Small Business Resource Center News
  header-SBRC-2 2
In this issue:
Library Business Classes
• Library Classes for Nonprofits
The Right Place
Books of the Business
• Book Review

LEEDership Grand Rapids
Area Organizations

How has the Small Business Resource Center helped you in planning or growing your business? 

Give us the scoop along with your contact information and we'll post your business story on our website, and it may make its way into one of our newsletters.  

What a great and totally free way to spread the word about your business! 

Email your story to the business librarian or send it via snail mail to: 

Business Librarian
Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503 

All submissions are subject to editing.


Winter 2015

As 2014 becomes 2015, we have a new year and new possibilities; exercise your potential with great classes, books, and content from the GRPL Small Business Resource Center! In this issue, we've got the economic outlook, book reviews, and new recommendations from the business collection here at GRPL! Read on!

All classes are free and open to the public.

Small Business Research Essentials
“The chief business of the American people is business.” - Calvin Coolidge

“The chief business of the GRPL Small Business Resource Center is business too! What a coincidence!” - Your Business Librarian

Join the Business Librarian for an informative journey through the Library's small business resources. Arm yourself with the best business information available, and give yourself the upper hand whether you are starting or growing your business.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Wednesday, March 4, 2015 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
How to Use the Library to Write a Business Plan
Do you have a great idea for a business? Take the first step to starting your own: write a business plan! A more advanced class designed for those who already have a working knowledge of computers and the Internet, this course will highlight library resources to assist students in crafting a well written business plan. Both online and offline resources will be highlighted.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm  

Using Facebook to Promote Your Business
One of the first rules of marketing is 'go where your customers are.' And where are your customers? Increasingly, they are found online! Join the Business Librarian for an informative session on how to use Facebook and other social media tools to engage customers, start and grow your business.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Wednesday, April 1, 2015, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

All classes are free and open to the public.

Proposal Writing Basics
You've found a possible foundation to fund your new project. That's excellent. Now the real work begins: writing a proposal that will put your program on the path to success by telling your story well to the people that matter most. To learn how to do just that, join the Business Librarian for a session on proposal writing. Learn the key components of a proposal that a nonprofit foundation is looking for, and how you can make your proposal as effective as possible.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Intro to Finding Funders
Designed for beginner fundraisers, this brief course shows how your organization can identify potential funders and prepare to seek grants. Using the Foundation Directory Online Professional, a database of 70,000 foundations, students will compile a list of foundation prospects that match their organization's needs. We'll also briefly touch upon other grant sources, such as government and business, and learn about various guides to proposal writing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Tuesday, March 24, 2015, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Getting Started with Foundation Grants to Individuals Online
Are you looking for a scholarship to help with higher education? Are you an artist looking for help in furthering your career? Look no further than the Grand Rapids Public Library! This class will cover Foundation Grants to Individuals Online, a database with over 10,000 funding sources for individual grantseekers, such as students, artists, and researchers. Come learn how to use this excellent resource and become a more effective grantseeker.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Online Grantseeking Resources
As a member of the Foundation Center's Funding Information Network, the Grand Rapids Public Library has access to a variety of grantseeking resources; come and learn about further resources that you can access right from your doorstep, covering topics like nonprofit fund raising, proposal writing, and more!  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

THE RIGHT PLACE: Economic Outlook for West Michigan

Eighteen years ago, The Right Place held the first Economic Outlook for West Michigan conference in downtown Grand Rapids, with 25 people in attendance. This year, the JW Marriott ballroom was packed tight, with 450 people in attendance from all over the West Michigan community.

As an economic development organization, The Right Place pitches West Michigan as a destination for companies worldwide. In this task, they’ve been wildly successful. From 2009-2013, The Right Place retained or brought in 11,207 new jobs, $371 million in new payroll, and three quarters of a billion in capital investment. They exceeded all their goals for that timeframe, even the higher, revised goals of their strategic plan.

