’Tis nobler, blah-blah-blah. That’s about as much Hamlet as I know besides “alas poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio.” I should know more, having spent almost 20 years in community and professional theater as an actor and director. But nowadays, I’m more interested in another form of “to be or not to be”: B2B (business-to-business) e-commerce.

In fact, The News is very interested in B2B e-commerce because it has now become such an important buzzword in the vocabulary of small businesses everywhere. If you think it is not important, think again. B2B e-commerce is a multi-billion dollar industry that is growing geometrically.

I’ll be attending the “A/E/C Systems 2000” conference in Washington, DC, on June 6, which organizers tout as the “Internet Event for the Entire Design and Construction Industry.” The show runs June 5-8. Normally when I attend a trade show, I get a handful of invitations to visit show booths, usually no more than five or six. As of two weeks before the conference, I had 19 invitations.

How do you conduct business with your vendors? Fax? Phone? Courier? Or (heaven forbid) snail mail? Although you may answer yes to some of these modes of communication, chances are that the increasingly popular answer is conducting business via the Internet.

A number of B2B web portals are stepping up to meet the growing needs of e-commerce business. The goal of these fledgling companies, such as BidBuyBuild.com, is to make bidding, buying, and selling decisions almost instantaneous. With today’s emphasis on “need yesterday” technology, speed is the buzzword. If you want to compete, you have to do it quickly and efficiently.

Today’s user-friendly B2B websites make designing, bidding, and buying as easy as downloading Sesame Street™ learning software for your children. That’s great for people like me who continually struggle to keep up with rapidly changing technology. My “mouseclick mentality” is typical of many Internet surfers.

I’m sure many of our readers have spent a great deal of time researching the economic possibilities of conducting business over the Internet, and that’s good. While some people still resist the urge to go online and learn about the possibilities of doing business over the Internet, I have a feeling that most people have the desire to learn more and integrate B2B into their business plan.

For that reason, The News will continue to expand its coverage of this important market — becoming a sort of “portal” to the B2B world for hvacr contractors. As I learn more about this business, I’ll pass it along to you. And if you learn something that would be useful to our readers, please return the favor and pass it along to me.

Now, about that Shakespeare…