Launching Capital Business has given me a profound appreciation for what it is like to be a small-business owner.
There's no template really. You have a plan, and the art is knowing when to stay the course and when to adjust strategy. I'm gratified by the progress we've made so far.
One of the key questions facing a media outfit like ours, or any business really, is how to embrace technology. Trying to settle on a roadmap can be as tricky as trying to bet on the future.
Which is why I was intrigued by a pitch I received last week for a new Web site called e-Business Now (www.ebusinessnow.org), created by the nonprofit group SCORE in partnership with the Small Business Administration, the Federal Communications Commission and some of the biggest names in the tech industry.
SCORE is a largely volunteer group based in the District and Herndon that tries to help small businesses get bigger. It put together a series of free online workshops designed to guide people through their digital options.
It's pretty basic stuff, but then most of SCORE's clients are people just starting out. The typical business working with SCORE counselors might have two to 10 employees. The numbers, though, can add up. Jai Hokimi, executive director of the e-Business Now program, said a 2009 survey found SCORE companies grossed $38 billion and created 30,603 jobs nationwide.
I asked Hokimi how a new business should approach technology.
Instead of focusing on the current fads, he said, “look at your business and see where you need help.”
Say you need to boost sales. One workshop breaks down the ways social networks, search engines and other online technology might be used to market. Another talks about converting Web visitors into buyers. The details are largely generic, but they give business owners a way to think about their issues.
I pulled out a sheet of paper and began listing the strengths and weaknesses of my own operation. Next to the shortcomings, I made a note of what online strategies might be employed to address them.
The exercise helped clarify my choices, and reminded me of something Hokimi said before I rang off.
“We're not advertising products,” he said. “We're advertising solutions.”