Get Started: Small business week, owner confidence - NECN Get Started: Small business week, owner confidence - NECN

Monday, May 21, 2012

Get Started: Small business week, owner confidence - NECN

Get Started: Small business week, owner confidence - NECN

This is National Small Business Week, when government agencies and small business organizations around the country hold networking events and forums. While the Small Business Administration is holding three days of events in Washington, D.C., some of the Small Business Development Centers it sponsors are having their own programs. For example, the SBDC at the University of Central Florida holds workshops Wednesday and Thursday in Orlando to teach small business owners how to pursue business opportunities with the federal government. You can find out more about the events at . If you're looking for an event in your area, do an online search for "Small Business Week" and your town, city or state.

Separately this week: The New York City Department of Small Business Services holds a workshop Tuesday to help owners sharpen their marketing skills. Among the topics to be covered will be how to build your company's brand and the importance of knowing your target customers.


Small business owners are more confident about their local economies than they are about the national economy. In the next 12 months, 42 percent of the participants expect their local economic conditions to improve, while 35 percent expect the national economy to get better, according to Bank of America's small business owner report, which surveyed small business owners from across the nation.

Their top economic concerns were effectiveness of government leaders, oil and gas prices and consumer spending. Still, many small business owners are feeling optimistic. One reason is they believe in their ability to help their companies grow. Fifty-three percent of the participants said their own decisions rather than the health of the economy are likely to affect how well their companies do.

On a more personal note, 38 percent of the respondents said that running a business is the most stressful thing they deal with. More than half have sacrificed personal time, and more than a third have let go of keeping physically fit, to keep up with business demands.


A look at hiring by construction firms shows that the industry's recovery from the housing collapse and recession isn't gaining momentum. The Associated General Contractors of America said that only 19 states had gains in construction jobs in April compared to March employment levels, while 28 states and Washington D.C. lost jobs. In three states, construction employment was unchanged. The numbers were little changed from a similar report by the trade group a year earlier. Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist, said there were signs that homebuilding is starting to recover, but that government spending on buildings, roads and other projects is decreasing.


Eight bills aimed at making it easier for small companies to win federal contracts were approved Friday by the House of Representatives. But their fate is uncertain because of a possible presidential veto of accompanying legislation.

The contracting bills are attached to $642 billion defense spending bill, which passed the House by a vote of 229-120. It goes next to the Senate. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill because it has significant changes from his proposed Pentagon budget.

The contracting bills include the Government Efficiency Through Small Business Contracting Act, which would raise to 25 percent the amount of federal contracting dollars that should go to small businesses. Under current law, the figure is 23 percent. The package also includes legislation to fight fraud in contracting and a revamp of the standards the SBA uses to determine what a small business is.


The SBA holds an online seminar on May 29 about preparing your business for a hurricane. Dr. Gerry Bell, a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Long-Range Hurricane Outlook Team, will present the forecast for the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The seminar will also feature disaster preparation tips. You can register at


Joyce Rosenberg can be reached at

Ask SCORE: Figuring out your target market a key to business success - Bellingham Herald

Question: I've been told that I need to do some market research. My business is young and small, and I really don't know much about this. Can you give me some basics?

Answer: Yes, and unless you have tons of money and can afford to market blindly, your best bet is to do some research and find out about your market base. Let's talk about this.

In today's column we'll look into some central concepts of market research; some terms you should know a bit about; several examples of specific market research techniques; and some helpful information sources.

A main objective of market research is to define and identify your "target market." This means: Who are your likely customers or clients? What specific groups of people might be interested in your goods and services? You will use this information to prepare a marketing strategy, which details how you will reach those customers and encourage them to buy.

One extremely important function of market research is that it compels you to direct your attention to the wants and needs of your customers. You can't be focused just on your products and services themselves. Consider this: say you have a unique product, but no sales yet. If you have a product fixation, you'll conclude that it's time to jump right in to advertising and selling it. But hold on. You're looking through the wrong end of the telescope. If you have a market orientation, you will realize that your effort is better spent on finding out who has a "felt need" for the product.

Market research has multiple applications.

• For a new business, it's an essential component - and one of the most important - of your written business plan.

• An existing business, when considering adding a new product or service, needs to know how to best launch it successfully.

• An active, growing business should always be looking at new markets. This could be a different geographic market, like exporting; or a new demographic market, like selling to a younger age group.

• A mature business needs to adapt and refresh its offerings to change with the times.

