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Business R & R: How To Do Reference and Research For Your Business Customers


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  • Good afternoon!! Thank you for choosing this CAL workshop- Business R&R! Tina and I are librarians at HR library and work with a group of Douglas County librarians that is providing business research services to new and small businesses in DC. This BizInfo group strives to provide accurate, valuable, and current information in response to questions from start-up and new, small businesses.
  • Tina and I want to share with you how we research business questions. We will provide an overview of how we approach business research including: Question/Interview, Search process, matching the question to information resources, evaluation of the resource and results, and presentation of information to the client. Tina will discuss some real life business questions and how she researched and answered them. Finally ehandouts available through the CAL conference website.
  • It all starts with the question! But sometimes the business person/entrepreneur may not know how to articulate the question. It helps to know the context of the question. There are 2 critical stages in the business lifespan at which the owner needs major information 1. Start-up: entrepreneurial stage- options being explored and the business defined 2. Expansion stage usually a few years out from start-up. What exactly does the business do- service; manufacture; retail; wholesale; customer based; business to business. How will the information be used? - to write a business plan, marketing plan; apply for a loan; solve a particular problem; take the business in a new direction? For a business question you need context
  • It helps to have a business reference interview tool. CHP a Colorado trainer, consultant and researcher focusing on local economies, economic gardening and business research. At her website under “Resources” then “Presentation Handouts”- two interview tools- “Tell us about Your business”- generic interview form; “Identifying key business information needs” helps the business owner identify what he/she know, doesn’t know and may need to know about his/her business
  • These great interview tools created by CHP are located under “Resources.” You can adapt them to meet your needs.
  • DCL has an online form for the entrepreneur to submit her/his question. So does DPL(Research, Resources, BusinessBiz Boost Free Small Business Help), the South Metro SBDC (at their website under “getting started.” Terry Zarsky of PPLD shared that PPLD will have a business intake form on their website soon. This book also has some interesting questions designed for the self researching business person. You could look at these also and borrow, revise and combine to create your own intake form that works for you and your customers.
  • Clicking at “BizInfo Build Your Business Here” directs the user to DCL form- Preliminary forms help focus the question and in the end save you and the client time. Forces the customer to be precise. An “online” form is not essential but if you take preliminary contact by phone or in person you will want to use one. We like the online form – it gives us a chance to do a little preliminary research before we talk with the client.
  • Good questions from business person’s perspective- for them to fill out as if doing own research. Great list of questions; book is 2006 and no newer edition. If your library doesn’t own, available by ILL
  • Rhonda Abrams – author of Successful Business Research writes a weekly column for USAToday. These forms from her book are available in pdf format online! Again these are designed for the business person to answer but they will give you ideas for your intake form.
  • Even if you have an online intake form, you still want to talk with your business person. Ask away! Is there an underlying question? There may not be one question but layers of questions. Try to ask questions that cannot be answered by yes or no! OPEN Ended QUESTIONS You want a dialog! What kind of information do you need about….;Is there something in particular that you want to know about…. Please tell me more about….Please explain your question in a different way. Can you share with me some key concepts, terms or vocabulary for this topic? What research have you already done? Clarify- gives you and the client one more chance to get on the same page. Is there anything else?? Make an appointment/ set aside enough time to be thorough and relaxed. Assure confidentiality for the client’s business information and ideas. Demonstrate interest. Practice active listening. Establish how you’ll be in touch. Exchange business cards. Establish a time frame/a dated needed by.
  • There may be a precise/one-stop shopping information resource- a direct match of the business question and resource – but more often there will be a number of steps and a number of resources. Who is most likely to have gathered this information? Where are you most likely to find it? Go for the information resource that you think is your best bet. At first just look at it as “trial/practice” searching- perhaps a quick internet search engine search to help you capture some key words. Matching your question to your best bet database/source is a matter of experience, knowing your databases well and trial and error! Remind your business person that he/she has remote access to your library’s databases with his/her library card!
