Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Legal and Ethical Sources of Strategic Competitive Information

The purpose in any market or strategic research activity is to acquire comprehensive data that is both accurate and timely. There is a preponderance of information sources that will provide competitive information. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, and interest to commit to the necessary efforts to acquire this comprehensive competitive information.

The following sample list of sources is intended to provide the reader with a short course on where to locate key competitive information. When planning a competitive intelligence gathering activity, the researcher may want to use the spider web analogy. Think of the web as multiple source radials terminating in the center of the web where pure information has been collected. The radials represents one of the following data sources and must be taken at face value because not all acquired information is accurate or true, which can lead to misinterpretation of the value of the data. Each of the following source descriptions are designed to provide an overview of some of the most readily available information sources but do not contain the details inherent in a search of resources, and are in random order of importance.

1) Internet Search Engines - There are thousands of Internet websites that will provide information on competitors. The problem is identifying those sites that will provide the most he reliable, accurate, and ethical information. The most common Google, Yahoo, Bing work very well if the researcher knows what to look for and the extent of the information bases. Links to specific websites and databases are made possible if the most direct and correct word sources are used.

2) Published Articles Organizations and their representatives are keen to tell the world about their past, current, and future activities. Many organizations encourage their employees to publish articles about the organization and in the process often and unexpectedly, provide snippets of information about the inter-workings of the organization.

3) Trade Associations - Every industry has trade associations that have the assignment to promote and educate the public on the merits of that industry. These associations are at both the national, state, and sometimes city level and are most anxious to tell the public about the organizations members and meaning. Rather than being secretive, they take just the opposite stance and go out of their way to provide details of their membership's activities.

4) The Competitors - Surprisingly enough competitors are anxious to tell the world what they are doing. This is often exhibited by open houses, plant tours, local charity events, public gatherings, and many other events.

5) Advertising Age Magazine - This industry wide weekly Internet-weekly newspaper, provides many articles on the advertising activities of companies both in the United States and foreign countries. It is useful to monitor this publication that provides a glimpse of future promotions and planned new product introductions. When competitors are planning to introduce or promote a new product or service, it is possible to execute a "pre-emptive strike" activity within the industry, and by doing so will often result in taking the "wind out of the sales" of the competitors.

6) Advertising Programs - A look at a competitors advertising programs will often indicate their investment in growth. There is one point of caution here. An organization with a well-known name or product, oftentimes can do well without extensive advertising. New companies or products often times require significant introduction advertising and pricing strategies. The key here is to track the competitors programs to ascertain if there's a common thread in product-service focus.

7) Bingo Cards - When traveling on an airplane there is an opportunity to read the airline magazine in the seat pockets. Usually these magazines have a mail-in cards or websites where the reader can request information of a particular product or service listed in that magazine.

8) Media Releases - Organizational websites usually include a link to their Press Releases, Media, or News equivalents. Submissions can be reviewed and indicate what has been submitted to the Internet and other media. Documents are listed in chronological order with the latest releases first and list the key contact people at the organization.

9) State Corporation Offices - These online or walk up organizations provide information on corporate filings, financial status, ownership, key officers, and many other corporate details and are mostly free public documents..

10) Annual Reports - If there was any document that requires utmost care when researching an organization it is the Annual Report. This report was prepared by the Public Relations department but written and directed by the officers to protect their jobs, careers, and reputations. The inside cover of most reports often shows mature male in a dark suit and a red tie as a common introduction to the reading and is designed to exude confidence. The board of directors photo or listing often features the prerequisite number of men, women, minorities, and shows a diversified leadership. The accounting statement almost always ends with the caveat that the financials were prepared using generally accepted accounting practices. This is a CYA statement from the accounting firm because it may not be sure of the validity the numbers. The only area that might be considered to provide reliable information are the footnotes because the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) and requires that the footnotes be factual and truthful.

11) 10-K,10-Q, 8-K - The SEC requires that all publicly traded companies conducting interstate business file a financial statement on a quarterly and yearly basis. These documents are different from the Annual Report, because it requires full truth and avoids self congratulations and organizational promotion. The officers are often listed with their family and academic backgrounds. It is wise to look at the top five officers in any organization from the perspective of their academic experiences. In intelligence gathering, the strategies that result are often determined by the leader and key officers personality profiles. For example, if an organization is run by engineers and marketing people, it tends to be more entrepreneurial and aggressive. If run by accountants or lawyers, it tends to be more reserved and less of a competitive threat. There are exceptions of course.

12) Industry Trade Shows - This is one of the most informative areas for comprehensive competitive intelligence gathering. A visit to the competitors tradeshow booth, which is permissible, will indicate if the competitor has increased or decreased the tradeshow space from the previous year. The visit will also indicate any new products or services that are being emphasized in the booth, the quality of the personnel manning the booth, and their general deportment. Witnessing the new product presentation can be most informative. Many organizations take the opportunity to use a tradeshow to brief the media and other interested parties on the details of the product or service that are being introduced at the show. Elaborate plans are made that include food and refreshments, handouts, and visual presentations of this new product or service. Editors and other interested parties attend trade shows and often engage in industry related discussions. Acquiring a copy of the tradeshow technical presentation Proceedings is a good idea because it summarizes all of the technical papers given at the tradeshow, including details not often included in the oral presentation.

