According to the sixth annual survey of small and mid-sized businesses conducted by Arthur Andersen's Enterprise Group and National Small Business United (NSBU), a small-business advocacy organization, credit is king . . . at least for many of today's business owners, who have turned to their charge cards to generate business capital.
In a time when the use of traditional financing, such as commercial bank loans and private loans, has declined, more business owners are seeking alternative financing methods, such as credit cards, leasing agreements and home equity loans.
Between 1993 and 1997, reliance on commercial bank loans decreased 24 percent. In addition, during the same time period, reliance on private loans decreased 32 percent. Compare these figures with the growth of credit-card use--which has nearly doubled in the past five years--from 17.3 percent in 1993 to 33.5 percent in 1997.
But this new tendency for business owners to "charge now, pay later" can prove costly--both in hefty interest fees and financial overextension due to poor long-term budgeting.
"Relying on credit cards for financing creates a snowball effect of debt that could crash down hard on your business," says NSBU's Sharon Miller. "It may be easier to flash the plastic, but in the long run, working hard to find an alternative means of financing is prudent."
For years, mentoring has been a hot topic in the small-business world--one that doesn't show any signs of cooling, either. And why should it? The mentor/protégé relationship allows both the teacher and the student to prosper. In the competitive world of small business, every edge entrepreneurs can get--including gleaning knowledge from another's experience--can help their businesses survive.
Recent books on mentoring are plentiful; each of the following takes a unique approach to the subject of mentoring, extolling its virtues and benefits.
- Mentoring: A Success Guide for Mentors and Protégés, by Terri Sjodin and Floyd Wickman (Irwin/McGraw-Hill, $24.95, 800-2-MCGRAW). Mentors can help protégés find multiple solutions to common business problems. Says Sjodin: "If you can't get in the front door, your mentor will help you crawl through a window."
- The Mentor: 15 Keys to Success in Sales, Business and Life, by Jack Carew (Donald I. Fine Books, $19.95, 800-526-0275). In a dramatic narrative, Carew's sage-like "Mentor" character shares 15 essential business "lessons of a lifetime" with two young protégés. More inspirational than instructional, Carew's tale reminds us of the wisdom that comes from having been there.
- Coaching, Mentoring and Managing: Breakthrough Strategies to Solve Performance Problems and Build Winning Teams, by William Hendricks (Career Press, $16.99, 800-CAREER-1). Written for mentors, this book encourages teachers to impart their wisdom using hands-on instruction. Hendricks is a believer in the "10-60-90" principle: "Adults will remember 10 percent of what they hear, 60 percent of what they see and 90 percent of what they do."
Census And Sensibility
It happens only once every five years: The U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of the Census surveys American businesses to get a clearer picture of how the economic landscape in America has shifted.
And it's time now, once again. If you are one of the 5 million business owners who received an Economic Census package in December, remember to return your completed forms by February 12, 1998, to make sure your business is represented in the "big picture."
Starting in early 1999 and continuing for more than two years, Census results will be issued in a number of printed reports, on CD-ROM and on the Internet. For more information about the Census, its data collection procedures and its findings, visit the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site at http://www.census.gov/econ97
Instant Start-Up Kit
Have you ever wished you could stock your new office with start-up supplies by making a single phone call? Penny Wise Office Products, a mail order supplier of discount office supplies, based in Bowie, Maryland, offers a "Welcome Kit" created especially for start-up businesses, which includes $75 worth of basic office supplies--highlighters, paper clips, file folders, correction fluid and the like--plus a company catalog, for $24.99. As an added convenience, kits are delivered to new businesses the day after ordering.
"We've done the shopping for our new customers, so they don't need to waste time at the store," says company president and CEO Gary Luiza. "We're confident that once they see how much they save, along with the convenience of having their office supplies delivered the next day--directly to their desktops--they will keep coming back."
To order the Welcome Kit, or to request a free Penny Wise Office Products catalog, call (800) 942-3311.
Write Your Way To Success
By Jessica Hale
First impressions truly are lasting, so every letter or proposal you send needs to be well-written. Awkward, mechanical or just plain boring writing can do irreparable damage to the polished, professional image you work so hard to maintain. Learn to personalize your writing, grab attention and achieve results with Business Writing for Busy People (Career Press, $15.99, 800-CAREER-1), by Philip R. Theibert.
Theibert believes great writing is produced by great thinking. Consequently, he considers organization to be the key to success in writing. Get organized by brainstorming and developing an outline, then go through Theibert's 20-item "Organizational Checklist" to make sure you're on the right track. Questions such as "Do you have one idea per paragraph?" and "Do your arguments justify the conclusion?" help you make sure you've organized your writing correctly.
Once you've written something that gets your point across in an organized fashion, move on to the chapters on jargon, style and "putting the human touch back in your writing." Theibert shows you how to eliminate business jargon and clichés while incorporating your personality into what you write.
After reading Business Writing for Busy People, instead of sounding dull and robotic, your writing will convey a sense of humanity and intelligence that's sure to win over all your readers--and potential customers.
Arthur Andersen's Enterprise Group, (800) 872-2454, http://www.arthurandersen.com