Business plans

Academic Integrity Business plans Guidelines - recommendations

How to ethically use articles and reports from databases licensed by a library?

This question is quite astute as it allows me to consider both academic integrity as well as complying with copyright and licensing requirements. I’m periodically asked whether one can send an article or a report from a licensed database by our University Library to someone outside of our University’s library. The gist:

Don’t share, just cite

Source: Olivier Charbonneau, Senior Librarian, Concordia University (Montréal)

To expand on this simple guideline I can provide the following insight: our licensing agreements with most of our vendors do not allow members of the University Community to send the verbatim or full reports to parties from the external community. So, please do not forward PDFs from our licensed databases outside of our University. Caveat: anything on the “free web” – such as websites/reports from governments – are free to share in full (as per the Canadian Copyright Act).

I know this is unfortunate but I offer you a silver lining: members of the university community are allowed to read, learn and cite from reports or articles from our licensed databases to draft summaries or briefs. In addition, you can cite from multiple sources to craft a really powerful synthesis of a complex business topic. This resulting paper is your own, as long as you cite short but salient passages from reports or articles our licensed databases and provide the source in a proper bibliography (footnotes and/orendnotes).

This advice stems from a simple ethical rule in research: if you share a single source in full, this is usually called stealing… but if you cite salient but short passages from multiple sources and provide proper references, this is called research. The resulting research paper is yours: the authors of the research paper own the copyright of the resulting paper with citations and can leverage or mobilize it as they wish, like selling it to a client or posting it on the free web.

This is the ethical rule in authorship, in line with various complex copyright or licensing requirements, that exemplifies best practices for the university community. In addition, it also provides for a “value-added” service for business analysis: selecting and arranging salient business insight in a research brief. Believe it or not, this is what you are groomed to do in our business school. Your question exemplifies best practices, that of validating with a colleague how best to proceed given a novel or uncertain context.

In addition to the above insight, please allow me to point out the following resources I’ve created to support Canadian entrepreneurs:

1. I have created a “quick list” of best resources on the free web for entrepreneurship research on this post on my work blog: Researching a business plan using free sources

2. My “expanded” list of resources, with licensed databases from our collection, is on the Library website: Entrepreneurship research guide

In closing, please note that this summer, I shall be overhauling my research guides and corresponding YouTube tutorials, so these sources will shift in the coming months, as fast as this humble librarian (and single dad from an undisclosed location deep in the Montréal Suburbs) can crank out web and video Open Educational Resources. Please consult my work blog, www.outfind.ca, for updates.

Business plans Country statistics

Researching foreign markets for Canadian business students

This guide is curated by Olivier Charbonneau, Senior Librarian at Concordia University (Montréal, Canada), for students enrolled in MARK 462 / IBUS 462 Environment of World Business. It provides for sources required to successfully research international business topics for Canadian corporations engaged worldwide.

Some sources are available to all on the Internet, others are licensed by Concordia University’s Library for students, faculty and staff of our organization. You will require your credentials (e.g. Netname) to access library licenses databases. To browse all databases recommended for students at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University, please access the Business Research Portal on the library website.

For each of the headings below, we provide the name of a source, also called databases, as well as a clickable link to access its content. Should you be prompted for your NetName, please provide it to log on.

And, yeah, you need to visit and use of all these sources. Yes way. For real… No, I’m not kidding. Using better sources will increase the quality of your paper. These are the best sources out there. You should have a really great bibliography…

Find out how to use the APA citation style for your business paper’s bibliography. Or, you can just use OWL at Purdue University.

– Olivier Charbonneau, Senior Librarian, Concordia University

Passport by Euromonitor

  • Licensed by Concordia for faculty, students and staff only. Netname log in required, contact your local institution to enquire about access.
  • Consumer data and reports for 180+ countries, includes Canada. Very expensive professional research tool, free for Concordia Community curtesy of your Library.
  • Use keyword search for:
    • Lifestyles <country-name-here>
    • Click on “Analysis” & download as many reports as you want
  • Also, remember to browse this system, it contains sectorial reports and data. The video below explains how to navigate this database.

