Best of the Trade Press

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* Small-business borrowers seeking commercial real estate loans should expect greater fees and delays, American Banker (March 27) reports. The problem, according to bankers, is that they face new appraisal rules on even small properties -- as well as the need to perform more environmental audits to avoid liability for polluted properties. As a result, bankers say, the fixed costs of completing a commercial real estate loan have increased as much as 50%.

* Other news from American Banker (April 2): a group of the nation's largest regional automated-teller-machine networks are holding talks to try to set up a national ATM payment network in retail establishments. With such a network, consumers could present their ATM cards as payment at cash registers, and their bank accounts would be immediately debited.

* Gone are the days when a company could automatically divide geographic areas among salespeople. Instead, Sales & Marketing Management (April) reports that as customers grow more demanding, many companies are increasing the specialization of their sales forces. That can mean assigning specialists to particular products, industries, or account sizes. The challenge: those sales forces require extra-skillful management and coordination.

* Exporters face new restrictions in the wake of the Persian Gulf war. According to The National Law Journal (May 6), the Bush administration has imposed new curbs on sales to many Third World powers of products that might be used to develop weapons. Unfortunately, most such products have many other uses as well. Critics point out that because the United States has acted alone, the curbs will only have the effect of hurting American exporters by giving their business to competitors from other nations. "This is not going to keep bad stuff away from bad people," one staff member of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee told the publication. "It's just going to keep U.S. stuff away from bad people."

* Business-to-business marketers should be careful not to lose perspective on customer complaints, argues professor Irwin Gross in Business Marketing (April). The problem: when companies focus too much on addressing a customer's complaints, they may be squandering resources on areas that are relatively unimportant. Instead, they could be improving key areas in which their performance is satisfactory but might be better. "Suppliers should always keep in mind that their customers are buying from them because of what they do well and despite what they don't do well," Gross says.

* Now Japanese corporations are taking on one of the last bastions of American technological dominance: basic scientific research. According to Electronics magazine (April), a number of large Japanese companies are building research centers in the United States to take advantage of American strength in that area. Observers say the new centers are luring away top scientists by offering much higher salaries.