  • Write your search process down! It will save you time. Almost every search of your first few searches will add to your terminology. Business databases help one find the correct industrial code
  • Worksheet -To keep you organized and focused! Created by CHP and she generously gave permission to share with you! You would want to modify this for your needs, perhaps add categories such as “still need to follow up/check out” or client contact information. A search worksheet will help you keep track of where you’ve searched and what terms/codes are working
  • You will find websites that are great for business questions that you’ll want to keep track of…. Start NOW!!! Add to your “favorites” or bookmarks. But those maybe specific to one computer or they may be wiped with each reboot. Tina has used Delicious for some time and I have started using it for allll my business bookmarks. Delicious is a social bookmarking service that allows users to tag, save, manage and share web pages from a centralized source. Bookmark any site on the Internet, and get to it from anywhere
  • While you want to be focused and organized it is also good to play around and experiment with your searching- try different approaches. Give yourself time to explore. Example another form of term- lawyer/attorney; handset, cell phone, mobile
  • Articles, tables, graphs should give a source, reference- citation- follow up on the author, agency or website. There might be an update. Lots of useful tools are found in advanced search.
  • For the titles and publications that you’ll use over and over, try to learn where they are indexed in your databases. Local business news is a challenge to find. I find magazine databases better than newspaper because of better indexing….America’s Newspapers include Denver Post, Daily Camera, The Gazette (Colo Springs), Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction). One major Colorado business newspaper –The Denver Business Journal- as far as I know is not indexed anywhere.
  • Some business questions are about niche businesses or newly emerging businesses that mayl not be well covered by databases. You will need to use search engines.
  • Using advanced search and specifying a type of domain yields excellent results.
  • The business researcher’s job is to sift through the mass of information available and make a judgment as to what is a good fit for your client’s question. You need to be skeptical. Give a critical eye to both the resource as a whole and the individual results you are getting.
  • Authority- is this an author/writer/journalist, publisher, editor that you have some confidence in- is it from Gale/Cengage, D&B, Hoovers, WSJ- The database should have an “about” section that states the purpose and scope Is scope narrow, broad, is there depth/substance to the information or is it shallow- what sources/publications is the information drawn from Is is updated? How often? How recent is the the newest article or data; How old are most of the articles? Is the information appropriate for your client-no business degree to an MBA- is it too technical or too simplistic Format- is it readable, are there charts, graphs, tables, diagrams where appropriate? Does it provide you the tools to create a report? That can be a real time saver. (Demographics Now) Do the results and usage fit the cost? Searches- is it easy to navigate, can you employ advanced search techniques or Boolean logic? Can you search by NAICS or SIC? Are there appropriate links, related terms or industries; does it list the appropriate industry sectors Can you mark documents/articles, add it to a folder, create alerts; if it comes from a journal, can you see all the articles in that particular issue; can you email, does the indexing/tagging look consistent
  • Is the primary source of the information cited? Could you go back to the original source and verify this table, statistic, information. Do you think the information is objective or do you detect an agenda or bias. If possible present data not more than 2 years old. The exception may be Census Bureau data and U.S. Economic Census data because it is carefully collected and methodology is clear. In our current economy, currency is vital. What is the time frame for the survey/study- is it the last quarter, the entire year? If there is a survey or study, can you determine the size of the survey, who was surveyed, how the data was compiled.
  • How you present the business research to a client depends upon how extensive it is. A short, quick answer may lend itself to a phone call or email. Be sure to cite your source. If your research has been more extensive, it may lend itself to a more formal written report. If it works for the client, present this report packet at a face-to-face meeting.
  • Talk with your client- how much of the research does your business person want to see- a few may want to see all the documentation, all the printed articles or have links to all the documents. Depending on the business question this packet may include demographic summary reports, industry reports, market research and how-to market information.
