Friday, November 06, 2009

Quick: What does Small Business want?

My column in this week’s Financial Post tells about my recent encounter with billionaire Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit (Quicken, QuickBooks, etc.).

Cook came to Toronto last month to kick off an Intuit Canada campaign to get closer to the small business market by holding information sessions with working entrepreneurs across the country. Cook himself facilitated the first one, asking 14 Toronto business owners about the problems that keep them awake at night.

So my story looks at small business’s most urgent needs today, as well as how one company is getting closer to that market in order to identify the problems it can actually solve.

FYI, here are some of the key issues Cook heard about:

"Growth timing: When to take on extra fixed costs."

"When to expand and why."

"Compliance with tax authorities... Managing cash flow. Seeking investors."

"Work-life balance."

"How to persuade prospects of our value."

"Getting faster responses from customers."

"How to manage the time suck of social media."

"When to cut prices."

"Developing an online presence."

"Partnership and collaboration."

"Finding distribution channels."

"Cutting costs."

"Hiring, training, and when to fire."

After the meeting, I asked Cook if he'd heard any promising ideas. One big one, he said: "Social media as a time suck."
"I don't claim I understand it yet," he said, "but it's given us more to do."

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