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Taking Care of Business: Failures Linked to Website Ignorance

September 29, 2008
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John R. Hall

Latest statistics from the Small Business Administration (SBA) confirms that two-thirds of new businesses survive and that 44 percent of new start-ups survive at least four years. That’s quite a bit of difference from the myth that 50 percent of businesses fail in the first year and 95 percent fail within five years.

Some could cite those statistics as positive and leaning toward optimism. I guess it is like the old glass “half full or half empty” argument. Should we rejoice in the fact that “only” 56 percent of new businesses fail in the first four years? That is like saying that a baseball player who hits .300 is pretty good. But that means that he or she fails to get a hit in seven out of 10 plate appearances. So failure is a fluid term which fluctuates depending on its application.

And according to the SBA, research has found that the major factors in a businesses’ survivability include an ample supply of capital, being large enough to have employees, the owner’s education level, and the owner’s reason for starting the business. Patricia Schafer tends to think these reasons, when viewed negatively, contribute to business failure. The author also believes there are a few other reasons why businesses fail, such as poor management, wrong location, overexpansion, lack of planning, and lack of a Website.

Huh? Did you say lack of a Website? I think a certain NEWS’ business editor has been harping about that for years. It looks like his harping has been validated, at least by Ms. Schafer.

WHAT SHE SAID

Schafer said, “Simply put, if you have a business today, you need a Website. Period.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Here’s what else she said: “In the U.S. alone, the number of Internet users (about 70 percent of the population) and e-commerce sales (about 70 billion in 2004, according to the Census Bureau) continue to rise and are expected to increase with each passing year.

“At the very least, every business should have a professional-looking and well-designed Website that enables users to easily find out about their business and how to avail themselves of their products and services. Later, additional ways to generate revenue on the Website can be added; i.e., selling ad space, drop-shipping products, or recommending affiliate products.

“Remember, if you don’t have a Website, you’ll most likely be losing business to those that do. And make sure that Website makes your business look good, not bad - you want to increase revenues, not decrease them.”

I like how she thinks. Too bad a lot of HVACR contractors have no clue when it comes to the value that a Website brings to the business. Then again, a lot of those contractors don’t even know about The NEWS or have never read a copy. Shocking.

CASE IN POINT

Much of my time is spent on the Internet, searching for HVACR contractors for a number of different reasons, but mostly to get their input on various topics related to the trade. I try a number of different methods for finding contractor Websites and subsequently, a useable e-mail address. (Yes, if any of you have a Website you are not safe from me.) So you could say that I am somewhat of an above-average Internet researcher.

Nothing frustrates me more than when I find a contractor whose only link to the Internet is through a dealer locator feature on a manufacturer’s Website or through an organization like Angie’s List, which recruits pre-screened HVACR contractors for customers looking for qualified contractors to bid on various household projects.

In these cases, the contractor is at the whim of the business that established the Website and pretty much plays second fiddle. To me, that scenario is almost as bad as having no Website at all. Unless of course, a contractor would rather be known for its brand name products or low prices rather than its quality and reputation.

I understand that some small business owners in small communities depend on reputation via word-of-mouth and feel there is no need for any “high-falootin’” technology. I don’t think these people will ever see the need for a uniquely designed Website. But for the other 99 percent of you, it is time to take action.

Invest in a Website - right now. And differentiate it from your competitor’s. Even if you are established and far removed from being a new start-up, there is never a timetable for failure.

Publication date: 09/29/2008
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