Check out our bi-weekly Net perspective. Our goal is to make these columns useful for our readers whether they be novice or pro, while still offering a fun to read column. Feel free to let us know what Internet resources you find useful in your personal, educational, or business life - it might just end up in one of our columns!
Today many people are leaving their corporate jobs - some not by choice - and starting their own business. The Internet is a great resource for those who have or are thinking about running their own company. We found many web sites that can be of assistance to business owners.
The absolute starting point for anyone contemplating starting a business is The Small Business Administration (www.sbaonline.sba.gov/). Check out the 31 Most Asked Business Questions or the Best Business Tips submitted by America's top Small Business Winners of 1997. There is also a great deal of information on how to finance and expand your business. You can even download the SBA's publications from this site.
Local resources for any area of the country are available by clicking on the Local SBA Resources map. Or, for information about Buffalo go directly to: www.sba.gov/regions/states/ny/buff.html. Check out the calendar of events that the agency sponsors such as "Starting and Managing Your Business". Not to worry, this site is kept up-to-date with the latest information and happenings and has hundreds of useful links.
Another good starting point is the Business & Employment Center on the Buffalo Free-Net (freenet.buffalo.edu/business/). Especially useful is the "search" feature (freenet.buffalo.edu/business/search.html).
There are hundreds of web sites dedicated to running a business. The Business Resource Center (www.morebusiness.com/) is one place to find general information about managing a business. Included is a small business primer that has useful articles on topics such as how to get free publicity, where to look for leads and how to get financing for your business. The site is not very graphical but it is substance-heavy.
Smart Business Supersite (www.smartbiz.com/) is a similar web site. We particularly like the archived "how-to" articles and reports. Again, this site will not dazzle you with graphics, but the content is good and navigation is simple.
Two of the nations largest corporations have web sites devoted to the small businessman: AT&T and Microsoft. AT&T's Home Business Resources (www.att.com/hbr/) is a subscription service (but it's free) and has good information on starting and running your business along with links to regional resources. The Microsoft Small Business Center (www.microsoft.com/smallbiz) offers similar resources but we found it to be a bit more robust. Of course there are many links to useful Microsoft products for business.
If you plan on operating your business at home take a look at Business@Home (www.gohome.com). There are many resources related directly to working at home. For example, the section "Design & Furnishings" has a recent article advising on the best layout of your home office. We particularly like the articles and information about the growing work-from-home trend.
Another site with information about working at home is the Home Office Association of America (www.soho.org). Entitled "SOHO Central" (Small Office/Home Office), there is plenty of information for home office professionals including taxpayer mistakes to avoid and a list of legal problems that home-office workers can run into.
Many of you are familiar with the magazine Inc. (www.inc.com/). The online version is a nice clearinghouse for current financial and management information related to operating a business. There are some very helpful tips in 301 Great Management Ideas (www.inc.com/301/).
One of the first things you will have to do for your business is create a business plan. There are many software packages available to assist you in doing this. One, Business Plan Pro software (www.pasware.com/), lets you preview the product by downloading a free sample business plan or marketing plan. You can see for yourself what the software can do for you. Similar software titles you may want to investigate are BizPlan, Destiny, NBA, and PlanMaker.
Adhering to the law is another good idea for your business. If you plan on doing any kind of business or marketing on the Internet, you will want to check out Netlaw (www.netlaw.com). You can find out how to protect yourself from lawsuits and criminal prosecution. For example, if you are selling health services or products on the Internet, you will want to have the appropriate disclaimers in place to avoid lawsuits from people who may misuse your product. For more information about related legal issues use a search engine such as Lycos (www.lycos.com) and type in "government regulation" or "Internet law".
Taxes are another fact of life for the small business operator. We found many resources available. Smalloffice.Com (smalloffice.com/miser/taxpage/) is one we liked. Another, the Small Business Advisor (www.isquare.com/) includes a tidy section entitled "Tax Tips for Small Business" that had some interesting ideas. If you are interested in sampling an issue of "TaxTalk Plain & Simple", you can click to their web site (village.ios.com/~taxtalk) and learn about legal tax loopholes that might affect your business.
Looking for Payroll Tax Information? Try this site (www.payroll-taxes.com/) for information concerning payroll taxes. Here you will find all the addresses, phone numbers, form numbers (with explanations), and filing dates for federal and state agencies. Also included at this site is a list of federal publications.
Small Business Taxes & Management (www.smbiz.com/) is the web version of The Small Business Tax Review. The focus of this on-line publication is to provide tax and management guidance to small and medium sized businesses. We liked the fact that this site is updated quite regularly and seemed to have the latest information available.