Griff Lasley: Broadband is Fueling Small Business
The Internet has gone a long way toward leveling the playing field for small business owners – especially those in rural locations. Not so long ago the market was the distance of someone’s home to their place of business.
Now, distance from the physical location has become immaterial because broadband allows us to put an entire catalogue on a Website and make it available to buyers from Athens, Ohio to Athens, Greece.
We have all read articles with small “mom-and-pop” businesses suddenly catching fire demonstrating the Internet not only allows us access to the world as our market, but also allows us access to the world’s smartest people on whom we can call for help.
There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of Websites which have tips for entrepreneurs and small business people. There are some, like Jim Blasingame’s “Small Business Advocate” (www.smallbusinessadvocate.com) which is a free site offering tons of advice from hundreds of experts on every aspect of running and growing your business.
Assuming you have the ability to make, stock, and/or ship everything you sell you will quickly find you need to hire more people. Nearly every small community in America is suffering from unemployment rates which are significantly higher than the national average, so every job that you create makes a huge difference in your community.
As the broadband side of your business grows, you will quickly find that you need people who can, not just pack and ship items, but also deal with customs forms on the U.S. side, duty on the receiving side, and all manner of items which don’t come into play when someone walks into your store and walks out with an item.
You may also need someone to keep track of your new level of activity. When small businesses, which are growing, fail, it is very often because no one was keeping close track of the cost of goods sold. The old story about losing a dollar on every sale but making up on volume is often very true.
Again the Internet has vast resources to help you and your new bookkeeper look for, recognize and avoid the traps which too often snare businesses which appear to be doing very well.
You may find that you need to combine the Internet with taking your show on the road. Attending trade shows is a proven method of finding new customers or distributors. Again, the Internet makes this process much easier to maneuver through. You can search for shows in your area of interest locally, regionally or nationally. In some cases you can search for shows in Europe or Asia which you might not be able to afford to attend in person, but through the Internet you might well find someone who will show your goods as part of their display. Without the Internet that would be impossible.
One of the changes in employment which has evolved from this recession is hiring people as contractors for jobs which used to be full-time. This can be a benefit to both you and the contractor. Rather than having a full-time graphic artist on your staff to keep your Web pages refreshed, you might find it a better arrangement to contract with someone in your town who has those skills, but may want to work from their home and not have to pay for daycare or transportation, parking and all the other expenses which can accrue with a full-time job.
As far as the community is concerned, more money is cycling through the local economy whether it comes from a full-time staffer or a part-time contractor, so that is a win-win for everyone.
The Internet can be your window to, literally, a world of new customers. It can also make an enormous, positive impact on your community by creating new jobs at the entry, professional, and creative levels.
Griff Lasley writes on behalf of, A&I Parts Center, Stratford, TX (http://www.aiparts.com/index.php)