Government Surpluses & Acquired Properties For Business and Investment Opportunities

Seized properties and government surpluses are sold through government auctions to the public for low prices as determined by a bidding process.  There are government auctions consistently held all across the United States and Canada.  No matter where you live, there will likely be an auction held near by.

The government surplus items sold at government auctions are items not required by the federal, state, and local government.  These items can come from the government purchasing more than they needed, or technological equipment that has been updated.

Quite often many of the government auction items come from businesses declaring bankruptcy.  These items can be almost anything from existing inventory to general assets including furniture, equipment, jewelry, antique items, fur coats, computers, etc. Most people don’t think of these types of items at a government auction, however, it’s where you can get these types of used items the cheapest.

The seized properties offered at these auctions can include foreclosure homes, bankrupt commercial properties, properties owned by convicted criminals, and more. Police have the right to seize a property if the owner is convicted and has to serve time in prison. The most common reason for property being seized is because their owners have neglected to pay their mortgage and/or taxes.

A property is considered abandoned if the owner dies and has no known relatives alive to inherit, or if the owner walks away from it for whatever reason. This can happen if the owner feels the house is worth less then he currently owes. This has been happening quit often lately in a declining housing market.

So how can you attend government auctions?  You can find out where and when they will be held in your area by searching the Internet.  There are numerous government auction membership sites that will offer you details on the abandoned/seized properties, and government surplus items that will be offered in your area.

To determine which sites are legitimate it is recommended that you visit a government auction review site beforehand. This will educate you on which sites provide the most opportunities that government auctions can provide.

Small Business and Lending Issues Considered

Not long ago, I talked with a lady who had started her own business and she noted that it was very hard for her to get the money she needed or to get a loan to get going. No Venture Capitalists were interested, didn’t even call her back, and with all due respect, if I were in the VC sector, I wouldn’t have either. No business bank was interested, and even the wealthy folks in the area, potential angle investors were not intrigued in the least, not even to listen to her pitch. Okay so, let’s talk shall we?

Now then, should the government provide information and assistance to future small businesses to help them secure a loan? Should the US government and SBA be involved in business loan programs? Personally, I’ve seen the SBA’s loan program abused by Franchising Companies, and by those able to seek minority or woman owned business status to get the money.

Indeed, I have a problem with that, not that I don’t like minorities, in fact, I often find them much better and harder workers than the average fat, dumb, and happy American; nor do I have a problem with women, I love them. It’s just that we need an equal and balanced playing field – and true fairness would be equal opportunity and no free-rides or advances based on sex, race, religion, or any of a number of other things we’ve artificially created to make everyone equal to the point of absurdity.

Truth be told, our SBA loan program is a joke. I know, because I was a franchisor before retirement, I watched how they operated, the time delays, which were often insane, too many rules, regulations, and too much emphasis on minority and woman owned businesses, not only in the loan program but also in government contracting, it’s a shame bathed in pathetic political correctness with no end in sight. This coupled with what’s going on today, and realize my experience was back 10-15 years ago, with the Obama Administration running it all, it’s just a giant wasteful bureaucracy of epic proportions run by quasi-socialists. It is amazing hypocrisy when you look closely at it all in my opinion.

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article published on September 25, 2012 titled; “UK Plans a Lender to Smaller Businesses,” by Nicholas Winning, Ainsley Thomson, and Margot Patrick which noted the UK government setting up a program similar to the US government’s SBA small business loan program.

It looks as if the UK wants to mimic the SBA program, get the government to guarantee it all, otherwise the business banks will continue to make BS loans, and refuse those new risky small business start-ups. But really banks are not able to make stupid risky loans, and when mandated to do so, or if those loans are guaranteed, they’ll make tons of them. Do you remember the housing bubble in the US? Case in point, this is just bad banking. Please consider all this and think on it.

The Benefits of Research Funds and Government Grants

Some people may see research work with rose-colored eyes and believe that scientists and medical researchers are making a difference with their newest discoveries and innovative ideas. Although it’s true in many cases, it’s also true that these advancements in medicine, science and technology wouldn’t have been possible without the donations and government grants the researchers received. The equipment alone can be very expensive and the rest of the money is needed to pay the scientists’ salaries and those people who participated as test subjects. Of course, these aren’t the only beneficial purposes of getting much needed funding from benevolent sponsors.

Social Innovation and Crowd Funding

A major benefit from getting sufficient financial backing from charitable donors is the impact it makes on the community’s resources. Generally, the federal government, in cooperation with intermediaries, selects the non-profit organizations they plan to support and guide them through their innovative programs. These programs usually address issues in health care, sustainable livelihood, and education. Most of the time, funding for social innovation is achieved through crowd funding where a collective of like-minded individuals contribute to a community burse.

Corporate Sponsors and Research Grants

Traditionally, research teams working in universities receive their monetary support from private individuals who specify which project receives the money. They often request that researchers mention their names in connection with the project whenever the subject is discussed. Similarly, many corporations have also supported research studies for the same reason. However, they’d rather keep the company’s name out of the discussion because most people think the results of any corporate-sponsored study are unreliable.

