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Business Web Site of the Week – Virtual Advisory Board

Fortune 500 executives have expert advisory boards to help them make tough strategic decisions. But small businesses can rarely afford this luxury. Until the Virtual Advisory Board, that is.

The Virtual Advisory Board, a new Hill Library site, is an online space to post business questions and receive advice from entrepreneurial peers, small business counselors, and business information specialists. It is also a place to share your own knowledge.

So, ask a question and answer a question. Build a strategy, or help someone else build one. Use the Virtual Advisory Board to create your own virtual executive team, and move forward with the confidence of a Fortune 500. 

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Who has the worst job?

Allen recently posted about a Census report detailing Reasons People Do Not Work. One reason for folks not working that I didn’t see listed within that report: They Had Terrible Jobs.

There are a lot of bad jobs out there. Believe me. I once worked a job folding boxes in a meat-packing plant. For ten hours a day. *Shudder* (Full disclosure: I only lasted one day.)

Well, the writers at Forbes have their own ideas about bad jobs. Check out their new Worst Jobs for the 21st Century. And if you think you have a bad job, tell us about it.

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Why Aren’t You Working?

I don’t know if this ever happens at your company, but from time to time, our boss here at the library will come into our office and pointedly ask: Why are people not working?
 
And now, armed with this recent report from the U.S. Census, I have an answer for her: retirement (38 percent) and school attendance (19 percent) are the most common reasons, along with chronic illness or disability (15 percent), and taking care of children or others (13 percent).
 
As it turns out, what my boss is really asking is why people who are employed here aren’t doing more work, and those answers are quite a bit different: here, the answers are playing minesweeper (50 percent), reading celebrity gossip on the Internet (20 percent), plotting ways to overthrow the boss (15 percent), writing posts for the blog is work (10 percent), and downloading old ZZ Top music videos from YouTube (Mike).
 
But back to the Census report, Reasons People Do Not Work. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the nationwide Survey of Income and Program Participation, the report provides information on nonworkers, broken down by age, sex, race, education, marital status and other categories. The report includes information on duration of joblessness, health insurance coverage, and more.
 
Data and analysis included in the report can provide insight about the fluctuation and collective decisions of the labor force, and can inform HR programs and policies related to pay, benefits, work schedules, child-care arrangements, transportation and more.
 
We’ve got our own reasons, and maybe you do as well, but check out the official Reasons People Do Not Work here.

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Business Web Site of the Week – Website Grader

Your company uses its Web site to communicate all sorts of messages: Hours of operation, products and services offered, maybe even some news about good works done. But what if no one can find it?

Discover just how findable your site is with Website Grader. This tool looks at your site’s traffic, SEO, social popularity, and other technical factors to grade the site’s effectiveness from a marketing perspective.

Website Grader also offers basic tips to help improve on that grade. Use these tips to make sure the effort you’re putting into your Web site is paying off – and get it found!

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Business Web Site of the Week – DiversityData.org

How well-rounded is your life? You could probably answer that question without this Web site. But what about other peoples’ lives? If you were researching a metro area, wouldn’t it be nice to know about the life experience of the people in that area? 

DiversityData.org tracks opportunity, diversity, quality of life, and health for various racial and ethnic groups to rank the well-roundedness of metro areas across the United States. Use this site to get a feel for the composition of a particular community. Then, use the provided historical data to see how/if that composition is changing.

An ongoing project of the Harvard School of Public Health, this site collects data from the Census Bureau, the Nat’l Center for Health Statistics, the FBI, Boston U, and several other well-rounded organizations.

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Cigarette Preferences of Youth Smokers

If you sold cigarettes and were looking to boost sales, what could you do with a report like this one? What if you ran a program to keep kids from smoking?

Knowing more about the people you’re planning to sell to, or work with, can help you better reach them. Knowing more about an industry can help you better position yourself within that industry. Knowing more about a product or service can help you to better sell it.  

The process of finding all this out is market research. And the Hill Library can help.
The Hill collects hundreds of free market research reports – along with industry analysis and trade journal special reports – in the Special Issues Index. Find it with your HillSearch membership on the Custom Search page, or by selecting Market Research from the drop-down menu in BizToolkit.