Data sources are categorized as primary or secondary. Primary data is information you generate. Examples: a customer survey you conduct; a focus group you arrange; a comparative analysis of your competitors' websites. Three big advantages of primary information: it is very current, more specific and can be tailored to your business' particular needs. The main disadvantage is that it costs more than using existing data.

Secondary data is information you get from existing outside sources. Examples: department of revenue sales figures; information from a trade organization about industry trends; business information from one of the library's online databases. Two big advantages of secondary sources are that they are readily available and usually free. The tradeoff is that they may be dated, or too broad geographically to be relevant.

Two data types are: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative data is easy to generate: just ask someone a question and note their answer. An example would be a retail store surveying customers about their satisfaction or product preferences. Or, a service business might ask customers to comment on its pricing compared to the competition. It's more conversational than statistical.

Quantitative data is expressed in numbers. This type of research can be simple, like a phone survey of your local market. Example: "About how much would you be willing to pay for [describe your product]?" Or it can be very involved, like the rigorous work a retail chain conducts before choosing a new location.

A major asset for your market research is the local library system. Here's the scoop: the Whatcom County library system has unified. This means that you as a library card holder have access to all of the local (public) and also the academic libraries' resources. These include the system's online databases, many of which are subscription-only and have private information not available on the internet or to the general public.

To start, go to For a quick overview of the powerful AtoZ database, click on "Research Tools" tab and then "Premium Content". Click on "AtoZ database" and then the "Intro Videos" tab. In person, the reference desk staff at the central Bellingham branch are skilled and ready to help with your business research; just tell them what you're trying to find out.

For more information, Google "market research tips small business." For a good overview of information sources, go to and enter "market research" in the search box. Also check out and


To learn more about managing cash flow, and other small business matters, contact SCORE, "Counselors to America's Small Business." SCORE is a nonprofit nationwide organization with more than 13,000 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and low-cost training workshops to small business owners. Call the local SCORE chapter at 360-685-4259 to schedule an appointment. For details about the organization,visit

As business suffers, David Cameron retreats - Daily Telegraph

Taken together, these two factors deter employers from recruiting new staff and hinder businesses from developing the higher productivity on which sustainable growth depends. And far from making things better, the past decade has seen a steady increase in the level and complexity of employment law. Beecroft’s report would have reduced the amount of regulation in a comprehensive and principled way – and, by doing so, would have introduced new certainty and confidence.

That confidence matters, because businesses are far too short of it at present. British businesses collectively hold about £750 billion in cash. To reach its fiscal targets, the Government needs a steep rise in investment – the rate at which they spend that money. Speaking last week, David Cameron said that he leads “a Government resolutely committed to being on the side of enterprise, entrepreneurs, businesses large and small, wealth creation of all types and descriptions”. To many, that is clearly not the case. A full-blooded Beecroft Review would reassure such people, just as a pale imitation would reinforce their concerns.

Taking a step back, today’s news adds to a sense of unease about what the Coalition is actually trying to achieve. This is a Government that claims to have deregulation at its heart, fired by a Tory belief in free markets and a Lib Dem distrust of central direction. It has a policy to stop the growth in regulation (so-called “One In, One Out”) and to reduce the stock of it (the “Red Tape Challenge”). In general, it is supposed to have rejected an old approach based on more debt and higher state spending, and to be looking for real growth via higher productivity.

Recently, however, we have seen a weakening in the Government’s position. Last autumn, the Chancellor pushed his deficit reduction target from the end of this Parliament into the middle of the next. Last week, the Prime Minister hinted at new borrowing to finance infrastructure – exactly the way that Gordon Brown justified his record spending increases. At the same time, the retreat over the NHS has cast a long shadow over the Coalition’s commitment to public-service reform, and its changes to the planning system are taking much longer than expected.

In recent days, the Prime Minister has urged his European counterparts to take action by saying that the eurozone is “at a crossroads”. He should hold his own Government to account in the same terms. Given the challenges facing the country, it is surprising that he needed an independent report to propose changes to employment law at all. Now that he has it, it will be remarkable if he does not implement it – and then keep up the pressure.

Mr Cameron is right that the country’s basic economic problems are due to poor productivity rather than lack of government action. He will know, however, that the contrary view is growing in popularity (and, indeed, capable of winning elections in other countries). The more his policies focus rigorously and consistently on improving the efficiency of the economy, the more successful they will be.

