Category: Uncategorized

New Internet domain names could boost business

Click here for the Business Journal article

and here for a follow-up article

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, in June approved a plan to add more expansion to the current list of 21 so-called “top-level domain names” — which appear on Web addresses such as .com, .edu and .org.

Read the article and consider what potential problem and opportunities exist for you and your company.

Call us, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Office Depot to close 112 stores

Click for South Florida Business Journal story or read it below.

The first response I received to the story about Office Depot came from a colleague in banking. She found this a very scary story and wanted to know if I had any positive news to put out. Having read the article, I don’t find it scary on the surface. I guess we could assume that this is a result of today’s economy and it may well be that the economy was the trigger for reviewing performance. From my perspective, based solely on the information in the article, this sounds like action that needs to be taken and perhaps should have been taken sooner. I have no inside information on the circumstances.

In general, all companies should be looking at the performance of their stores, assets, investments, and employees. That’s part of what managers do. You either improve performance to an acceptable level or eliminate the problem. To carry poor performers, be they stores or people, only incurs greater costs and risks to the rest of the organization.

Take a good look at your organization. Do you see opportunities to improve? Do you see the need to eliminate poor performance? We have solutions and expertise to help you through this so your overall performance improves.

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Here is the story:

Office Depot on Wednesday said it will close 112 underperforming retail stores in North America during the next three months.

The announcement said the closures would occur in various geographic regions, including 45 in the central U.S., 40 in the Northeast and Canada, 19 in the West and eight in the South. Fourteen more stores would be closed through 2009 as leases expire or other lease arrangements are finalized.

Further details on store locations and job losses were not immediately available.

The global provider of office products (NYSE: ODP) said the closures are part of a strategic review announced on Oct. 29. The first wave of closures would reduce the North American store base to 1,163.

The company also said new store openings for 2009 have been reduced to about 20, down from the previous estimate of 40.

This will facilitate a reduction in total company capital spending in 2009 –to less than $200 million, significantly lower than projected depreciation and amortization of $275 million.

Boca Raton-based Office Depot also plans to close six of its 33 distribution facilities in North America. This is consistent with the company’s long-term plan to reduce the total number of facilities and combine its separate supply chain systems.

The company anticipates taking charges, totaling between $270 million and $300 million, in the fourth quarter 2008 and in 2009 for the store closures. But, Office Depot said 2009 earnings before interest and taxes and cash flow should benefit by about $90 million and $70 million, respectively.

Office Depot said further actions are being considered, including the assessment of tangible and intangible assets, including the annual goodwill evaluation, and potentially restructuring businesses.

Office Depot shares were trading up 26 cents at $2.69. The 52-week high was $17.88 on Dec. 11, 2007. The 52-week low was $1.45 on Nov. 21.

Concerns grow with program to weed out illegal workers

From the Sacramento Business Journal

Ask your self: What potential problems and opportunities may come of this?

Call us, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Concerns grow with program to weed out illegal workers

Big jump in its use expected as federal mandate kicks in

California businesses ran twice as many electronic employment verification queries last year than the year before, as more employers begin using a controversial program to weed out illegal workers.

The “E-Verify” program was used voluntarily by more than 370,700 job sites in the state, up 163 percent from 140,906 in fiscal 2007.

The numbers are expected to increase significantly next month. A June executive order requires companies with federal contracts to begin using the program in January to verify their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States.

“Awareness is obviously greater than it was before because of the (looming) federal mandate,” said Al Sirato, president of Hire-Safe, a Campbell-based company that does background checks, pre-employment screening and helps employers with E-Verify. “We’re seeing an uptick.”

Participation by employers nationwide grew 260 percent last year to verify more than 10 percent of the nation’s new hires, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“It’s growing by about 1,000 companies a week,” said Sharon Rummery, a spokeswoman with the federal agency in San Francisco.

So are concerns about the program as the federal deadline looms.

