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You can't get where you want to go without a plan, and every entrepreneur knows he or she should have an updated business plan on hand. But how many actually do? Get help at http://www.bplans.com, which offers a sampling of downloadable business plans for industries ranging from retail to service. Another feature of this site: It offers solid advice on how to develop a concrete marketing plan that can jump-start your sales and marketing efforts. Samples and tips are available for free.
To contact Robert McGarvey, visit his Web site at http://members.aol.com/rjmcgarvey
Making The Grade
Take this dare--it may be painful, but in the long run, you'll benefit: Point your browser to Web Site Garage (http://www.websitegarage.com), type in your site's URL, and, in a minute or two, you'll find a detailed analysis of your site's load time, popularity and design, as well as a list of dead links and misspelled words. Sites are graded from poor to excellent, and in trial runs, Web Site Garage gave blistering--and accurate--grades. A "poor" or "fair" grade may mean it's time to give your site a hard look: You can bet surfers won't hang around for slow-loading, poorly designed sites.
In Other Words
Ever come across a Web page that seemed critical to your business but you couldn't read it because it was in another language? Surf over to Altavista (http://www.altavista.digital.com) for a jaw-dropping example of the Web's powerful versatility . . . and an instant cure for your foreign language woes. Altavista provides nearly instant translation of any Web page. Type in the URL and click on "translate," and, seconds later, the page's contents appear in the language of your choice--French, German, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish. An added plus of this service: If you believe foreign visitors to your site might become customers but are hindered by language barriers, you can build in a link to this translation service so they can effortlessly read what you're saying in their own language. Best of all, the service is free.
Ask The Expert
Are your workers dissatisfied? Is your best customer unhappy? Drill down to the root causes and possible cures at RoadMap, an expert system site that invites visitors to present a problem and answer a series of questions designed to pinpoint organizational flaws. This approach works if you take the time to really identify problems. Next time product demand drops or employees' work is lacking in quality or cost-effectiveness, visit RoadMap (http://www.root-cause.com) for insight into what you can do to prevent future blow-ups.
Home, Home On The Web
Baffled by the complexities of Microsoft's dazzling FrontPage Web site design software? Although the software can be used to create the most complex sites, for some users, it's overkill. A good alternative: FileMaker's updated Home Page 3.0 ($99), a program that's still easy to use but offers 45 page and site templates as well as 2,500 clip art images. Home Page also features a built-in connection to the FileMaker Pro database application ($199) for nearly instant publication (to the Internet or an intranet) of mailing lists, employee records or anything maintained in a database. Both programs are available for PCs and Macs. For more information, visit FileMaker's Web site -- http://www.filemaker.com