Category: Business

Quick & dirty outline of an intro to business research

Here is a draft outline I just created for a professor teaching an entrepreneurship class for Fine Arts students. Caveat being that these students are not business majors, so we have to spend more time explaining why each resource is useful and how to incorporate these sources in their assignments. Also, the bit about copyright is because they are Fine Arts students and the professor wanted me to cover this as well.
–> Please make sure students bring their devices or borrow laptops from the circulation desk to LB-322 <–
->Total duration: 150 minutes, which leaves room for a 15 minute break <-
1. Basic business & industry information
(20 min)
– Browse NAICS codes related to Fine Arts, enable students to discover their codes by engaging them to state their line of business
– Show the IBIS World system and present a sample report (uses NAICS codes)
– Show the SME Benchmarking system and a sample report (uses NAICS codes)
ACTIVITY: have students retrieve the IBIS World & SME Benchmarking reports. Troubleshoot NAICS codes & interface issues.
(15 minutes)
2. Basic market information
(15 minutes)
– Passport GMID
– PMB
ACTIVITY: Can you identify one trend or statistic that can impact your project from either source?
(10 minutes)
3. Stats Can
(15 minutes)
– Census: know your neighbours!
– CANSIM: Household spending & more
– Mention SimplyMap but do not show it
ACTIVITY: What is the average household spending for your product? How do you define your market (geography, demographics, etc.)?
(10 minutes)
4. Articles (trends, major players…)
(20 minutes)
– ProQuest
– Business Source Complete
ACTIVITY: Locate one article (news, trade or academic) which relates to your project.
(15 minutes)
5. Copyright
(10 minutes)
– What does copyright mean for you?
– Using copyrighted content as part of your work
ACTIVITY: Read the terms of use of Facebook with the class. Engage in conversation with them about what this means. Focus on when they post their own content on FB & when they post content from others (without their consent). Orient the conversation to the distinction between professional work versus academic or personal projects (ethics, values, rules).
(20 minutes)

My advice for business research

Here is a paragraph I sent to a student trying to locate business information:

And please remember my motto about research: Search well and use what you find. Seeking out a little tidbit of information may be (and usually is) a waste of time. Take an hour or two, compile interesting sources from smart searching, and use what you find.

I often get questions about finding very specific (and often unrealistic) bits of information from students. Searching for business information is where students confront theories they learn in classes to the real world, sometimes theories just don’t fit with the data that’s out there!

Quick economic industrial survey of Montréal

Here are sources for finding information about Montréal’s economy and industrial make-up. I refer to subscriptions at Concordia University where I work.

– Passport GMID from Euromonitor
This is a system we have under subscription at the Library. It now provides top line reports of major cities around the world, including Montreal. Please access the system via this link:
http://clues.concordia.ca/record=e1001087~S0
(click on the database name and provide your netname if asked)
After accepting the terms of use of the system, just type Montreal in the search box on the top-right corner of the page. You will get many reports, but you are looking for the “Montreal City Review” in particular.
Video on using Passport: http://youtu.be/Wpotf4vcJmE?list=PLaqfn26UOsX-OJGT_W_UTOWzvAA5Kb3tG

– Montréal en statistiques
This city of Montréal website provides various reports about the city:
http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/portal/page?_pageid=6897,67633583&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL
In addition to the various reports, themes and other data available therein, I noticed this very recent economic portrait of the city:
Profils économiques : un portrait à jour de la dynamique économique montréalaise
http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/portal/page?_pageid=6897,68131631&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL&id=10396&ret=/pls/portal/url/page/mtl_stats_fr/rep_nouvelles/coll_nouvelles
Looks very interesting.

– Montréal International
This is the international development agency for the city. There are a lot of high-level glossy reports and data on this site, but in particular their publications:
http://www.montrealinternational.com/publications/
(This agency is one of the few I recommend you build a long-term, low volume but high impact relationship with)

– MEIE, Québec Government
The Ministère de l’économie has a portal devoted to each administrative region of the province, this is the Montréal page:
http://www.economie.gouv.qc.ca/pages-regionales/montreal/
Make sure you click around in the “Portrait régional” box, which is located on the bottom left-hand section of the page. You get a one or two page report for each theme.
(This agency is one of the few I recommend you build a long-term, low volume but high impact relationship with)

– Conference Board of Canada
I am sorry to report that we do ** not ** have access to the Conference Board of Canada’s e-library, but I did want to mention that they provide detailed forecasting reports at the city level.