Error rates are too high and cause undue anguish, some say. Employers who don’t know all the rules can run into legal trouble if they fire workers inappropriately or appear to discriminate against some job applicants.

While free, the system requires record keeping that could be onerous to small employers — and very small businesses might not have computers to run it.

At least one group that supports voluntary use of the program is considering a legal challenge to the mandate.

“Most of us have supported voluntary status, but think it’s up to Congress to decide on a federal mandate,” said Angelo Amador, a member of the steering committee for the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition in Washington, D.C.

Also looming is the debate over program reauthorization by Congress in March, when new members and the Obama administration will weigh in on the issue.

Debate, raids spur sign-ups

E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration.

The program started as a pilot in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas in 1997. It was expanded nationwide in late 2004, but few employers used the service.

That changed during national debate over immigration reform in 2006. High-profile raids by federal agents on employers late that year brought a surge of interest in the screening program.

Participation jumped in California from 3,064 work sites in 2006 to 17,387 in 2007. Nationally, it soared from 5,930 in 2006 to 140,906 in 2007.

“Surveys show high satisfaction, both in accomplishing what it set out to do — help employers identify illegal aliens rather than being duped by false Social Security numbers — and because it is easy to use,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington D.C., an anti-immigration group.

Some employers participate because they think it’s the right thing to do. Others do because clients or corporate owners demand it.

“What it’s done over time, potential employees realize you check,” said Tony Hardin, director of operations for MTC Restaurant Group, a Campbell-based franchisee of Togo’s restaurants. “We’ve had the system up for years and get less people applying. Ninety-seven percent are OK. Before, it was Russian roulette.”

Business leaders, unions wary

“Feedback from our membership about the program has been mixed,” CalChamber spokeswoman Christine Haddon wrote in an e-mail.

The chamber is concerned about errors in E-Verify, referring to a 2006 study by the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration that concluded the database used by the program contains discrepancies that might give employers wrong information.

A recent study conducted by Westat, a social science research firm that monitors the effect of changes to E-Verify, found that between April and June wrong denials dropped to 0.4 percent from 0.5 percent, according to USCIS.

The National Federation of Independent Business remains concerned about how quickly and efficiently a government-run, nationwide electronic verification system can be put in place and how small businesses will be treated under the system.

“We’re seeing a lot of questions from members about ‘Do I need to use it?’ and ‘How does it work?’ ” said Karen Harned, executive director of the Small Business Legal Center in Washington, D.C. “We are trying to make sure employers know everything they are agreeing to when they sign up.”

“The issue is touchy for us,” said Sylvia Ruiz, political director for Service Employees International Union Local 1877, which represents janitors and other low-wage workers, many of them immigrants.

“(E-Verify) relies on a database that’s out-of-date and prone to errors,” Ruiz said, adding that the way employers use it might set them up for legal action if there are violations of worker rights.

The program relies on information from an overburdened Social Security Administration that “has a statistically high rate of inaccurate data,” said Mark Reichel, a Sacramento civil rights attorney who serves on the board of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We’re talking about creating a ‘No Work List’ like the ‘No Fly List,’ ” he said.

“If they require uniform application nationwide, the numbers of errors will go up,” he said. “Even a low rate, in these tough economic times, will mean many workers will not be able to get ahead or will lose a job.”

Similar to other trade groups, the California Restaurant Association is looking for direction from its national counterpart in Washington, California president Jot Condie said.

E-Verify puts some significant burdens on smaller restaurants, some of which might not have a computer on-site, Condie said. And, depending on the accuracy and support of the program, it could create problems between employers and employees, he said.

What’s in a name? Maybe big trouble for businesses when it comes to Internet domains

From the Denver Business Journal.

Read this article and ask yourself:

What opportunities may exist for me and my company? How do I exploit them?
What potential problems may exist for me and my company? How do I protect myself?