Birgit Klohs, President & CEO of The Right Place, notes that economic development is a team sport, and this is certainly true; the strategic plan was created with input from 110 regional partners in West Michigan and speaks to the deep network for economic development that we have here in the region.

It was surprising how intense the competition is for companies among the states. One of the projects The Right Place managed to grab for West Michigan had no less than 22 regions competing for it.

This competition has led to a great deal of money being thrown at companies from state governments. We have a $100 million economic development incentive fund here in Michigan, and we are only the middle of the pack. Texas has one four times that size, snapping up a great deal of projects because they can offer a seven-million dollar building straight from state coffers. Many companies will follow this money, even when the company isn’t a good fit for the state or the region.

Tesla, for instance, located their plant in Nevada because the state offered them $1.25 billion in financing, tax incentives, and grants. But as a manufacturing company in Nevada, there’s a whole slew of workforce knowledge, suppliers, and supply chain infrastructure to which Tesla will need to either build or import.

Michigan, though, would have had the assets Tesla needs because we have such a strong history in that sector. We’re also extremely strong in agribusiness, which is not something many people think of when they think of Michigan.

In West Michigan alone we have an agribusiness industry that provides over 26,000 jobs and $579 million dollars in income. Michigan, as a whole, has the second most varied agricultural economy among the fifty states, producing everything from cherries to chestnuts.

With such strengths and organizations like The Right Place pitching our region, West Michigan is poised to play the economic development game well. That’s part of the reason that our economic future looks bright. George Erickcek, Senior Regional Analyst of the Upjohn Institute, said as much in his presentation to the conference.

Nobody thinks of economists as a gregarious bunch, but Erickcek certainly bucks this trend. He’s an engaging speaker, and had a few good jokes for the crowd. More importantly, he’s adept at distilling numbers into a story that was easily told and understood.

The story that we’re seeing now is recovery. We are actually approaching full employment in West Michigan, which is obviously a happy trend. It was the first time in many years, Erickcek said, that companies were using the ‘mirror-fog’ test for hiring: if your breath could fog a mirror, you’re hired.

However, we are seeing problems. As Erickcek put it, an economist can find a cloud in any silver lining.

First, as employment has risen in the region, wages have actually fallen 4%. This was something that Klohs spoke to in her presentation: West Michigan’s wages aren’t rising with the talent we want to attract to the region. In short, if we want top talent here, we have to pay for it.

Second, we have a workforce participation rate that is extremely low – the lowest in decades. We have people who are not of retirement age who are not in training, not looking for work, or have exhausted their unemployment benefits. They might want to work but are exhausted with the job search. If this segment tries re-entering the workforce, it will drive up unemployment numbers.

Such headwinds are not unique to our region, and it will take a coordinated, consistent effort to address them. Luckily, we have The Right Place as our advocate, helping us to be an economic player on the global stage.

by John Kroondyk

You've just arrived at a networking event.

In front of you is a sea of small talk, elevator speeches, and finger foods. The room is filled with potential professional contacts, and it's up to you to make an impression.

To some, this might sound like opportunity knocking. To others, it's just about as fun as getting your teeth pulled.

Whether you love it or hate it, networking tends to inspire strong feelings. In your networking life, you've probably found some helpful tips and tricks. Certainly there are a lot out there, but if you are looking to brush up on your networking skills, there are plenty of resources at your public library.

In Networking Is Dead: Making Connections That Matter, Melissa Wilson and Larry Mohl offer innovative ways of utilizing existing connections and leverage new technologies to take the pain out of networking. By steering away from the traditional “more is better” approach, they instead provide useful tactics for getting the most out of the relationships that you already have.

Leslie Grossman brings new insights with her book, Link Out: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections. Her book explains how to craft your own “personal brand,” and the value of an entourage. Networking is too often centered around talking about yourself, but she emphasizes the importance of listening to other people. After all, it can't be all about you, unless you plan on succeeding with a network of one!

