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New Kid From the Old School

BusinessWeek targets the little guy with a new magazine. Is it worth a look?

By David Connell

For years, 75 to be exact, BusinessWeek has functioned as the business newsweekly of record. During that time, the magazine has positioned itself as a general publication, covering subjects that appeal to the nation’s top CEOs, all the way down to middle-managers aspiring to greatness. However, BusinessWeek often looked askance at entrepreneurs and small-business operators, dedicating only a small portion of its pages—and webpages—to subjects specifically written for the minnows.

That trend, however, changed drastically this summer when BusinessWeek publisher, the McGraw-Hill Companies, released a spin-off called SmallBiz, a quarterly magazine designed specifically for small-business owners and entrepreneurs. The magazine, and its entirely revamped website, is sure to give established monthly-player, Inc., a run for the small-business market, but is it something insurance and financial advisors should consider subscribing to? Here’s a review of the print and web offerings, based on the fall 2004 issue.

The SmallBiz website offers more nuts-and-bolts information that is applicable to the financial services industry.

The fine print
The fall issue of SmallBiz features a cover story on funding growth and outlines several options—including employee ownership, limited liability structures, venture capital and even IPOs—for finding cash to grow your business. Much of this article won’t be applicable to a small financial services firm, but it is an interesting topic and may help you relate to your business clients.

More relevant is a regular column called “Family Inc.” on challenges faced by family businesses. The fall 2004, edition, penned by Timothy G. Habbershon, director of the Institute for Family Enterprising, discusses why family businesses must have a big idea in order to grow. Simply working hard, Habberson argues, may help increase sales, but it will ultimately lead to more frustration than growth. “Growth,” he argues, “requires a vision that's larger than any one person and an investment in business practices that can carry the vision forward.”

The fall 2004 issue is filled out with a healthy mix of how-to articles, such as how to comply with overtime rules and how to hire regional sales managers (although here “regional” refers to Europe and Asia) and inspiring stories of businesses that have prospered in niche markets or despite long odds. A compelling example of the latter is a profile of Sandor Zombori, who went from the Hungarian Olympic judo team, to three months in a Communist internment camp, to becoming one of Florida’s most successful restaurateurs.

Web sales
The SmallBiz website offers more nuts-and-bolts information that is applicable to the financial services industry. The site, which poached its editor from Inc., has a wealth of articles on sales and marketing that any advisor can learn from. It also contains technology reviews and a section on networking away from the office.

The add-ons here are also compelling. The site has a directory where small businesses can find local resources in categories ranging from accounting to web marketing. It also has a “Small Business Resource Center,” but this appears to be thinly veiled advertising for listed companies like and FranchiseSolutions. Still, it may be useful. One of the better features is “Smart Answers” which fields questions from readers on subjects ranging from pitching a sale to hiring employees.

The verdict
After reviewing the content from SmallBiz, we find a lot to like, especially for a magazine that’s only publishing quarterly. But for advisors who own their own business, the website will probably prove to be more useful than the magazine. It has more articles on core sales techniques and seems geared toward small businesses that don’t have national or global aspirations. The print version of SmallBiz hasn’t quite shed its father’s far-reaching ambitions.


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