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5 Smart Research Tips 

Do you have the next great business idea? Is your small business ready to move into the mainstream? If so, you probably know that business intelligence is key to making an informed decision about the next stage of your career. That means you’ll need to navigate the exciting world of business reference sources! 

Getting started with your research can feel overwhelming. With so many websites, topics, and techniques to choose from, it can seem like doing research is more trouble than it’s worth. With a little guidance, however, you too can find the key facts to jump-start your business.  

Here are 5 smart research tips from the James J. Hill Center: 

1) Start with Broad Topics 

It’s very tempting to search for the exact fact you want, but looking up “2010 household spending trends” might be counterproductive. By searching so specifically, you might miss a great article on that topic that doesn’t have your key words included. Instead, start with wide-ranging topics like “household income” and “domestic spending trends” to maximize your research results.  

2) Limit your Date Range 

When searching online or in the databases at the James J. Hill Center, pay attention to the date range on your results. You don’t want to build a pitch deck around an article on real estate trends only to find out it’s from 2002. Give yourself a range of two to five previous years to find the most recent information. 

3) Use Synonyms 

Is your search for “trade shows” coming up short? Remember, there’s many different ways to describe what you’re looking for, so brainstorm some alternate search terms. You may hit the jackpot when searching for “convention expositions” instead.  

4) Combine Resource Types 

Plenty of people are satisfied with a couple online searches, but true entrepreneurs go beyond Google. While some helpful information, such as the Economic Census or labor statistics, are freely available online, subscription databases can elevate your research process. The James J. Hill Center subscribes to a series of databases, such as IBISworld and Business Source Premier, that contain valuable information not available anywhere else. Stop in to use our resources on-site!  

5) Ask for Assistance  

Remember, research is a long, slow process, but it’s not something you need to handle alone. Make an appointment with a business librarian at the James J. Hill Center and let us connect you to the business information you need.  

 


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the James J. Hill Center. To meet with Jessica about your research needs, make a free appointment hereIf you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Soft Skills Revolution: Befriending Chaos

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for the Soft Skills Revolution to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

Life would be so much easier if everything stayed the same, wouldn’t it? Preparing for that speech or meeting or interview would be a heck of a lot easier if you new exactly what was going to happen, right?

We would adapt to the precise moment when the projector would break. We’d jump right on the last-second agenda change. We could prepare for that last question no one would ever expect.

Awesome concept, right?  Well, not exactly. Quite the opposite, in fact.

First of all, the world isn’t like Groundhog’s Day. Something about the second law of thermodynamics and time’s arrow. Change is our only constant.  Besides, look how unhappy Bill Murray became. Like it or not, we depend on change. Luckily, that’s a skill that you can develop.

Rehearsed Spontaneity

One of the highlights of my career has been to work alongside academy award winning actor, Mark Rylance. He has a shelf of awards for his acting, but he’s also a generous director and mentor.

In a play he wrote and directed, I played a snowmobile riding, Norse, frost giant. In most plays, the director gives actors blocking and expects them to always follow it. Mark didn’t. Instead, he described the relationship between characters onstage. If a character moved one way, we would react and respond instead of moving in a rehearsed and rigid fashion that was constructed for us.

His commitment to chaos was so great that he would also change things he thought were working too well. If he thought something became routine, he would break it up and force us back to reacting to it.

This experience gave me a certain comfort in chaos. Through rehearsing in what appeared like chaos I developed an appetite for unpredictability. Because of this method, I actually joined the audience by encountering aspects of the play for the first time every night, together, with them.

Befriending chaos through practice is the first step to handling unexpected moments with ease.

Cultivating Flexibility

We can “rehearse spontaneity” with the people we seek to connect with. Instead of hoping that things unfold like we plan, we can plan on unpredictability. We can hold on tightly to the points we want to make. But at the same time,  let go of particular thoughts or ideas that hold us back.

