plausibly be called "functional psychopaths." These individuals are either much better at controlling their emotions, or perhaps don't experience emotions with the same intensity as others do." --Antoine Bechara, Associate Professor of Neurology, University of Iowa
Bechara was part of a research team that analyzed investment decisions made by persons who were unable to feel emotions due to brain lesions. These persons earned $25.70 on their investment stake of $20, while "normal" study participants earned only $22.80. The "investments" were made a dollar at a time; "normal" participants were more likely to become nervous about continuing to invest, although the study was designed in such a way that investing very obviously was the logical thing to do.
Irrationality accounts for many situations in which investors chase improbable performance from stocks with which they've formed an emotional bond, fail to balance and diversify portfolios, or invest in ways unlikely to attain their goals. They should give heed to the Robert De Niro character: "Don't allow yourself to get attached to anything you cannot walk away from in thirty seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner." Also, this is a good point to bring up the stock market axiom; "Hunch trading is one of the worst ways to trade, but it is one of the best ways to lose money."
Emotional investing can be defused in some simple ways. When a stock is added to the portfolio, write down the reasons why and when it should be sold; make that the blueprint for future action. Have a competent friend or outsider who won't be reticent about pointing out an illogical contemplated investment move. Conduct an annual sunset portfolio review; if keeping any component sounds more like an alibi than a solid reason--well, you know what to do! And see how many of the Fifty Ways You Know You Are an Emotional Investor apply to you.
Published: February 10, 2010
February is Black History Month. Hence the challenging article Why Aren't Black Business Tycoons Celebrated During Black History Month? Much of the answer to that question lies in the fact that relatively few historians have labored in the vineyard of black business history.
Many black businesspeople would echo the first black woman millionaire in America, Madame C.J. Walker: "I got my start by giving myself a start." Up to this point, entrepreneurship has been the surest path to the top. For whatever complex mix of reasons, in the corporate world only eight black executives have ever made it to the CEO or Chairman position of a Fortune 500 company; not until July of last year did a black woman become head of a Fortune 500 company.
"Blacks have been inventing things ever since slavery," says Lawrence P. King, former president of the National Technical Association. The earliest black patent holder was Thomas Jennings (1821); the patent was awarded for a process which is the forerunner of today's dry cleaning. Jennings was a free man; patent rights were not extended to slaves until 1861. Jennings used the income from his invention to free the rest of his family and to fund abolitionist causes. By 1990, some 2,000 black persons had obtained patents. Fast forward to the present and Lonnie G. Johnson; he has been awarded more than forty patents and continues to invent in the areas of thermo- and fluid dynamics. Johnson's expertise in fluid dynamics led to his most famous invention, the SuperSoaker!
The most high-profile contemporary black business person has to be Oprah Winfrey. And then there's George Foreman; since 1995, his drive and enthusiasm have moved one hundred million grills. (Younger people may not even know that he was once a champion boxer; he left boxing in 1977.) The recent death of Percy Sutton, politician, lawyer, and radio station owner, was a significant milestone in modern black entrepreneurship. A few other notable individuals: Alphonse Fletcher, Jr. (financier); Quintin Primo III (real estate); Ulysses L. "Junior" Bridgeman, Jr. (restaurants); R. Donahue Peebles (real estate); Tracy Maitland (investing); and Janice Bryant Howroyd (personnel services).
Promise and Peril
Published: February 3, 2010
Individual investors are showing a lot of interest in exchange-traded funds (ETFs). There are more than 940 US ETFs presently, up from just 154 in 2004. In the same time period, ETF assets under management have more than tripled, to $742 billion. While this figure is miniscule compared to the $7.14 trillion in assets held by mutual funds, one driver of ETF growth is that the average ETF annual fee is 55 basis points (0.55% of assets), a fraction of the average mutual fund charge (1.5% of assets). Since an ETF mirrors some market index (however obscure), it can outperform 80% of mutual funds--only 20% of mutual fund portfolio managers beat the index they're tracking.
It's not all good news, however. For instance, market guru John Bogle denounces the fact that so few ETFs are broad market; the more obscure an ETF's index, the more it costs to run it.
Before jumping on the ETF bandwagon, consider some sources (such as Steadfast Finances and ETF Market Pro) that are objective enough to realistically list pros and cons. And be very careful--and knowledgeable--if you are considering leveraged, commodity-based, derivative-rich, or inverse ETFs; if you don't understand them, then you very likely shouldn't be in them!
A screener is often helpful in narrowing possibilities under consideration.
Personal Financial Strategies for Today
Published: January 27, 2010
What's an acceptable level of risk at the moment? What are likely to be the general investment themes this year? What to buy (and sell)? How about Dogs of the Dow? How can I get my spending under control?
As usual, opinions abound. In this as in other subject areas, The Library tries for a balanced collection of current materials from qualified authors and publishers. Here are a few of the latest:
Money 911 (Jean Sherman Chatzky) explores the challenges and pitfalls of personal finance in today's context.
Aftershock (David Wiedemer) predicts uncharted territory, with new challenges and opportunities that few people can anticipate.
Fiscal Hangover (Keith Fitz-Gerald) provides an investing blueprint that shows how to profit from the changing global economy.
Making the Most of Your Money Now (Jane Bryant Quinn) has been completely revised for the new economy; editions of this bestseller have been appearing since the early '90s.
Save Big (Elisabeth Leamy) furnishes practical paths to substantial savings on houses, cars, credit, groceries, and healthcare.
Little Book of Main Street Money (Jonathan Clements) uses unintimidating and concise language to keep investing simple and uncluttered by emotion.
Dear Mr. Buffett (Janet M. Tavakoli) is loaded with lessons, warnings, admonishments, and recommendations; wide ranging and hard hitting.
How Much Is Enough? (Arun Abey) balances investments with aspirations to achieve financial security and personal well-being.
The 250 Questions You Should Ask to Get Out of Debt (David E. Rye) shows how to get out from under the stressful and debilitating shadow of financial insecurity.
One-Income Household (Lauren Bakken) covers budgeting, housing, commuting, insurance--and adjusting one's attitude.
Recession-Proof Your Financial Life (Nancy Dunnan) presents more than 150 tips and resources designed for living well today and preparing for a better tomorrow.
Revising and Reviving Your Business Plan
Published: January 20, 2010
A static business plan gets you through start-up and then sits in a file. A dynamic business plan is your key strategy guide, being adjusted and updated as your business environment evolves. The changes may be conceptual (dictated by a new product, competitive pressures, regulatory shifts, or other normative issues) or factual (data and chronological updates, recast tables and charts, etc.).
Particularly if they involve investors or outside financing, financial imperatives are easier to deal with in the context of a current and well-maintained financial plan. In a rocky credit climate, anything less than taking your best shot may deny you the financing you need.
Every business plan is (to some degree) wrong. Every business plan is about the future--and who gets the future right in every detail, every time? As actuality rears its ugly head, use it to replace your assumptions, no matter how fondly held. If your business plan is a bronze plaque on the wall, you're immortalizing misassumptions!
A well-designed business plan monitoring process, with scheduled and orderly data reviews, is much more effective than an impromptu pillage-and-plunder approach. The availability of accurate, current raw data on inventory, profit margins, key financial ratios, and other goals will show how or even if the plan is working. Deal with reality while it's still a smoldering ember rather than a raging blaze threatening your company's progress.
New Year's Business Shape-Up
Published: January 14, 2010
Now that we've settled back in after the holidays, it's not too late to make some New Year's business resolutions. Remember, the more realistic they are, the more likely it is that you'll actually implement them! Here are some possibilities:
Protect your data! As many as 72% of businesses that suffer major data loss disappear within two years.
Cut costs by working smarter. Is your organization lean or bloated?
Make the social scene. Engage customers in person, build relationships, investigate the potential of social media.
Understand your top ten customers. Are you treating them royally? Where can you find more like them?
Do a human resource compliance audit. Lip service won't get you any points if OSHA or the Department of Labor come to call.
Celebrate the past year's milestones. Motivate your employees by playing up goals that have been reached--they're more likely to be receptive when you trot out the next set of goals.
Make it clear that each employee matters! Make sure each and every employee knows how his or her job (with its achievable standards and timetables) impacts the company's overall vision.
Give something back to your community (or to Haitian relief). It's a great way to build goodwill for you and your business--much more importantly, it's the right thing to do.
Ditch what's not working for you and move on. Not every idea is a good idea--ditto products, sales methods, vendors, contractors, distribution chains, and on and on. Recognize the unworkable and say farewell.
Stop putting it off! Equipment, location, personnel, maintenance--whatever the needed change is, whether you've been putting it off for a day or a month or a year, find the way and the willpower to get it done!
Learn something new. Is the way you've always done things as effective as it was in the past? How effective will it be in the future? New days may well require new ways. Learn what they are and what they can do for you.
The Phenomenon of Self-Gifting
Published: January 6, 2010
"If I buy a gift and like it too much to give away, I give it to myself and go buy something else."
"I bought that Tiffany bracelet with the heart and even had it engraved. I signed it from [my husband] and said, 'Look what you wrote!'"
"Somehow I walked away with a few things that would bypass the tree and go straight to my closet."
"It's nice to get a wee treat if you've had a bad week." (British shopper)
The above statements are from accomplished and blatantly unremorseful self-gifters. Nearly 64% of 2009 Black Friday shoppers joined their ranks (up from 56% in 2008), spending an average of $101.51 on themselves.
Of course, receiving a self-gift lacks anticipation and surprise. Enter Surprise Gift for Me. The giver/givee lists three to five items that he/she would like to get from himself/herself and authorizes the service to charge a credit card for the chosen item. Surprise Gift for Me then picks one of the items and sends it on a giver/givee selected delivery date; there's no indication whether an algorithm or simply mere whim dictates how the selection is made.
One element in the psychology of self-gifting is frugal fatigue. "Consumers are just basically saying 'I've got some pent up demand, I'm tired of not having bought anything for myself,'" says retail consultant Marshal Cohen. He finds that apparel and electronics tend to relieve such fatigue.
The Downturn Road to Success
Published: December 30, 2009
Who would be crazy enough to launch a business when the economy is setting off alarm bells left, right, and center? Well, some of the country's largest and best-known businesses, actually. Read on:
The Panic of 1873 had held the nation in its grip for five long years. Nonetheless, Thomas Edison was optimistic enough about a radically new technology to start the Edison Electric Light Company. Later General Electric, GE today is a multinational conglomerate with products and services as diverse as railroad locomotives and pipeline inspection.
The US was still climbing out of the Great Depression in 1939. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard had rented a 12x18 garage in what would later be known as Silicon Valley. The garage served as research lab, development workshop, and manufacturing facility. Hewlett-Packard, built upon an investment of $538, earned $104 billion in 2007. The broad-based IT company's fourth-quarter 2009 net revenue was $30.8 billion.
Today Trader Joe's has more than 325 upscale grocery stores, including several in the St. Louis area; their forte is innovative, hard-to-find items. They started as the Pronto Markets convenience store chain during the economic doldrums of 1958. (Yes, there was--and still is--a Trader Joe.)
Also during the Eisenhower Recession of '58, IHOP's initial location opened in California. The last of the iconic A-frame IHOPs was built in 1983. Since their acquisition of Applebee's in 2007, the company has been called DineEquity. Their more than 2,300 stores under both brands have struggled in recent years.
The petroleum crisis of 1973 sent the country hurtling into a steep economic decline. Hoping to get a contract for overnight delivery service from the Federal Reserve, Federal Express was founded in Little Rock. Stymied by red tape in Little Rock, the company soon moved to adjacent Memphis. From precarious beginnings, the FedEx Memphis World Hub now handles 3.3 million packages--per day.
Upon its launch in recessionary 1980, CNN took on the untested proposition that there was actually an audience for 24-hour news coverage. Now one of the world's largest news organizations, CNN quickly altered the nature of TV news; broadcast networks that had held back material for their own evening broadcasts began to offer it to affiliates throughout the day.
Weathering the 9/11 downturn, Wikipedia also weathered rocky technical and logistical problems as well as questions about its accuracy, role, and scope. Presently Wikipedia has more than thirteen million articles in 271 languages. German (900,000 articles) is second to English (three million); Cheyenne, spoken by 1,700 Native Americans, has 62 articles. Wikipedia's financial situation has always been at least somewhat tenuous.
You Also Pay for What It Comes In
Published: December 23, 2009
Annually, the lifestyle of the average American generates about 66 pounds of packaging--cans, jars, bottles, wrappers, boxes, etc. Some of that may end up as litter. A disappointingly small percentage is recycled. Most of it goes to the landfill; in one Iowa county, 37% of landfilled material is packaging.
Without factoring in disposal and and environmental costs, packaging accounts for at least ten percent of product cost to the consumer. Packaging for health and beauty products can cost three times as much as what it contains. Says a British commentator: "It's crazy. You pay more for the packaging than the ingredients and then you have to pay again to chuck the wretched stuff away."