  • Is the information sufficient for the business person/entrepreneur to address the decisions he/she is faced with or to move forward to the next phase. The information you find may or may not be what the client wants to hear…. Ask customer to return if he/she has questions in the future. Also you may run across new information in the near future and you’ll want to forward that on too. Make sure your contact information is current.
  • Referrals are ok! Your information and resources may be only part of the answer- the client may need additional or you may not be the right fit for your customer. Possible that you need to refer your client to someone more suited to his/her needs. This is actually doing her/him a favor. So you may refer to….….another… Information brokers often have specialized areas of expertise. Association of Independent Information Professionals has a searchable directory at its web site. At least 25 in Colorado- any of them would be glad to talk with or email you Now Tina will go over some actual business questions!
  • This is the online BizInfo intake form from DCL website. Most of our business questions are submitted using this form. The form creates a good question and starting point for the business librarians to work with and one of us contacts the client within one business day to interview the client further about his/her business needs. The form information give us the opportunity to analyze the client’s question(s) and respond to them with meaningful questions that may clarify the client’s informational needs. As per Mary’s presentation, this sets up the reference interview process and establishes a professional relationship the client.
  • By having the client answer a few initial questions about their business idea and their specific question, the librarian is then able to do some initial analyzation of the question before personally contacting the client. Personally, this snapshot of the question previous to contact allows you time to investigate the question/subject and gain a bit of knowledge/confidence.
  • My part of of this presentation is to show you real examples of questions that I have responded to as one of the business librarians participating in BizInfo. I will focus on three questions that require using library databases and reputable online free resources.
  • This client was contemplating purchasing a lodging business or small resort located preferably in the Colorado/Western slope location. He was inquiring about industry forecasts, hotel occupancy rates, vacation trends and also that he has never owned a business before. With a multiple part question like this it is extremely important to follow a business question worksheet form like the one Mary referred to, as it will keep your research organized.
  • This is a screen shot from the RefUSA custom search page. Highly recommend creating custom search – enables one to obtain more specific information. RefUSA has recently changed it’s interface and I think it is an improvement because you can choose your limiters more easily right from the strat of the search.
  • Because the client was interested in opening a small resort in a specified area, seeking current competition in those areas would give the client a perspective of lodging businesses in specific locations in the state. The client’s preferred location was the Colorado/Western slope. Some of the counties included in the Western Slope are Mesa, Delta, Montrose and Ouray. Again I chose the database RefUSA because of its capabilities in researching competition in very specific locations. The SIC Code for resorts is 701111 and then one can add to the search all the western slope counties in Colorado that one would like to include in the search. Again, valuable information to assist a person who is trying to build credibility to their business idea by researching the competition.
  • From the same custom page State – Colorado Counties - Delta, Mesa, Montrose and Ouray RefUSA has made the search very user friendly and functional.
  • Results + 434 Download information – view in different formats (Excel, PDF, etc.) Open up each result for detailed information about a particular business. Limited to number of downloads per search depending on your library’s subscription (DCL = 25 downloads)
  • Client seeking relevant information about industry forecasts and other financial indicators. The data base TableBase provides strategic data in table format for those seeking the raw data only. I used the keywords “travel and leisure” for my search here. I used the advanced search option in this database so I could limit the search to the United Sates only and also to choose more recent date parameters. Also you can see a small tools box which indicates the options to print, email or download this article. The numbers tell the story, no lengthy articles here.
  • Looking further at this article from TableBase one can see a timely snapshot giving quite a bit of information with just a table percentage comparison. The information is dated January 2009. TableBase is an excellent resource for viewing just the facts and figures. The title is “United States all-time annual per available room declines for the hospitality industry in percentages from 1931 – 2002, and forecast for 2009.” So you are getting some historical information and looking into 2009 from a national perspective.
  • Client indicated he has never owned a business before, so I went to the database Small Business Resource Center and searched for an example business plan for “resorts.” .Using “advanced search” keyword “resorts and highlighting “Business Planning” in the publication subject area.
