These days, no one can afford a blowout on the information super highway.
Small business owners can gain a competitive edge from on-line, computer-assisted telecommunication techniques, said Dave Paulsen, owner of CyberNaut Rest Stop, W1628 Clarke.
“Promises of financial gain are very real on the Internet,” said Paulsen, who studies the sociological impact of electronic user groups. He spoke to about 40 people Wednesday at a meeting of the Spokane association of Women Business Owners and Advocates.
“The Internet allows business owners to get rid of the phone tag game. It gives them access to (electronic) mail, so it eliminates time zone problems. You can write an e-mail message to anyone in the world, any time of day.”
The Internet - the largest on-line communication network in the world - accesses census data, government regulations, consumer files, and corporate and product data that other businesses provide to on-line users.
As many as 30 million people have daily access to the Internet, which was developed 26 years ago by the United States Department of Defense. Currently, the number of people with Internet access is growing at a rate of 10 percent per month, Paulsen said.
Paulsen noted that Internet or any other computer user net - such as Prodigy, America On-Line and CompuServe - are especially important to small businesses in Spokane.
“Spokane is small compared with other cities, like New York. But with the Internet, Spokane can get the same access to the media, information and the world as any business anywhere.”
Paulsen suggests that any business going on-line should invest in a 14.4-kilobytes per second modem, an 8-megabyte computer with Windows capability and a local Internet provider. Internet access can cost as little as $15 per month.
“The days when you needed a degree in computer science (to use the Internet) are over,” Paulsen said. Still, many business owners take classes and attend lectures on how to use on-line technology effectively.
“The culture of the Internet is definitely foreign to some people. It can be an information overload,” he said. “But the Internet is definitely one way to lower the costs of some business you’re already doing,” such as postage and long distance telephone bills, he said.
Paulsen urged small-business owners to explore computer-assisted marketing, telecommunications, research and advertising, even for employee use.
“Some managers see it as a productivity drain, but if employees are already on computers, it’s just as difficult to keep people from playing solitaire. At least the Internet keeps them in touch.”
Paulsen will co-host a lecture on Feb. 16 at Gonzaga University, “Doing Business in Cyberspace,” to teach entrepreneurs about World Wide Web, e-mail and other Internet functions.
“The Internet is there for everyone. Even the small-business owner working out of a converted bedroom … has the same potential and access on the Internet as IBM.”