OECD iLibrary

  • Licensed by Concordia for faculty, students and staff only. Netname log in required, contact your local institution to enquire about access.
  • OECD is the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. This system contains all OECD publications, as well as those from: International Energy Agency (IEA), Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), OECD Development Centre, PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), and International Transport Forum (ITF) since 1998.
  • The OECD is a an association of governments mostly from affluent countries.
  • Every year or so, the OECD produces a comprehensive report on the economies of member states (e.g. countries who are part of the OECD). If your target country is a member of the OECD, or if member states asked for such a report, make sure you search for:
    • economic survey <country-name-here>
  • Make sure you browse for other publications and dataset from this system, it contains information on many countries.
    • Make sure you use the “full version” of this system by clicking on the link above. The version on the “free web” does not provide enough insight to be useful.

DoingBusiness: measuring business regulations

  • Free website maintained by the World Bank
  • It uses common aggregated data to generate an “ease of doing business” score, raking most countries around the world.
  • In addition to a country report, ou can access, download individual metrics composing the DoingBusiness index.
    • Find your country in the drop-down box
    • Download the (static) pdf version or use the web portal to browse individual variables for a country

Information by countries and territories – Government of Canada

CIA WorldFactbook

  • Free website by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America. This is what they want us to know that they know about the world. We can neither confirm nor infirm that they know more, but they probably do. Incredible amount of detail for every country.

LonelyPlanet Guide

  • As Douglas Adams points out in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, backpackers know their way around the universe. Looking at travel websites and guides can provide insight and evidence useful for business. This is the free website of a specific series of travel guides. There are others out there. Your local public library may have more.
  • Remember to wash your hands… and to carry a towel.

Search “The Economist” on ProQuest Business Databases

The Economist Intelligence Unit

  • Licensed by Concordia for faculty, students and staff only. Netname log in required, contact your local institution to enquire about access.
  • Provides a summary report for each country. Complementary to searching The Economist magazine (step above).

United Nations Data’s «Datamarts»

  • Free website provided by the United Nations.
  • Provides for an interactive way to generate custom data tables for a multitude of topics, ranging from literacy rates to foreign direct investment (FDI).

Free International business textbook

Bonne chance !

– Olivier Charbonneau, Senior Librarian, Concordia University
Business plans

Researching a business plan using free sources

This page was created for District 3 or D3 in Montréal Canada for a training seminar on May 6th 2020.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  • Locate industry and market reports from the Internet and the Library
  • Understand how to use datasets from Statistics Canada and other providers
  • Develop a healthy information diet

COURSE OUTLINE

  1. How to frame your business environment: industries, markets, competition and regulation… think before you Google.
  2. Using Google for business research: trade associations & governments
  3. Statistic Canada for entrepreneurs
  4. Resources from your local library: industry/market research and trade/research articles

1. Think before you Google or figuring out your business environment

Entrepreneurs are called upon to seek out misaligned flows of money. Be it capital expenditures, spending or untapped markets, the keen eye will spot opportunities to launch a new business. Before you spend all night frantically googling the web for insight, here are some key points to consider.

Googling means missing out. Yes, there is a lot of great stuff out there, that’s why we’ll talk about using the Google search engine as our next point. But, there is a lot of information on the free web that’s not indexed by web crawlers used by search engines to compile their index, most notably datasets from Statistic Canada. Similarly, search engines like Google may crawl and index pages which are behind a paywall. This happens often in Google Scholar. Either you fork out your hard earned cash, either you let your local library pay for digital access. That’s what we do at Concordia, with our Business Research portal, as well as McGill’s Library for their students and the Grande Bibliothèque for anyone in Québec. We’ll talk about library resources later.

Google means popular. Google’s algorithms uses many variables to determine the relative value of a page, given a specific set of keywords. For many reasons, such as search engine optimization (SEO) strategies or past behavior online, this process can fail you. Seeking out valuable and authoritative business insight sometimes just does not fit with what’s popular on the Web. You seek authority and the algorithm is set up to promote popular stuff.

Google as a tool. You should learn how to use the tool in light of its limitations. You should also look for other tools that complement it. Pro tip: this involves obscure websites and the library. Let’s dig a little deeper…

The Internet as linked documents from people and organisations. Creating any document requires effort: tweets, YouTube videos, blog posts… but also market reports, industry statistics, newspaper and trade articles. These documents were created by people and organisations. Why would someone release invaluable and authoritative insight for free on the Internet?

There are a set of usual suspects who regularly create valuable and authoritative documents: governments; trade/lobby or consumer organisations; corporations; market/industry analysts; and journalists and researchers. Some of them want to monetize their efforts, so their documents are not posted online for free. Also, sometimes they post their material online, but it doesn’t make it to the top results because they are not concerned with popularity.