  • The search yielded 4 sample business plans and the client can then utilize information from all of these sources depending on what parallels his business idea best.
  • Business Source Premier is a research database which includes such content as market research reports and industry reports. The Lodging question included the need for industry forecasts, and this article was a timely resource for my client’s question. Searching with keywords “travel trends and United States,” this particular article was part of the result list and it focuses on industry analysts’ views on the length and depth of the economic downturn in 2009 and glance into 2010 related to the lodging industry. Smith Travel Research and PFK Hospitality Research portrayed different opinions on the outlook which was very interesting. From this particular article one can glean other relevant search terms by looking at the terms listed by “subject terms.” The first one listed “business forecasting” may be a valuable term to use if one needs/desires more information. One can then just click on the highlighted subject terms for more information. Also, in the upper right hand corner you can click on the words “Find More Like This” which may include more articles that are similar to the one you are viewing.
  • Also, using the keywords “travel trends” and “United States” and limited the publication dates from January 2007 to March 2009 this informative article appeared. The source of this article is the publication Futurist and it gives a more international perspective about future trends, travel included. This18 page report that may compliment some of the other bites of information that came from TableBase. Remember – using different keywords in the search may give you more results. For example, I used “travel trends”, “resorts,”
  • Associations are always a great resource of information. The Gale Directory of Associations is an excellent resource for locating associations statewide, nationally and internationally. You can access this directory from the Gale Directory Library from the DCL website. The Gale Library Directory includes multiple directories that can be searched singly or cross-searched using multiple directories. For my client I searched specifically for hotel and lodging associations. This snapshot shows the “Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association.” All the contact information for this association is listed on this page result. There is also a national and international association..
  • This client was also interested in finding a current economic outlook for the state of Colorado, which prompted me to send him this excellent yearly report “The Colorado Business Economic Outlook 2009.” This is an annual forecast of the state's economy created by Colorado Leeds School of Business which includes snapshots from specific counties and regions around the state, as well as updates on international trade, population, labor force and personal income growth, and a general outlook on the national economy. The 2010 Leeds Economic Outlook will be available online on 12/7/2009.
  • Hotel News Now is a free website and a division of Smith Travel Research delivering targeted content to the global hotel industry. This is a featured story on the Hotel News Now website and is dated March 19, 2009. This particular client would be able to learn about the current hotel industry and this particular article is addressing the U. S. Lodging Industry and forecasting into 2010 and 2011. By doing some concentrated searching on the Internet, one can sometimes find information that is current and reliable and extremely useful for a client. Free useful/credible information is not always easy to find for every research question.
  • Having never started or owned a business, I suggested that he register for some of the SBDC’s excellent workshops about starting a new business. Highlands Ranch Library hosts a number of these workshops throughout the year and they are well attended.
  • The state of Colorado has a brand new website interface where new business owners or seasoned business owners can go for great information about starting a business in Colorado or growing a business.
  • This screen shot shows information related to starting a new business. “Learn how to assess your business idea, prepare a written business plan, and develop a structure for your business. The Custom Resource Guide also includes information on government business requirements, counseling, training, and other entrepreneurial resources.” All great tools at your fingertips!
  • Last, but not least, in addition to our easily accessible databases DCL has a phenomenal collection of recently published books including the topic of “starting a new business.” Access the online catalog and put library materials on hold. Our catalog and databases are available 24/7!
  • This was a question from a patron interested in growing his business customer base. His company supports about 15 complimentary manufacturers with sales and engineering. Most of his sales are small motors, and the company would like to locate new business potential. He knows the kinds of businesses he needs to target, but was unsure of a way to search for prospective customers in the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Additionally, he was interested in obtaining information on the economic outlook for the state of Colorado.
