- The Washington Times - Monday, September 26, 2005

If you want to open a small business, the chances are good that you are motivated by a love of doing what the business does, such as selling flowers. You might also seek a chance to be your own boss, follow a dream, or see more profit from your daily labor than a salary usually provides.

However, says Peter Horan, an entrepreneur in San Bruno, Calif., there’s a wide range of business responsibilities you must fulfill before making your first floral arrangement for a customer: Where should you lease a shop? What are the basic elements of a commercial real estate lease? How do you incorporate? Where do you get a logo for the store? How do you hire employees and insure them?

Work experience may give a new business owner some of the answers, but probably not all of them; and even the best knowledge goes stale after a while as things change within a field. Today, for example, someone setting up shop in a coastal city might be more conscious of the need for flood insurance than he or she was six months ago.

Where to find such authoritative information? AllBusiness.com is a Web “portal” that provides answers to key questions, as well as links to resources that back up the answers. Many of these are very good, a few can use improvement, but almost everything I saw on the site is worth investigation, especially if you want to have a profitable business.

Figuring that entrepreneurs go into business to do their “thing,” such as designing houses if you are an architect, rather than setting up an accounting system, Mr. Horan, chief executive of the AllBusiness.com site, says the site’s goal is to steer people toward effective solutions: “Our focus is on giving [users] an edge on those tasks that are common to any sort of business.”

He hopes users will come to his site first, rather than a search engine such as Google or Yahoo, because, he says, “Search is a blunt instrument. Most likely, you will enter your question into Google and you’ll get 40 or 50 pages of links. You’ll get some good links and a lot of junk.”

In contrast, Mr. Horan noted, AllBusiness.com has about 3,000 articles whose content and authors are verified. The site also has about 250 different business forms, costing about $20 each, that can be downloaded, edited with Microsoft Word, and used in a business situation. If you need a confidentiality agreement or another kind of contract, this is a place to go for something that should stand up.

The site is drawing about 700,000 unique visitors each month, up from 500,000 “a couple of months ago,” Mr. Horan said. “We’d like to have 3 million visitors a month in a couple of years.”

That’s not an impossible goal: Kathy Yates, chief operating officer and herself an online industry veteran, noted in a recent conversation that “half of all employees in the United States work in small business; they’ve been the primary engine for net job creation for several years.”

There’s a lot to look at here, and most entrepreneurs will pick up a fair amount of useful information and answers to various questions. If you are running a small business, or want to, www.allbusiness.com is worth regular visits, as well as adding the site to your list of Web bookmarks.

E-mail [email protected].com or visit https://www.kellner.us.

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