Despite the misconception that corporations influence the outcomes of a research project, the medical discoveries and developments that came from these collaborative efforts have been instrumental in advancing the fields of medicine and natural sciences. Corporations rely on academic researchers because it’s more cost-effective to spend millions of dollars into an external endeavor rather than undertake the same project with company employees. Somehow, collaboration between the business sector and the academe increases the available resources while giving young scientists to expand their knowledge and skills in a live laboratory setting.

Government Grants for Community Housing and Small Businesses

Most government grants center around housing and business concerns. Naturally, the local government wants to improve the economic and social welfare of its constituents by giving entrepreneurs the financial support to put up a small business or assist disaster-stricken families to build a new home. In return, these entrepreneurs provide jobs to others in the community, which also benefit from government housing projects.

Ten Social Media Law and Governance Tips for Social Business

Introducing the topic of “Social Media Governance,” marketing strategist and attorney Glen Gilmore explained, “Governance is about how a company establishes and sustains social networking best practices by integrating social media into its corporate culture. It’s the evolution of ‘social media’ into ‘social business’.” Ever the attorney, Gilmore added his own disclaimer: “Nothing in this post should be considered legal advice as that would require a consultation with an attorney from your own jurisdiction. These ten tips are should help companies create sustainable best practices in new media marketing.”

1. Create a Governance Team.

2012 should be the year in which business gets serious about social media governance, integrating social business into corporate culture.

Your governance team should reflect a cross section of your organization and it should become a center of excellence for your business. Silos do not work.

A governance team should bring together diverse talent, including marketing, customer service, IT, legal, and human relations, to share in learning, establish best practices, and create benchmarks for excellence, while humanizing your brand and driving business results.

2. Establish/Update A Social Media Policy.

If your organization doesn’t have a social networking policy, you are courting disaster as you are inviting even a single employee to have the power to redefine your brand in one inadvertent or ill-conceived post.

If, on the other hand, your organization was an early adopter of new media (or at least an early adopter of a social media policy!), it is likely time to update your policy. In the past year, the National Labor Relations Board has rendered over a hundred decisions touching on the topic of employee use of social media, with many of the Board’s actions prompted by overly broad social networking policies that were deemed to having a “chilling effect” on employee protected speed.

The law is finally catching up to the implications of the huge amount of communication, marketing and conversation taking place on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, vlogs, etc. Your policy and guidelines should reflect those changes and clarifications.

An abundance of model policies exists online. Be mindful that some of the policies you may find online may also be in need of updating or just plain wrong. You need to invest in getting your policy right and the proper policy for your organization may vary immensely depending on they type of organization you are and the degree of existing regulatory guidelines you must follow.

3. Create a Playbook

Unlike your social media policy, which establishes the rules and limits of online social engagement, your playbook should be more of “how-to” book for your employees, a reference that provides examples of what should and should not be done on social networks. Social network profile templates providing suggestions on how to best project a professional and consistent brand image should be included.

4. Establish a Social Media Communications Crisis Management Plan.

Along the way, your business will invariably have a crisis that will require it to muster its social networking resources. Prepare for the crisis before it happens. This should include creating a response chart of who within your organization would be tasked with what and how they would be contacted, as most crises seem to happen after 5:00 p.m. or on a weekend. Have round-tables to identify the events most likely to trigger a communications crisis within your organization and then do some training exercises to run through how you charts and policies would work.

If you are a larger organizations, you likely already have crisis communications plans – they need to include social.

Knowing the mechanics of what to do if an employee has sent a mistweet from a corporate Twitter account (hint: don’t ignore it!) or what to do if your social network account has been hijacked by a spammer, are some of the scenarios you should review.

Be sure to cover this topic in both your playbook.

5. Take the Time to Learn the FTC’s Social Media Disclosure Guidelines.

In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission, which characterizes itself as “the nation’s consumer protection agency”, updated its endorsement guidelines to include social media, addressing the disclosure requirement for sponsored bloggers and those that sponsor them, along with a series of. Most marketers have never read them. Put them on your reading list! (When the FTC’s social media guidelines first came out in 2009, I blogged about about them: they haven’t changed. New FTC Rules: Business and Bloggers Beware)

Succinctly, contrary to a large body of writing on the subject, disclosure “tabs”, “buttons”, “links”, and static profile disclosures do not suffice to satisfy the FTC’s disclosure requirements. (Disclosures are required within the context of the social conversation.)

6. Provide Your Employees with Social Media Training.

Most of your employees are using social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, throughout the day, regardless of what your company policy may say to the contrary. Get over it. Instead, give your employees the training they deserve so that when they are using social media their time spent there will become an asset to your business rather than a ticking bomb.

7. Create a Decision Tree.

Just as call center employees are often provided with a decision tree to help them to quickly answer a myriad of questions, a social media decision tree should also be established to help employees understand the dynamics of responding on behalf of a brand in social networks. The U.S. Air Force even developed a new media decision tree that the pharmaceutical Pfizer later used as the basis for its own. Social media governance should aim to simplify social networking participation for employees, while still relying on the good sense of employees to personalize the social conversation. A decision tree will also add to brand consistency.

