29 Oct Online small business publisher unveils more web tools
Madison, Wis. – Independence can be liberating, and given the expanded palette of services and content planned since the re-launch of The Business Owner’s Toolkit site, it may be better for the bottom line as well.
The bottom lines of both the “Toolkit” and its member clients, that is.
The new freedom will enable the 10-year-old online publishing business to promote itself to a greater extent, get with the program in terms of adding web-based features, and add even more content to a site with upwards of 5,000 business-related documents.
That’s not to suggest that the online publisher doesn’t still have some well-heeled friends. It may no longer be owned and operated at toolkit.cch.com by CCH, Inc., a Wolters Kluwer company that provides information services, software, and workflow tools for business professionals, but it maintains a partnership with CCH, enabling it to draw from a deep reserve of business information.
The Toolkit does, however, remain part of Wolters Kluwer, the Dutch publishing conglomerate with 2006 revenues of €3.7 billion, so it should not lack for resources going forward. Wolters Kluwer also owns the Madison-based BizFilings, one of several companies started by Jellyfish.com executive Brian Wiegand.
Troy Janisch, publisher of the Toolkit, said the biggest benefit to having friends in high places is the volume of information they contribute to the site. The relationship is essentially a food chain, a case of large enterprises leveraging small business expertise and sharing it with their customers as though their own success depended on it – which, of course, it does.
“Their success is dependent on small businesses succeeding,” explained Janisch, who write a business technology column titled Tech/Know.
The typical new business owner knows his or her own field, but might be clueless about managing cash flow, marketing, motivating employees, or even building personal wealth.
It’s one of the reasons for the oft-cited statistic about new business failure rates: within five years, only one in five new ventures will remain in business. Improving on that metric is a prime motivator behind the Toolkit.
In some cases, businesses don’t fail as much as they change, and those started by so-called “serial’ entrepreneurs are intended to be short-term by nature. Other would-be entrepreneurs find out during the planning process that a business idea is just plain bad, and wisely don’t bother to pursue it. But when the majority of new jobs are created by the nation’s collection of small businesses, not its corporate giants, a 20 percent success rate is unacceptable.
To improve that success rate, the “Toolit” provides in-depth information on everyday business topics for entrepreneurs that might otherwise have to invest in a stable of professional advisors. The Toolkit bills itself as a reference tool that provides start-up to shut-down coverage for business needs.
Membership is free, and technology and Internet businesses comprise 10 percent of the toolkit’s clientele. Revenues are derived from major sponsors like Advanta who, like the Toolkit’s parent company, have a vested interest in seeing entrepreneurs succeed.
However, in addition to Janish and a sales professional, the site has a five-member editing team to develop new content. The staff of writers double as small business experts, accountants, and attorneys situated in Riverwood, Ill., and they have made it possible for the website to become a place where business owners can find collections of practical tips, business templates, and unique how-to content.
The site has been architected to include more than 5,000 pages of start-up tips, free cost-cutting advice, actual case studies and, for those who religiously adhere to processes, step-by-step checklists. The content, which also has been published in book form, contains many of the Web-based features that have made the online model an interactive force: a monthly newsletter, up-to-date news topics, and a column that closely follows industry trends and provides advice to site visitors.
It’s also in a position to employ a tried and true small business promotional campaign – the give-away. To celebrate its re-launch, the site is giving away a free laptop each month for the next year to a randomly-selected member, and began in September by handing out a Dell Vostro notebook computer.
More tools in the kit
Its bread and butter remains a small business guide feature that, with upwards of 4,000 documents, represents 80 percent of its content, but the Toolkit is deploying more next-generation web concepts. Earlier in October, the site began offering free webinars for business owners, giving a new dimension to essential business topics such as crafting a business plan, finding start-up money, basic accounting, legal structure, and taxes.
Next year, the site will launch a weekly Internet radio show covering small business topics. The show, titled “Build Your Business,” will be available on demand via podcast, enabling entrepreneurs to get the answers they need when they need them – including right in the office environment during the regular working day.
“The large companies that sponsor us are very much like a public radio sponsor,” Janisch said.
More content is coming as well, including new information related to Internet marketing and domain names and fraud prevention. The company spends two to three months out of every year in a content updating cycle, and John Duoba, the site’s managing editor, predicts the total number of documents eventually will grow to 6,500.
“We’re sitting on all this professional content,” noted Duoba. “Instead of turning to lawyers and business consultants, we package it to the small business owner who has to make all these decisions, themselves. We try to educate them with that content.”
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