What about grads?

I’ve been working hard on an information literacy program for undergraduate students in the marketing and management departments at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business (more on that later) but, in recent email exchange with a colleague, I came up with the following themes for graduate students:

Off the cuff, this curriculum would obviously discuss important academic resources such as peer-reviewed articles and related databases, but I feel it should also cover best practices with regards to managing one’s information need at the graduate level, well beyond “just” searching for information. This should include: using social media for graduate studies, active information discovery, advanced text processing, bibliographic management software, coping with information overload, etc.

Will come back to that later…

The anatomy of a YouTube tutorial

I am happy to announce the launch of a new batch of tutorials on YouTube, the first of which is on PMB, the print measurement bureau:

This video follows a new template I have devised for my blended learning initiative to bring information literacy to my students. I want to replace my in-class lectures with self-mediated learning at home and hands-on exercises in class.

I often get asked about how I create these so I want to share my process with you. I currently have an earlier set of videos on my personal channel but I want to reshoot all of them following the process I outline below. These will be available on a new dedicated YouTube channel.

Background

I have been a business librarians for over a decade and I have delivered hundreds of library training sessions on locating valuable information. My main community is comprised of students taking the Entrepreneurship class at Concordia Univeristy’s John Molson School of Business. Seeing that there are over 30 sections a year of the Entrepreneurship course and only one of me, I was not able to meet the demand for dedicated instruction on locating business information.

I created a step-by-step 4-page research worksheet, which is included in the student’s course packs as well as the Library’s Business Research Portal.

For more information on the background of this project, please watch this 45 minute lecture I gave in April 2013.

Tools

I have bought some gear to test various methods of creating tutorials. Of all these toys, I find that two are essential: my 15-inch MacBook laptop (actually, any Mac will do as long as there is enough disk-space and processing power) as well as a professional-grade table-top microphone, the Yeti from Blue Microphones in my case. On my Mac, I find all the software I need to produce the videos and I find that one needs an external microphone as the one included on the Macs sounds poor on a higher quality system such as one using a public announcement (PA) system in a classroom.

Also, I use an external keyboard and mouse when shooting my video. I find that taping on the laptop’s keyboard or using the track-pad makes the screen wobble. Because that is where the video camera shoots from, it makes the video seem like you are on a boat. I prod my laptop on an old dictionary and work from an USB keyboard & mouse.

Software

No, I do not use any special software to screen-capture, I just use good old QuickTime. If you look at the “File” menu on the software, you find that you can launch a “New screen capture” and “New video” right from QuickTime. I just do both at the same time! I shoot a “High” quality video of my talking head with the MacBook’s camera and the Yeti mic as well as a soundless “High” quality screen-capture video. Both with QuickTime, at the same time.

This gives me 2 video files, which I then mix, match and edit in iMovie, also included for free on my MacBook. In iMovie, you have to go to the preferences to enable the advanced tools and then, you can create the image-in-image effect by draging one file to the other in the video editing screen. I also really want to experiment with blue-screens, which I will do with a 5 dollar tarp from Canadian Tire…

The trick is to “merge” the two video files in iMovie and then to edit the scenes from this main stream. I try to say out-loud when I click somewhere, to help learners follow what I am doing on-screen. This also assists with post-production. If you want to edit a part out, you can right-click on the spot you want to cut out to “split” it, you just have to do it at the same spot for both files… I will probably do a training video on how to do this soon…

Another trick is to go to your Mac’s preferences and change the size of the mouse cursor. I find it is easier to follow if your pointer is huge. In the preferences, access the “accessibility” options and you can toggle the size of the cursor.

Tone, look & feel

It took me a while to experiment with the look and feel of my videos. I got much help from Concordia’s Center for Teaching & Learning on my first set. Then, I tried different venues and modes to shoot them myself. I tried to lecture-capture in the classroom, but I could never get the sound or the lighting right. Also, the flow was off – there is nothing worse than a 60 minute lecture, with bad sound and lighting when FaceBook and other digital distractions are just a click away.