Here is an excises to try:

  1. Think of your “Big Idea” and a few supporting words.
  2. Talk through them enough times so that you’re as clear and concise as you can be.
  3. Write down what you said.
  4. Read it aloud.
  5. Now re-draft to get the words perfect.
  6. Print out your final copy. Place the paper in front of you and turn it over.
  7. Talk through your “Big Idea” and supporting thoughts without using any of the words on the paper in front of you.

You have just written your own mini-script. Now that you know your steps you can do the dance.

Results May Vary in Delight

Many of my clients do not like the exercise above. It takes work and commitment. What happens though is almost always a delight to them and me. They engage with the change.

They find new words to share the ideas and the “idea” is now fresher than ever. I hear them thinking, not talking. The words they wrote disappear, replaced by thoughts and authenticity.

Isn’t that what we all want? To be with someone who can conquer change. That’s real. That’s worth listening to?

Hear Everyone but Listen Only to Yourself

Remember the idea and forget the words. There is power and presence in that concept.  When you listen to yourself everyone will hear you.

Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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Soft Skills Revolution: The Real Thing

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

We all want the real thing.

Nowhere is that more important than in communication. Whether you are in front of an audience or in an interview, the people you are trying to connect with want the real you. The quickest way to lose an audience is being inauthentic, fake or disingenuous.

The master communicators are able to bring much, if not all, of their real selves to their audiences. How do they do it? One way is to use feedback to draw and change the lines separating different versions of themselves. This empowers them to bring more of their unique personality to what an audience perceives. They are able to be real.

No, It’s Not About You

A speaker without an audience is like that tree falling in the forest with no one around. Pretty much nothing. Everything depends on the version of you the audience perceives and leaves with.

You can’t just stride up to the podium and say, “Alright, what would you like to talk about?” That’s not going to work too well. You have to bring something to the audience first. The connection between a speaker and audience must begin with the speaker. Audiences pay attention to get a return of interest.

Yes it is: The Real You

When you meet someone one, the most interesting thing you have to offer is yourself. Yes, I am sure you have great ideas, advice and insight. When you are face-to-face with someone those take a back seat to you as a unique human being.

Audiences want you to be real, to be yourself. They enjoy being around someone who doesn’t worry about what everyone thinks. That’s the trick, isn’t it? You care a lot about what the audience thinks. So it’s hard to act like you don’t care.

Well, let me tell you  a little secret: They don’t know you. No one does. Not the “real” you.

An audience only ever sees a sliver of the “real” you. An important sliver. There’s enormous power in this.

No it’s not You: It’s the Audience You

Putting some distance between you and what the audience perceives gives you valuable space. That allows you to use feedback to shift your perspective. That shift is from the “real” you to what you could call the Audience You.

Your reflection in a mirror is an accurate representation of what you look like, right? It’s like there’s this other person looking back at you. Meeting that other person can be hard sometimes, but it’s what most people see–for better or for worse. Meeting this other person in the mirror shifts your perspective to the people looking at you. Feedback on performance introduces you to the Audience You.

And yet, the reflection in the mirror doesn’t define you. Neither does feedback. This is the critical last step to incorporating feedback: the Audience You doesn’t define real you. If everyone says that you bomb your speech, you haven’t bombed life. That kind of feedback tells you there’s a disconnect between the real you and the Audience You. If you’re going to speak again,  work to close that gap.

Ask people what they think of the Audience You. Their feedback will shift your perspective. Encourage them to be specific and honest so you can get a good look at this reflection of you. Don’t forget to thank them and put it to work to make the audience you a more accurate reflection of the real you.

It will make a difference. Really.


Guest writer:
 Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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Shop Talk: NAICS and SICs

If you’ve taken a stab at industry or market research, chances are you’ve come across NAICS and SICs. When used to your advantage, these code systems are handy ways to search across multiple database and search platforms to achieve targeted results. They were created as a way to classify industry areas with the purpose of collecting, analyzing and publishing data relating to the economy.

SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) codes have been around since 1937, and appear as a 4 digit number that represent an industry. NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) is a newer system, established in 1997, and will show up as a 6 digit number that will help you find extremely targeted information. NAICS codes were developed to replace SICs, but you can search via both systems in most business databases.

Most business databases will allow searches via NAICS and SICs, which is helpful because each database uses its own distinctive terminology and classifies information in a different way. Using your unique industry code will help you cut through the information faster, and saving time is in everyone’s interest.

While we love using NAICS and SICs to search quickly, they are not for every situation – like searches that span across multiple industries. For this situation, the researcher will want to use other factors like company location, size or annual revenue to help narrow down their search.

For the DIY business researcher, the simplest way to find your NAICS code is through a web search for your industry name (or description) and “NAICS,” which will generate your code. For a detailed, browsing list, try the US Census Bureau for the official list. Librarians are also available to help navigate through the search process at the Hill, which is a great reason to visit us for an appointment!

 


Written by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library our our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Soft Skills Revolution: A Breath Away

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come back the first Tuesday of each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

A Breath Away

There is so much in the world we have no control of. That’s why it’s always nice for me to remember that the greatest gift I can give myself, and others, is to just… breathe.

The practice of deep breathing is at the core of connecting with yourself in front of an audience. By the end of this post, you’ll be in on the greatest secret of successful performers and yogis alike.

The Pains in the…

By now, most of you know that I’m a speech coach. So it won’t come as a surprise if I trot out the fear of public speaking as a pain point (by the way, the latest poll has public speaking second to snakes).

In a bit I will cover the direct benefit deep breathing has on public speaking. First, I want to add some other pretty horrible pains most of us have faced in our life:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • depression
  • attention deficit disorder

Deep breathing has been shown to help with ALL of these.

Ancient Benefits We’re Catching Onto…

The primary benefit of deep breathing is its calming effect on the body.

People from cultures all over the world have practiced deep breathing for a millennia. How this works is only recently becoming clear to scientists according to an article in New York Times on Why Deep Breathing May Keep Us Calm. Isn’t it nice when science recognizing the benefit of something we’ve been doing all along?

The point is: breathing from your diaphragm calms your body down. And a calm body calms your mind.

The Nuts and Bolts

The key to deep breathing lies in understanding how we breathe. When I give workshops, I often ask everyone to take a deep breath in. I watch as chests heave and shoulders go up.

Many people assume since air goes into our lungs, that’s also what drives breathe. Close, but no cigar.

The diaphragm is a parachute-shaped muscle that sits under your lungs. That’s the muscle chiefly responsible for drawing in your breathe. Despite what my workshop attendees show me, it’s not the muscles around your chest.

The crazy thing is, you already “know” this. Everyone of us breathes quite efficiently when we don’t think about it. Watch someone who is extremely relaxed and you’ll see their belly move up and down more than their chest.

That’s because the diaphragm is contracting to pull in breath. The stomach and surrounding muscles get out of the way and expand outward. This is another reason most people don’t breath efficiently–people are vain. They are concerned about keeping their bellies tucked in.

Speakers, Listen Up…

Deep breathing does two important things for speakers. First, it calms them. Everyone gets nervous to some degree. Deep breathing stems the fight or flight reaction we get when we step in front of a crowd.

Second, deep breathing strengthens and supports a speaker’s voice. With adequate breath, a speaker can speak longer, louder and with greater range. You don’t have to be a performer or singer to benefit from more volume or a fuller voice.

You Can Do It!

Whether you’re a speaker or a stressed-out blog reader, you can start deep breathing now. There is nothing fancy or complicated about deep breathing. The process begins with an awareness of your breath.

  1. Put one hand on your stomach
  2. Put the other on your chest
  3. Take a deep breath in

Since you’re doing this, I will assume you are not familiar with deep breathing technique. This means that, probably, you felt your chest move as much or more than your stomach.

Here’s a cool trick I just found out while writing this: Google “deep breathing”. You should get a one-minute guided breathing exercise. I shouldn’t be too surprised since I read that Google teaches breathing to its employees.

