Ask SCORE: Plenty of useful business information available online

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 17, 2012 

Question: I'm getting pretty good at using the Internet for business information and research. But besides just using Google and the other search engines, what are some specific helpful business sites?

Answer: Yes, you have a whole world of information at your fingertips, 24/7. Everybody knows that the Internet has loads of garbage. But there's loads of excellent information, too. You might want to check these out and bookmark the ones you like. Let's talk about this.

For starters, many business magazines have good websites. These have current business news and articles. In addition, most of them have archives or searchable databases for previous business topics. Some standouts:

- Entrepreneur Magazine has hundreds of articles on every aspect of small business, entrepreneur.com.

- Bloomberg's website, businessweek.com.

- Inc Magazine, inc.com.

- The Wall Street Journal's site, wsj.com.

- For a bigger business perspective, forbes.com.

Numerous government sites are helpful. At the federal level, here are several keepers:

- The Small Business Administration's site has tons of information on SBA business assistance programs, small business loans, business startup and management advice and related topics; sba.gov.

- The Internal Revenue Service's just-revised site has clearer ways to find tax forms and instructions, plus there is a small business section. Start at irs.gov.

- Of course SCORE has a helpful site with information and advice on all aspects of business from startup through the growth and maturity stages of your business. Check score.org.

- For information on patents, trademarks and similar intellectual property, go to uspto.gov.

Closer to home, state and local websites of value include:

- The Secretary of State's site is the source for information about forming a Limited Liability Company or corporation. Also, you can search existing LLCs or corporations to find their status and ownership. sos.wa.gov.

- The state recently formed a new office to consolidate business startup licensing. It's called Business Licensing Services at bls.dor.wa.gov.

- The Washington State Data Book presents "...in one reference document, a diversity of information on Washington, its people, economy, and government." ofm.wa.gov/databook.

- The Whatcom County Assessor's Office has information on real estate descriptions, values, and ownership, whatcom.wa.us/assessor.

- The county Auditor's Office is a source of data for recorded documents like deeds, liens, judgments, and other public records; co.whatcom.wa.us/auditor.

- The City of Bellingham has useful business resources, click on the "Services" tab and then "Business" at cob.org.

Also remember that Whatcom's recently-consolidated library system gives you access to numerous databases and other sources. Many of these are only available by subscription membership. Ask at the reference desk, or online using a local library card at http//www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org" target="_blank">bellinghampubliclibrary.org; click on "Research Tools" to access them and see what meets your needs. Some helpful tools you may not be aware of include:

- ProQuest business searches.

- AtoZ databases.

- CityIQ online map viewer.

- Corporate annual reports.

Here are some other sites worth a look.

- An excellent general site on business information, toolkit.com.

- The informative site Mind Tools has articles on "...more than 700 leadership, team-building, communication and career excellence skills" at mindtools.com.

- The New York Society of CPAs offers descriptions of 500 accounting terms at nysscpa.org/glossary.

- The Better Business Bureau shares their standards, ideas and ratings at bbb.org/us.

- The business brokerage Biz Buy Sell boasts of having 45,000 active businesses for sale. It's searchable by type of business and state/county; bizbuysell.com.

- If you have family-owned business, look for ideas and solutions for this particular situation at fambiz.com.

- Be sure you subscribe to all the free trade magazines relevant to your business. Find these and more information at tradepub.com.

- You might consider joining the National Federation of Independent Businesses. It's $180 a year. See if the benefits work for you; nfib.com.

- Business author Jay Conrad Levinson coined the term "guerrilla marketing." He has "...authored or co-authored 58 books published in 62 languages." Check his site for great marketing ideas; gmarketing.com.

- Author and business strategist Carol Roth wrote a very significant book, "The Entrepreneur Equation" in 2011. Her straight-forward advice in the book continues on her website, carolroth.com.

And last, give yourself a break - business isn't all serious. There's nothing wrong with having a laugh now and then. Go to ajokeaday.com; click on "Categories" and then "Business Jokes." As the site's name suggests, they will email you a business (or other topic) joke, with nothing raunchy, each day. It's free and fun.

ABOUT SCORE

To learn more about managing cash flow, and other small business matters, contact SCORE, "Counselors to America's Small Business." SCORE is a nonprofit nationwide organization with more than 13,000 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and low-cost training workshops to small business owners. Call the local SCORE chapter at 360-685-4259 to schedule an appointment. For details about the organization,visit SCORE.org.

Ask SCORE is prepared for The Bellingham Herald by Bob Dahms, a business counselor with the Bellingham chapter of SCORE. Submit questions for this column to newsroom@bellinghamherald.com.

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