So, to Google or not to Google? My answer is in three parts: better googling, in addition to seeking out obscure websites such as Statistic Canada’s Data and using Library resources.

2. Better Googling

Government agencies exist to ensure compliance with regulations and the safety of our communities. Any time a corporation needs a permit, a government agency is usually somewhere in the background looking and thinking about what they do. Government services rely on and supplement markets and corporations. This symbiotic relationship means that governments have a lot of reports and data you can use, in addition to Statistic Canada, which we will cover later.

Here is an example. Industry Canada, the federal agency curating Canada’s business environment, posts average financial statements and business ratios of small business by province. The database uses the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to organize industries. Find your NAICS code to get financials and ratios for your business idea, while being mindful of these tricky NAICS codes for high-tech sectors.

Trade associations are organizations where industry leaders converge to share concerns, advocate to governments and media, as well as organize events such as trade shows. They provide lists of their members, write white papers, publish news and trade journals, list job postings… all of these documents provide insight and authoritative information – but only if you take a moment to think about what they mean. Google can’t help you think.

The first two videos from this playlist covers my points:

3. Statistic Canada

Google only indexes a few sections from the Statistic Canada domain. Most of the juicy stuff is located in obscure sections, most notably the Data portal and the census. Here are two videos on each of these topics.

You can also watch a video on getting a demographic profile of a neighborhood from Statistic Canada.

If you are looking for information on another country, find their national statistical agency, it will have a census as well as a data portal. Some examples include: Census data from the USA, Eurostat for the European Union and UN Data’s Explorer for most countries worldwide.

Pro tip: don’t look for what you think you need, try to use what you find.

4. Library subscribed industry/market research

IBISWorld provides industry reports for Canada, US and China.

Passport by Euromonitor covers worldwide consumer data and reports, including Canada. Vividata is a data reporting tool from a yearly survey of Canadian consumers. SympliAnalytics Canada allows the creation of custom maps based on the Census.

ProQuest Business Databases covers articles from news, trade and scholarly journals. Eureka.cc provides articles from Québec.

Business plans Industries and Markets

Research lecture for the eMBA program at Concordia University

When researching or launching a new business, information about industries, markets or competitors can be invaluable. In this session, we will cover resources from the Internet as well as licensed market and industry intelligence databases available from Concordia University Library. This is a workshop adapted from the “Entrepreneurship”  course at the John Molson School of Business.  

Direct link to the Business Research Portal (BRP) at Concordia University Libraries: https://www.concordia.ca/library/guides/business.html

Learning objectives

  • Locate industry and market reports from the Internet and the Library
  • Understand how to use datasets from Statistics Canada (Census & Cansim) and other national agencies
  • Develop a healthy information diet

Course Outline

1. Know your market & industry: reports from IBIS Wrold; SME Benchmarking; Mergent Intellect
2. Using Google for business research: trade associations & governments
3. Statistics Canada for entrepreneurs: Census & CANSIM
4. Reading up on your idea & staying up to date with articles

Course content

0. Where does information come from?
1. Know your industry – look up industry codes (NAICS)
2. Using Google for business research (governments & trade associations)
  • Find trade associations with Google
    • They post a lot of industry/market information on their websites
    • Trade shows, reports, analysis, press releases, lawsuits, white papers, directories, interviews, newsletters… is there a bias?
    • Watch the video for this step
  • Find government information with Google’s advanced search
    • Most government websites follow a standardized format for their addresses
    • Governments study and regulate many topics relevant for new business
    • Example: 2017 Communications Monitoring Report from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Government LevelExample of “Site/domain”Tip
Municipal.ville.montreal.qc.caLook for “Montréal en statistiques” page for information for boroughs
Provincial.gouv.qc.caThe province deals with mainly: health, education, welfare, culture, agriculture/food…
“Federal”.gc.ca   .gov europa.eu Always check for reports from Industry Canada at site:.ic.gc.ca
Internationalun.org   or other agency Agencies affiliated with the United Nations have their own website
3. Statistics Canada for entrepreneurs
4. Reading up on your idea & staying up to date with articles

Concordia University Library’s Business Research Portal: http://www.concordia.ca/library/guides/business.html

Business plans

Am I researching the right industry (NAICS Code)?

