Feedback 11/03

Letters from our readers
7 min read

This story appears in the November 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When eBay Talks . . .
In reference to your September 2003 issue, and the article "Let the Bidding Begin," my thanks to you for [helping] "eBayers-to-be" get their feet wet in this undertapped marketplace. The majority of netpreneurs are still not using eBay to their full advantage, so there is plenty of room to grow.

One resource you forgot to mention is [using] audio on auctions-we are one of the few companies currently augmenting listings with audio introductions, allowing our bidders to hear the descriptions while eliminating apprehensions and potential buyer's remorse.

The name of the service is, and it has increased the "stickiness" and final bid prices by literally 100 percent. Bidders can now get another sensory experience by listening to the listings, as well as reading them. Another feature of the service is the ability to make audio postcards to e-mail to past bidders, so we can alert them of new listings. (These talking postcards have tripled bid count totals!)

I recommend and hope the readers will give it a glance. Just don't tell my competitors! Keep up the great work.

Dave Bernstein
Prism Entertainment

The MEP Generation
As president of [The Modernization Forum,] the national trade association of Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers, I was stunned to read in your August 2003 "Smarts" article, "End of the Road," that "over the past 12 years, numerous Fortune 500 companies have received millions from the ATP [Advanced Technology Program] and the MEP."

I challenge you to name a single Fortune 500 company that has received any funding from the MEP. You won't, because MEP customers pay for the services they receive. Moreover, MEP serves small and midsize manufacturers almost exclusively.

A more important question is: What is the federal government's return on its investment? For its $105 million investment in fiscal year 2001, MEP clients completing projects that year reported new and retained sales of $2.2 billion and another $441 million in cost savings. Furthermore, these results are based on survey responses from only one-fourth of the 21,000 companies receiving services that year. An independent review conservatively estimates that the federal government receives four times its annual investment in MEP through personal and corporate income taxes resulting from the projects.

Two-thirds of all MEP clients have fewer than 250 employees. They are small entrepreneurs like Timber Tech for whom $35,000 in cost savings is "tons of money." Congress and the White House received more than 20,000 letters from these small entrepreneurs in the last two years, urging that MEP be fully funded. I venture your readers would miss MEP.

Michael Wojcicki
The Modernization Forum
Livonia, Michigan

Editor's Note: The sentence should have read " . . . numerous Fortune 500 companies have received millions from the ATP." The MEP should not have been included. Entrepreneur regrets the error.

Labor Pains
In your August 2003 "Staff Smarts," Chris Penttila writes: "Some industries, including engineering and nursing, are already suffering from a shortage of talent."

I strongly disagree. I am a one-stop technical solutions provider who has an M.S.E.E. and over 10 years experience working at the silicon-software interface. I help companies ship reliable products by developing and implementing innovative and cost-effective solutions for hardware and software design issues discovered early in the design cycle, yet I have had only a handful of interviews since my most recent company reorganized and have yet to find steady work.

[Penttila] should tell that to the 124,000 electrical engineers who are out of work while there are 294,000 foreign noncitizen, non-immigrant guest-worker engineers in the United States (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, These guest workers are mostly H-1B and L-1 visa holders. Tell that to the California Economic Development Department, which is almost bankrupt because so many engineers have exhausted their benefits. Tell that to any company's HR department after they post an engineering position [online] and are deluged by resumes.

There is no shortage of engineering talent in the United States. There is, however, a shortage of companies willing to pay a reasonable wage for engineering talent. They prefer, instead, to take advantage of and abuse policies allowing companies to bring in cheap foreign labor at the expense of U.S. citizens.

Richard Pottorff
RMP Enterprises
Sunnyvale, California

Author Chris Penttila replies: While I appreciate your viewpoint that companies are outsourcing to foreigners for cost savings, some surveys do indicate a shortage of well-trained applicants in fields such as engineering, and especially in niche fields that require a great deal of specialized training. Although there may currently be a surplus of workers in some areas (such as Silicon Valley), the Department of Labor is predicting a labor shortage of 10 million skilled workers by decade's end.

This "Staff Smarts" tried to show why and how employers should strive for something that's become a tenuous concept with modern-day employees-long-term loyalty-to keep them happy as the job market heats up. Greater employer loyalty, especially to American workers, can't be a bad thing.

A Family Affair
We are new at owning a small family deli business. I have looked at a lot of places for help on issues regarding hiring family but could not find anything that just answered in layman's terms . . . until now! has done more than enough for [us]. Thank you.

Vicki Ross and William A. Ross Jr.
Ross's Junction Deli
Carmichaels, Pennsylvania


After explaining to my manager that I'd like to move on to the next step in my career path, he looked at me and said, "Be happy you have a job." I decided the poor state of the industry I was in (telecommunications) was not going to slow my career down. I looked at everything from opening a nightclub to operating a network of ATMs.

Finally, I read an article in Entrepreneur that made me realize I should do what I moved out to San Francisco for in the first place: Start a dotcom. My friends and colleagues could not believe I was leaving the security of a job at a Fortune 100 and a great paycheck to start a dotcom! That article was "Price Check, Please" by Melissa Campanelli in the August 2002 issue.

We are now about one month away from our unofficial launch date. We will represent a new breed of dotcoms that deliver products, services and information both online and offline. I appreciate the inspiration.

Charles Blanchet
Improve Safely Inc.
San Francisco

Hot or Not?
I am a junior in college and am trying to figure out what to do after I graduate, because I know I don't want to work for someone else. I've loved playing computer games for years and have always dreamed about somehow making money at it.

I have been working on an idea for a business that would involve online games. My parents think this idea is doomed [no pun intended] to failure, so they suggested I ask what you think.

J. K. Dibble
Lakewood, California

Editor's Note: Tell your parents to relax: We believe online gaming is indeed a hot business for 2004 and beyond.

For more advice on how you can get started in this industry- for our other predictions for the best business ideas for the coming year- sure to check out our December issue.

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