8. Streamline Access to Compliance and Legal.

Social media engagement is all about “real-time” conversation. It doesn’t mean a brand needs to give an instant response to every post or tweet, but it does mean that your company should strive to answer questions quickly — you can get added time by letting your community know that you have heard a question or complaint and that are looking into it, but whatever procedures need to be followed to provide a response must be time efficient. Having a way to get answers from compliance or legal requires a new approach that dedicates a greater appreciation for the time sensitivity of responding to social network inquiries or comments. Work on a way to accomplish this.

9. Share Regular Updates on Best Practices.

As social networking continues to evolve, so should your best practices and your sharing of information about those best practices. Being attentive to and sharing updated guidance from regulatory agencies should be part of your updates. (This is a task best assigned to your governance team with special input from legal.)

10. Monitor, Assess and Audit Your Social Networking Activities.

Even with the best policies and training, your company’s social networking activities should be monitored and assessed for excellence. This doesn’t mean that every tweet has to be a masterpiece, but that online social networking engagement is consistent with the brand and contributing to the building of trust, transparency and brand advocates.

It is worth noting that many of the FTC’s social media-related settlements have included mandatory outside audits of social networking activities. Bringing an independent audit into the mix is good idea to help keep monitoring of social business activities as accurate as possible.

BONUS: Clearly Define Who Owns Company-Related Social Network Accounts.

One of the legal hot potatoes of 2011, the dastardly debate of who really owns your Twitter account or your LinkedIn contacts, etc., etc., is set to be formally answered in 2011.

Without taking away the suspense of any impending court decision, ownership of a social media account is subject of debate and litigation if it is not clearly defined and agreed upon between employers and employees or business partners. Dispel the ambiguity and legal uncertainty: make a written agreement that covers the issue.

A written agreement outlining what is to happen with a social media account opened or operated for a business purpose by an employee or business partner on behalf of a business is something that should be expressly defined. Why? Because most now recognize that social media accounts have a business value and, left undefined, issues of ownership are likely to arise when business partners or employees part ways.

Small Business Assistance Government Programs

There are several government programs today that serve to help small businesses in accessing and performing government contracts. Some government programs are designed to assist small businesses in general or give an impetus to entrepreneurs for starting and expanding business and others that are targeted at specific categories of small businesses specifically run by women, minority-owned as well as veteran-owned businesses.

Although the federal and state governments do not necessarily provide grants for starting and expanding small businesses the U.S. government offers a wide-variety of low-interest loans and venture capital financing programs to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Moreover, some federal and state agencies also give a limited number of grants for very specialized business activities such as scientific research and development.

Following are a list of such government programs to promote small businesses:

SBA Loans

The U.S. Small Business Administration is a federal agency and the single largest financial backer for the country’s small businesses operations. In recognition of the fact that small businesses are critical to the growth and stability of the economy of any nation, its aim is to counsel, aid, assist and protect the interest of such businesses and maintain a free competitive enterprise thereby strengthening and building the future of the country. It includes a portfolio of business loans, loan guarantees, training and educational programs, advisory services, publications, financial programs, contract assistance as well as disaster management loans. The role of the SBA is to assist small business owners to start and expand their businesses by helping them get loans through private banks and financial institutions. SBA is not a lender and does not grant loans directly to businesses. It is in fact a guarantor of loans made by privately owned banks and other financial institutions that agree to follow SBA’s guidelines. To apply for an SBA loan, you first need to go through a local participating bank or financial institution. The loan application is like applying for a commercial loan, structured according to SBA requirements, which receives an SBA guaranty. This guaranty is a portion of the loan the SBA will pay back to the lender should you default on your loan payments.

USDA Loans

If you own a farm and earn an income through agricultural means, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program that works in a similar manner as SBA loans. The USDA provides guarantees of up to 80% of a loan made by a commercial lender and the loan proceeds can be used for working capital, purchase of machinery and equipment, buildings and real estate as well as some kinds of debt refinancing. Similar to an SBA loan you are required to go through your local bank or financial institution to apply for a B&I loan.

Small Business Investment Companies (SBIC)

These were specially created to help small companies to raise capital. SBIC’s are privately owned and managed investment firms that provide venture capital and start-up financing to small businesses. The eligibility criterion for SBIC financing requires that your business meet certain SBA size specifications like having a net worth of $18 million or less, and after tax income on an average should not have exceeded $6 million in the past two years. When applying for an SBIC, you must present a viable business plan that includes your company operation, management, financial status and funding requirements.

New Markets Venture Capital (NMVC) financing

If your business is located in a low-income geographic area, you may be eligible for NMVC financing typically modelled after the SBIC program. It makes equity investments in small businesses located in economically distressed communities in both, urban and rural areas.

Active Capital

Active Capital is a nationwide listing service that connects entrepreneurs with angel investors while complying with federal and state securities regulations. Potential investors can obtain information on new and entrepreneurial as well as expanding small businesses seeking $250,000 to $5,000,000 in venture capital.