In terms of overall financial impact, beverages (bottled, canned, and boxed) certainly lead the league. Bottled water stands out--ninety percent of the cost of this product is due to the bottle itself. Bottled water costs 240 to 10,000 times more than tap water; for the price of one bottle of Evian, a San Francisco resident can receive 1,000 gallons of some of the nation's highest quality tap water. Since the average American consumes 167 bottles of water per year and since bottled water is the second most popular US beverage, the fact that it takes 24 million gallons of oil to produce every billion plastic bottles is far from insignificant. Actually, it would be difficult to design and globally implement a more inefficient way to supply water!
Hard Times for Santa
Published: December 16, 2009
Santa Claus was on hand on the night of this year's first lighting of The World's Largest Living Christmas Tree. That'll be it for this year, however. Budget cuts in Wilmington (NC) have axed Santa and an elf, as well as the candy canes and small toys that Santa handed out to children on subsequent nights during past seasons. Not to mention the portable toilets which also made a welcome appearance.
The US Postal Service's Operation Santa won't be sending children's letters to volunteers in North Pole, Alaska to answer. Because of child protection concerns, the 55-year-old practice of sending letters to the the Alaskan town (which in actuality is 1,700 miles south of the North Pole) has been terminated with extreme prejudice. Unless a solution can be found, the kiddos' letters won't bear the coveted North Pole postmark.
A last-minute reprieve in Sacramento (CA), however. The on-again, off-again Santa Parade is back on. The mayor-elect has donated $20,000 left in his campaign coffers to continue the long-standing tradition. Lack of sponsorship had threatened demise.
Things have been trending downward in Santaland for a while, it must be said. Last year professional Australian Santas were having trouble finding work or were being replaced by amateur talent in rented suits. In 2005, hundreds of British children missed joining Santa and his helpers in Lapland when their tour operator became insolvent a few days beforehand. Also in 2005, one of Santa's reindeer died of heart failure due to low-flying Danish Air Force planes; a Air Force spokesman announced a $4,800 settlement, acknowledging Santa's prompt-present-delivery concerns.
Published: December 9, 2009
Dinner and drinks in an upscale restaurant in China - $20. To most of us that seems wonderously inexpensive. To somebody visiting from China, an equivalent dining experience here seems insanely expensive.
However it is referred to--price sensitivity, price parameters, price expectation, price perception--customers come to a potential transaction with a subjective price point that they are loath to exceed. As the example in the first paragraph illustrates, this price point may stem from expectation (experiences with comparable things). The price point also may be driven--or at least conditioned--by image (the look, surroundings, etc. of the product or service). Value-conveying marketing language can also affect perceived value.
Simply putting the word "overpriced" into Google gives many examples. Cell phone plans, software, toys, student fees--the products and services run the economic gamut. MSN Money has a list of fifteen things the recession has rendered overpriced (in their opinion); one of the things, movie theater popcorn, is dealt with in the book Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies: And Other Pricing Puzzles.
The Library offers access to other materials in a number of formats that can turn pricing from mystery to profitable science for you. Contact us to get up to speed on this all-important aspect of business.
Published: December 1, 2009
Gravy-soaked mashed potatoes. Sausage-studded stuffing. It's safe to say that these staples of the holiday-season table get more plate space than cruciferous vegetables.
Cruci-what? Cruciferous vegetables, while they all belong to the cabbage family, are as diverse as Brussels sprouts, arugula, watercress, and even turnips, rutabagas, and parsnips. But let's face it. Few of us follow the sound advice to have at least half our dinner plate filled with vegetables--potatoes not included. A recent report finds that only 14% of American adults are eating the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. High school students do even worse at 10%. The situation isn't localized; not a single state even came to close to recommended objectives for adults.
Maybe, just maybe, change is on the way. As the percentage of older Americans increases and the population becomes more ethnically diverse, the federal Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service projects small declines in per-capita consumption of fried potatoes, cheese, sugar, beef, and poultry, together with an increase in consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Published: November 25, 2009
- 46 million turkeys will be eaten at Thanksgiving.
- People flying to reach the groaning festive board make this the busiest travel time of the year.
While the media dutifully and cheerfully trot out these numbers, an analysis of government, industry, and advocacy statistics suggests that neither claim can be sustained. The turkey number might--or might not--reflect accurately the number of turkey purchased through all of Novermber. Meanwhile, by count of commercial flights, Thanksgiving week is far from the peak annual travel period.
But then there seems to be something about Thanksgiving that prompts goofy conclusions. Don't blame it on the much-maligned trytophan, however; that essential amino acid's role is already highly overplayed. The turkey and travel numbers, as well as the thundering controversy about what really did or didn't happen at the First Thanksgiving (even assuming it was the first thanksgiving), will have to be ascribed to some yet-undiscovered cause. The effluvium of rotting Halloween pumpkins? Cosmic disturbances directly attributable to football tailgate parties? Please, somebody, apply for a National Science Foundation grant and let's get this cleared up!
When the Leaves Come Falling Down
Published: November 19, 2009
For the next few Sundays Springfield's leaf recycling centers will be open. City ordinances prohibit the dumping of leaves and yard waste into streets and waterways; this includes street gutters. Open burning of trees, brush, or any other vegetation requires an open-burning permit, but the open burning of leaves is prohibited. Legal alternatives to the leaf recycling centers include mulching and backyard composting.
While the US, Canada, and Europe diverge from each other in many ways, they are consistent in the fact that yard waste makes up 20% to 30% of municipally-collected solid waste. (Food waste makes up another 8% to 9%.) Collecting, hauling and processing yard waste can constitute an average of 20% of the waste management budget, although the number rises to 50% in some localities.
The Michigan legislature is approaching this perennial problem in an interesting/controversial new way. After nineteen yard-waste-free years, they are proposing to to re-introduce yard waste into the trash flow ending up in landfills--but only if 70% of the gas (mostly methane) from the decomposition of garbage is recovered and used as energy supply. While landfills would then derive more revenue from the sale of energy and increased waste volume, environmentalists worry about the unrecovered methane, an extremely potent and volatile greenhouse gas.
Spring Ahead, Fall Back
Published: November 3, 2009
Semiannually there is a (nearly) national undercurrent of grumbling and whining. A couple of states and four US territories are oblivious to this--because they don't observe daylight saving time (DST). (Not "daylight savings time," although most people want to call it that.)
The Internet has given the disgruntled an outlet to move beyond annoying their friends and relatives with their utter dissatisfaction with the DST concept or application. Web sites have sprung up, advocating either ending DST or extending it year-round.
In its present configuration, DST will go away for only four winter months. The most-often cited reason for its existence is energy savings. More than one critical eye is being turned on this claim, however; the most serious contender is a 36-page academic paper making the point that DST actually increases residential energy demand by a substantial amount. (If 36 academic pages are more than you want to deal with, here's USA TODAY's q&a on the study.) Another quasi-scientific study purports to show that the productivity of US knowledge workers is diminished by $480 million by DST.
Another commentator finds DST deadly, but advises against bringing up the matter lest Congress impose a National Bedtime Hour! He also notes the existence of a 240-page book, Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, that one review says "draws much mirth from the facts about DST and its amorphous benefits."
Some Autumn Titles
Published: October 28, 2009
How does Wal-Mart sell a $24 book for nine bucks? By eating at least a $3.72 loss on each copy. Is this a good idea in the long run? We'll see.
While that battle rages, here are some of the latest titles we've received:
Boom Town: How Wal-Mart Transformed an All-American Town into an International Community examines the transformation of Bentonville from a sleepy backwater with a population of 2,900 to a culturally and ethnically diversified community of 30,000. Tyson Foods and J. B. Hunt also are headquartered in the area.
Investors large and small have learned the meaning of the phrase "financial debacle" in '08 and early '09. Jim Cramer's Getting Back to Even suggests how to put the wheels back on the wagon with chapters such as The Next Big Thing, How Your Generation Should Respond to the Crash, and 25 New Rules.
The ever-provocative Barbara Ehrenreich continues her gadfly role with Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. Ponder her chapter How Positive Thinking Destroyed the Economy. The book is summarized as "an urgent call for a new commitment to realism, existential clarity and courage."
Obsolete: An Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing Us By is a quirky collection of short essays on more than 100 topics such as Blind Dates, Camera Film, Writing Letters, Privacy, and, yes, Books.
2009 Competitive Assessment
Published: October 21, 2009
The 2009 Competitive Assessment was conducted by Market Street Services, a community and economic development consulting firm. This report highlights the socio-economic strengths and weaknesses of the area as determined by this firm. For the purpose of this assessment Springfield was compared to Knoxville, Tennessee, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Kalamazoo, Michigan under the categories of "People, Prosperity and Place."
Strengths and weaknesses are featured for each topic area of people, prosperity and place in the Competitive Assessment Overview [pdf] and in the Springfield Business Journal's article, "Report cites job growth, low wages as Springfield issues."
Highlighted strengths from the assessment include:
- Strong population growth and increasing diversity
- Strong worker productivity rates
- A dynamic, very competitive quality of life inclusive of numerous cultural and recreational amenities
A sampling of weaknesses in the assessment include:
- A reported "culture of poverty" throughout the region -- especially related to youth poverty -- and its associated challenges including: lower incomes, high foreclosure and bankruptcy rates, and rising rates of teenage pregnancy
- Comparatively average, yet declining labor force participation rates
- Vulnerability of the city, both in terms of financial outlook (police/fire pension fund) and a lack of community and public-leadership vision and support for change
Read the Competitive Assessment Overview [pdf] for a complete listing of strengths and weaknesses or download the full report.
Somebody's Gotta Do It
Published: October 13, 2009
"You couldn't pay me enough to do that." But not everybody feels that way. Nor can people agree on what would make a career path so distasteful as to remove it from consideration. For instance, the fact that the median salary for a veterinarian is $73,000+ in itself tends to mitigate the poop-and-pus factor. PayScale has assembled a list of jobs, the dollar signs of which might offset their intimate connection witih ick.
The repugnant features of certain jobs are apt to assure that there will be plenty of openings. Portable toilet cleaner and garbage collector positions tend to be easy to get. Ditto sewer workers; in some cities, they come across the occasional corpse.
The Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs show explores this--in amazing detail. Those who are not faint of heart nor weak of stomach will find their web site, um..., fascinating, shall we say? (Personally, I abandoned ship when I got to Poo Pot Maker.)
Which leads us to the important social-policy question (and the justification for the paragraphs above): are there really jobs in America that only immigrants will do? Government-generated statistics used by the Center for Immigration Studies don't indicate that. Even before the recession only four civilian occupations (out of 465) were majority immigrant. Even in those four occupations (which account for less than one percent of the workforce), the native-born workforce stood at 47%. In media-stereotyped jobs: maids/housekeeper - 55% native-born; taxi driver, chauffers, etc. - 58% native-born; construction laborers - 65% native-born.
Springfield Area Job Search Resources
Published: October 7, 2009
The Missouri Career Center is a good place to start a job search. The center has well-trained assistants on staff to aid job seekers with job searches and training. The center partners with organizations offering additional intensive programs and services. The Springfield office has over 30 computers for use by job seekers. For more information, call (417) 887-4343.
Search local job listings and post your resume online:
A KY3 report pointed out that businesses may only post openings on their web sites and not on the mega-search sites. Check out business librarian Mike DePue's Springfield Area Major Employers page for lists of companies to check.
For help creating or updating a resume, try JobNow*. JobNow offers resume tips and templates, but you can also send your resume to JobNow. Within 24 hours, you'll get a reply from a resume expert, a live person who offers advice on how to create a winning resume. Books available at the Library include:
The Library provides access to LearningExpressLibrary*, an online resource for employment and academic test preparation, including Postal Worker, Civil Service and GED. Ozarks Technical Community College offers free GED test preparation classes.
All branches of the Springfield-Greene County Library offer computers with internet access and word processing software. The Midtown Carnegie Branch library also has JobView, a touch-screen kiosk showing job listings from Missouri Career Source.
Do you need to brush up on your computer skills? The Edge Community Technology Center is also located at the Midtown Carnegie Branch Library and offers basic computer software and Internet training for adults at no charge. Call (417) 837-5011 for more information.
Uninsured and Underinsured Missouri
Published: September 28, 2009
About one of every eight Missourians lacked health insurance in 2007 and 2008. For the same period, the percentage of Missourians with employer-provided coverage was 64.4%, down from 72.5% in 2000-2001. As opposed to talk show and Internet chatter and hearsay, the numbers are from the Census Bureau.
Another report from the Department of Health and Human Services finds that the number of uninsured Missourians increased to some 739,000 in 2008, up 41% from about 524,000 in 2001. Troubling specifics: nonelderly adults without insurance in Missouri increased to 17.5% from 13.5% and Missouri workers without insurance increased to 15.8% from 12.6%.
Also using Census material, the Missouri Budget Project notes that the vast majority of uninsured Missourians (72%) are in a family with at least one full-time worker. It's not hard to connect these numbers with the fact that family premium costs in Missouri have increased by 92% in just the last decade. In 2006, the average family premium in Missouri was more than $11,000, about 9% of a middle-income family's income and out of reach for many lower-income families. And those small businesses that are still able to provide employee health benefits are likely to see their costs more than double over the next ten years.