I find the best ones come from a relaxed and personal tone. I try to be myself and imagine I am explaining this to a distant friend or colleague. Warm and close, but still professional. Some personality is good, as you want your learners to feel they are interacting with a person.

I shoot the videos in my home office as I find the backdrop much nicer – those are my graphic novels and other fun readings I keep there. I also have better lighting with 2 windows on the corner of my home, which I supplement with 2 inexpensive LED reading lamps, one aimed at my face and a closer one pointed on my table in front of me. I find that my neighborhood a better and quieter place to shoot my videos than a bustling university library located in downtown Montreal. I also feel comfortable and relaxed, which helps.

I don’t fully script my videos, but I do prepare a summary or plan of what I want to cover. Reading text in a video sucks, feels and looks awkward. I’d rather jot down a few reading notes and ad-lib the rest. If I stumble or stater during the shoot, I usually signal to myself to exclude that bit by covering the camera – this trick makes it easy to pick up these error in the post-production.

Structure

I divide my videos in multiple parts.

First, I have a “pitch” where I explain what we will be covering in the video. This cannot exceed 30 seconds. If it does, I cut it down.

Then, I have a “first title” screen. It provides for my credentials and link to the library’s business research portal. This is about 6 seconds long. The text is fixed on the screen for that period. Should students want to read it further, they can pause it then.

Immediately following the title screen, I have a “second title” screen where I name the video and provide a more specific link on the library website to a specialized guide. This is also about 6 seconds long. The text flies from left-to-right with the link on the bottom.

During the two title screens, I play a loop of music a really awesome colleague of mine donated from his DJ console.

Then, I usually have a screen focus on my face for about a minute, to give more details of the resource I will explain. Then, I turn on the image-in-image feature and I guide users in using a resource. I may leave the image-in-image mode during the body of my video to mix things up a bit and break the flow. I aim to provide 2 or 3 topics for a maximum of 2-3 minutes each.

The last 30 seconds of a video are used to quickly recap what we have covered and perhaps offer an option to offer links to additional videos on my channel. YouTube allows you to add links to videos from the Dashboard of a video.

I then have my credentials on the screen again for about 6 seconds, followed by another 6 seconds with the video title and dedicated link on the library website. I make sure to paste the link to the dedicated page on the library website about the resource in the first line of the video’s description. YouTube makes that link active, so YouTube always points to the library website. I have another music loop during this part, slightly different from the one in the introduction, thanks to my awesome DJ-librarian friend.

I then have an “extro” screen branded to Concordia University, a few seconds long. A little branding goes a long way!

My videos will never exceed 10 minutes. It it must, I split the video – it is better to have two 8 minute videos than a long 15 minute one.

Time

It takes me about 30 minutes to shoot a video, and anywhere from 2 to 4 hours for post-production. That means that I can whip out a video in half a day, including rendering time as well as uploading it to YouTube. I could make longer videos, but I find that 10 minutes or less is probably an unwritten rule for keeping an undergrad’s attention on the Internet.

I organize a stream of videos through playlists on YouTube.

Next steps

I hope to work closely with course coordinators to further integrate these videos in the curriculum for capstone courses. For example, they can become part of assignments or additional materials included on the course’s online management system. I am focusing on a few course for now, to maximize the reach, but I can certainly roll the videos out to more niche courses. Or, I can use the time I free up from servicing the core courses to provide for more presence for higher undergrad or grad courses.

I feel this is a new way to service our communities while allocating resources more efficiently. It is also fun and motivating to see your statistics rack up. I may not reach the status of KPop stars, but I will certainly reach more students.

Flowchart for researching a Company or an Industry

Stumbled on this flowchart from Jenny Mueller-Alexander at Arizona State University Libraries about researching a single company or an industry.

I like how the company process splits into private company and public company – which has a huge impact on the amount of information available. Remember that anything a company tells you is either to their benefit, either required my law (like disclosing financial statements when their equity is traded on public markets of capital like stock exchanges).

I’ve been meaning to adapt my similar research protocol for business students to distinguish between researching a business idea (entrepreneurship) that targets consumers versus other companies. This also has great bearing on how one researches the information for a business plan… more on that later…