One of the key milestones in researching a business plan involves identifying the correct industry – or industries, as there may me many – to do some digging. This is important to understand your business idea, its business model and its industry. Here is a video I prepared about this:

A key success measure of this step involves identifying specific industry codes, such as the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Codes. These codes will speed up searching through value added databases licensed by your Library (such as these from Concordia University). Remember: you probably should identify the following industry (NAICS) codes, five (5) digit codes are optimal:

  1. The industry code in which your business “fits”
  2. Industry codes for businesses who pose substantial parallel competition (for example, 51511 Radio Broadcasting vs. 518210 – Data processing, hosting, and related services for music streaming)
  3. Industry codes for suppliers or buyers (if you are in a business-to-business setting) if they are substantially larger than you (which notes business risk based on market power). Looking up and down the supply chain is up to you.
  4. Any other industry code meaningful for your business, particularly those that may disrupt your business environment.

Now to the point: how do you know if you have the right industry codes? Well, this depends entirely on how much effort you are willing to put into researching your business project (arguably, the more codes you have, the more reading you will have to do) as well as, well, the fear of missing out (leaving an industry code “out” of the scope of your research means you run the risk of not getting your hands on key insight for your project). This is entirely up to you and I really can’t weigh in about this. Caveats aside, here are some simple advice to assist you in making your own mind as to which industry codes to pick and how many you need:

  1. Read the definitions of these codes from the Statistic Canada NAICS Codes page. This site sometimes include example activities and excluded activities (arguably, for some older versions of the codes, so the latest edition of the classification schedule may not have example or excluded activities).
  2. Read the IBIS World report for the Canadian industry (NAICS) code and look at the “About this industry — Supply Chain” section. When you access any specific report on IBIS, this is the section shown on the landing page of the Web interface (with the red dot & arrows). On te PDF report, it is located on page 2 – “similar industries” and their NAICS Codes are listed there.
  3. Use a business directory (e.g.: phone book) of small businesses, such as Mergent Intellect (formerly D&B Million Dollar Database) to look for specific companies, such as direct competitors. Industry codes are listed on the information page for a company in these systems. Remember – these directories may be wrong imprecise as companies may be misfiled by the analysts (or algorithms) filing companies in directories… but this is an interesting way to get feedback about the codes you’ve selected for your project.
  4. Search for articles for that specific industry (NAICS) Code – NOT GOOGLE. For example, you can use ProQuest Business Databases and type: NAICS 45391. You usually get articles and market reports on or about this code (sometimes you get a but of noise, but you can easily ignore this). Reading up on news for an industry codes is a great way to determine if this code is interesting or relevant for your project.

At the end of the day, it is up to you to determine if you have the correct industry (NAICS) code(s) and if you have enough of them.

Good luck!

Business plans

Researching business intelligence for new ventures

District 3 library research seminar handout

When launching a new business, information about industries, markets or competitors can be invaluable. In this session, we will cover resources from the Internet as well as licensed market and industry intelligence databases available from Concordia University Library. This is a workshop adapted from the “Entrepreneurship”  course at the John Molson School of Business.

Learning objectiveS

  • Locate industry and market reports from the Internet and the Library
  • Understand how to use datasets from Statistics Canada (Census & Cansim) and other national agencies
  • Develop a healthy information diet

Proposed Course Outline

1. Where does information come from?
It is imperative to use both licensed (library) and free web sources to have a complete picture.
2. Know your industry
3. Using Google for business research (governments & trade associations)
4. Statistics Canada for entrepreneurs (including SimplyMaps)
5. Reading up on your idea & staying up to date with articles
  • Think about your business idea when searching, use a variety of keywords:
    • (1) industry (use NAICS, watch out for jargon)
    • (2) trade associations
    • (3) market leaders and major competitors
    • (4) other subject term like a business trend
  • News and articles from ProQuest Business Databases and EBSCO’s Business Source Complete.
  • Setup an RSS feeds from ProQuest, EBSCO and Google to automatically receive notifications
We will use the Business Research Portal:
http://www.concordia.ca/library/guides/business.html
And this handout:
http://www.concordia.ca/content/dam/library/docs/research-guides/management/JMSB-LibraryOrientation.pdf
(We can discuss adapting these to the District3 website)
Business plans Information literacy

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)
Business plans Information literacy Reference

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…