This pressing social problem is greatly compounded by the comparatively forgotten underinsured. An estimated 25 million Americans are underinsured. High deductible plans and exclusions of pre-existing conditions render this segment of the population particularly vulnerable, with coverage that costs too much and provides too little. This is critical in a state such as Missouri that has a significantly large rural population; 33% of farmers and ranchers are undisputably underinsured and rural residents in general are twice as likely to be underinsured as urban residents.
Having narrowed the health-care focus to Missouri this week, next week we'll bring the problem even closer to home.
Published: September 21, 2009
A brand can be defined as "the sum of all the associations, feelings, attitudes, and perceptions that people have related to the tangible and intangible characteristics of a company, product, or service."
The fact is that brands that have taken years of talent and resources to painstakingly build can be drastically diminished or fatally damaged in short order. Such brand catastrophes can be self-inflicted or due to events entirely beyond the brand holder's control.
Hyatt Hotels' Boston debacle is a current, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot example. As a cost-cutting move at three hotels, Hyatt fired their entire housekeeping staff, outsourcing the positions to contractors who would bring in lower-cost workers. Media reports had Hyatt getting the soon-to-be-departing staff to train their replacements, telling them that these were to be "vacation subs." The resulting (surprise?) vilification of Hyatt immediately came from all quarters, even uniting groups and individuals who disagreed with each other in every other conceivable way! As an ironic coincidence, BusinessWeek had just recognized Hyatt as "Best Place to Launch a Career," thus drawing that entity into the unsavory mess. It remains to be seen whether Hyatt will attempt to ride out the storm or opt for some sort of damage control. Either way, their public image is thoroughly trashed, perhaps for a long time to come. [Sept. 28th update: Hyatt has released a statement in which they "recognize and regret that we did not handle all parts of the transition in a way that reflects our organization's values." They put foward a new severance offer, involving temp jobs.]
This isn't an unforeseeable lightning strike, such as Domino's Pizza getting blindsided by employees doing disgusting things. Rather, this is short-term thinking overriding long-term considerations. An example from the past would be Packard, which once thoroughly dominated Cadillac in the premium luxury car category. To boost sales during the Great Depression, Packard introduced a middle-market model. As time went on, buyers came to perceive Packard as just another mid-price vehicle and Cadillac as the top-end choice. By '57, Packard was off the scene and Cadillac reigned. As we speak, Cadillac seems determined to do a "Packard," losing its cachet by diluting its brand.
Back From The Brink
Published: September 15, 2009
A year after the financial-industry meltdown was on the verge of becoming Great Depression 2.0, a new Associated Press poll finds that 70% of Americans feel that the financial industry still is too unregulated to prevent another such occurrence. In this week of the first anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, nearly 80% of the respondents say that risky lending practices were largely responsible for the recession.
As the recession picked up steam last year, articles began to appear recommending "recession-proof" stocks. Let's revisit these predictions now that we have about a year's worth of outcome.
On September 8th of last year, Ryan Goldberg, one of many Minyanville Media "professors," gave us seven such companies. Here are the results for 9/15/08 through 9/14/09 AM: Urban Outfitters (-18%); McDonald's (-15.7%); Fortune Brands (-32.43%); Rent-A-Center (-19.04%); Wal-Mart (-19.37%); Ace Cash Express (-30.71%). The seventh company, Purina, is privately held.
Last September 29th, the renowned Motley Fool queried their supercomputer for five stocks "that look like they could do well in any extended downturn." Three of these have turned in disasterous outcomes: Torm A/S (ADR) (-64.33%); Agria (-51.47%); Hornbeck Offshore Svcs (-35.69%). Nationwide Health Properties is disappointing at -13.25%. Fomento Economico Mexicano is pretty much of a wash at -1.45%.
In early August '08, Jim Kramer went out on a limb with recession-proof stocks that "will become the most treasured." His blue-chip approach also came up short. Results range from Heinz (-24.33%) and Procter & Gamble (-24.48%) to Colgate-Palmolive (-6.21%), Unilever (-5.99%), and Coca-Cola (-4.39%). His other picks were General Mills (-12.52%) and Pepsico (-19.71%).
What about stocks that actually have done well? How about Alpha Pro Tech (+371.23%)? Or Valassis Communications (think Sunday newspaper coupon inserts) (+85.29%)? Or Sinovac Biotech (+213.74%)? Did they do well because of the recession? Would they have done even better if the recession hadn't occurred? Or was the recession even a factor?
A far-from-comprehensive list of other twelve-month gainers: Kirkland's (+397.78); Cott (+361.22); Spectrum Pharmaceuticals (+382.58); Dollar Thrifty Auto (+303.61); Stec (343.76); China Green Agriculture (+276.36); Fuqi Intl. (+225.27); Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (+201.76).
Many Hands, Many Talents
Published: September 9, 2009
CareerBuilder.com puts an interesting spin on Labor Day with an article on all the unseen and behind-the-scenes people who make your day happen. Let's make that specific to a library.
Let's say that you're browsing the library shelves and decide to check out the book Becoming Eichmann, a biography of the Nazi "administrator" and war criminal. In this limited space it's impossible to mention everybody who has a major or minor role in making this come to pass. But here's a substantial list:
*the book's author.
*the project sponsor's personnel--in this case at "Legacy of the Holocaust."
*the funding agency's personnel--in this case at the Arts & Humanities Research Board.
*the scholars whom the author approached to comment on his draft text.
*the publisher's many functionaries--editors, proofreaders, indexers, artists, designers, etc.
*the paper industry workers--loggers, mill workers, etc.
*the ink manufacturer's and supplier's personnel.
*the book compositor's personnel--typesetters, scanners, etc.
*the printers (and of course those involved in manufacturing the printing machinery).
*the bindery staff (and those responsible for their glue and other supplies).
*transportation of machinery, components, etc.--and of the book copies themselves.
*the petroleum industry and auto workers, tire makers, etc. who enabled the transportation.
*the warehouse operatives to store and ship the finished copies.
*the various functionaries of the vendor/distributor who specializes in books for libraries.
*The Library's book selection and acquisition personnel.
*The Library's technical workers who ready books for the shelves.
*The Library's pages who retrieve, move, and shelve materials.
*The Library's computer services workers who maintain patron and material records.
*The Library's circulation staff who check out the book to you.
And this far-from-complete list should include the support staff at each point along the way--janitors, maintenance workers, cafeteria staff, the people who make and supply necessary furniture, utility workers, clerks, etc. So much so that a great part of our interconnected culture and economy is involved in that book in your hand.
The Age of Distraction
Published: September 1, 2009
What do Bill Gates, a Jesuit priest, an award-winning filmmaker, and an author of books on Deadheads, chess, and pandemics have in common? They all share Henry David Thoreau's yearning to live life more deliberately.
Twice a year, Bill Gates puts in a series of special 18- to 24-hour days. These "Think Weeks" are totally focused, uninterruptible events that have taken place since about 1984. Gates, fueled by Diet Orange Crush, uses them to ponder the future of Microsoft and technology.
Rev. Thomas Massaro is impressed that Ken Burns, in a recent commencement address, recognized that mobile technology distracts people and disengages them from one another. Massaro says: "If technology is rendering this sort of deliberate oblivion more likely, then let's unplug and make a choice for immediacy." For he believes that it isn't so much about mobile technology as it is about human choices.
Bestselling author David Shenk has written about everything from kids' toys to the reinvention of agriculture. However, he feels that his "tiny speck of immortality" has been earned by the inclusion of his phrase "data smog" in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004. The phrase refers to the sheer volume of readily available information that a person feels a desire or compulsion to deal with. Often the result is a paralysis of analysis.
If these paragraphs and their linked sources strike uncomfortably close to home, consider a data fast. Laptop, phone, PDA, newspaper, any sort of info-yielding device or object--off the scene for a substantial predetermined period of time. If you're not quite ready to take that plunge, how about a data retreat? While the data fast makes the infobabble go away for a while, the data retreat holds it at arm's length!
Beware of the Financial Predators
Published: August 25, 2009
As a professional librarian practicing in southwest Missouri libraries for more than three decades, I've seen many changes, major and minor. One depressing and disappointing constant, however, has been the voraciousness of scamsters. While the "packaging" of the scam may change to suit the current situation, the basic psychology and techniques of exploitation play over and over again. Although both the victimizer and the victimized bear varying degrees of responsibility, the seemingly endless supply of predators is disheartening.
The Better Business Bureau tracks recent scam trends. Phony payday loan debt collectors are prevalent at the moment, as are the traveling home improvement operations, a perennial blight that has been dubbed "rent-a-creep." An assortment of credit-related schemes is out there; "lower your credit card interest rate" and "fix your credit" are come-on features.
The Federal Trade Commission also labors long and hard to track and thwart the swindles. Among the most targeted sectors currently: job placement and home foreclosure rescue. On the green scene, the FTC has reached a settlement with a company that was claiming that its rayon products were "100% bamboo fibers"! And the maliciously mercenary quickly found Cash for Clunkers opportunities.
Internet ScamBusters currently is tracking nearly 350 ingeniously assorted scams! Subscribe to their weekly updates to stay current. Their prevention and reporting resources lead to the most objective, current information.
What's New 2
Published: August 19, 2009
Last week I pointed out some of the timely business and finance titles added to our collection in just one week. This week I'll concentrate on some of another week's titles, those for the week that ended August 7th.
In addition to reliability, lack of bias, and timeliness, we also look to meet a variety of needs and interests. The New Influencers examines the marketing and PR implications of blogs and other Web-based social media; viral marketing and consumer interaction are just a part of this new dynamic. Approaching marketing from a very diffent standpoint, Selling When No One Is Buying contends that the correct mix of confidence, finesse, and dedication are far more important than woes that the Dow may be experiencing. How to Instantly Connect with Anyone addresses that finesse issue, whether you're on the phone, using email, or meeting and greeting. But don't be victimized by The Bully at Work; identify allies, build confidence, and stand up to the tormentor!
On the financial front, Recession-Proof Your Financial Life by protecting your job, getting out of debt, and safeguarding and building assets. And if you're a One-Income Household, financial hardship doesn't have to be an inevitable reality.
Published: August 11, 2009
In building our collection of available business and financial titles we strive for reliability, lack of bias, and timeliness. There is a word for such information when it is not timely--that word is "misinformation"!
During the week ending July 31st we added a number of timely titles, including The Golden Rules for Managers. Originally published in 2000, this title will help establish priorities in a rebounding economy. The Power of Who shakes up and rebuilds the networking concept, pointing out that you already know everybody that you need to know! Where Underpants Come From uses inexpensive underwear to explore the web of contacts and exchanges that make today's global economy viable, particularly delineating China's developing economic superpower status.
When it comes to practical personal finance, Miserly Moms comes out in a fourth edition to help families live more frugally while still reaching their economic goals. Index Investing for Dummies touts unmanaged, diversified exposure in a variety of asset classes. The 1-2-3 Money Plan, by the syndicated author of last year's Living Rich by Spending Smart, stresses that it is far easier to hold onto a dollar than to earn one.
All in the Family
Published: July 28, 2009
Even in the best of times, "first generation starts it, second generation builds it, and the third generation usually fritters it away," says prominent local businessman Harry Cooper. He and his brother Jack are the third-generation owners of Harry Cooper Supply. Obviously they mean to be a distinct exception to that rule!
Family businesses always are prone to tensions. The difficult and even painful decisions necessitated by hard economic times focus and aggravate these tensions. Conflicts that could be pushed to the background when the coffers were flush are now front and center. And as one family business member commented: "It's a meeting place where we form our identities and the stories that carry us through life." Downsizing Cousin Dave is not a story anybody wants to carry through life.
As the New York Times insightfully puts it: "Recessions, like bullies, always pick on the weak." But financial weakness does necessarily translate into or devolve from weakness of character. As the patriarch of one family business says: "We've established ourselves as people of integrity. That integrity would be shot to hell if we said, "O.K., it's bankruptcy. Goodbye."
Published: July 23, 2009
There seem to be about twenty cities, each of which claims to have the most restaurants per capita. The statistical backing, if any, for these claims should be considered spotty or suspicious. In any event, many city restaurants rely on travelers, commuters, and other non-residents to fill otherwise empty places in the dining area. Take away its adjacent highway and the prospects for any Waffle House would be quite dismal!
Another way to look at restaurant numbers is by density. How many restaurants are in a given geographical area? For example, the Springfield-Greene County Library has five locations in Springfield. Using our subscription database, Reference USA Business, it can be determined that within 1.5 radial miles, our Brentwood branch has 87 restaurants. On the other hand, the Library Station has only 36 restaurants within that distance. (The remaining branches: Park Central, with 70 restaurants; Midtown Carnegie, with 68; and the Library Center with 54.)
When does an area have too many restaurants? Sheer numbers don't tell the story. Since each restaurant will usually try to develop its own niche, focus, clientele, following, etc., perhaps the question should be: how many restaurants of a particular description can an area sustain? However, the country as whole simply has too many restaurants, say insiders. An industry consultant predicts that 20,000 restaurants will close in the next three years. "I think 20,000 is a minimum," he said. "We probably need more than that. There are a lot of marginal players out there." According to Moody's Bottom Rung list of companies prone to default, Arby's, Captain D's (Sagittarius Restaurants), Krispy Kreme, Outback (OSI Restaurant Partners), Perkins, and Sbarro may be among the casualties. More typical, perhaps, will be the demise of smaller fry such as City Lobster & Steak; eleven years in operation; it specialized in business lunches, but was done in by half a million dollars in debt owed to more than fifty creditors and the relegation of the expense-account lunch to the endangered species list
Is There Still a Crazed Camel in Our Midst?
Published: July 17, 2009
Last week's entry looked at the "reanimation" of dead or dormant brands, certainly an interesting and reminiscent aspect of marketing. Some brands, however, only seem to have gone away.
In the late Eighties the Campbell 66 trucking line, a long-standing local presence, disappeared in a spectacularly messy and highly publicized debacle. The sprawling terminal area on East Chestnut sat empty for some time; the structures were torn down and the property redeveloped several years ago. For those new to the area, too young to remember, or who want to take a trip down memory lane, check out this web site.
Other than seeing a delapidated trailer sitting in a field every now and then, all trace of the company seems to be gone. Yet the company (at least some version of it) still exists! The trademark is still protected as well.
Whether we're likely to actually see Snortin' Norton rolling along the interstate and Humpin' to Please anytime soon is an open question, but his wacked-out expression will grace collectibles for years to come.
Orphans, Ghosts, and Zombies
Published: July 10, 2009
Brim coffee. Underalls. Coleco toys and games. Over-the-counter Nuprin. Rival pet food. The only thing they have in common is that they were well-known--and are still remembered--brands. All went totally or nearly off the market and all of them have returned or are in the process of returning, due to River West Brands.
The jury's still out on which dead, dormant, or dying brands (known in the trade as orphans, ghosts, or zombies) can undergo "brand reanimation." The key may be consumer memory. There may a core of nostalgic consumers who would buy the product again--maybe not just as it was, but sort of the way it used to be. The reanimation of the VW Beetle is the shining example of the concept. White Cloud toilet paper is right up there also; this is now a Wal-Mart exclusive brand. Proctor & Gamble let the White Cloud trademarks expire, since they had Charmin; now P&G's Charmin competes in the largest retailer against a brand that P&G itself developed and nurtured!
Research has uncovered an fascinating trait of consumer memory, however. Consumers are quite capable of remembering brand aspects that never existed! Shown a bogus Disney World ad, about 16% of test subjects "remembered" that, as children, they shook hands with Bugs Bunny at a Disney theme park. A substantial number of these specifically recalled Bugs saying, "What's up, Doc?" If you know your cartoon characters, you've already noted the insurmounatable memory problem: Bugs is not now and never has been a Disney character, so the "memories" have no basis in reality.
See How They've Grown
Published: July 1, 2009
Last week this blog analyzed recently released Census Bureau data for growth patterns in this area. Metropolitan areas in the rest of Missouri will be examined this week. While many people are rather vague about what constitutes a metropolitan area, the federal Office of Management and Budget establishes uniformity by defining whether a city is a metro, as well as specifying that metro's constituent counties. Metros aren't restricted by state boundaries; of Missouri's eight metropolitan areas, four have counties in another state. Up to this point, Missouri's metros have constituted 73% of the state's population, 79% of the state's jobs, and 84% of the state's gross domestic product.
State metro growth has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers is both an Arkansas (three counties) and Missouri (McDonald County) metro; 2000- 2008 growth there has been a robust 27.9%, with virtually all of the growth taking place in the Arkansas counties. The four-county Jefferson City metro, on the other hand, has seen a miniscule 4.5% growth. The two-county Columbia metro has grown 12.8% between 2000 and 2008. Our Joplin neighbors' two-county metro has grown 9.9%. Often overlooked, St. Joseph is both a Kansas (one county) and Missouri (three counties) metro with 3.3% growth, held back by the 6.4% negative growth of Doniphan, the Kansas county.
Now for the big guys. The St. Louis metro is made up of eight Illinois counties and eight Missouri counties; 2000-2008 growth was 4.4%. The Kansas City metro has six Kansas counties and nine Missouri counties, ranging in size from Linn (KS; under 10,000) to Jackson (MO; more than 668,000); growth in this metro has been 9.0%.
Viewed in this context, the Springfield metro's 15.7% growth is reasonably impressive.
See How We've Grown
Published: June 22, 2009
Recently, detailed Census population estimates were released for Missouri counties. It is important to note that these are estimates; the 2010 decennial census will have an actual count. The new figures allow an estimation of growth between 2000 and 2008. (It is pleasant to note that this yearly statistical release happened about three months earlier than usual!)
The results for the Springfield metro show an 11.0% population increase for Greene; 39.0% for Christian; 7.8% for Dallas; 12.6% for Polk; and 17.5% for Webster. The population increase for the five-county metro as a whole was 15.7%. Greene County's growth, steady but not spectacular, allowed it to increase its share of the metro from 53.2% (2000) to 59.6% (2008).
The two-county Branson micropolitan area's population increase over the same period was 14.9% Stone County's increase was 10.1%, while Taney County's increase was 18.4%. Taney County's share of the micropolitan area remained relatively unchanged at 59.9% (compared to 58.1% in 2000).
Published: June 15, 2009
As Springfield has grown in recent decades, more chain restaurants have appeared (and, in some cases, disappeared). When we had fewer chains, the pluses and minuses of the chains and their relationship with the independents were more rhetorical than has come to be the case presently. But now it possible for our mid-major metro to join the spirited national discussion.
So what percentage of the chains is presently represented in the Springfield metro (Christian, Dallas, Greene, Polk, and Webster counties)? Wikipedia has a list of about 240; roughly a quarter of those chains are found in the Springfield metro, with a few more found relatively nearby. (Famous Dave's and Joe's Crab Shack in Branson, e.g.) Restaurants & Institutions, a trade journal, publishes a ranked Top 400 list. (Contact us at The Library to use our subscription databases to access this list.) The Springfield metro has thirteen of the top fifteen ranked chains; Dunkin' Donuts (found in Branson) and Jack in the Box are the exceptions. We have 26 of the top thirty--the recently-departed Denny's is one of the missing. After the top thirty, there begins to be rapid dropoff, including highly ranked chains such as Popeyes, Baskin-Robbins, Church's, and the long-ago and fondly remembered Whataburger that have been here at one time or another. Of the top 100, 45 currently don't have a Springfield metro presence.
Industry sources identify about 3,600 restaurant chains, although many of these have just a few locations. Lambert's Cafe would be a good example; they have two Missouri locations, as well as a location in Alabama.
Consumers are a quirky and paradoxical lot. While many diners are inclined to be dismissive of chain restaurant food, asserting that independent restaurants have better food, data show that this perception isn't reflected by their purchases--i.e., visits and (ultimately) dollars spent.
When the Evening News Becomes Personal Reality
Published: June 5, 2009
Let me tell you, it's not what you know.
I work hard, but I've reached a plateau.
I've a dozen degrees,
Which astounds the trustees--
Would you like that for here or to go?
In recent months, a vast amount of recession poetry has begun to appear on the Internet. This post will concentrate on limericks and haiku--I feel that the space and format limitations that these impose give a pithy and succinct immediacy.
NPR's insightful and wide-ranging Planet Money blog recently issued a Haiku Challenge; this slideshow gives a dozen of the best responses. For instance: "How much are apples? / Don't recall caring before. / Little things add up."
The New York Times Freakonomics blog got a large and literate response to their "There Once Was a Fund Guy Named Bernie..." limerick challenge.
Let's conclude with the staid and venerable Auntie Beeb. The BBC's selections, in various forms and lengths, provide an overseas perspective.
Published: May 28, 2009
Somehow the princess industry hadn't appeared on my radar screen until now. So a book offering to teach me the business "from the front end to the back end" was quite a revelation.
A little research quickly brought out the dominant role played by Disney since 2001 in enthralling 3- to 6-year-old girls with everything princess. The carefully timed and executed movie releases move every conceivable sort of paraphenalia, expanding in the past couple of years into newborn and toddler items. Foodstuffs include Campbell's Disney Princess soup and Spaghetti-O's in "seven enchanted princess shapes". Other companies have seen the light--a Google search for princess themed merchandise yields 83,000 hits.
It seems that there's always been a minority undercurrent of opposition to this phenomenon, led by child psychologists, feminists, and simple-living advocates. Barbara Ehrenreich, in This Land Is Their Land, devotes the chapter "Bonfire of the Princesses" to exhorting parents to "ban the Princesses from your home."
Then along came Hard Times. All of a sudden the fabricated, all-about-me princess mentality isn't a good fit with new-found traits of humility and frugality engendered by limited personal, familial, and global resources. In an ironic twist, some Buffalo, NY teens are turning the concept on its head by forgoing $200+ prom dresses for $40-$60 Disney princess costumes!
Comfortable and Productive
Published: May 21, 2009
When you include work-at-home businesses, telecommuting, and corporate downsizing, many people are finding themselves in a "home office." Considerable latitude should be used when defining "home office." As in upgrading to the dining room table from the previous work station, the family sofa!
The physical outcomes from that latitude, however, are likely to include an impressive list of neurological and orthopedic woes. Some sensible and relatively inexpensive modifications can boost your productivity and keep you from being counted among the working wounded. Bubble wrap as a wrist rest, for example.
An often-overlooked aspect is lighting. Task lighting customizes the amount and positioning of light to your individual needs and activities.
The Impact of Numbers
Published: May 14, 2009
It is sometimes asserted, in so many words, that because of the enormous number of churches in Greene County, these churches must have (or should have) a heavy socioeconomic impact. Whether or not this line of reasoning is fundamentally sound to begin with, the assertion is doomed if (in fact) Greene County doesn't have an enormous number of churches.
Using informational tools readily available at or through The Library (we'll be glad to show you where and how) it's readily clear that, given our population size, the number of churches in Greene County is only somewhat larger than the national average. By Yellow Page count, Greene County has 376 churches or one church for every 710 persons of all ages (including, of course, all those with no church affiliation). Based on the US average, we would expect to have 317 churches.
Of the six randomly chosen Greene Counties in other states, however, only one had slightly fewer churches per population than Greene County, MO. The other five had significantly more churches per population. If the population of each of these counties was equal to ours, here's how many churches they would have:
Greene County, AL - 1,395 churches (one church per 191 people)
Greene County, NC - 658 churches (one church per 405 people)
Greene County, PA - 556 churches (one church per 480 people)
Greene County, VA - 416 churches (one church per 642 people)
Greene County, NY - 403 churches (one church per 662 people)
Greene County, MO - 376 churches (one church per 710 people)
Greene County, OH - 362 churches (one church per 736 people)
Once Upon an Electronic Time
Published: May 8, 2009
A quarter of a century ago. Ancient history for some. Not that long ago for others.
In 1984, 13% of US households has a computer; by autumn of 2007, ownership would be 76%.
Top computer companies by revenue in 1984 were (in order) IBM, Apple, Tandy, and Compaq; in 2008, the top four were Nokia, HP, Dell, and Apple.
In 1984, HP brought out the Laser Jet, the first low-cost laser printer suitable for office use--priced at $3,500. In 2009, a highly-rated HP Laser Jet office printer model can be found for $94.
MS-DOS 3.0 appeared in August, '84; version 3.1 came out in November. MS-DOS had eight major versions released before Microsoft discontinued development in 2000; today it has become increasngly irrelevant and has effectively ceased to exist as a platform for desktop computing.
The Lap of Luxury
Published: May 2, 2009
"In our society today it has become almost impossible to distinguish between luxuries and necessities."
Much is being made of a Pew Survey on the quickly changing perception of what constitutes a luxury. The quote above, however, was uttered by Wilbur Mills in 1965. (Those of a certain age undoubtedly will remember the spectacularly inappropriate shenanigans of Mills and Fanne Foxe ("the Argentine Firecracker") in 1974, leading to Mills' swift political demise.)
In '65 Congressman Mills was the floor manager of a bill to repeal luxury taxes. This bill illustrates the flexible and mutable understanding of what constitutes a luxury. Among the taxes to be repealed in 1965 were those on musical instruments, mechanical pencils, lighters, and playing cards. The "luxury tax" on beer remains to the present day!
So today's economic downturn forces us to revisit the necessity/luxury conundrum. This cartoon from 1921 shows the ungoing perceptual nature of this question.
Fiscal and Physical
Published: April 27, 2009
Each of the two teams has 6 to 10 players. A team scores points by passing a vollyball to one of its players in the end zone--and carefully managing debt and savings to gain sufficient advantage over its opponents.
Budgetball is designed to help students learn about debt, savings, interest, and taxes. During National Financial Literacy Month, the appearance of this new sport takes students out of the classroom and onto the field for a compressed, real-time, physical experience in the same concepts involved in personal finance and the federal budget.
Sound like gym class for nerds? Visit the Budgetball website for graphics and the relationship that debt or surplus has to a team's final score.
Winter of Our Discontent
Published: April 24, 2009
In the past couple of years, Time and the National Opinion Research Center have done job satisfaction surveys. Not just with jobs in general, but satisfaction with particular occupations.
These surveys were done before the economy went south, resulting in mass layoffs, hiring cutbacks, and rising job-security tensions. One wonders whether survey respondents--at least those who are still employed--would see their jobs in a new light today?
(Read or re-read Winter of Our Discontent (John Steinbeck) and vicariously experience Ethan Allen Hawley's dissatisfaction for added insight.)
Published: April 20, 2009
Eighty percent of Missouri's electricity is generated by 21 coal-fired power plants. These plants emit more than 75 million tons of carbon dioxide annually This emission is the equivalent of the exhaust from 15 million hypothetical average-sized cars. Of course, this is in addition to the 4.2 million vehicles actually on Missouri roadways!
Presently, Missouri ranks among the five lowest states in retail electricity rates. Producer costs--typically about $30 per megawatt hour--could double due to proposed federal legislation.
Under the "cap and trade" provisons of the Waxman-Markey proposal, power plants and other CO2 emitting industries would need permits for every emitted ton. Unused permits could be sold to other companies, but national emissions would have to be reduced by 20% by 2020--and by a whopping 83% by 2050.
The Trend Is Your Friend
Published: April 9, 2009
At mid-morning today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 22.49% for a one-month period--but down 6.52% over six months. Is there a trend to be found? And if so, what is it?
Trend lines are one of the fundamental tools used in investment technical analysis. In fact, technical analysis is totally predicated on the idea that prices trend in some direction or another.
Unfortunately, there's no trend-line industry standard. People have passionate but disparate ideas about how they should be drawn and interpreted. This link gives a reasonably simple spin on "the proper way to draw a trend line."
This link examines the concept and its implementation in greater detail, introducing dangling prices, price interference, reistance points, trend line breaks, etc.
Remember that the sites I have noted, although fairly mainstream, certainly don't represent every shade of opinion. As with many contentious subjects, the Internet tends to be something of a free-for-all about this, so you may want to retreat to the more measured approach taken by The Investor's Guide to Technical Analysis, High-Powered Investing for Dummies, Technical Analysis for Dummies, or some of the other books available at The Library.
Published: April 6, 2009
"Most [business] books are a chapter of advice with a whole lot of additional junk thrown in to make it book thickness." While libraries are inclined to find that assessment extreme, it does point up the need to widen your reading horizon beyond the more obvious business and financial books and publications.
For instance, venture capitalist Michael Moritz (think Google, YouTube, Yahoo, PayPal) tries to read more fiction than nonfiction. If his approach appeals to you, consider the American Enterprise Institute's "Ten Best" list of business novels. Or try our catalog using subjects such as Corporations--Fiction, Capitalists and Financiers--Fiction, and Corporate Culture--Fiction.
Not Worth the Cardboard It's Printed On?
Published: March 26, 2009
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (a/k/a The Stimulus Money) includes funding for the COPS Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP). In brief, the CHRP makes available up to $1 billion for the hiring and rehiring of additional career law enforcement officers.
Just in time, perhaps, to forestall (semi-)serious consideration of the "cardboard coppers" being deployed in the UK. As Dave Barry says, I'm not making this up. Thirteen police forces in England and Wales have purchased more than $28,000 worth of life-sized police-like cutouts which have been placed at gas stations to deter drive offs, as well as in retail locations to discourage shoplifting. One likeness in the town of Belper was credited with reducing thefts--until somebody stole it.
While a police spokesperson claimed that "shops love having them, we rotate them around businesses," man-on-the-street comments run along the lines of "They are all mad, I tell you. Completely raving mad." and "With pubs going under at an alarming rate, I think this is a good idea. People will have something to throw their redundant darts at again."
Cutouts of this sort can be found on the Internet, ranging from the $31.88 econo model through a $189 premium model (volume discount pricing available) to a $795 fiberglass Figurine Cop Statue. In an almost certainly fruitless attempt to act responsibly, I have not embedded links to these vendors and will provide URLs only to persons with a vaguely legitimate interest in such things!
An Electricity Answer Blowin' in the Wind
Published: March 18, 2009
The idea of a Missouri community producing 123% of its residential electrical demand using wind power is far from a futuristic pipe dream. It's been happening for about a year now, making Rock Port the first US community to be fully powered by the wind.
Wind speed maps make it clear that significant portions of Missouri have little potential for wind energy production. In fact, only 34 (or 30%) of Missouri's 115 counties have real potential. Economically strapped northwest Missouri shows the greatest potential, given today's technology.
After reaching 1,000 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity in 1985, it took the nation more than a decade to reach the 2,000 MW mark in 1999. Since then installed capacity has reached 26,274 MW (as of 31 Jan 09). As new technology comes online, Missouri's late start and presently limited output (163 MW with a capacity potential of 5,960 MW) may be able to be overcome.
Beyond Smoke and Mirrors
Published: March 17, 2009
Is there a Bernie Madoff in your life or in your future?
People are inclined to readily believe and trust those who look like them, talk like them, share their interests and activities, worship as they do, and have the same outlook and point of view. Affinity fraud can occur when somebody who is seemingly a core member of such a group pitches a financial come-on. A lack of background information or documentation, a strangely high rate of return on investment, a chance to be part of an exclusive circle or clientele, and a need to "get in right now" are often tipoffs that the outcome will be an unhappy one.
While the media give extensive coverage to the financial loss of affinity-fraud victims and deal to some extent with the shock and bewilderment of such victims, they rarely go deeply enough to examine the sense of shame and betrayal that the affinity group as a whole suffers. In many cases, this perceived perfidy against "one's own" seems to be fully as painful as the monetary loss. In the Madoff case, for example, mention is being made of the "shanda." As with very many Yiddish words, there is no real English equivalent for shanda; it can best be expressed as a long-lasting shame or disgrace that deeply stains the perpetrator's entire social and religious community.
Say on Pay
Published: March 6, 2009
Who should decide executive compensation? The board of directors? The shareholders? The government? Society?
The general public has developed some pretty strong feelings on the subject in the past few months as investment portfolios fall, layoffs occur, and information on multi-million dollar compensation packages comes to light. The public may have a short attention span, but companies need to ponder the long-term implications of the pent-up frustration and outrage.
When good times were rolling, it was easier to ignore the fact that an executive was making 344 times the pay of an average employee. For a minimum-wage employee, make that 866 times as much. And then there's the hedge or equity fund manager whose $588 million is more than 19,000 times as much as a typical US worker earned!
Could the questions asked in the first paragraph be part of rebooting a "crashed capitalist system" and emerging with a more social and sustainable capitalism?
Leave Them Smilin'
Published: March 2, 2009
"It's our duty to extract as much money from the customer as we can and send them home with a smile on their face." --Bob Stupak, former owner of Vegas World Casino.
The recent proliferation of casino advertising on local tv certainly abounds with smiling faces. Not a loser anywhere in sight! But the American Gaming Association is very upfront about this--"over time the house will come out ahead" and "casino gaming should not be considered a way to make money." They even publish an eye-opening chart which shows, for every $100 bet, how much the player should expect to lose. For example, the dollar slots are a "better deal" since the player should expect to lose between $2.50 and $6 per $100 bet, rather than the $7 to $12 the nickel slot player would lose.
So unless you are willing to view the loses as an entertainment expense, you'd better find your smiles elsewhere.
In the Know
Published: February 24, 2009
These are just a few of the business- and career-related titles that have been added to our shelves in the last few weeks:
- The Foreclosure of America, by Adam Michaelson, 2009. (Inside story of what went on within the walls of Countrywide Home Loans and other mortgage institutions.)
- Gimme My Money Back, by Ali Velshi, 2009. (How we got into a financial crisis--and concrete, simple steps to get you out of it.)
- Talent Is Overrated, by Geoffrey Colvin, 2008. (Cutting-edge research and eye-opening facts that debunk the myth of innate talent.)
- The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, by Matthew Miller, 2009. ("Your company should take care of you," "The kids will earn more than we do," and other fondly held beliefs that are no longer true.)
- The Wall Street Journal Guide to the End of Wall Street As We Know It, by Dave Kansas, 2009. (Whether we like it or not, tomorrow won't look like yesterday.)
- OverSuccess, by Jim Rubens, 2009. (Outlines twenty ways in which individuals and businesses can find recognition and personal achievement without toxic burdens.)
- Fake Work, by Brent Peterson, 2009. (Hard work is not the same as real work.)
Putting Today's Investment Climate in Perspective
Published: February 18, 2009
In the February 11th issue of The Outlook, Standard & Poor's looks at their 500 Composite Index since 1928. The average annual total return of this index did not show a negative return until 2000 (minus 9.1%), although some years are grouped. The 2001 return was minus 11.9%; the return for a dismal 2002 was minus 22.1%. How soon we forget.
Return for subsequent years (2003-2007) were positive until 2008 (minus 37%). The 1928-2008 return was 9.7%.
Weekly issues of The Outlook can be found at The Library Center in the Reference Department.
Is the S&P 500 a better measure of market movement than the Dow Jones Industrial Average? There may not be an objective answer to that question, but your investment decisions should take into account the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Cautious Good News
Published: February 9, 2009
The southwest Florida counties that had been considering changing their names to Default, Foreclosure, and Subprime are hearing some positive if tentative things from their bankers.
The pace of new foreclosures seems to be slowing and housing prices may be bottoming out. The median price of houses being sold has shown a modest increase for the first time since December '05.
With the recession as a catalyst, positive financial transformation may already be happening. Economist Joseph Schumpeter's concept of "creative destruction" seems more operative during a recession.
Cupid on the Cheap
Published: January 30, 2009
The National Retail Federation's annual Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, though grandiosely named, does add an insight on the current economic situation. They predict that V-day spending will drop 16.7% this year, a far lesser hit than many investors' portfolios have taken.
Small tokens of affection, creativity, and frugality are likely to be the starting team; extravagance and costly bling will be warming the bench for most of the game. The way things have been going the past few months, extravagance and costly bling may have trouble even making the team.
Overcoming the Past
Published: January 15, 2009
The District of Columbia is much better known for government than for commerce. But from its earliest days, the federal city's focus and location spurred vibrant economic development.
Since coverage of the Inauguration will be wall to wall, it will be interesting to see if a stunning irony will be noticed. Namely, the Inaugural Parade for our first President of color will travel the same route once taken by droves of slaves being taken to and from the slave auctions that existed within plain sight of the White House and the Capitol.
Until it was abolished in 1850, the slave trade was a major factor in the DC economy. Frequent shipments of slaves, chained together in droves of ten or twelve or twenty, were taken to and from nearby slave "pens." When an appalled tourist inquired how many slaves could legally be kept in a small, dark, damp cellar, the overseer casually replied: "As many as it will hold."
Asa Adgate, a member of the House of Representatives, recalled: "During the last session of Congress, as several members were standing in the street near the new capitol, a drove of manacled coloured people was passing by. When just opposite, one of them elevating his manacles as high as he could reach, commenced singing the favorite national song 'Hail Columbia, happy land.'"
"Hail Columbia," also known as "The President's March," was once considered a national anthem, prior to the adoption of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 1931. Of course, the immortalized singer could not have known that the tune of his bitter jest would be played today whenever the Vice-President arrives at a ceremony or enters a formal event.
(And here's another ironic backward glance that the incoming administration provides.)
Enough Is Enough
Published: January 12, 2009
For the American Dialect Society, bailout is the word of the year. The same word makes Lake Superior State University's 2009 List of Banished Words, however. The full title of the banished-words list is "List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness." CTV (Canada's largest private broadcaster) and the Halifax (Canada) Chronicle Herald sound a robust north-of-the-border Enough! when it comes to bailout, a mighty step forward for North American cultural unity.
Other 2009 banished business words or terms are Wall Street/Main Street (Lake Superior State and CTV), game changer (Lake Superior State), stimulus package (Chronicle Herald). and tough economic times (CTV).
If you want to design a presentation that is fresh and interesting instead of tired and humdrum, Lynn Thompson's extensive list of overused words and phrases is a must-see. It will help you avoid the buzzwords from yesteryear's management fads.
Never Saw It Coming
Published: December 30, 2008
There are certainly plenty of candidates for the 2008 Missed-by-a-Mile Financial Prediction Award, but Standard & Poor's Investment Policy Committee shouldn't have any trouble making the finals.
The May '08 issue of S&P's Trends and Projections lead article: the "Committee believes that from economic, fundamental, technical, and historical perspectives, the worst of the recent equity price decline is likely over." Toward the end of the article: the "Committee is maintaining its year-end 2008 target of 1560."
The Library received this issue on June 11th; the S&P 500 on that date stood at 1335.49. At time of writing today, the S&P 500 is 874.26.
Have You Heard the One About ...
Published: December 29, 2008
The respected philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein claimed that a coherent philosophical outlook could be put forward in the form of a book of jokes. (An actual attempt to do this is Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar. If you find the philosophy-via-jokes concept interesting or useful, you might also gravitate toward the same author's Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington, which has a political slant.)
That being said, what are we to make of the barrage of recession-related wit and humor that is hitting the Internet and the media? Some of it is graphical, but most attempts to find some amusing verbal twist to otherwise catastrophic financial outcomes. From this point of view, Bernie Madoff and late-night comedy were made for each other. Restaurants answer the call with "stimulus brownies" and "recession burgers."
I choose to see these as signs of the resiliency and determination that ultimately will bring us to better, brighter days. During the darkest days of the Civil War, Abe Lincoln was rebuked for his quips and funny stories. He replied, "I laugh because I must not cry."
What's Hot & What's Not
Published: December 16, 2008
U.S News & World Report has come out with a list of fifteen cutting-edge businesses that have an excellent chance to succeed in todays' gloomy economy. They've stayed away from fads and flash-in-the-pan ventures.
For entrepreneurs, however, the present economic climate has peril as well as promise. So U. S. News also details the five most overrated small-biz opportunities. Are you surprised that contracting and restaurants make the list? (Springfield, by the way, has roughly one restaurant for every 142 households.)
And the Band Played On
Published: December 12, 2008
"Yes, there have been 1.9 million jobs lost since the start of the recession last year... But that still leaves 93.3% of us employed. Close to 10% of homeowners have either missed a house payment or are in foreclosure... But 90% of us are not in danger of losing our homes. Yet we are wary."
There's a spreading virus of instability. Yet Warren Buffett's rule of thumb is to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy when others are fearful. This bucks the tide of the dominant (although shortsighted and irrational) tendency to presume that the economy must continue to walk the immediate path of today and the day before.
Buffett (and others) are well aware of 1975, 1980, 1990, 2003, and 2005. Despite prevailing doom and gloom resulting from relentlessly poor economic figures, the stock market rebounded 23% (on average) during each following twelve-month period.
Has the worst passed or is it yet to come? The alert investor, business owner, and consumer will want to focus on facts rather than fears.
When Entrepreneurial Skies Are Stormy
Published: December 5, 2008
Times are hard for many small businesses. Times are even harder for small businesses that are just trying to get off the ground.
Suppose there was somewhere that small businesses could go to get free, highly experienced, highly diversified mentoring? Suppose it was local and readily accessible? Suppose that it could accomodate quite a range of scheduling issues?
No need to suppose. The Springfield/Joplin chapter of SCORE (Counserlors to America's Small Business) provides free and confidential business counseling tailored to meet the needs and objectives of most any small business. Workshops are also offered for a modest fee for both start-up and functioning small businesses. SCORE's goals are meet through its volunteer membership, made up of real-world present and former business owners and professionals with expertise in accounting, finance, marketing, management, business plan preparation, insurance, and many other areas.
SCORE members donate thousands of hours to help small businesses succeed. If you have an underperforming small business, a small business that you're ready to take to the next level, or if you're wondering whether a small business could be part of your future, contact the local SCORE chapter. You've got nothing to lose and much to gain!
Risk + Greed = Catastrophe
Published: November 25, 2008
Michael Lewis has been called the funniest serious writer in America. He casts a wide net, as evidenced by the books Liar's Poker (bond traders in the late 80's), The New New Thing (Silicon Valley), The Real Price of Everything (economic classics), and Moneyball (the economic aspects of baseball), among others.
His latest book (Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity) is scheduled for publication in early December '08. Beginning with the crash of '87, he looks at the distinctive elements of that and each subsequent financial upheaval. He also makes some attempt to consolidate what we should have learned from each event into an estimation of root cause. But, as he sadly jokes: "Not only does financial history seldom repeat itself, it seldom even rhymes."
An interview with the author and an excerpt from his book can be found on the NPR web site. And if Black-Scholes sounds to you like the name of a sanitary landfill, visit the site and find out that it's something even less attractive and sweet smelling.
Disposing of Income That We Don't Have
Published: November 6, 2008
In 1959, debt made up 58.8% of a typical household's disposable income. In 2007, the figure jumped to 141.3%. Mortgage debt (103.3% in 2007) was 37.1% in 1959; consumer credit went from 16.3% ('59) to 25.1% ('07). Particularly disturbing, when one considers the recent Commerce Department report that consumers' disposable income has suffered its worst recorded decline.
We're All in This Together
Published: October 29, 2008
A glance at the year-to-date percentage change for major international stock indexes is a stark lesson in global economics. Only Caracas (Venezuela) showed a single-digit YTD loss this afternoon; losses of 30% to 50% were quite common, with RTS (Russia) off an astounding 74.9%.
As of May, Russia had 87 billionaires, second only to the US. At least half of them probably will lose their billionaire status in '09. In the past five months, Russia's top 25 high net worth individuals have seen something on the order of $230 billion fly the coop. A bizarre offshoot of this is that many magnates and oligarchs have taken to spending most of their time on their yachts; whenever they stroll about on shore, will angry crowds of shareholders, pensioners, and unemployed workers show up to pelt them with rotting fish and drive them aboard again?
Published: October 24, 2008
Amidst a business credit drought, more small businesses are relying on credit cards for everything from capital investment to putting gas in the delivery van. Using personal credit cards for these purposes is a bad idea. But business owners may not realize that even company credit cards are personally guaranteed--late payments on such a card could affect a business owner's personal credit score. A business credit card also has fewer consumer protections than a personal credit card.
As small-business cards have pretty thoroughly replaced lines of credit, company owners have become painfully aware of revolving balances that grow as interest rates rise and of the fact that lenders are quite capable of raising rates and reducing credit limits--at any time and for any reason.
A more sensible alternative might be a credit union business loan. Credit unions have not been exposed to the same losses as other financial institutions, enabling them to up their business lending by 36% in the first six months of this year.
The Polls Show ...
Published: October 17, 2008
What is normal? Many Portland Business Journal readers believe the Dow will return to normal by the end of the year and that normal is between 9,000 and 11,000.
Florida is not normal. Financial meltdown and a high foreclosure rate have turned a comfortably Republican state into an electoral tossup.
Overseas, more than two out of three respondents to a New Zealand business poll believe that the current financial situation is a historical event on a scale similar to the Crash of '29.
Under the category of Extreme Discontent, a new survey shows that 62% of small business owners would cross party lines to vote for the presidential candidate who would do the most to help their business. Nearly half feel that their business is in jeopardy.
How Far We've Come
Published: October 15, 2008
Even a short time ago, would any sane person be seriously considering the possibility of the complete nationalization of the US banking system?
Quicker than you can say "ted spread," it's become easy enough to find serious consideration of such a scenario. Is this the sudden appearance of the idea that we'll have capitalism when things go well and socialism when things go poorly?
At this time, you have left the land of Then. Welcome to the land of Now. Enjoy your stay.
What's hot, what's not
Published: October 7, 2008
- Fewer people are eating at restaurants, with that sector down 4% this year. Grocery stores, however, are doing well, with the shares of big food companies up about 17%.
- Holiday gift purchases are likely to be cut back; analysts are projecting the weakest buying since the recession of '91. People will be more likely to substitute "gifts of service" such as baby or dog sitting, car washing, etc.
- Shopping as a Sunday sport is taking a hit. That ritual is being replaced by time with family and friends.
- Impulse buying and conspicuous consumption are on hold. At least temporarily, consumers will rediscover thrift and savings.
- Even deep discounts by department stores aren't triggering consumer interest. On the other hand, Wal-Mart and the discount membership clubs are doing just fine, thank you.
Wall Street Reads
Published: October 7, 2008
- Wall Street: America's Dream Palace, by Steve Fraser.
No other American institution has inspired such deep moral, cultural, and political ambivalence. A bulwark defending commercial order? Or a center of mad ambition?
- Full of Bull: Do What Wall Street Does, Not What It Says, to Make Money in the Market, by Stephen T. McClellan.
The author reveals the Street's secrets and deliberate deceptions, putting you on a level playing field with the world's biggest instituional investors.
- Blue Blood and Mutiny: The Fight for the Soul of Morgan Stanley, by Patricia Beard.
The behind-the-scenes story of the "Eight Grumpy Old Men" (former Morgan Stanley execs) who successful work to oust a CEO whose tenure had drastically damaged the company's hallowed reputation.
- Wolf of Wall Street, by Jordan Belfort.
In the '90s the author became one of the most infamous names in American finance. This all-too-true story of greed, power, and hedonism will leave you astounded, sickened or (very probably) both.
- Confessions of a Wall Street Shoeshine Boy, by Doug Stumpf.
In this novel, a nobody brings to light an insider-trading scam that implicates a lot of VIPs. While entirely fictional, the book captures the feelings that many people entertain about the securities industry today.
- Confessions of a Wall Street Analyst: A True Story of Inside Information and Corruption in the Stock Market, by Don Reingold.
The author, a top analyst, believed in Wall Street. He describes how his enthusiasm gave way to disgust as he gradually discovered how deeply corrupt Wall Street really was.
- Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life, by Steve Fraser.
For more than 200 years, Americans have had a love-hate relationship with Wall Street. Long an object of suspicion and fear, it eventually came to be seen as a more inviting place, an open road to wealth and freedom.
Wall Street, Anytown, USA
Published: October 1, 2008
- There could be 300 to 400 fewer US auto dealerships by the end of the year. High gas prices are impacting automotive sales, but tight credit is doing even more damage. Leases are particularly tough to get approved--and almost impossible if the vehicle is a truck or SUV. "The banks are all scared to death of them."
- People could be faced with paying their credit card balance. "You may suddenly find that the credit card company says we want the money back--all of it now."
- Could you wait a couple of weeks for your paycheck? Many companies finance their day-to-day operations on short-term credit. "When that dries up, it will affect all of us."
- Minimum credit scores for home loans have shot up from about 680 to 740.
- "We certainly could see tight credit having an effect on agricultural production." --Ed Schafer, US Agriculture Secretary
- A giant college lender is cutting back to make sure it has enough money to keep lending to students. Other lenders have begun rejecting loan applications they formerly would have approved.
Rosh Hashanah Respite?
Published: September 30, 2008
The US House of Representatives is adjourned for the Jewish High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah and is not scheduled to be in session until Thursday at noon. In an ordinary year, little attention would be paid to this fact. As you've probably noticed, this is not an ordinary year.
After yesterday's stock market debacle, investors seem to be concluding that the interim will give House members a chance to cherrypick the defeated bailout proposal, keeping the least objectionble aspects, ditching the most objectionable aspects, and crafting their own credit market fix.
In the whirl of events, it's important to distinguish between the stock market (which investors and the general media sorta understand) and the credit market (which until recently attracted little attention from the general public and still is seen as a turbulent sea of esoteric question marks).
For instance, as of late morning today the stock market is behaving in a fairly jublilant fashion, posting a rebound of several percentage points. The credit market, however, is quite distressed. The benchmark overnight LIBOR (a percentage rate that many banks use in lending money to each other) jumped to 6.875% from just over 2.5%. This is the largest increase ever seen.
Without a Congressional fix, it is seeming less and less likely that the credit market and its implications for businesses large and small can get unstuck. For today, however, we can watch the stock market and the best way to do so is to watch the Wilshire 5000, which is more broadly based and in unsettled times is more likely to reflect the market as a whole than the Dow Jones Industrials. With any index, the percentage change is far more important than the point change. It is well to bear in mind, however, that every Wilshire 5000 point change involves about a billion dollars in market capitalization. So yesterday's freefall took over $800 billion out of stocks--more than $100 billion more than the bailout package that Congress and its constituents couldn't swallow. Other estimates go as high as $1.2 trillion. Investment and retirement portfolios, of course, take the bottom-line hit.
Can You Have A Guideline Without a Guide?
Published: August 6, 2008
The federal government's definition of poverty dates back more than 45 years. Reflecting the limited statistical data of that time, it was built on government nutritional criteria. A game first effort, it's been indexed for inflation but has never evolved.
Given the human and societal costs of poverty, we need a better measure than we currently have to identify who needs assistance and what kind of assistance. The National Academy of Sciences, for instance, has a proposed approach. The NAS approach would posit far more poor persons than "official" measurements.
Another subjective approach to an objective goal is the Self-Sufficiency Standard. Unlike the federal standard, this guideline accounts for the costs of living and working as they vary by family size and composition and by geographic location. A possible drawback is that the Standard assumes that all adults (whether single or married) work full-time. Self-Suffiency Standards have been developed for a number of states, including Missouri.
So while nobody's too happy about where we are, there's not a lot of movement and consensus about where we should be in terms of quantifying this important issue.
Back on the Rails
Published: July 25, 2008
- Travel by train consumes 18% less energy per passenger mile than flying and 17% less than driving.
- The Amtrak train from Winona, MN has become a cheaper option than driving or flying for college students heading home to Chicago.
- The Amtrak run from Chicago to San Antonio (making stops in Poplar Bluff, St. Louis, and Little Rock) had 27% more passengers in May and 19% more in June, based in large part on higher gasoline prices.
