Dashboard: July 2006
You’re taking one of those quick lunches at your desk to finish up a hot project and, by accident, you send an open can of your favorite beverage cascading toward your keyboard. You’re not worried — at least not about damaging the keyboard and turning the mishap into a sticky mess. Your SpillSeal washable keyboard from Unotron can be rinsed under water — or in disinfectant solution — without harming the electrical components. According to the manufacturer, washing the keyboard reduces the spread of germs and helps prevent bacterial infection. So it’s not only good insurance against accidents, but it also improves office hygiene.
We’re giving away a limited quantity of the 2.4GHz washable wireless keyboards (color black, MSRP $75.99) to the BizTech readers who best describe how they’ve used technology to “clean up” (i.e., solve a sticky business problem). Click the “Feedback” link at the top of the page to send us your input.
Has your company implemented a wireless system at your location?
|65% YES - 35% NO|
|If yes, what was your top concern about implementing a wireless system?|
|Support and maintenance costs||10%|
|No strong push from users or management||8%|
|Source: CDW survey of 255 BizTech readers|
Businesses that are outgrowing their domestic markets might have an easier time going global, thanks to a new Web initiative launched in June by the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The independent federal agency envisions Em-Im Online as a one-stop shop for small businesses that want to export products or services overseas. The new, interactive Web-based service enables exporters, as well as brokers and financial institutions, to go online to apply for insurance, monitor the status of applications, receive and accept quotes, report shipments, obtain buyer approvals and request policy amendments. James H. Lambright, the bank’s acting chairman and president, touted the service in a prepared statement as a way the Ex-Im Bank can serve more small businesses and help the bank work more effectively with its partner lenders, brokers and other government agencies. Small businesses that are new to exporting can contact the Ex-Im Bank at (800) 565-3946 or visit its Web site at www.exim.gov for more information.
Does your company centralize IT purchasing through one individual or department?
|Yes, all purchasing is done through one individual or department||84%|
|No, purchasing is handled by one person in each department||6%|
|No, we prefer decentralized purchasing||4%|
|No, there is no organized purchasing process||4%|
|No, but we’re in the process of centralizing purchasing||2%|
|Source: CDW survey of 334 BizTech readers|
Customer relationship management (CRM) is something that many small businesses are just starting to roll out in a big way. Yet Jack Mitchell, the CEO of family-owned Mitchells/Richards/Marshs, has been practicing world-class CRM for more than three decades to grow three of the most successful clothing stores in the business, with annual sales of more than $70 million. The best-selling author of Hug Your Customers: The Proven Way to Personalize Sales and Achieve Astounding Results, shares his insights in The Lowdown (Page 56) and in the feature on CRM (Page 39.) If you’d like an autographed copy of Hug Your Customers, be among the first 50 readers to send us your CRM success (or horror) story or just some feedback on a current IT challenge or issue you’d like to read about in BizTech. Send your input to email@example.com, and the book is free as a “hug” to our readers.
All economic expansions come to an end. So with harder economic times lurking somewhere around the bend, the National Federation of Independent Business, a leading small-business lobbying organization, offers this advice for the next downturn: “Your first instinct is probably to conserve cash. [But] remember that certain expenses help you maintain and even improve your competitive position.” The group cautions business owners to think twice about cutting these costs:
- Accounting services: In tough times, you must keep on top of your cash.
- Advertising: Advertising is your lifeline to sales. It helps keep customers informed and helps to turn over inventory.
- Collections: Turning receivables into cash is one of the best ways to weather a cash crunch. But beware: Many of your customers may also be short on cash.
- Customer service: Build a following of loyal customers that will stay with you through ups and downs.
- Meetings: When times are tight, employees need an opportunity to communicate face to face with each other and with you.
- Taxes: Don’t try to improve your cash position by neglecting payroll and sales taxes — ever.
Small and medium businesses (SMBs) worldwide are on pace to spend $11.4 billion beefing up their IT security and infrastructure this year in a bid to thwart increasing electronic threats, according to the latest study by New York-based Access Markets International (AMI) Partners, Inc. That pace would lead to a 23 percent increase in spending over 2005, when SMBs invested an estimated $9.3 billion on security products worldwide, AMI says, projecting that double-digit annual increases will continue for the next several years. The projections are based on surveys of 12,000 SMBs conducted by AMI in more than 20 countries, representing key developed and emerging markets, says Anil Miglani, New York-based senior vice president at AMI-Partners. In almost all countries, IT security continues to be among the top concerns for SMBs. Almost 60 percent of the small businesses (1–99 employees) surveyed in the developed economies indicated that enhancing IT security was very important, Miglani says.