From the July 2002 issue of Entrepreneur

Euro-phoria?

Old currencies die hard, but they do die. On January 1, after years of heated argument and fear, the euro finally replaced the currencies of most European countries. After predictions about the havoc the currency overhaul would bring, the impact fizzled. "Our contracts were in lira," says Rich Jachetti, president of Teaneck, New Jersey-based Ultimate Artisans Inc., an importer of objects made by Italian artisans. "So I had to get euro prices and redo our agreements. But it hasn't been a major problem."

Nor has it been a major benefit, though it will be, says Lisa Rubin, founder of New York City-based The Complete Package Inc., a creative promotional products company. "The euro dollar will offer a lot of advantages," asserts Rubin, who has global clients and manufactures all over the world. "There will more stability and price transparency, which will help us compare costs from country to country."

But thus far, advantages have been offset by the need to prepare for the transition. "It's similar to what we had to do for Y2K," Rubin says. "I hope this will be good for small business-that it will help us offer our clients better products and pricing. That's what it's all about."

Give Me a Little Credit Here!

Are cash flow concerns keeping you up at night? Maybe you're wondering about the credit rating of a potential customer or fretting over whether you can get a line of credit in a hurry. American Express' Open Network (www.open.amercianexpress.com) makes the answers to these and other late-night worries available 24/7.

Among the new offerings is a "financial dashboard" that gives small-business cardholders a snapshot of their account standing, as well as the ability to view other financial products for which they may be qualified, check membership reward points, and sign up to receive e-mail notification when a payment is nearly due or a credit limit almost reached.

"Some of this information was available online before, but you had to dig through multiple screens to find it," explains Kerry Hatch, executive vice president and general manager of Open: The Small Business Network from American Express. "We've made information easy for time-constrained business owners to access."

Also new to the mix are enhanced and new discount offerings from industry partners. Small-business cardholders, for example, now get a 5 percent discount from Dell Computer and 20 percent off credit check service from D&B.

Fraudian Slips

The Web abounds with fraudulent sites promising fast, high-return, low-risk investment opportunities-but did you know some are created and maintained by the SEC?

The SEC isn't seeking to bilk investors of their savings, of course, but rather to adopt an effective-albeit unorthodox-approach to educating them about the dangers of potential online fraud.

Its first fake site was promoted with a fabricated press release claiming the SEC had pre-approved an IPO by McWhortle Enterprises. Despite the fact that the SEC doesn't ever pre-approve IPOs, www.mcwhortle.com received more than 150,000 hits in the next three days.

The site described McWhortle as a "well-known manufacturer of biological defense mechanisms" with Fortune 500 customers and a grand 45 percent year-to-year earnings jump.

Interested investors were invited to submit their credit card and Social Security numbers online to bid on a pre-IPO offering. But those who clicked to do so received the following warning: "If you responded to an investment like this . . . You could get scammed."

"What we're trying to do is warn investors while their guards are down," says SEC chairman Harvey L. Pitt. "Next time, these investors won't let excitement cloud their judgment." But if they do, they may soon get another valuable lesson. There are already several new SEC pseudo- sites, and more are on the way.


Jennifer Pellet is a freelance writer in New York City specializing in business and finance.