Web Advice for Small Business Owners

By Gibson, Paul | Information Today, May 1999 | Go to article overview

Web Advice for Small Business Owners


Gibson, Paul, Information Today


Paul Gibson is a U.K.-based writer and a knowledge analyst with Andersen Consulting in London. His e-mail address is paul.gibson@ac.com.

Having trouble finding good small-business advice? Let these sites help

Information providers/vendors must have known something that I didn't when around 1995-96 they started offering Web Versions of their services with the reasoning that they wanted to start "catering to small businesses." At the time, I was skeptical as to how many small companies were actually accessing the Internet, and I preferred to view such comments as little more than a quick marketing slip road on to the Information Superhighway. Nowadays, though, traditional information players are not the only Web players targeting small startup businesses: You only have to look at the amount of Web sites now providing advice to small firms to conclude that they must make up a massive proportion of today's Web audience.

What is most encouraging, however, is that the "advice to small business" type of Web site seems to be one of the few areas yet to be tackled by an undergraduate student who's invaded the Internet as part of his thesis at the University of Goodness-KnowsWhere. That's not to say all sites developed by undergraduates aren't worth a cent--that would be a tad unfair--but there are many times when I'll sift through a list of results in search of the Holy Grail Site, and I'll end up linking to a one-page synopsis of very little indeed. And it just so happens that a lot of those sites happen to have been developed by undergraduate students. On the flip side of the coin, sites offering hints and tips to small startup firms tend to provide authoritative, well-informed content with a high level of context.

Web Advice for Entrepreneurs

The most informative site I've browsed on this topic is EntrepreneurMag.Com (http://www.entrepreneurmagi.com) with free electronic versions of its magazines and endless lists of advice-filled sections. The company behind this site, Entrepreneur Media, Inc., was founded in 1973, when it produced a newsletter for aspiring business owners. Since then, it has evolved into a media powerhouse whose products include two monthly magazines, one bimonthly publication, a business re-sale network, and a monthly e-zine. The firm also maintains a weekly national radio presence on the Business News network.

The company's vice president of new media, Charles Fuller, explains: "There are a great many challenges facing entrepreneurs today as they venture into the world of small business. They range from regulatory requirements such as licensing and permits, to finding investment capital. At EntrepreneurMag.Com users can find articles dating back to 1990 about these subjects, they can find niche-oriented sites that cover specific small business issues through SmallBizSearch.Com, and they can utilize specialized databases to find sources for startup and expansion capital."

He continues: "EntrepreneurMag.Com was developed with the intent to become the largest and most comprehensive site on the Web for information and resources dealing with starting, managing, and growing a small business. We target small business owners--companies with less than 100 employees--including both part-and full-time home-based business owners, as well as prospective entrepreneurs."

The crux of this site is its four free magazines that focus on a range of issues faced by small- and medium-sized startups. At the time of writing, features in its Entrepreneur Magazine, Business Start-Ups, Home Office, and Entrepreneur international Magazine ranged from "Find Money Online" and "Licensing Your Product" to "Easy Networking Solutions" and "Top 31 Retail Franchises." In addition, the site splits its advice into a range of topics including marketing, money, management, software, and fundraising. The site offers valuable interactive sections; for example, you can choose to search for the top candidates in your industry, or design a business card using an interactive template. …

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