Tech Smarts

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This story appears in the February 1996 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Let's talk about your office. Do you have enough space to get your work done? Is everything organized for maximum efficiency?

If you're like many business owners, chances are your office could stand a little improvement. If a work space crowded with computer and piled to the ceiling sounds all too familiar, don't worry: Anthro Corp. is here to help.

By entering the Compacta Cart Contest, you'll be eligible to win an Anthro Compacta Cart and $500 worth of Compacta accessories of your choice. Getting organized can do wonders for your business-and with the help of specially designed Compacta Computer Carts (retail value $159 to $199), Compacta Printer Carts ($119) or Compacta Equipment Stands ($179 to $219), you'll be ready for business.

The computer cart can hold your PC on the first level and all your extra materials on the second. If your desk is crowded with computer equipment, take advantage of Anthro's printer cart to make more room for work. Or the equipment stand can be used to store books, a , a fax machine, extra files and more.

All carts are adjustable and are made of 1-inch, 45-pound industrial-grade particle-board shelves (in either wood grain or surf white) with scratch-resistant laminate. The shelves are supported by tubes of sturdy 18-gauge steel that come in four colors: green, blue, ash white and black. Of course, they also come ready to assemble with all the necessary tools plus a five-year hard-wear guarantee.

Ready to get organized? Simply submit a picture of your office and a brief statement of 250 words or less describing why Anthro's Compacta Carts can help you and your business get organized. Include your name, your business's name, a brief description of your business, the length of time in operation, the number of employees, a business address, fax number, and daytime and evening phone numbers.

All entries must be postmarked (if mailed) or received (if sent by e-mail or fax) by midnight Pacific Time on March 1, 1996. Entries should be addressed to Compacta Cart Contest in care of , P.O. Box 57050, Irvine, CA 92619-7050; faxed to (714) 755-4211; or e-mailed to 71333,2547@compuserve. com. The lucky winner will be announced in the June issue of Entrepreneur. For official rules, see page 182.

It's In The E-Mail

While it may not be lumped on your desk in an unsightly pile like its paper counterpart, e-mail can become just as overwhelming if you don't learn how to control it.

According to Linda Lamb, co-author of Using Effectively (O'Reilly & Associates), most businesspeople get far more e-mail messages than are necessary. Often, your employees must wade through tons of messages that aren't even pertinent to them because the sender, inadvertently or on purpose, copied the message to them. By allowing practices like this to continue, contends Lamb, you're promoting habits that waste your employees' time and lower their productivity.

"The key is a combination of setting expectations for what you want to [accomplish] with

e-mail and encouraging people to practice good e-mail etiquette," she says.

Establishing company guidelines detailing how e-mail should be used is key to putting a stop to any extraneous e-mail. It's best to set up specific groups of users so that employees can target information to the proper areas of the company. Also, try to encourage employees to write message headers that are specific and easily understood so people know at first glance whether they need to read further. Finally, Lamb insists, you must put a stop to employees posting personal messages to the entire company.

To manage your own e-mail efficiently, get to know your delete key. If you read the top header and decide you're not interested in the mail, don't be afraid to delete it without opening it. Place messages you want to save for later in separate folders so you can easily retrieve them.

Above all, if you need to discuss something personal or controversial, pick up the and speak with the person directly rather than sending an e-mail message, advises Lamb. Otherwise, you're likely to set off a series of vicious e-mail attacks that can get out of hand.

Up Against The Mall

If you're in a big rush to jump on the bandwagon and set up an online storefront, consider this: Most consumers would still rather shop at their favorite local mall than on the Internet.

In fact, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research firm Forrester Research Inc. predicts the interactive retail market will move quite slowly for the next two to three years. A recent report found that merchants need a few years to learn how to sell effectively online-and how to find and maintain repeat customers.

What's the major hurdle electronic retailers must overcome to lure customers? Learning how to provide real value to their electronic shoppers. Online merchants have yet to exploit the substantial advantages of selling in this new medium: timeliness, convenience, ease of use and potentially lower prices.

But once retailers get a handle on these problems, watch out: A windfall of PC shipments to middle- and upper-income homes, as well as an increased technical sophistication among customers, should fuel rapid growth

'Net News

Is the business news and information available on the Internet not exactly what you had in mind? Do you often find it's targeted more toward a corporate environment than small business? If so,

MCI's Small Business Center on the World Wide Web may be just the answer.

Accessed via MCI's home page at, the Small Business Center offers tips and resources for financing, including areas such as venture capital, Small Business Administration lending, international trade financing and more. You'll find information about professional services, government agencies and associations that help small business, as well as the scoop on the latest news small-business owners need to know.

If you're hungry for more information, MCI's Small Business Center also has hypertext links to additional small-business sources on the Internet.

Keep It Simple

In a marketplace where are becoming increasingly powerful and performing more and more functions, some people in the computer industry have a different vision: machines that are much simpler and designed for single functions.

Ben Shneiderman, head of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland in College Park and professor of computer science there, envisions a future device he likes to call a "webtop." The machine, which would be specially designed to support browsing on the World Wide Web, would consist of a high-resolution color screen with a touch-screen keyboard and high-speed Internet connection-and could sell for just $100 to $200.

"Our goal is to enable the largest number of people to have the best possible access to the growing information resources on the World Wide Web," explains Shneiderman.

Are products like these a step backward or an innovative way to bring consumers more of what they really need? You make the call.


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