Andrew Haldenby is director of the independent think tank Reform

Barclays offloads fund management business BGI to BlackRock for $13.5bn - Daily Telegraph

Asked about the windfall he will receive, American-born Mr Diamond explained that he bought shares in BGI at the same time as many other “senior people”. “The way the business has performed over the last six years, driving from $100m a year of profit before tax in 2003 to as high as $1.5bn in 2007 means the returns to employees who bought shares were good. I’ll leave it at that,” said Mr Diamond.

Both he and Mr Varley will join the BlackRock board should the deal - which values BGI at 11.8 times 2008 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) - be approved by shareholders. The sale proceeds would lead to a net gain for Barclays of $8.8bn, raising the bank’s Tier One capital ratio to 8.3pc from 6.7pc.

There remains a slim chance that the deal could be scuppered should a consortium led by CVC Capital Partners – which had originally offered $4.4bn to buy the iShares part of BGI in April - chooses to propose a higher offer for the entire BGI business.

CVC has until June 18 to propose such an offer, with Mr Diamond on Thursday night confirming that it was “pretty clear” that Barclays’ board would accept an offer only for the whole of BGI and not just iShares, which specialises in exchange traded funds.

However, if CVC does not trump BlackRock’s offer, the proposed combination will be recommended by the Barclays board and put to a shareholder vote, which, if successful, will lead to the creation of the renamed BlackRock Global Investors with $2.8 trillion of assets under management.

Mr Diamond went on to admit that the two companies have been talking on-and-off for the last 6 to 7 years, but that although “it wasn’t the right time then, clearly it’s the right time now.”

BlackRock is funding part of the deal through a $2.8bn institutional share offering. Although Mr Fink would not disclose the identity of any of the investors involved, the Sunday Telegraph revealed last week that the Qatar Investment Authority, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the Kuwait Investment Authority were all interested in backing BlackRock.

Shares in Barclays, which closed up 16p at 304.5p on Thursday on expectation of the deal’s announcement, are set to rise further when the market opens for business this morning.

Financial Markets Stabilize but Downsides Remain - NASDAQ

(IBTimes) - Financial markets stabilized in Asian session on Monday after the G-8 meeting. However, the actual macroeconomic outlook and the situation in the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis have not changed much from previous week. Therefore, it is reasonable to anticipate more downsides after the recovery. In China, Premier Wen Jaibao was reported of having said that the priority should be given to stimulating growth. This led to anticipations that further reduction in RRR will come.

The focus of the G-8 meeting over the weekend was undoubtedly on the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone. It was stated in the communiqué that world finance leaders "agree on the importance of a strong and cohesive euro zone for global stability and recovery, and we affirm our interest in Greece remaining in the Eurozone while respecting its commitments". Concerning the global economic outlook, the leaders acknowledged persistence of "significant headwinds" and they pledged to "take all necessary steps to strengthen and reinvigorate our economies and combat financial stresses, recognizing that the right measures are not the same for each of us". However, there were no further detailed plans on how to resolve the problems.

In China, Premier Wen Jiabao stated that the government "should continue to implement a proactive fiscal policy and a prudent monetary policy, while giving more priority to maintaining growth". The comments indicated that the government sees more is needed to be done to stimulate growth. It's expected that the PBOC will implement further RRR cuts following last week's reduction which would inject RMB 400B to the banking system.

Commitments of Traders:

Speculators were mixed towards the energy complex in the week ended May 15. Net length for crude oil futures added +503 contracts to 184 463. Net length for heating oil slipped -3 084 contracts to 10 131 while that for gasoline dropped -2 581 to 71 811. Net short for natural gas futures added +4 349 contracts to 109 424.

Speculators were bearish towards precious metals. Net length for gold futures dipped -9 161 contracts to 114 142 while that for silver declined -1 089 contracts to 11 474 contracts. For PGMs, net length for platinum decreased -1 358 contracts to 14 370 while that for palladium dropped -2 134 to 2 919.










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Business News: Pailton Engineering's going places - Coventry

Stocks Remain Firmly Positive In Mid-Day Trading - U.S. Commentary - NASDAQ

( - Stocks have moved mostly higher during trading on Monday, regaining some ground after falling sharply in recent weeks. The markets have benefited from bargain hunting, although stocks remain well off their recent highs.

The major averages have moved roughly sideways in recent trading, hovering firmly in positive territory. The Dow is up 85.90 points or 0.7 percent to 12,455.28, the Nasdaq is up 37.78 points or 1.4 percent at 2,816.57 and the S&P 500 is up 12.52 points or 1 percent at 1,307.74.

The strength that has emerged on Wall Street comes as traders are picking up stocks at reduced levels following the recent downward trend, which pulled the major averages down to four-month closing lows on Friday.