- Amtrak and the various local and regional rail services are using all the servicable passenger cars they have at this time.
Are we ready for a passenger rail revival? Ponder these top ten reasons to travel by train and decide for yourself.
Putting the Retirement Party on Hold
Published: July 17, 2008
Nearly 20% of Americans now worry that they will never be able to stop working. Rather than the baby boomer retirement tsunami so recently expected, a trend is developing that has people delaying their retirement. On average, many federal employees already work for another four years after they become eligible for retirement.
This trend is likely to have negative consequences for already beleaguered financial institutions, many of which have invested tidy sums in building retirement services components. Sharing the gloom will be retirement community developers, leisure and travel service providers, RV and golf equipment manufacturers, etc. On the other hand, Social Security and (to some extent) Medicare should see slower-than-anticipated draw-down.
Financial think-tanks are now emphasizing that even one extra year of work can raise your standard of living throughout your retirement and that, while it may not be a good thing emotionally, delaying retirement is always a good thing financially. Given today's poor market performance, meager investment returns during the first five years of retirement can significantly raise the chance that you'll outlive your money. And if a single market downturn is highly disruptive to your retirement plans, then you probably weren't financially ready to retire in the first place.
A Boone to Energy Independence
Published: July 8, 2008
Under the guidance of T(homas) Boone Pickens, Mesa Petroleum established itself as one of the world's largest independent oil companies between 1973 and 1981. It was Pickens' repeated attempts to take over companies much larger than his own that led to his and Mesa's greatest fame, however. In the spring of '82, for instance, he made a play (ultimately unsuccessful but highly profitable) to take over Cities Service, an old-line company more than twenty times the size of Mesa. (In a remarkable series of transitions, Cities Service became CITGO, was sold to the Southland [7-Eleven] Corporation, and ended up as a government-owned company of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez!)
Fast forward to 2008. The post-Mesa Pickens, today a hedge-fund billionaire ranked 368th among the world's richest, has unveiled a national energy plan designed to cut US dependence on foreign oil. While Pickens claims that he's too old and rich to care much about reaping a windfall from this plan, it should be noted that the plan is built around wind energy and natural gas, both areas of heavy Pickens investment. Still, his ideas have a great deal more practical substance than anything that has emanated or is likely to emanate from Washington any time soon.
Who's to Blame?
Published: June 24, 2008
Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former Saudi Arabian oil minister and head of London's Center for Global Energy Studies for eighteen years has a thought-provoking outlook on who's responsible for soaring oil prices--producers or speculators.
Sheik Yamani is likely to live on in quotation dictionaries for the 2001 statement: "The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil."
On the Road Again
Published: June 17, 2008
Back in 2006, the Midas muffler (etc.) people conducted a nationwide search for "America's Longest Commute." The winner made a 186-mile drive--each way--five days a week to his job in San Jose, CA.
At today's gas prices (averaging $4.51 for regular in the San Jose area), that one-way trip would cost $41.94 in gas alone in a vehicle averaging twenty miles per gallon. So a week's commuting would come in at about $420.
No word as to whether the lucky winner ("I have a great job and my family loves the ranch where we live.") is still making this trek. Just a guess, but I doubt that Midas will be reprising this promotion any time soon.
Why Drop the Debt?
Published: June 13, 2008
Could international debt cancellation help end global poverty? From 1970-2002, Africa received some $540 billion in loans and paid back $550 billion in prinicipal and interest--with $295 billion yet to be paid!
The situation is complicated by a perfect storm of food scarcity, global warming, skyrocketing petroleum prices, and population explosion. And further complicated by the inclement weather that is devastating normally abundant First World food crops. The World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates predict that the US corn stockpile will be cut in half (to a three-week supply) by the time the next crop is ready to harvest. The soybean stockpile will shrink to a two-week supply before this fall's harvest. More than 73 million people in 78 countries that depend on UN World Food Programme distributions are facing reduced rations this year.
Africa pays more in debt service than it receives in foreign aid, new loans, and assistance. "Every child in Africa is born with a financial burden which a lifetime's work cannot repay." --All Africa Council of Churches
Banknotes by the Bushel
Published: June 5, 2008
A loaf of bread costs over 200 million dollars. Before you dismiss this post as the product of a disordered mind, that was the actual price, in Zimbabwe dollars, as of May 15th. The price is higher today, since the inflation rate there rises on an hourly basis.
To deal with this, Zimbabwe's banknotes come in no lower denomination than $200,000. The largest denomination is 50 billion dollars. Coins? Don't even think about 'em.
At the moment, the Zimbabwe dollar can be exchanged for the US dollar on the basis of a billion to one.
Passing the Trash
Published: May 27, 2008
You are buying barrels of apples. In each barrel are a certain number of bad apples that should be removed by the seller before delivery. Would you agree to a deal in which only 2.5% of the apples per barrel were removed, regardless of the true number of bad apples?
According to a recent report, some investment banks agreed to reject only 2.5% of the loans one of the biggest subprime lenders sent the banks to package and sell to investors.
A quality control auditor who reviewed subprime loans says that 75% of the time "kicks" or kick-outs (loans so risky that they should have been rejected) ended up back in the investment pool and were sold. "Passing the trash," as this is known, allowed the investment banks to make as much as a 40% return on equity every two months by peddling the resulting securitizations.
Small Biz Social Networking
Published: May 19, 2008
Most articles about using social networking are radiantly positive. (This is a representative sample.)
On the other hand, here are ten reasons not to bother with social networking. To summarize its author's point of view: "In the end, your activity level will be high and your results level will be low--or zero... You'll love the contacts it seems you are building, but see how many of them lead to any business or profit. The most communicative will be the least productive. The early days of the Internet proved that you can accumlate a lot of clicks and no profits."
What We Don't Want Anymore
Published: May 15, 2008
We know that our banana peels and bread wrappers go to the landfill. We know (hopefully) that our recyclable cans, bottles, newspapers, etc. go to appropriate facilities. But how about our computers? Our ships? The byproducts and residue from making the stuff we use? What we often don't know (and maybe don't really want to know) is that these things often end up in Third World countries.
Since 2000, it's been illegal to import electronic waste into China. But tons of debris are smuggled in with legitimate imports, corruption is common among local officials, and China's appetite for scrap is enormous. Appalling processing practices have left some water supplies undrinkable since the mid-'90s.
Garbage Cowboys, unscrupulous traders who transfer poisonous cargos from other vessels and "fly-tip" them in developing countries, have used the chaos in Somalia as a smokescreen behind which to make deals with local warlords to let them dump toxic wastes there.
Published: May 15, 2008
"A sea-change into something rich and strange." In 1610 Shakespeare thus used the term "sea change" to describe a radical, fundamental transformation in a setting or situation.
(Not unakin to what happened to the American nutritional landscape in the early Nineties in Snook, TX when Frank Sodolak invented chicken-fried bacon. Calories per serving: 493. Total fat per serving: 40.6g. But I digress.)
Sometimes a sea change can happen with very little fanfare. Book publisher HarperCollins' recent announcement that its listings of upcoming releases will be available only online has made the back pages of most newspapers, if it was noted at all. For booksellers and libraries, however, this may be a wrenching emotional transition. The paper catalogs (usually mailed several times a year since the dawn of publishing) have had an almost iconic status and their methodical appearance has somehow validated an ongoing, ordered, and civilized existence. Hapercollins (as well as other major publishers with similar plans is well aware of the impact and promises a gentle transition.
Mugged by a Black Swan
Published: April 15, 2008
It was once taken for granted that all swans were invariably, uniformly, unfailingly white. When Europeans "discovered" Australia, however, they also discovered black swans. Today the term "black swan" is used for an event that blasts apart the boundaries of received knowledge and rational expectation.
Kevin Phillips, who has made the circuitous journey from Reagan strategist to economic populist, challenges us to discern the black swan on the economic horizon. In "Bad Money" (scheduled for 4/15 publication), Phillips suggests that the financial services sector, responsible for some 40% of economic growth and employment during the Bush presidency, as presently constituted is a WMD that ultimately will demolish not only itself but the fundamental economic parameters to which we are accustomed. The new economic America that will reluctantly emerge is likely to have vastly different expectations and structure.
(Have you come across the term "neutron loan" in the financial press? Like a neutron bomb, a neutron loan destroys the people and leaves the houses standing.)
Thrown Under the Foreclosure Bus
Published: April 10, 2008
Increasingly, renters nationwide are getting caught up in the foreclosure shuffle. Rental properties, often purchased by speculators during the boom, now comprise 38% of foreclosures. And "in most states, foreclosure itself automatically terminates a tenancy," says housing attorney Judith Liben. In many cases, renters are also losing their security and pet deposits and other upfront expenses.
In Ohio, for instance, "the basic rule is ... if a home is foreclosed on, the lease is no longer good," says Scott Torguson of Southeast Ohio Legal Services. "When they have to be out depends on the bank."
Most banks haven't the slightest desire to become landlords and require renters to vacate with a few weeks' notice. A best-case scenario is a "cash for keys" incentive program that pays the renter off to move out quickly. For many renters, however, the upshot is a notice from the bank that the rent is now some outrageous amount, a thinly-veiled invitation to leave with great alacrity.
Published: April 10, 2008
Milk prices up 26%. Eggs up 40%! After nearly two decades of inflation-resistant food prices, consumers are approaching the check-out counter with fear and trepidation.
The Kansas City Fed says that "today's momentum in food prices may be signaling a new erea of even higher food prices." While they expect food price inflation to ease in '08, they see an increase well above the ten-year average of 2.6%. The strongest price pressures are likely to come from fats and oils, cereal, and bakery products.
Likely to do well in this economic environment: house/store/off/generic brands and private labels. Susceptible to buyer flight: organic/"whole"/"natural" foods.
Job Search Resources for Former Willow Brook Employees
Published: April 3, 2008
Business reference staff Mike DePue and Eric Deatherage offer two resources to help former Willow Brook employees find jobs that match their skills and experience:
ReferenceUSA* provides address, phone, and personnel information for more than 800 poultry slaughter and processing businesses in the U.S. Use the yellow page heading "Poultry Processing Plants". For a wider food industry approach, use "Food Processing" to access information on 3,200 facilities.
The web site Careers in Food allows users to search more than 5,000 current food and beverage manufacturing job listings.
For job search resources in other industries, take a look at the Minding Your Business Company Research page and the Library's InfoLink Employment page.
For more information about using any of these resources, contact the Library online or call 417-883-5341.
*A valid library card is required to use this database. Don't have a card? Apply online.
The Shape of Things to Come?
Published: March 25, 2008
Once normalcy returns, what will the financial sector look like and how will it behave? Suggestions are beginning to emerge that the future will look far different than the past.
"We are going to have to create whole new ways of securitizing and funding debt of all types, but especially mortgages and consumer credit. ...It is going to take time to replace a system that took decades to build," writes Bethany McLean of CNNMoney. Profits in the financial sector had increased far beyond historic levels; if earnings return to sustainable levels, the subsequent shakeout is likely to have fundamental ramifications.
The advent of securitization led to a mindset among frontline lending officers that the money they were lending, since its underlying collateral was ending up in some distantly-removed asset pool, would allow the good loans that somebody must be making to carry the questionable loans that they themselves were making. As has become grimly obvious, however, that mindset only has any degree of validity in an up-market.
A Viable Direction?
Published: March 18, 2008
The Elgin (IL) public library district hopes to break ground on a new facility this spring. It is to include a geothermal heating and cooling system expected to provide annual energy savings of $3,660.
Decades after geothermal technology has been established as a proven energy saver, less than 1% of US homes have such systems. Up to this point, installation of a geothermal system could cost twice as much as a new conventional gas or electric system.
Is there a future for geothermal? Its production and usage seem to involve no environmental degradation, something its competitors certainly can't claim. And what about geothermal electricity production?
Geothermal stocks are a mixed bag of Johnny-come-lately penny stocks and stocks with a respectable capitalization and track record. Among those showing stock-price growth over five years: Constellation Energry Group [CEG] (+223.8%); IdaCorp [IDA] (+48.52%); PG & E [PCG] (+185.23%); Raser Technologies [RZ] (+357.84%).
Is Clever Better in a Down Market?
Published: March 4, 2008
During the years 1984-2004, a portfolio of clever ticker-symbol stocks (SEA, TAP, YUM, for example) would have beaten the market by a substantial and statistically significant margin. "Would a Stock by Any Other Ticker Smell As Sweet?" describes this in exhaustive--and even exhausting--detail. This 22-page paper was produced by three Pomono College economists.
In today's turbulent investment waters, however, results are mixed. While LENS (Concord Camera) showed a recent six-month gain of 40.51% and BOOM (Dynamic Materials) was up an equivalent 34.91%, CASH (Meta Financial Group) declined 29.82% and CAR (Avis Budget Group) dropped a whopping 51.27%.