  • Because part of this question was marketing driven, I started my research efforts with the database ReferenceUSA. ReferenceUSA is a business and residential directory which can be used to create competitor lists and marketing lists in specific locations. Searches can be performed by business name, Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes or North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, yellow page headings, city, state, county or zip codes. As done in the previous example, I created a custom search and I used the “Business Type” “keyword/SICS/NAICS” in the first search using “linear bearing systems,” as this was one of manufacturing products and “ Geography” = County/Colorado Chose surrounding Metro counties
  • I was actually conversing on the phone with this client as he was interested in learning how to use RefUSA and was comfortable doing a guided search over the phone. So, we chose the state of Colorado and several counties in the metro area for our initial search. Some clients are willing and interested in learning the nuances of databases, especially RefUSA. Other clients are not at all interested in learning how, they just want the information.
  • 13 results One can open each result to view more details Download button
  • Client was also interested in finding a current economic outlook for the state of Colorado, which prompted me to send him the yearly report “The Colorado Business Economic Outlook 2009.” As I said earlier, This is an annual forecast of the state's economy created by Colorado Leeds School of Business which includes snapshots from specific counties and regions around the state, as well as updates on international trade, population, labor force and personal income growth, and a general outlook on the national economy. The 2010 Leeds Economic Outlook will be available online on 12/7/2009.
  • Client looking for salary range information within the Denver Metro area related to the following types of management positions: event planner; media/press relations; marketing communications; public relations; community relations; teacher (grades 1-6) and program manager.
  • This particular question is an example of a question that can be answered using a reputable website. Free and powerful information at your fingertips! Colorado Department of Labor and Employment – excellent resource for current information. The Colorado Department of Labor & Employment provides current information about the Labor Market in Colorado. By clicking on the link “Labor Market Info” it will take you to “LMI Gateway .”
  • “ The Colorado LMI Gateway is a powerful job search, career assessment, and labor market information system. It was specifically designed for job seekers, students, case managers, training providers, and workforce professionals, and others seeking easily accessible job openings and labor market information.  The system provides fast access to a complete set of job search and labor market research tools in one web site.”
  •   A Select the area you are interested in identifying. I chose every metropolitan statistical area in Colorado and the statistics for 2008. Under occupations I selected “Management Occupations.”
  • This screen shows Management Occupation salaries from entry level to experienced. This was an excellent synopsis of management salaries in the Denver Metro area, covering many occupational areas similar to what my client was seeking.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Business R&R: How to Do Reference & Research for Your Business Customers Tina Poliseo and Mary Knott, Business Librarians Douglas County Libraries, Highlands Ranch Library 20 November 2009
    • 2. Business Research Process
      • Question/Interview
      • Search process
      • Linking question to information resources
      • Evaluation of resources and results
      • Presentation of information
      • Real life examples
      • Handouts- available at the CAL website
    • 3. The Business Question
      • Context
      • Business stage
      • Business of the business
      • How the information will be used
    • 4. Aids to elicit context
      • Christine Hamilton-Pennell’s website
      • “ Tell Us about Your Business”
      • “ Identifying Key Business Information Needs”
    • 5. Growing Local Economies
    • 6. Other business intake forms
      • Douglas County Libraries
      • Denver Public Library-
      • South Metro Denver SBDC-
      • Pikes Peak Library District –coming soon!
      • Successful Business Research- Straight to the Numbers You Need Fast – Rhonda Abrams  
    • 7.
    • 8. Research from the business person’s perspective
      • Chapter 6- pp. 35-41
      • List Your Questions
      • Industry/economic sector
      • Target Market
      • Companies
    • 9. Rhonda Abrams- weekly column for USA Today
        • Six Steps to a Successful Small Business: Worksheets You Need
        • ness/startup/week5.htm
        • • Define Your Research Goals
        • • Develop Your Research Questions
    • 10. Interview questioning
      • Probing/drilling down
      • Who, What, Where, When, How
      • Clarify/Verify - Paraphrase/restate
      • Add, redefine, ask a follow-up
      • Atmosphere/environment
      • Confidentiality, interest, active listening
    • 11. Search Process
      • Link the business question to the “likely” source(s)
      • Who is “likely” to have this information?
