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Adventures in Entrepreneurship: Small Business Essentials

Editor’s Note: The following article is part of a series written in connection with the American Express OPEN “Adventures in Entrepreneurship” event, featuring Richard Branson. The event includes an online “panel discussion” around certain questions posed by Clay Shirky [1], our Facilitator.I and two other blogger panelists have been asked to write about business topics posed by the Facilitator. The following is the second question.

Question: There are a number of institutions that small business couldn’t live without — FedEx, Kinkos, Staples, Starbucks. What new functions are essential to small businesses today? Google? Ebay? What else?

Response: Once again, I could write a book about this topic, but I doubt that anyone has the patience to read a book online. So instead, I want to focus my discussion on one specific area: information resources. I will answer this question by referring back to the words and ideas of Sir Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Companies.

Richard Branson started his business career as a teenager by starting a magazine, called “Student.” In his talk during the Adventures in Entrepreneurship event, he explained why he started a magazine, saying simply “I wanted to be a magazine editor, and that meant I needed to publish a magazine.”

I found it very interesting that Branson started his career with an information business. He had something to say and needed to create a vehicle to say it with. Were he 15 years old today wanting to be heard he would probably start an Internet site — perhaps a blog. But in the mid-1960s, he did not have that choice and so he started a magazine.

All of which brings me around to my response to the panel question. I think small businesses today could not function without access to the variety of excellent online information resources. The process of starting a business, running a business, financing a business, and marketing a business are all made much easier because of ready access to information — much of it free — online.

The following is my short list of the top five online information resources that I believe successful small businesses could not function (at least not function as well) without today:

Read what the other two participating bloggers, Dane Carlson at Business Opportunities Weblog [10], and Rob May at BusinessPundit, have to say about this question.

What do you think? What online information sources are essential to small businesses? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts. (To comment, click on the small “comment” link at the bottom of this post — it will bring up a small window at the bottom of the page where you can type in your comments.)

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The opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect those of American Express. If you post on the blogs, be aware that any personal information you post will be viewable by anybody reading the blogs.The facilitator and bloggers for this event have been compensated for their time by OPEN from American Express.