Business Research? Dont Forget "dot
"With a top-notch research department,
your business could take over the world," writes free lance
author Gregg Keizer in the February 2000 issue of PC Computing
Unfortunately, if youre a small
business, you cant afford a "standing army" of expert
researchers. "No sweat," Keizer continues. "Youve
got a powerful information-gathering tool at your disposal: the
In his article
on business intelligence, "You
Know Its Out There
Heres How to Find It,"
Keizer provides an impressive array of websites to help small businesses
answer some of their most challenging research questions. "Best
of all, most of these Web resources wont cost you a dime,"
Many sites in Keizers list are
commercial, but some industrial-strength federal sites made the
and Exchange Commissions EDGAR Database lets
you search through any public companys SEC filings, he says.
"Its a good way to find out what kinds of perks the top
brass at the competition are getting."
on a tight budget, check out the free information at the U.S.
Census Bureaus County Business Patterns site. He explains
how you can "drill down to the appropriate county in your state
for a list generalized industries" to reach "more specific
trades (such as brokers, insurance agents) to find the number of
employees and payroll information. "Its a quick way to
find out if theres room for opportunity or if a markets
already saturated," he says.
And if you
have a new product in mind, and maybe even a name for it, Keizer
suggests that you do a trademark search on the U.S.
Patent and Trademark Office database. If the product name
you want isnt taken, you can register your trademark on the
spot just fill out the online registration and pay the fee.
thinking of starting a new business, or expanding your business
into a new market, Keizer steers you back to the U.S. Census
Bureau and its American
FactFinder site for demographic information. When youve
clicked on Facts About My Community, and then Community Profiles,
next you "simply choose the town or city youre interested
in" and create a report from such data profiles as General
Population and Housing Characteristics and Income and Poverty Status.
The report, he says, "tells you everything youve ever
wanted to know about a community" such as statistics on home
ownership and rentals, educational levels, and languages spoken
To find the
qualifications and average salary of jobs you need to fill, Keizer
recommends the U.S. Department of Labors Bureau of Labor
Statistics, and its online publication, the 1998-99
Occupational Outlook Handbook. "You can search for
more than 250 occupations," he says.
And what about
government regulations? "To follow these rules, youve
got to know what they are," he says. He suggests heading to
of Labors Regulatory Compliance Assistance page. "Part
of DOLs Office of Small Business Programs, this page links
valuable resources for small businesses, including The
Small Business Handbook, a solid summary of the relevant
laws," he writes.
Labor Department regulations like hard hats and safety
he says the eLaws Advisor
page is the "best bet."
"Its not smart to blow
your companys limited funds on brand-new office equipment,"
Keizer advises. After listing some commercial sites where a business
can get great deals, he reminds his readers that one of the largest
purveyors of used goods is Uncle Sam. "The General Services
Administration (GSA), the federal governments purchasing
arm, regularly unloads surplus mostly used property
to the public through sealed bids, auctions, silent auctions, and
first-come, first-served fixed price sales," he says. "
If you know where to find the stuff, your business can save a lot
sells surplus property through its 11 regional offices, he recommends
Property Sales/Auctions page, which links to each offices
public sales information.
Keizers article is an interesting sidebar, "Watch Your
Back," in case another company is researching your business.
What if your records in public and private databases are wrong?
How do you correct misinformation? If you dispute the information,
he points you to the Federal
Trade Commission website for what to do.
And, if someone
has stolen your identity and ruined your reputation, Keizer says
go to the Identify
And Theres More
Freelance writer Gregg Keizer found
a goodly number of government sites to help businesses in their
fact finding, but Id like to point out a few more.
Business Administrations popular U.S.
Business Advisor is a handy one-stop shortcut to government
regulations, forms, and other business-related information. And
businesses are singing the praises of the Occupational
Safety and Health Administrations Online
Advisors. An Online Advisor is as good as having
an OSHA safety expert at your side and maybe better if youre
a little nervous about compliance.
good news about buying used property from Uncle Sam. The federal
is a one-stop shop. You can get information on the sale or auction
of just about anything that any government -- federal, state, local
or international -- offers for sale or auction to the general public
And more good news: the year 2000-2001
Occupational Outlook Handbook is scheduled to go online in February
About the Reviewer
Editor of Access America
Online Magazine, also manages the National
Partnership for Reinventing Government website. She also
oversees the activities of the Federal
Communicators Network. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (202) 694-0063.
January 31, 2000