November 12, 2002
By Linda Lopez
Wisdom can come from the unlikeliest sources. A few years ago, when I was just starting my business and striving to execute every step flawlessly and under budget, a musician friend shared with me some advice that has since proved invaluable.
He said creative people need to set aside time each week to think about what they do and how they might do it better. This time should be sacrosanct—no phone calls, no appointments, no interruptions, and no guilt.
I wondered how he used this special time. “That depends”, he replied. “I might compose music, or play music, or just sit around and think about music.” I once caught him nodding off during one of these creative sessions and called him on it. “Don’t worry,” he assured me, “I have some of my best ideas when I’m sleeping.”
He referred to his quiet time as cogitatin’. Whatever you choose to call it, the point is: There is up time, when you are plying your trade; down time, when you are lying on the beach with a cold one; and, sprinkled liberally between those two extremes, there should be some alpha time. If you can swing one day a week, great. If not, set aside at least a half day—preferably the same day and time each week—to do what you feel like doing to improve your business and your life.
While I’m much too type-A to spend my alpha time sleeping, I do spend a good deal of it surfing the Web, reading business articles, watching C-span, hatching ideas, learning new skills, or devising unique ways to market my business. It is what fuels me for the rest of the week and keeps my creative energy high.
Research and development is just as crucial to the success of the small business and independent creative as it is to large corporations. Make time for it in your weekly agenda.
Research & Development on the Web
If you are a new or small business owner, or if you are trying to market your product or service on a limited budget—and who isn’t!—reach for the most important research tool of our age, the search engine, to help you discover what others like you are doing to get ahead. There is abundant information online that can help you do that thing you do easier and better. These four sites are good places to begin.
- Can a Web site marketed as relentlessly as About.com was in the year 2000 live up to the hype? Well, yes it can. In fact, I would rate this huge site indispensable for anyone building a business. The home page is intelligently laid out and the search engine is powerful and intuitive. My favorite search on About.com was for a Cyrillic keyboard, which I found in short order and was able to easily superimpose on my Western one. There were even two fonts from which to choose. Amazing! Explore the known galaxy: www.about.com.
- Dr. Ralph Wilson, a.k.a., Doctor Ebiz, has been in the e-business game since the beginning and knows a thing or two. Wilsonweb.com is a mammoth site, well organized and full of useful information for the small business owner, particularly one whose business might include an online component. A few of the many areas well-covered: Web site design, Internet marketing, banner advertising, search engine placement, link swapping, affiliate programs, HTML tutorials, and e-commerce. The doctor is in at www.wilsonweb.com. Subscribe to his free newsletter: www.doctorebiz.com.
- Set aside an hour or two for creative exploration and check out The Idea Site for Business. It’s full of great articles and a wealth of do-able ideas. It’s also highly interactive. You can post your portfolio, test market an ad with other Idea Site members, place classified ads, post message links, and much more. Why reinvent the wheel when your small business problem may have already been solved? Many heads are better than one at www.ideasiteforbusiness.com.
- The Small Business Administration’s Online Women’s Business Center is a wonderful hub for women entrepreneurs, particularly those who are new business owners. This special branch of the SBA maintains a national database of women’s business organizations, providing useful descriptions and links for each. Check out their Pro-Net program—a combination search engine and marketing tool for learning about procurement opportunities—and their guide to “Selling to the Federal Government”. Check out the women’s edition www.onlinewbc.gov and the SBA proper www.sba.gov.
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Linda Lopez is president of Tellmedia Communications, Inc., a full-service public relations company serving small businesses, non-profits, and trade associations. Her Web sites, www.Tellmedia.com and The Online Daybook at i-NewsRelease.com help companies and their constituencies share and access business information 24 hours a day.