The Virtual Business Tool Box

January 25, 2011
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When you head into the field to perform a survey, you wouldn’t forget your tools. Yet many professionals neglect to consider basic business strategies in their day-to-day tasks. 



When you head into the field to perform a survey, you wouldn’t forget your tools. Yet many professionals neglect to consider basic business strategies in their day-to-day tasks. “Technology doesn’t just include equipment; it also encompasses social media, cost-effective marketing and strategic planning,” says Laura Crook, advanced technologies director for Stanger Surveying Tyler LLC, Tyler, Texas, and an instructor on technology for surveyors at The University of Texas at Tyler. “Regardless of how we view technology and the Web, they are unyielding in our society today. We have to figure out how to use these tools to our advantage.” Fortunately, a growing list of online resources makes it easier than ever for professionals to learn and prosper. Review these top picks, then go online to share your favorites.

The U.S. Small Business Administration. If you’re a business owner or are thinking about launching your own business, the SBA’s recently revamped Web site provides a wealth of information and advice on everything from finding loans and writing a business plan to identifying government contracting opportunities. Free courses on managing a business are also available through the site. The online community and resources available through the related Business.gov site will soon be moving to SBA.gov.

NFIB. You don’t have to be a member of the National Federation of Independent Business to benefit from the organization’s insights and advice. Small Business Economic Trends reports, business articles, and policy updates and analysis are just some of the helpful tools on this site.

iTunes U. Most people are familiar with iTunes, but did you know about all of the educational resources available in iTunes U? “In today’s marketplace, it is not enough to be an expert in one thing--you have to be a jack-of-all-trades,” Crook says. “You can log on and attend classes for free. I’ve used this site to learn about everything from launching a marketing campaign to using AutoCAD Civil 3D.”

The American Express Open Forum. This site was designed specifically for small business and provides insightful articles and videos through its Idea Hub, which is accessible to OPEN cardholders and non-cardholders alike. (Discussion forums and other tools are restricted to cardholders, however.)

Mashable. This site is a resource for news in social and digital media, technology, and Web culture. “This is my one-stop shop for all things trending,” Crook says. “Want to know about the next trend in marketing, social media, web design, technology, apps, etc? This is your site. The information is easy to read and well organized.”

Slideshare. Des-igned for sharing slides, documents and videos, this site offers tutorials, ideas and a wealth of resources for anyone who needs to give a presentation.

Small Business Trends. Founded by a lawyer with an eye for business, this site provides reviews of business-related books and tools along with useful articles on marketing, financial management and, of course, small business trends.

Google. “What started as a search engine has transformed into a force,” Crook says. “Apple might have coined the phrase, ‘There’s an app for that,’ but Google, with its new app store, has taken it to a whole new level.” Crook recently relied on a Google app to create a promo video for her firm. “One trip, one download, and I had the video completed in two hours,” she says. “To be fair, the app was free until I wanted to download my newly created video (there is always a catch), but I felt that the $3 was a great investment.”

POBonline.com and RPLS.com. We would be remiss if we didn’t include these two sites on our list. If you’re looking for business information and networking tools specific to geospatial professionals, be sure to bookmark both sites.

Do you have a favorite Web site you visit for business resources and ideas? Share it in the online version of this article at www.pobonline.com or in our online professional community at www.rpls.com.

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