Don’t believe me, though. Go Google it! And breathe…


Guest writer:
 Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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Soft Skills Revolution: Finding Soft Skill Value

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor,  lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come back the first Tuesday of each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

FINDING SOFT SKILL VALUE

I used to have a hard time finding my keys. Then I bought this little plastic disk that my phone can make beep. They’re usually sitting right on the counter, hidden in plain sight.

A recent survey of 2.6 million employers reported that 59% have difficulty finding candidates who are proficient in “soft skills.” I believe that soft skilled people are really not that hard to find. They just need to tag their skills with the equivalent of that beeping disk.

Making your own soft skill set “beep” out begins with understanding why they’re “soft”, what are the skills and the value to employers.

The Soft
Among the most sought-after soft skills are the “4 Cs”: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity.

The term soft skills was originally defined by the Army in 1972 as

“Job functions about which we know a good deal are hard skills and those about which we know very little are soft skills.”

From the beginning soft skills have been associated with misunderstanding.

One of the biggest insights to soft skills is how little we know about them and ourselves. Studies like Sage Journals “Perceived Versus Actual Transparency of Goals in Negotiation” have shown how we believe others see us and what they actually perceive are statistically unrelated. The only accurate way to gauge how you’re being perceived is to ask someone else.

And yet, as Seth Godin points out “what actually separates thriving organizations from struggling ones are the difficult-to-measure attitudes, processes and perceptions of the people who do the work.”

The Skills
In that aptly titled post, “Let’s Stop Calling Them ’Soft Skills,” Godin argues that the term should be avoided:

“We call these skills soft, making it easy for us to move on to something seemingly more urgent. We rarely hire for these attributes because we’ve persuaded ourselves that vocational skills are impersonal and easier to measure.”

He feels that they are more accurately understood as “real skills” because of their impact on businesses:

“…when an employee demoralizes the entire team by undermining a project, or when a team member checks out and doesn’t pull his weight, or when a bully causes future stars to quit the organization — too often, we shrug and point out that this person has tenure, or vocational skills or isn’t so bad. But they’re stealing from us.”

He then goes on to list nearly 100 different skill sets in five categories that make up his first draft of real skills.

The Value
Godin’s argument carries significant weight when you consider how reliant the economy is on soft skills. Three decades ago 83% of the value of an S&P 500 company was in its tangible assets—real estate, equipment, inventory. Today 87% of the value is in intangible assets—ideas, brand, or stories.

Companies that had paid workers to build value with their labor now pay them to create with their minds. The majority of companies’ value can no longer be delivered by trucks. Instead, the majority of worth is created, transmitted and maintained through soft skill mastery.

Developing mastery is also hiding in plain sight. The process is the same one practiced by athletes, artists and entrepreneurs.

More on that later. I have to find my phone.

To be continued….

Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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The Hill’s Guide for Job Searchers

By Leah Kodner, Business Reference Librarian


 

Are you looking for a new job or even thinking about switching careers entirely? At the James J. Hill Center, our librarians help people every day with the job search and career exploration process. We have a number of databases that can help you make the transition much easier and help you find your next job sooner.

Selecting an Industry

If you’re thinking of switching careers, you’ll want to do a little research first. You want to make sure that, whatever industry you choose to work in, there are going to be job opportunities. Looking up potential industries in our IBISWorld database is a good place to start. IBIS can tell you about the industry’s performance over the past few years and can give you its outlook for the coming years.

Another source for industry research is the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. The Business Journal publishes articles about industries every week. After learning about the state of your industry across the entire country in IBISWorld, you can use the Business Journal to learn how the industry is performing locally.

current performance

 The “Current Performance” section of IBISWorld’s report on Libraries and Archives in the U.S.

 

Performing Industry Research

When you’re researching your new industry, there are a few things you’ll want to know. You’ll want to know what products or services the industry provides, what trends it’s been experiencing, and who it serves. IBISWorld, again, is a good place to go for that information.

To learn about all the recent developments within your industry, EBSCO is a useful tool. The EBSCO database is an article conglomerator, gathering articles from industry journals, news sources, and trade publications. It can keep you up to date on all the latest news within your industry.

Finally, you will want to learn what companies operate in your industry. It will be especially important to discover which companies are located near where you live, so you can begin to look for jobs within the industry. Luckily, we have some great sources for finding companies!

ebsco articles

EBSCO articles about trends in the library industry

 

Finding Companies in Your Industry

The best way to find companies in your industry is to use Gale DemographicsNow. Gale allows users to build targeted lists of companies based on either the SIC or NAICS code for your industry. You can search for companies in any area of the country, choosing from states, counties, cities, Zip codes, or even a mileage radius from a specific address. Gale can also help you limit the size of companies you search for, using number of employees or annual revenue. You can narrow your search to companies with minority ownership, search for only company headquarters, and more. Clearly, Gale DemographicsNow is the most comprehensive way to build lists of companies.

Another way to find companies in your industry is the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal’s Book of Lists. The Book of Lists contains “best of” lists that have been published in the Business Journal over the past year. These lists provide the top players in a given industry within the Twin Cities metro area. If you are looking to find a list of the local big players in your industry, this is the place to go.

We have a number of other databases that can find companies in your industry. PrivCo can find large private companies, Guidestar can find nonprofits, and Uniworld can find companies with branches in foreign countries. Between all these sources, you can find all the companies you want in your industry.

gale list

Gale DemographicsNow list of libraries in St. Paul

 

Company Research

If you are interested in working for a specific company, it’s important to research them in-depth. Good sources for individual company research include EBSCO, Gale DemographicsNow, and PrivCo. EBSCO can give you all the latest news updates about the company. Gale DemographicsNow can tell you its size, year established, the number of branches, and its competitors. If the company is private, PrivCo can provide more information than you’ll find anywhere else. With our databases, you’ll learn all there is to know about the company you’re researching.

 privco profile

Part of PrivCo’s profile of The Library Corporation, a private company in the U.S.

 

Stop by The Hill today and let our librarians help you with your research! The James J. Hill Center is open Monday-Thursday from 10-5.

 

 

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Job Seekers, Hill History and Industry Research

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions from February

Question:

Hill History

Do you have any information or pictures of the men who worked on the remodeling of the James J. Hill House in the 1980s?

Answer:

The James J. Hill Center does not house historical information on James J. Hill or the various buildings with historical significance to his legacy. Most historical documents can be found at the Minnesota Historical Society. The James J. Hill Center and the James J. Hill House are different organizations. The James J. Hill House is currently being operated by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Question:

Job Seeker

I am in a job transition and doing company research. I would like find a way to identify which companies in a particular area utilize a specific job function, such as ‘technical writer’ for example. I’d also like to know the names and primary business category of companies in a specific town/city. However I don’t know if these kinds of databases exist.

Answer:

We often have job seekers use our databases to do general industry research, find companies in that industry and do specific company research. For this particular question, we would use Gale DemographicsNow and create a list of companies that fit the criteria of the job seeker. It is then up to this person to look up each company to find out whether or not they have an employment opening. Or if this person is a freelancer, he or she now has a list of potential clients.

Question:

Industry Research

I am interested in gathering medical manufacturing market research. My company develops software for machining process modeling and improvement and we are looking to expand our presence in the medical market.

Do I need an appointment to get help gathering this research, or can I just stop by and ask for assistance from a librarian? What hours are you open?

Answer:

You do not need an appointment to receive help gathering this research. The Reference Library is open 10 AM – 5 PM, Monday through Thursday. Because we have an open door policy, some days are busier than others. You are welcome to call our main number, 651-265-5500, before making a trip here.

We are also able to assist with market research and would most likely use our database MarketResearch.com to assist in gathering the required information.

Do you have a research question? Ask a Business Librarian today.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

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.

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