Other entertaining (but not necessarily lucrative) symbols that might not have crossed your path: MOO (Market Vectors, a livestock company); WOOF (VCA Antech, veterinary services); GEEK (Internet America); BABY (Natus Medical, medical products for infants); SEED (Origin Agritech Limited); UGLYX (Leuthold Undervalued and Unloved, a mutual fund specializing in undervalued companies); TINY (Harris & Harris Group, venture capital for tiny technology); DIET (eDiets.com); NUT (Macadamia Orchards); CHUX (O'Charleys restaurants); BID (Sotheby's); FUN (Cedar Fair, amusement parks); WOLF (Great Wolf Resorts); CAKE ( Cheesecake Factory).
Whither Goest We?
Published: February 22, 2008
The S&P 500 contains 87 stocks that can be characterized as consumer discretionary investments. Clearly, the products and services offered by some of these companies are more discretionary than others. I've subjectively picked a few of the companies that seem to me to be providing products or services that consumers could or would most easily dispense with (however reluctantly) in an economic downturn. Their six-month stock price change percentage are listed below.
Starbucks (-33.73%). Fortune Brands [hardware, spirit & wine, golf products] (-21.97%). Harman Intl. Industries [audio products] (-63.13%). Liz Claiborne (-47.76%). Brunswick Corp. [sporting goods and services] (-35.51%). Carnival Corp. [cruise lines] (-7.25%). Starwood Hotels & Resorts (-17.27%). Macy's (-20.91%). Expedia (-14.41%). Family Dollar Stores (-27.52%). Tiffany & Co. (-18.03%).
The six-month S&P 500 (as a whole) percentage change was -7.58%.
Springfield Business Back When
Published: February 22, 2008
Admittedly, this is a shameless plug for our Local History department and their informational and interesting digitized collections. But it's also a remarkable backward glance at some of the foundational aspects of Springfield business history.
The past can still be seen in the Woodruff Building, the Heer's Building, the Kentwood Arms Hotel (now Missouri State University's Kentwood Hall, a residence facility), and Martin Chrysler-Plymouth (currently the Discovery Center).
In other cases, these postcards are all that remain of once vibrant businesses. While Hultsman Oil Company, Eagle Tourist Court, the Baldwin Theatre, and the original Lohmeyer Funeral Home location (which was razed in '87 to become a Kentwood Hall parking lot) are long gone, they have left their mark, however subtle, on today's business scene.
For many possibilities that we haven't pointed out, visit the Historical Postcards site.
Biz Travel 2008
Published: February 22, 2008
In many respects, we still have the same mindset about business travel that is characterized by Willy Loman in the 1949 play Death of a Salesman. In fact, it hasn't changed that much since the stagecoach was the best way to get from here to there and telegraphy was considered cutting-edge technology.
While we await the definitive pychosocial study as to why we continue to hold fast to such a clunky way of getting things done, consider the bare-bones regime that many companies are imposing on their biz travelers.
Business Week has a top-notch web site titled Travelers Check. Two of their recent offerings: A Wily Road Warrior's Airport Tips and a call for entrants for the first annual Del Griffith Award for Business Travel, which went to the lucky(?) reader who submitted the most bizarre/painful biz-travel experience. (Del Griffith--his title is Director of Sales, American Light and Fixture, Shower Curtain Ring Division--is the John Candy character in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.)
The Next Big Thing?
Published: February 21, 2008
We're just getting our heads around "collateralized debt obligations" (CDOs). That's not to say that most of us understand their innermost workings, but we know that they're connected with subprime mortgages and that the connection isn't working out that well.
The latest exports from the Financial Chamber of Horrors are "credit default swaps" (purchased to hedge against CDO losses) and "constant proportion debt obligations" (which package indexes of credit default swaps). The bottom-line number on these little beauties is $45.5 trillion, or about twice the size of the US stock market.
Since the market for the above-mentioned securities is unregulated (think financial Wild West here), the health of said market is difficult to gauge. However, it is believed that the market value of the underlying contracts outstanding far exceeds the $5.7 trillion in corporate bonds for which they were designed as default protection. The Feb. 17th New York Times front-page article by Gretchen Morgenson makes this relatively understandable; the paper edition is available at the Library Station or the Library Center, while the online edition is available to Springfield-Greene County Library cardholders.
Ain't Love Lucrative!
Published: February 13, 2008
A "Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey" is clearly something to be taken seriously. However, it's just the tip of the informational iceberg when it comes to research into the economic aspects of Valentine's Day, the third largest spending season in the US.
If you want to be informationally immersed, look over the whole detailed survey, current and retrospective.
However, it's just possible that you'll find that more than a little daunting, so here's a lighter-weight option that will tell you (among other things) that 3% of pet owners give a V-Day gift to their pet. Suburban Chicago's Daily Herald, looking for a new slant, picks up on an organic Valentine's Day trend in Schaumburg, IL.
It Just Does Not Make Cents!
Published: February 6, 2008
Al makes $50,000 per year while others are making $25,000 per year. Tom makes $100,000 per year while others are making $250,000 per year. Would you rather be Al or Tom?
Cindy is told that, as a store's 100,000th customer, she wins $100. As a contest finalist, a man wins $1,000; Paula, the only other finalist, wins $150. Would you rather be Cindy or Paula?
You are given $100 to split between yourself and your game partner. If your partner accepts the proposed split, you each get to keep your share. If your partner rejects the proposed split, neither of you gets any of the money. How much should you offer?
See how the majority of people would answer these questions at Why People Believe Weird Things About Money.
"Call this Lollipop Economics." --Robt. Samuelson
Published: January 28, 2008
Samuelson is referring to the economic stimulus recipe that Congress and the Prez are whipping up for an election-year citizenry. In his opinion, the package is either political symbolism and/or not likely to have much effect on a $14 trillion economy.
Part of the package will involve accelerated capital investment depreciation for businesses. Chris House, co-author of a study of an earlier tax break, opines: "It's like subsidizing bananas in the supermarket and then looking to see if total supermarket sales changed." He believes that such measures offer slight benefit.
Syndicated columnist Marie Cocco notes that in every recession since 1958, Congress has enacted a temporary extension of unemployment benefits and that this has proven to be a surefire way of getting money to people who will spend it immediately. So why is this now "extraneous spending" and out of the present package?
See the San Francisco Chronicle and the Gotham Gazette for understandable background.
Business Card Blunders
Published: January 15, 2008
"Almost all business cards are terrible. They are the leisure suits of the marketing world, the place where bad design not just lives, but thrives."
Thus saith Seth Godin, author, entrepreneur, and change agent. Godin has a checklist of common business-card blunders, including the relationship between font size and cheesiness. A good guideline is to use a font size no smaller than 7 or 8 point.
How would you react to a business card that sprouts vegetation? Or a card with a quote from Oprah? Or a superhero name (left over perhaps from a previous career in the World Wrestling Federation)? Creativity and good taste can coexist!
And, please, don't use your predecessor's card with his/her name lined out and your name scrawled in!
Investment Death by a Thousand Cuts
Published: January 4, 2008
A) Have you given any thought to your 401(k) fees?
B) Do you even realize that you pay such fees? (It seems that most people don't grasp this.)
C) Would you be astounded to find out that you may be paying 3% - 5% per year?
These expenses have a huge impact on how much money your 401(k) investment will eventually be worth. Over thirty years, an extra 1% in fees can devour 20% of an individual's nest egg!
The Year That Was
Published: December 27, 2007
Fair or foul, business/economic/financial 2007 has been a wild and interesting ride. Fortune magazine has entered the election fray by nominating and electing the 101 dumbest moments in business for the past year.
Don't miss #7. You'll never think of Toto as an adorable little dog again.
A Loss to Springfield
Published: December 18, 2007
Holiday cheer in the Springfield-area small business community has taken a big hit, due to the death on Sunday, Dec. 16th, of Cliff Groover. Cliff's diligent and resourceful work for the local chapter of SCORE (Counselors to America's Small Business) helped many beginning and established entrepreneurs to realize their goals and aspirations. Always an enthusiastic proponent of The Library and its services, Cliff had formerly served on its Board of Trustees.
His obituary gives only a hint of the selfless impact that Cliff had in quite a number of areas of the community over many years. His unfailing friendliness to all, cooperative approach, and infectious optimism will be greatly missed by all who had the good fortune to come into contact with him.
Is Santa Claus Coming to Town?
Published: December 17, 2007
At this time of year, the stock market is anticipating a Santa Claus Rally. This much-debated effect, to the degree that it actually exists, is supposed to propel the market higher in the last days of the year.
"If Santa Claus should fail to call, bears will come to Broad and Wall."
However, Santa's Stock Portfolio(TM) is looking rather holly jolly. Beginning in 2002, Amegy Bank of Texas have tracked a list of Santa's "personal" stock picks. Given his line of work, Santa zeroes in on the consumer discretionary and personal technology sectors. Through December 13th, his 2007 portfolio is headed north (North Pole?) to the tune of 28%. If you'd had Santa for your financial adviser, you'd have a five-year average return of 34%!
Safe and Healthful
Published: December 17, 2007
Protecting people on the job benefits our economy, our communities, employers, workers and their families.
When small businesses tap into the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s many resources, incidents of injury and illness go down, insurance costs go down and workers' compensation payments go down. At the same time, employee morale goes up, productivity goes up, competitiveness goes up and profits go up.
One of OSHA’s most popular publications is the Small Business Handbook. This link lets you look at it online or order a paper copy; look for publication 2209.
What Happens When You Stick a Monkey Wrench into a Whirling Economy?
Published: December 17, 2007
The front page of the October 31st issue of The Outlook, published by Standard & Poor's and found in the Reference area at the Library Center on South Campbell, has a chart integrating the occurence of recessions and housing slumps. The accompanying Outlook article discusses this.
While S&P pegs the liklihood of a recession at 33%, Alan Greenspan and others see the odds as 50-50 or better.
Even the White House, a very reliable purveyor of sunny optimism, isn't sounding all that perky.
Nitty-Gritty Mortgage Woes
Published: December 13, 2007
Library staff member Eric Deatherage provided the following annotated Web site suggestions for persons with poor credit who are in search of fiixed-rate mortgages:
VA home loan. Not credit score driven. Driven by credit history rather than credit score. Certificate of eligibility required; the site explains how to get this certificate. Zero down. Debt to income ratio must be between 30 and 40%.
FHA home loan. Fixed rate product. Requires 3% down, but there are local donation programs that will cover that amount. 43% debt to income, including home, needed.
Freddie Mac program. Zero down.
FHA Foreclosure and Refinance Assistance
Published: December 13, 2007
Library staff member Eric Deatherage suggests the following informational possibilities:
A refinancing program called an FHA Streamline can lower the rate of the owner in an FHA home loan without any closing cost (in cash or added onto the principle of the loan).
The FHASecure program is designed to give a second chance to people who were previously in good standing but are now facing foreclosure. It provides service for non-FHA ARM loans that have reset.
There is substantive Federal Housing Administration advice for people facing foreclosure.
Here's what it takes to obtain an FHA secured loan on a manufactured home.
There's also a VA Interest rate reduction program; lenders can lower VA home loan interest rates without closing costs.
Mismanage Your Brand -- Pay the Price
Published: November 19, 2007
There are plenty of excellent books on how to create and promote your brand or even yourself as a brand. But knowing what NOT to do is an equally important of your strategy. Find tips and resources in the latest Minding Your Business newsletter.
Published: November 7, 2007
Your Money and Your Brain, a new book by Jason Zweig at The Library, explains why “the brain is not an optimal tool for making investment decisions” for most folks.
Read all about the science behind this in the October 2nd issue of The Prudent Speculator, found in the Reference area at the Library Center on South Campbell.
Depression in the Workplace: Recognition and Intervention
Published: October 29, 2007
Left untreated, clinical depression is as costly as heart disease or AIDS to the US economy, costing over $43.7 billion in absenteeism from work (over 200 million days lost from work each year), lost productivity and direct treatment costs.
NAMI SW Missouri, a recent Expo 2007 exhibitor, and Mental Health America provide a solid overview of depression in the workplace.
Planetary Crisis in Consumer Credit?
Published: October 1, 2007
Library research indicates that consumer indebtedness and easy credit are no longer just an American phenomenon. Foreign banks, often in partnership with American lenders, are using every ploy from giveaways to cold calling to ingrain the buy-now, pay later concept. See the latest edition of the Library's Minding Your Business newsletter (pdf) for details.
Published: September 24, 2007
Has the crest of the wave hit the beach? If moribund subprime loans were hairballs, could we say that the economy has coughed most of them up?
Whatever unlovely analogy you might care to use, this subject may be a drag on the economy for quite a while. Try Richard Benson’s Titanic-and iceberg analogy.
Jack Guttentag uses an optometric analogy (disaster myopia).
Published: September 10, 2007
It’s a common offhand assertion that 90% of new businesses fail. This has been so often heard for so long that it’s almost acquired the status of a self-evident truth. Where and what is the statistical verification for this? Well, it turns out that there really isn’t any. Studies that have been done tend to be fragmentary and dated. For a very good overview of what is known, Rhonda Abrams (whose views are well worth hearing on any business subject) covers this here.