Professionals on Call
Ever wish you could have a lawyer or tax consultant on retainer without having to worry about the cost? Advisory Communications Systems, Lanham, MD, is charging $89 quarterly to small businesses nationwide for unlimited calls to attorneys on matters such as debt collection and advice on firing an employee. Its arrangements with 16,000 attorneys also include letters on the attorneys' letterhead. Tax questions are referred to staff consultants with the national accounting firm Ernst & Young. Housing Boom
The Commerce Department reports housing starts hit a seasonably adjusted annual rate of 1.72 million in July, the best month in more than a decade. New home sales also are on track to set a record. A ripple effect finds buyers on shopping sprees to fill and decorate their new homes; home improvement sales jumped nine percent in July and furniture sales were up 7.4 percent.
Is Scouting in Your Future?
Limited Too, a 300-store chain that merchandises clothing to girls ages seven to 14, is into its fourth year of offering Fashion Adventure merit badges to Girl Scouts. To earn the badge, Scouts visit a Limited Too store to learn about fabrics, markdowns, store security and what merchandisers do. They also receive a coupon for 15 percent off. After 2,000 girls eagerly signed up for the first program three years ago, Girl Scouts of the United States of America rolled out the program nationwide. General Motors' Saturn division soon will offer a Saturn Girl Scout Auto Workshop merit badge.
Welcome Back to Main Street
Landscaping to spruce up downtown shopping districts is paying off in many small towns. Valdosta, GA, (population 48,000) budgeted $9 million two years ago for 400 trees, 45 park benches, 234 lampposts and one old-fashioned street clock. That's all it took to attract new shops into once abandoned buildings. One new shop owner says, "People used to come downtown for a reason and then they left. Now they stroll around just to look, and they are really enjoying it."
Get the Bugs Out
The Internal Revenue Service says it will allow businesses full tax deductions in a single year for repair or conversion of existing software to cope with the Y2K bug, the result of computer programs that recognize just the last two digits of a year and incorrectly read 2000 as 1900. Forecasts run as high as $300 billion in expenses to solve the Y2K problem in the United States; however, the National Federation of Independent Business says the cost to most small businesses should be about $1,000. Advice on how to proceed can be found at any local bank that is a member of the American Bankers Association, which has distributed videotapes on solving the millennium bug.