If you feel like networking isn't for you, you might like Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected, by Devora Zack. Drawing on her own personal experience as an introvert and accomplished networker, Zack shows how the “network-averse” can make use of the very traits that make traditional networking hard for them, turning them into new avenues to success. By playing to their strengths, even those who hate the idea of networking can make it work for them.

These books are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of networking resources, but they should be useful to all folks who network. If that's you, be sure to check out the array of resources that can take your networking skills to the next level. 


To Sell is Human

To Sell is Human
By Daniel Pink

When you think of a salesman, what do you think of?

The way salesmen are portrayed in our stories are rarely positive. The go-to symbol of a salesman is Willy Loman, from Death of a Salesman, which no one would mistake for a positive portrayal.

But that particular play was written in 1949; a great deal has changed since then. In particular, there are two big changes outlined in the book To Sell is Human: the Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink.

The first big change in our economy is that, in a sense, we are all in sales. In a very real sense, there are over 15 million people in the U.S. that make their living convincing others to purchase something, whether it be a house, a car, or widget. This doesn’t count the number of entrepreneurs that do the same, everyday, even though sales might not be in their job title.

Even this staggering number overlooks the fact that professionals, increasingly, are called upon to convince people to do something, or convince people of our value. In that way, every professional needs to sell.

The second change is the change from caveat emptor to caveat venditor.

Before, when a salesperson made a sale, if the product was shoddy or the pitch was overbearing, they could only tell a relatively small number of people about it. People did not have access to information like customer reviews, digital social networks, and news information at the click of a mouse. Pink terms this ‘information asymmetry;’ before, salesmen were holding all the proverbial cards.

Now, any patron of any business can look at all the cards on the table. They can look up customer reviews, compare prices and features, with the click of a mouse or the tap of a smartphone. Further, they can broadcast their feelings about any transaction on a variety of digital platforms to a wider range of people than was ever possible in Loman’s time.

If a salesman is to succeed today, they need much more than a slick pitch and a gregarious personality. They need to build relationships, so that when the time for a sale does come, trust has been established, and people are comfortable spending their time and money on a product or service.

That, to me, is the big value of this book: it gets a reader thinking not about selling, but about building relationships, which is what the core of sales is. That’s an extremely important distinction, and even more so today. Learning about that particular lesson would help anyone, not just those in sales.

The book is extremely easy to read and provides insights through a variety of examples a reader can connect with easily. My personal favorite is when Pink describes the difference between an old-time used car sales lot that still relies on information asymmetry, and Carmax, a dealership that prides itself on openness of information. Carmax, of course, is a far more successful company, but it’s a perfect example of the old way of doing things being supplanted by the new.

Pink also gives ways a reader can apply his concepts to their professional lives in the second and third sections of the book. In particular, I enjoy the way he frames that advice as ‘discovering the best way to start a conversation,’ which when you think about it, is really how a sales pitch begins, and ‘asking good questions,’ which is how any good conversation continues.

Sales, as a profession, has seen a seismic shift in the past two decades. That shift is positive, and to learn how to navigate that shift, there are few better works than To Sell is Human.

Certainly, we can write a better story than Willy Loman ever could.

*To Sell is Human is available, along with Lean Startup, as one of our SBRC Book Club books! You can find study questions for both at

by Karie Schulenburg

Grand Rapids proudly boasts the most LEED Fellows per capita, according to the U.S. Green Buildings Council. The fellows include local homes and businesses such as America's first LEED certified brewery (Brewery Vivant), the building with the world's highest LEED rating (Catalyst Partners), and several other local buildings that have earned a World's First in a number of LEED categories.

These accomplishments are much to be proud of... or much to be confused by. Why do so many Grand Rapids businesses care about being LEED certified? What does LEED certification mean in the first place?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Being LEED Certified means that your business is officially recognized for following particular green guidelines set by the USGBC, such as water efficiency, energy efficiency, green innovation, and indoor environmental quality, to name a few.

