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Tips That Count: 460 Helpful Lists

October 18, 2006|Cyndia Zwahlen | Special to The Times

Lists are a quick and easy way to access information. That's why the new "Streetwise Small Business Book of Lists" might be a welcome addition to your business library. Here's a short list of the reasons that you may find the book helpful.

1. Time- and money-saving ideas: The subtitle sums it up, "Hundreds of Lists to Help You Reduce Costs, Increase Revenues, and Boost Your Profits."

The book's 460 lists cover topics such as how to speed up your cash flow, common hiring mistakes, top insurance issues and risky tax deductions for the self-employed. Eight chapters identify important issues in almost all kinds of businesses, including starting up, finding and keeping employees, getting and handling money, traveling and making smart choices for effective technology, sales efforts and marketing.

2. An experienced author: Gene Marks spent nine years in the entrepreneurial services division of international consulting company KMPG before starting Marks Group, an 11-person consulting firm based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., that provides software and information technology services to small and medium-sized companies.

Marks wrote "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Successful Outsourcing" and "Outfoxing the Small Business Owner: Crafty Techniques for Creating a Profitable Relationship." He is also editor of "Small Business Desk Reference." Marks hit upon the idea of using lists as an efficient way to answer the myriad questions that face small-business owners, including himself.

Marks said he knocked out about 1,200 questions within a week and then hired a dozen graduate business students from nearby St. Joseph's University to find the experts and compile the answers in lists.

Marks' favorite list? "Key Reports to Use to Run a Business" on Page 235.

"It embodies exactly what the book brings to its readers," he said. "Concise and useful information that immediately impacts how a small-business owner makes decisions."

3. Contact information: The source for each list is given, including how to reach the expert. Among the 300 experts are consultants, authors, business groups and government agencies such the Internal Revenue Service and the Small Business Administration.

4. Affordable: $19.95 (cheaper at online booksellers) for 661 pages of information you can use every day to improve your business.

5. Value-added feature: Sign up at www.smallbizlists.net and receive a free list each month. Plus, you'll probably to get the news first when Marks comes out with his next book, which will include the several hundred other lists that didn't make it into this one.

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Firm Offers Unlimited Access to Credit Reports

Experian, a major credit-reporting company, has launched a service aimed at small-business owners who want to keep a close eye on their credit reports or those of their competitors, suppliers or partners.

For $99 a year, Costa Mesa-based Experian will provide unlimited access to a single company's commercial credit report through its website, www.smartbusinessreports.com. The subscription service is also available on a month-to-month basis for $12.95 a month.

Subscribers will receive e-mail alerts notifying them of changes that might affect the company's credit rating, such as inquiries, late payments, liens or bankruptcies.

The service is part of a revamp of Experian's credit report website, which still sells one-time access to commercial credit reports for $24.95 to $49.95, depending on the level of detail desired.

The company, which launched the website about two years ago, found that many small businesses were buying their own reports multiple times throughout the year as they applied for loans or credit with vendors or tried to guard against identity theft.

"This is targeted at small-business owners who we learned were paying more and more attention to their own business credit reports, which they should," said Craig Whitney, senior director in Experian's business solutions group. "They were pulling their own business credit reports as much as their customers'."

The credit company also has added a library of information on commercial credit topics geared to small-business owners.

Experian, like most other credit reporting companies, long has offered subscription services to its largest clients.

Consumers, who might want to track the financial health of a company they may want to do business with, such as a construction contractor, are also potential users of the website's services. Unlike consumer credit reports, to which access is somewhat limited by law, anyone can pay to get a copy of a company's commercial credit report.

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Small Business Expo Features Utility Firms

Meet buyers and other representatives from California energy and telecommunication utilities at the free Small Business Expo to be held 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 26 at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel in Anaheim.

The event, sponsored by the California Public Utilities Commission, will include a 9 a.m. presentation on how to work with corporate clients, followed by one-on-one appointments with participating companies such as Cox Communications Inc., Sempra Energy, Southern California Edison and T-Mobile.

Registration, a continental breakfast and appointment sign-ups will begin at 8 a.m. Preregistration is encouraged, but walk-ins are welcomed. To preregister, visit www.cpuc.ca.gov/static/expos.

For more information about the expo, which is co-sponsored by Orange County Presidents Council, contact Sheri Boles at (415) 703-2442 or sni@cpuc.ca .gov.

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cyndia.zwahlen@latimes.com

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