If there is one section of the community that is more likely than any other to bless the Internet in the long run, it is the owners of small businesses. Not only does the Net offer a miraculously powerful marketing tool, but it gives access to resources you could otherwise only dream about.
As a small business person myself (well, a person running a small business) I know that such an enterprise generates a constant flow of legal, financial and practical questions which can be answered only by looking outside the business - a natural use for the Web.
BT has taken upon itself the job of solving all my problems with its BT Businessconnections Webzine (http://www.businessconnections.bt.com). Or has it? BTBC (if I may abbreviate) is a surprisingly modest-looking affair, considering the central position that BT occupies in this wired society.
It consists of four main elements: Advice Archive (300 business-related documents), Net News (an embryonic links page), Book Stand (book extracts, with invitation to buy), and News Stand, which this month at least is provided by Home Run, a specialist SoHo (Small office/Home office) magazine.
The advice archive contains goodies which all SBPs will want to know about. For example, I was quickly able to call up a useful solicitor's summary of the employment rights of part-timers (are you reading this, Ian?).
Searching for information about leasing (which seemed to involve searching separately for "lease", "leases" and "leasing"), I found myself immersed in an interesting briefing on purchasing in general, including the observation that "office supplies specialists (eg Office World) probably undercut the prices offered by your local suppliers". Imagine my surprise to find that the contributors credited at the end of the piece included "Simon Fox (Office World)".
The current issue's Book Stand has extracts from 101 Ways to Get Great Publicity, by a communications guru called Timothy RV Foster. Leaving aside ones suspicions about someone who insists on publicising his middle initials (especially RV), the 10 examples given away here do not leave me desperate to get my hands on the other 91, even at the modest price of pounds 10 inc p&p.
The part of the site that is most compelling, because it has something of the air of a magazine, is the bit based on Home Run - a well-established print publication ("The UK's leading magazine for all who want to be successful working from home or small office"). Since September it has had its own Web edition, Home Run Online (http://homerun.co.uk).
Personally, I can live without Home Run's paternalistic advice on how to be successful working from home: "Keep regular hours, though they needn't be 9 to 5 ... Dress more formally than you would, say, at the weekend ... Subscribe to Home Run!" But it evidently has a following and is certainly worth bookmarking for its directory of contacts - much more than a links page
Chris GillReuse content