13) Data Warehousing and Mining - There are numerous organizations that collect data on organizations and individuals which they are willing to sell for nominal fees. These data collection companies will sort their databases for specific information both personal and organizational.

14) Plant Visits - It is perfectly legal and ethical, to visit a competitors plant. For example, sit across the street from the facility, count the number and type of employee automobiles, on average 1.5 personnel per car, and you have some idea about the total employee count. Observe the condition of the building to see if the organization has funds for maintenance. The delivery trucks type and sizes that enter the premises will provide some idea about their delivery and shipping activities. Companies will often conduct guided tours revealing the inner workings of the organization.

15) Newspaper Scanning - If a competitors has an out of town operation, it is a wise idea to get a subscription to the local newspaper to determine the organization's posture in the community. The newspaper will often list competitor contacts and personnel changes.

16) Company Newspapers - It is not too difficult to get a copy of the organizational in-house newspaper. Oftentimes it is simple as calling up and asking to be put on the mailing list. This document often describes contracts received, specific customers, moving lists that indicate personnel promotions, and other personnel information.

17) Security Analyst Research - All stock brokerage organizations have financial analysts whose job is to be experts on any given industries. Contacting these people through a broker or even direct will result in a deeper knowledge of both the industry and oftentimes specific industry organizations. This information is normally free as the brokerage house wants additional client accounts.

18) Local Planning and Zoning Offices - When the organization wants to construct or occupy a building in a typical community, there is generally a requirement that it must submit the plans to the local Planning and Zoning Offices for approval. This is public information and will oftentimes provide a detailed layout and building specifics on the competitors operation. The city Fire Marshall stipulates how many people may occupy a given site. If a product requires a specific number and type of person for research and operations, this personnel count is most useful to determine the maximum capacity of that particular operational site.

19) Academic Case Studies - Academicians have studied many organizations in detail for research purposes. These case studies are typically available to the public and contain information, expectations, and forecasts provided by the writers that are not normally available in other public documents. Contacting the case study author oftentimes results in additional details not part of the original study and updated estimations about future performance.

20) United States Patent Office - Provides information on what patents have been issued to the competitive organizations and filings that have been made for future patents. This information indicates the investment in leading-edge research and the technical directions of the competitors.

21) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) If a competitor uses any materials that requires an EPA notification, the state and local EPA offices must be notified. If a specific measure of a specific material is required for each product produced by a competitor, this public information and will provide expectations for the maximum output of that facility.

22) Local Libraries Even with the Internet, most communities maintain public libraries. A visit to these libraries and discussions with local librarians will aid in locating a search on databases not normally available to the public. Librarians are often very helpful in helping research organizations and often for a small fee will conduct organizational research.

The above is a very short list of sources for competitive data. Excluding the Internet, there are at least fifty plus other credible sources of information on organizational competitors. A well thought out competitive analysis plan will provide an organization with a competitive edge not normally seen in the marketplace. Today in the competitive world, knowing what the competitors have done, are doing, and likely will do will give an organization an opportunity to grow and survive.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Establishing Legal Paternity

Paternity is defined as the state of being someone's father. With advancements in science, it is easier and more accurate than ever before to establish paternity. DNA testing methods, including SWAB Tests and DNA Genetic Identity tests are reasonably priced and available at a growing number of locations.

At common law, a child born to the wife during a marriage is the husband's child under the "presumption of legitimacy," and the husband is then assigned complete rights, duties and obligations to the child. This presumption, however, can be rebutted by evidence to the contrary. In the case of a female who is unmarried, a male can accept the paternity of the child. Alternatively the mother can appeal to the court for a final determination if she is unsatisfied with the outcome. The outcome is identical, regardless of how the paternity was determined, i.e. voluntarily, administratively or court ordered. With every case, the legal father is defined as the biological donor. If both parents approve who the genetic father is, an easy procedure that doesn't require a legal intervention can be used to recognize paternity. This process is called voluntary paternity establishment. Once paternity is legally determined, it is very challenging to contest. If paternity is in question, it is best to challenge paternity prior to acknowledgement.

Anyone can try and prove paternity, be it the mother, father, and depending on circumstances, the child. While paternity is most commonly established before trial, the outcome will go on to have an effect on proceedings. Complaints and legal petitions to establish paternity are now oftentimes routinely agreed to by all parties before entering trial. If a child is born to two unmarried people, by law the child does not have a father. Without proper legal action, the identity of the father can ultimately remain an unknown. However it's recommended by most lawyers and legal courts to pursue and discover the father figure. There are a number of reasons to establish paternity, including issues related to custody and child support. In general, similar rules that apply to child support in divorce cases, also apply to child support in paternity cases. Either party can be forced to pay child support to the other. Some courts will also require child support to be paid for a specific number of years, possibly back to the birth date of the child. Once the father figure has established paternal rights, he can legally be a part of the child's life.

Legal procedures and laws differ from state to state for defining paternity. If the both parties cannot agree on basic paternity issues, both should seek the counsel of an attorney and become informed about their rights as parents of a child.