From the December 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

It's always a tough call when a business that's a new client asks you to extend credit on a purchase. Say no, and you'll probably blow the sale. Or say yes, only to discover the customer is a deadbeat.

Now you can get credit data online, fast and at a comparatively low cost, at CreditFYI (http://www.creditfyi.com). The site features full reports on many small businesses, with a special emphasis on companies with sales under $5 million. How does it work? Key in basic customer information (name and address), and in about one minute, you'll get a "CreditFYI Evaluation," a thorough assessment of a company's creditworthiness.

How good is the data? Most of CreditFYI's information comes from Experian, a major player in providing credit reports, and the site is operated by Fair, Isaac, a NYSE company with a long history in credit-scoring technologies. The cost of each report is $14.95. If there's insufficient data to generate a full-scale evaluation, you'll get a "CreditFYI Summary" for $4.95. In both cases, CreditFYI stresses that it isn't making credit decisions for you--that's still up to you. But with CreditFYI, you get the information you need to make shrewd, sound decisions--fast.


To contact Robert McGarvey, visit his Web site at http://members.aol.com/rjmcgarvey

Key To The City

City guidebooks are proliferating on the Web, but a top choice is Zip2 City Guide (http://www.zip2.com). This site offers online Yellow Pages, event calendars and plenty of community information, with help from a strong group of newspaper partners. But Zip2's jewel is a mapping tool that speedily and unerringly provides you with door-to-door directions to any customers or vendors you're planning to visit. When people ask for directions to your business, refer them to this site and they'll get directions--even a map--with just a few mouse clicks.

Defining Moment

Say you get an e-mail with some British slang terms that baffle you, or esoteric stock market expressions. How do you find the meaning? Simple: Go to OneLook Dictionaries (http://www.onelook.com), where about 350 Web-based dictionaries are indexed. Type in the term, and you're instantly given a definition. Online dictionaries range from a "Glossary of Insurance Terms" to an "Internet Glossary" and a "National Oceanic and Atmospheric Trade Dictionary." Best of all, the service is free.

Mail Call!

How often do you log on to the Net just to check your e-mail? And how often do you find an empty mailbox? Never again, once you've subscribed to MailPush (http://www.mailpush.com), an e-mail notification service that's proved its worth in Israel and has now entered the U.S. market. Once you tell MailPush your particulars--your e-mail address, login name and password--it takes over the chore of checking for mail. When MailPush discovers you have new mail, it notifies you via phone, fax or beeper, whichever you choose. In tests, the service was reliable and worked well.