      • Government, association, private research company, another business/business person
      • Think triage
      • Business databases, internet/search engine, blogs, magazines/newspapers, books/catalog, trade/association enewsletters
    • 12. Search organization
      • Identify key words, phrases, concepts, subject headings
      • Apply Narrower, Broader, Related concept to vocabulary
      • Pinpoint a representative company or key people/experts
      • Find appropriate NAICS/SIC
      • databases- browse industry codes and/or key word search
      • NAICS-
      • SIC-
    • 13. “ Business Question Worksheet” Christine Hamilton-Pennell, Growing Local Economies Question:   Key information needed:   Key terms:   NAICS/SIC codes:   Sources:   Key search results: Industry resources/experts:    Actionable information/take-away points:
    • 14. More organization- websites
      • Favorites
      • Delicious
    • 15. Search tips
      • Modify searches – add/subtract terms in phrase, use another form of term
      • Use the database’s “help” or “search tips”
      • Try both “basic” and “advanced” search options
      • Use the database’s subject headings/terms
    • 16. Search tips continued!
      • Follow up on works cited
      • Try qualifiers/limiters - date, geographic
      • Use database’s features: email, search history,folders, alerts
      • Use the database’s navigational tools – “results list” - better than the “back” button
      • Look at database’s “related subjects”
    • 17. More search tips- know your databases!
      • Local:
        • Colorado Springs Business Journal- Regional Business News- EBSCO
        • ColoradoBiz- MasterFILE Premier- EBSCO
        • 10 Colorado newspapers- America’s Newspapers- Newsbank
      • National:
      • Wall Street Journal- Newspaper Source- EBSCO- indexed only/not full text
      • New York Times- America’s Newspapers- Newsbank
    • 18. Search engine searches
      • Google
      • Bing
      • Yahoo
      • Others
      • Take advantage of advanced search in Google- allows searching within a domain:
      • .edu
      • .gov
      • .net
      • .org
    • 19. Google advanced search
    • 20. Evaluate
      • Business information resource
      • Search results
    • 21. Evaluate the information resource
      • Authority/objectivity
      • Scope and currency
      • Audience
      • Format
      • Cost
      • Searches
    • 22. Evaluate the search results
      • Source cited
      • Objective or potential agenda/bias
      • Date
      • With Internet check the domain name: edu, gov, net, org, com
      • Present data from the last two years
      • Study/survey: date, time frame data collected, period about which conclusions are reached
    • 23. Presenting Research
      • If short, quick answer
      • If extensive research
      • Email or telephone citing source
      • Prepare a written report
    • 24. Business research report
      • Executive summary
      • Key words/search terms
      • Library subject headings
      • Trade publications
      • Key findings
      • List of references
      • Books, databases, websites, community resources, interviews, magazine/newspapers, newsletters, blogs
    • 25. Client feedback
      • Ask
      • Satisfied with the research results?
      • Need more or something else?
      • Question completely answered?
      • Invite return
    • 26. Referral
      • Another agency, business counseling service, professional organization
      • Incubator/economic gardening group
      • Information broker/specialist
      • Association of Independent Information Professionals
    • 28. DCL BizInfo INTAKE FORM
      • Preferred location Colorado/Western slope
      • Industry forecasts
      • Future vacation/travel predictions and hotel occupancy
      • Never owned a business before
    • 32. Reference USA – SIC Code and State/County
    • 35. TABLEBASE – Travel and Leisure
    • 36. Forecast for Hospitality Industry TABLEBASE
    • 39. BUSINESS SOURCE PREMIER Business Publications
    • 40. BUSINESS SOURCE PREMIER Business Publications
    • 43. HOTEL NEWS NOW
      • Grow customer base
      • Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah
      • 15 complimentary manufacturers
      • Economic Outlook
      • Salary range information within the Denver Metro area
      • Management positions