Nonetheless, buying interest remains relatively subdued amid lingering concerns about the financial situation in Europe. A lack of major U.S. economic data is also keeping some traders on the sidelines.

While reports on home sales, durable goods orders, and consumer sentiment are likely to be in focus later this week along with earnings news from Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Dell (DELL), and Best Buy (BBY) trading activity may remain light.

With earnings season drawing to a close, some traders are likely to take the opportunity to step away from the markets and go on an early summer vacation.

Among individual stocks, American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) is posting a strong gain after the apparel retailer announced plans to exit its children's business 77kids. The company also said its chief financial officer Joan Hilson is stepping down.

Shares of Yahoo (YHOO) are nearly unchanged after the online media giant announced that it is selling up to half of its stake in Alibaba back to the Chinese e-commerce company for about $7.1 billion.

Meanwhile, Lowe's (LOW) is posting a steep loss after the home improvement retailer reported better than expected first quarter results but lowered its full year earnings guidance.

Shares of Facebook (FB) have also come under pressure, with the social media giant tumbling by 11.6 percent following its glitch-plagued debut on Friday.

Sector News

Gold stocks are turning in some of the market's best performances in mid-day trading, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index up by 2.3 percent. With the gain, the index is climbing further off the two-year low set last Tuesday.

The strength among gold stocks comes despite a decrease by the price of the precious metal. Gold for June delivery is down $1.20 at $1,590.70 an ounce, although it is well off its lows.

Significant strength is also visible among oil service stocks, which are moving higher along with the price of crude oil. With crude for June delivery climbing $0.64 to $92.12 a barrel, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index is up by 2.5 percent.

Computer hardware stocks have also shown a strong move to the upside on the day, driving the NYSE Computer Hardware Index up by 2.4 percent. Steel, health insurance, networking, and chemical stocks are also posting notable gains.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Monday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index crept up by 0.3 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended the day down by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the upside on the day. While the German DAX Index advanced by 1 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.7 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries are seeing modest weakness after rising sharply in recent sessions. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 2.9 basis points at 1.731 percent.

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Stocks fall on Europe, worrisome economic reports - Yahoo Finance

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks slipped Thursday after a couple of downbeat economic reports from the U.S. and unease over Europe overshadowed positive earnings from the largest American retailer and an encouraging jobs report.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 64 points at 12,534 shortly after noon. The Dow is on its way to its 11th loss in the past 12 trading days. It's down 6 percent for the month so far and could be headed for its first down month since September.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 10 points to 1,314. The Nasdaq composite fell 30 points to 2,844.

Caterpillar fell 4 percent, the most of the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones index, after reporting that global sales growth of construction and mining machinery slowed in the three months through April. Wal-Mart stock rose 5 percent, the most in the Dow, after reporting a 10 percent jump in first-quarter income, beating Wall Street expectations.

Indexes opened lower on Wall Street following declines in European markets. The declines accelerated at mid-morning after the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said manufacturing slowed in the mid-Atlantic region for the first time in eight months. New orders decreased and firms cut jobs.

Also, the Conference Board said its measure of future U.S. economic growth fell in April after six months of increases. The drop reflected fewer requests for building permits and a spike in applications for unemployment benefits.

These gloomy reports were a surprise and came as investors continued to fret about whether Greece might be forced to exit the euro bloc, something that investors fear would cause turmoil on global markets.

"The U.S. economy is growing slowly and not going gangbusters," said Brian Gendreau, market strategist at broker-dealer Cetera Financial Group. "But Europe is very much on investors' minds. It's been two years with multiple bailouts involving Ireland, Portugal and Greece and things don't seem to be getting better."

Greece's caretaker Cabinet was sworn in Thursday and will hold power at least until next month's election. In the recently-held elections Greeks didn't given any party a majority, but they did give strong support to politicians who rejected the tough austerity measures that came with the country's financial bailout.

Without that rescue package, Greece will likely default and be forced to leave the 17-country euro zone, which would destabilize other countries that use the euro. German, French and Spanish stock markets all fell more than 1 percent.

Collateral economic damage is already being felt by other members of the euro bloc.

Spain was forced to pay sharply higher interest rates to raise $3.18 billion in a debt auction Thursday. And shares of Bankia, which Spain nationalized last week, plunged 20 percent on a report from the newspaper El Mundo stating that depositors have withdrawn over $1 billion since last Wednesday.

Oil prices continued to trade lower, falling below $93 a barrel on Thursday, extending a sharp two-week sell-off, as traders worried about the potential impact on global growth from the European crisis. Crude oil has plummeted about 12 percent from $106 two weeks ago.

Energy companies fell. Chesapeake Energy fell 4 percent, while WPX Energy declined 6 percent.

Among stocks making big moves:

— Media General soared 38 percent after billionaire Warren Buffett's company Berkshire Hathaway agreed to buy 63 newspapers from the company for $142 million.

— GameStop fell 9 percent after the world's largest video game retailer reported its first-quarter profit fell 9.8 percent, as fewer customers visited its stores and bought new games and systems.

— Sears Holdings rose 8 percent after the beleaguered retailer turned a profit in the first quarter, benefiting from a gain on the sale of some stores.

STOCKS NEWS THAILAND-Thai Airways falls on competition worries - Reuters

Mon May 21, 2012 5:21am EDT

Shares in the country's national carrier Thai Airways International Pcl fell 1.7 percent to their lowest in nearly four months on worries that increasing regional competition may subdue any restored profitability.

The stock was down 1.3 percent at 22.8 baht, after touching a low of 22.7 in intra-day trading, its lowest since Jan. 26.

The company had reported better-than-expected first quarter earnings of 3.6 billion baht ($114.9 million) on May 11.

"Tempting as it may be to showcase Thai Airways as a turnaround play, we believe it is premature for a long-term position build-up as competitive pressures persist," broker CIMB Securities said in a research note.

However, it expects upcoming quarters' performances to improve notably due to the low base in 2011 caused by an earthquake and tsunami in Japan and floods in Thailand.

On May 18, Thai Airways said it might set up a new budget carrier to tap strong demand in the regional no-frills sector and the airline is on track to achieve its net profit target this year after a strong first quarter.

The broker rated the shares "neutral" with target price at 27 baht. However, it said that its preference remained firmly with Airports of Thailand as "the airport operator should continue to enjoy busy air traffic without Thai Airways' price pressures and cost volatility".

Shares in Airports of Thailand were down 1.3 percent at 57.75 baht, while the broader SET index fell 1.26 percent.

1607 (0907 GMT) (Reporting by Sinsiri Tiwutanond in Bangkok; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier) (


1448 STOCKS NEWS THAILAND: KGI cuts Thai Oil target price to 73 baht

KGI Securities (Thailand) cut its price target on Thai Oil Pcl to 73 baht ($2.33) from 85 baht ($2.71), partly reflecting the impact of weak oil market on earnings of the country's biggest refiner.

The broker downgraded the stock to "neutral" from "outperform".

Thai Oil shares fell 1.27 percent to 58.25 baht. At one point, they were at 58 baht, their lowest in more than six months. The stock has fallen 20 percent this quarter, underperforming the broader market's 4.9 percent loss.

The price of oil has declined 13 percent quarter-to-date following uncertainties in the euro zone, KGI said in a report.

"We expect Thai Oil's quarterly earnings to repeat the trend seen last year where they peak in the first quarter and drop in the subsequent quarters on the absence of stock gain. As such, the share price seems to have no short-term catalyst," the broker said.

1440 (0740 GMT) (Reporting by Viparat Jantraprap in Bangkok; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)


STOCKS NEWS THAILAND: Kasikorn raises Thai Union Frozen; price at 9-day low

Kasikorn Securities raised the target price for Thai Union Frozen Products Pcl TUF.BK to 64 baht from 60 baht with a neutral rating, on expectation that the firm's expansion plan will help boost its yearly revenue.

Shares in Thai Union Frozen, the world's largest canned tuna producer, were trading at 71.75 baht, their lowest in nine days. The share price fell to 71.50 baht at one point. The main Thai index .SETI was down 1.12 percent.

"We expect the company to grow its revenue by 13 percent to 3.7 billion dollars during 2012 from its continued expansion in sardine and mackerel products," Kasikorn said in a research note.

The broker also said the company previously raised 9.6 billion baht($31.91 million)in capital from its rights offering subscription, which is likely to be used to buy other seafood brands to enlarge its position in the global seafood market.

"We believe Thai Union Frozen wants to take advantage of the current slowdown in the European Union to acquire good assets," the broker added.

However, Kasikorn said it maintains Charoen Pokphand Foods CPF.BK as its preference in the sector due to Thai Union Frozen's higher current trading price.

Shares in rival Charoen Pokphand Foods were down 2.85 percent to 37.75 baht.

1112 (0412 GMT) (Reporting by Sinsiri Tiwutanond in Bangkok; ($1 = 31.34 Baht)

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