There are hundreds of free reports in this collection including these, which we recently added:

Use these reports to get a clearer picture of your industry, your product, and your best customers. Then use that new focus to build a sales or marketing strategy, and increase your business.
Unless you sell cigarettes to kids. Then keep the heck out of the Special Issues Index.

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Business Web Site of the Week – SBA Dynamic Small Business Search

If you’ve ever used a service like InfoUSA or ZapData, you know how helpful it can be to generate a list of competitors or B2B prospects based on specific criteria. You also know how expensive it can be.

The Small Business Administration, it turns out, keeps tabs on a large group of businesses and provides free access to these records at this site. Use the Dynamic Small Business Search site to bring up a list of businesses by state, county, NAICS code, ownership demographic, and all manner of other criteria.

These are companies that have shown interest in contracting with the government, so industry coverage will lean toward service and manufacturing. And not every company will be included, of course. Also, the site isn’t particularly pretty or easy to use. Still, when the other option is a fistful of money, this company research tool isn’t too bad.

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"If you don’t have a Web site…you might as well not even name your company."

That’s according to Justin Kitch, CEO of Homestead Technologies Inc., who offered tips on using the Internet in his address to a Small Business Summit earlier this year.
 
But Kitch goes on to say that just having a Web site is not nearly enough. Web sites must be dynamic, they must be aimed at more than just new or existing customers, and they must be incorporated into a larger Internet strategy. Read about Kitch’s 10 suggestions for small business Web sites here.
 
The advice for a company’s Web site is sound, but for businesses that already have fairly sophisticated presences on the Web, the discussion has moved past Web sites. What’s coming next? Will it soon be true that if you don’t have a blog, you might as well not even name your company? A social networking profile? A podcast, or a vlog? To what extent are these things already true?
 
Feel free to discuss or tell us your thoughts in the comments section of our shiny new dynamic, Web-2.0-friendly, user-interactive, community-focused blog.

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Business Web Site of the Week – Legal Tips for a Lawful Life

U.S. law covers a lot of ground. One might say the law protects life, liberty, and – in many cases – the pursuit of business. To find out more about how legal issues affect your business, access these Legal Tips for a Lawful Life.

This site provides “quick and dirty” podcasts and transcript articles on navigating legal issues. If you’ve got questions, this site has answers. Forming a business? Thinking about drug-screening your employees? Wondering about copyright on the Internet? Learn more about
the legal repercussions to these business issues, and find legal tips for your personal life, too.

Investigate the legal aspects of these after-work issues: Good neighbor relations, ownership of a homerun ball, and/or alcohol liability. Plus, haven’t you always wanted to conduct a citizen’s arrest? Or is that just me?

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Battling Pirates, Protecting Content

In a recent post, the Hidden Business Treasures blog highlighted an example of overt plagiarism in marketing copy. This isn’t the first reported instance of pirated content online, and in our cut-and-paste-friendly era, it probably won’t be the last.
HBT suggestions for tracking down plagiarism in Google were great – and gave us here at the Hill the inspiration to dig up some additional tools to make sure the copy you create stays where it belongs. Here then are the top four tools to identify and combat online plagiarism:

Copyscape – Compare the copy on your Web site to other sites across the Internet. Just paste in your URL and Copyscape returns other sites with similar language.
ArticleChecker – Paste smaller snippets of your text into the site’s search box or upload larger files of complete text. ArticleChecker runs these through several search engines and returns sites with similar copy. 

Google Alerts or Yahoo! Alerts – Set up alerts to notify you if a site appears using key pieces of your copy.

Wayback Machine – Research the history of a site you think might be using your copy. If the suspect site posted copy closely after you created it, you may have found a pirate.

But what if you do find someone using your copy? How do you make them stop?

1. Send an email to the perpetrator if their contact info is listed on the site. If your copy shows up on a blog, leave a comment. Here’s an example of a cease and desist letter.
2. Contact the host of the infringing site and ask them to take the site down. Locate a site’s host using DomainTools.
3. Complain to search engines. Most search engines accept complaints involving copyright issues and will remove offenders from results pages.

Great copy is an investment. You’ve put time and energy into the creation of your content; make sure that content pays dividends for you, and not some Internet pirate.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

We are pleased to announce the completion of our elevator renovation at the James J. Hill Center. This project was financed in part with funds provided by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society and the F. R. Bigelow Foundation. It will greatly increase our ability to serve patrons with accessibility needs.

Please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit our brand new elevator!

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