The level of certification is determined by a 100-point rating system. The number of points a business earns will get them a simple certification, or a silver, gold, or platinum certification in any of these categories: building design and construction, interior design and construction, building operations and maintenance, and neighborhood development.

Yes, these are all wonderful goals but it still begs the question: why do so many Grand Rapids organizations care to be green?

Part of the answer lies in the Grand Rapids city goals. The Sustainability Plan put out by the Office of Energy and Sustainability focuses Grand Rapids on a set of goals to make our city more sustainable. One of those goals is to increase the number of sustainable buildings (LEED, Green Built, etc.) by 25% by June of this year.

Another more obvious reason why businesses and government offices go green is to save money. The USGBC says, “An upfront investment of 2% in green building design, on average, results in life cycle savings of 20% of the total construction costs – more than ten times the initial investment.” One of the most famous examples of green buildings and money saving is the Empire State Building which saves $4.4 million in annual energy costs with its gold certification from USGBC.

For those businesses housed in buildings not quite as large as the Empire State Building, LEED certified buildings still, of course, cost less to operate and maintain. “Annual utilities cost per employee in green facilities was $675.26 lower than in non-green facilities,” says the USGBC. Other studies show how businesses that have converted to a sustainable buildings see an increase in popularity with the public.

The downside of going green is that change costs money and time. Depending on the size of your company, maybe you have neither. Remember those incentives mentioned earlier? Check out the Consumers Energy website and the Database of Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency to find benefits that work for you.

And assuming you plan to stick around for longer than seven years, then the money you spent on green updates will start to pay you back. It takes eight years to recoup costs for newly constructed buildings.

In the simplest terms, going green will save you money, make more people like you, and will positively impact the environment.

Looking for more information? Check out these resources:

Ask your Business Librarian for details!    

Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW)
Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) provides in-depth training classes, counseling and support services to help start or grow your business.

Consider attending their free orientation session 'Intro to Grow,' which is mandatory before attending other classes. To register, visit their website/ For questions call 616-458-3404.

Grand Rapids SCORE: Counselors to America's Small Business Supported by the Small Business Administration (SBA)
SCORE is a service corps of over 12,000 entrepreneurs ready to share their expertise to help your business grow. From low-cost workshops to business evaluation to one-on-one counseling, SCORE is in business for your business!

Register for counseling online, call 616-771-0305, or e-mail.

Score is now at the library the first Thursday morning of every month! Register at the SBRC page; please forward any questions to the Business Librarian.

MI-Small Business Development Corporation – Region 7
In 2013, the West Michigan SBDC helped start 37 businesses, and supported 672 further businesses through counseling, free or low-cost training, research and advocacy. With offices at the GVSU Seidman School of Business, MI-SBDC offers support for both new ventures and existing small businesses.

Check out their training schedule for Kent County and a guide to their class offerings. For questions, call 616-331-7370 or email

Start Garden
Start Garden is an innovative new seed fund with 15 million in capital located in downtown Grand Rapids at 50 Louis Street. Each week, the fund invests $5,000 into two business ideas, one decided by the Start Garden team and the other by the voting public. Chosen teams have one month to present at Update Night, to see if those businesses qualify for further rounds of funding. Start Garden also offers counseling and a variety of events to help get your ideas off the ground. Visit them at!

Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce
As any successful business-person can tell you, it always pays to keep your finger on the pulse of your local business community; no one can help you do that better than the Grand Rapids Chamber! The Chamber is an excellent resource for businesses great and small, with a variety of different events and programs. The Chamber is a strong advocate for West Michigan business, from GR to Lansing to Washington DC. Visit them at

Local First
Started by a small group of business owners from the Grand Rapids area in 2003, Local First seeks to educate consumers about the benefits of buying local, as well as establish a forum where small businesses in our city could come together and help each other thrive. With conferences like INsight and awesome events like Forkfest, Local First is your one stop shop for local business in Grand Rapids! Visit them at

Small Business Resource Center funding is provided by the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation – Titche Family Fund.  Support your public library. Consider a gift today!

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Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library St NE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503

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