Give us a call, we can help. From strategic planning through execution and measurements, we will help you become more effective.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

What’s in a name? Maybe big trouble for businesses when it comes to Internet domains

The regulating body overseeing Internet naming will usher in new custom domain names next year, and it will mean new opportunities for companies and radical changes in how firms protect their brands online.

Web domain registries will grow from 21 now — the common ones being .com, .net, .org, .biz — to hundreds of dot-whatevers starting in 2009.

The option to customize domains is expected to lead to brand-tailored Internet registries such as .coca-cola or .ibm, or genre registries with potentially massive cachet, such as .sports, .car and the like.

Even companies with no interest in having their own domain should take note — the potentially endless permutations of web addresses will complicate life for businesses already guarding against knock-off websites and online appropriation of their trademarks, said Erin Hogan, a trademark and brand management attorney for Denver-based Dorsey & Whitney LLP.

“It’s going to affect their budget to police their brand,” Hogan said. “The costs are going to increase exponentially.”

Custom domain owners will be able to create their own brand “island” on the Internet, with the power to issue brand-associated email addresses and possibly keep competing brands from having a presence in their domain.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Santa Clara, Calif.-based organization that manages international web domains and settles disputes over them, still is writing final rules on how to manage the change.

ICANN is taking recommendations through Dec. 8. It’s scheduled to issue final rules in early 2009 before taking applications for new domains in midsummer.

ICANN charges $185,000 to apply for new top-level domains, which may be only partly refundable, Hogan said. That expense alone could keep domain “squatters” from seizing popular words and brands, but it also complicates the first-line defense companies now use to prevent their brand from being hijacked online.

Businesses defensively register web addresses that incorporate sound-alike terms or misspellings of their company name and products, buying variations of them in the most popular domain registries: .com, .net and .biz.

Ian Saffer, a Denver partner at San Francisco-based Townsend & Townsend & Crew, represents companies that have dozens, if not hundreds, of website addresses registered to protect their brand under the current system of domain registries. That strategy, he said, could be made obsolete by the enormity of variation in website names made possible by custom domains.

“The playing field just went from being 100 yards long and 50 yards wide to being 10,000 yards long and 10,000 yards wide,” he said.

It’s not yet clear how companies should react to the new domain reality because the rules are still being set, Saffer said.

The new domain system could create new opportunities for phishing scammers who set up phony websites to steal identities from customers believing they’re on a company’s legitimate site, or to siphon advertising revenue from companies’ own web pages.

Monitoring the Internet is already time-consuming, especially for businesses whose products or services have become synonymous with an industry niche.

Theresa Rickets, manager of legal services Fort Collins-based Water Pik Inc., spends time every week seeking out online sales of competing dental water jets that play off the well-known Waterpik brand.

The 150-employee company owns and other web addresses using common misspellings of its name. It pays an outside firm to track website registrations.

Rickets surfs online, trying to police instances in which her company believes competitors mislead consumers, such as an ongoing effort to stop online sales of oral irrigators using the name Aquapic.

She can only imagine how much harder the job will become with potentially endless varieties of domain names.

“It’s already difficult enough to do it with what there is now,” Rickets said. “A lot of companies already spend a lot of time and energy, and money if they outsource it, and the fear is that it’s only going to get exponentially worse.”

ICANN established rules to stop the practice, once common in the early days of the Internet, of speculators registering and then ransoming domain names of well-known brands.

Draft rules for custom domain registries include protections meant to prevent similar exploitation of established trademarks.

But companies not monitoring applications for new domains in coming months could find themselves in an expensive game of catchup, Hogan said.

They also could miss opportunities to further their brand online in new ways, she said.

“Companies can’t sit back and wait and see,” Hogan said. “Being a .com now is incredibly valuable, but relying on that continuing is really shortsighted.”

Landlords Working Hard to Keep Tenants

Landlords are negotiating terms, dangling concessions and offering improvements to retain rent-paying businesses – hot commodities in this market

Read the Miami Herald story about how landlords are working hard to retain businesses.

Give us a call, we can help.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants