On the strengths and weaknesses of small business: Idea Cafe talks to Susan Wade of Network Solutions

Network Solutions recently conducted a survey with the University of Maryland to create the Small Business Success Index (www.growsmartbusiness.com). The Small Business Success Index measured the strengths and weaknesses of small companies, and found that small businesses are succeeding despite the economic downturn, and also that they are still investing in their companies, in spite of the 48% of small business owners expecting the economy to be in decline in 2009. According to Network Solutions, small businesses can optimize their performance for maximum success using the index.

In this email interview, we asked several questions to Susan Wade, Director of Corporate Communications for Network Solutions, in order to get more information about the findings of the study and the Small Business Success Index.


Idea Cafe: What is the Small Business Success Index (SBSI), and why did Network Solutions choose to conduct a study on that topic? How can entrepreneurs and small businesses use the Index site?

Susan Wade: Network Solutions partnered with the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, to create the Small Business Success Index. We designed it to be an ongoing measurement of how competitive small businesses believe they are using six key areas of business that include:
capital access, marketing and innovation, workforce, customer service, computer technology and compliance.

At Network Solutions, our focus is on providing web-based solutions that help small businesses use the Internet to establish and grow their companies. Small businesses are a vital segment of the U.S. economy creating over 40 million jobs and generating a staggering $6 trillion in revenue. We believe it was important to create an Index that takes the pulse of small businesses and tracks their competitive health over time. We surveyed 1,000 small businesses via telephone across the U.S. who reported on their competitiveness in each of the six key areas of business. The more competitive a small business is, the more likely it is to meet the personal and business goals of its owners and show positive financial results.

By taking the survey, small businesses and entrepreneurs can find out where their business ranks in the Index. It will help them determine the areas where they may be more competitive than others.


What is the importance of SBSI components, and why do Capital Access and Marketing & Innovation matter the most? How are those two factors influenced by the recession?

Of the 1,000 small businesses surveyed on their success or failure in the six key areas of business, the SBSI reported that Capital Access and Marketing & Innovation as the two most important areas of their business. However, these are also the two areas where they indicate small businesses are not as competitive or successful as they would like to be. (Capital Access received a D+ and Marketing & Innovation received C-)

It is no surprise that in this current economy, America’s small businesses are not able to meet their capital needs to grow their businesses. We are hopeful that the $15B in government funding will help small business owners revitalize the economy and stimulate new job growth.

If you check out our website www.growsmartbusiness.com there are real world examples on how some small business owners are trying new ways to market their businesses and drive innovation throughout their organizations. On April 30th we will be hosting a free webinar featuring successful business owners who will talk about how they have overcome challenges with financing and marketing. Visit the website for more info regarding the webinar.


What strengths of small businesses did the study unveil?

Small businesses report that they are successful and competitive when it comes to Customer Service (A-). Their current customers are some of the best sources for new business. They have what it takes to keep customers happy and treat them with care.


What is the importance of internet business solutions to the overall competitiveness of a small business? What different types of internet business solutions are there, and can they help smaller businesses compete with larger ones?

An interesting result from the survey found that those small businesses that invest in web-based technology have a higher likelihood of meeting their business goals. They report that they are successful in improving their profit margins 16% more often than small businesses that employ minimal Internet business solutions. The highly successful businesses employ more than just a website, they have also made a commitment to online adverting, providing customers the ability to view and order products online, provide email customer service and self-service options. The Internet is a great equalizer when it comes to business. If a business has a professional looking website, email address and the ability to communicate with customers that will help you compete with the big dogs.


Which specific online business services do you think are the most important to the American entrepreneur?

It is very important for a business to have a web presence which includes a personalized e-mail that includes your company’s name(e.g. [email protected]), a website that is secure and communicates what you do, your contact information and showcases your products and service; a blog (as part of your website) helps position you has a thought leader in your industry; search engine marketing that gets your company in relevant directories, gets your site ranked in search engine results, and drives qualified visitors to your website; and a shared network for your employees to communicate with each other.


What other important finding(s) of the study absolutely need mentioning?

Small business owners are optimistic about their future! Of the 1,000 surveyed the majority (69%) showed a profit in 2008 and said their success was equal to or better than the previous year. 70% of small businesses expect their firms to still be operating in five years as opposed to being closed, sold or transferred. It confirms for us that small businesses know all facets of their businesses and will do what it takes to thrive in this economy.


Based on the findings of the study, what is your number one recommendation for small business owners?

Use the Internet to grow and market your business!!! And visit www.growsmartbusiness.com to see how other small businesses are succeeding.



Susan Wade, Director of Corporate Communications for Network Solutions

Susan Wade has more than 18 years experience in communications and marketing for Fortune 1000 companies, non-profits and government agencies. She joined Network Solutions in 2004 and her team has been focused on developing communications programs that help small businesses use the Internet to grow their companies.
Recent programs include: www.solutionsarepower, Network Solutions corporate blog, which engages in conversations with small business owners, business and marketing experts, reporters and influential bloggers to offer advice and experience in all areas of running a business. In March of 2009, Network Solutions announced the Small Business Success Index, which is focused on measuring the competitive health of small business in the U.S.



Thanks, Jordan, for the

Thanks, Jordan, for the opportunity for Susan to chat with you and go over the Small Business Success Index. We hope you can join us for the GrowSmartBusiness Webinar next Thursday, April 30 at 2pm ET. Here’s a blurb in case your readers are interested:

On Thursday, April 30 from 2-3pm ET, Network Solutions will host the GrowSmartBusiness Webinar. Join our all-star line-up of entrepreneurs and experts for this free, live webcast. They’ll discuss tips for overcoming the biggest hurdles for small businesses: Marketing strategy and capital access. (U.S. small businesses scored a D- in finance and a C- in marketing in the recent Small Business Success Index.)

Roy Dunbar, CEO of Network Solutions, will host the conversation. Our speakers include:
• Kristina Bouweiri, CEO of Reston Limo, the largest independent limousine service in the U.S.
• Anita Campbell, Editor of Small Business Trends
• Tom Heath, Columnist, The Washington Post’s Value Added
• Kelly Muccio, Founder of Lost Boys, a fashionable clothing store recently featured on Good Morning America
• Surfy Rahman, Co-owner of Indique, a popular DC-area restaurant chain.

Register and get the details at www.growsmartbusiness.com/webinar.
Find out YOUR marketing and finance score by taking the survey – your results will be benchmarked against the Small Business Success Index.

Hi Chad, thanks so much for

Hi Chad, thanks so much for mentioning the Small Business Success Index among these other terrific studies. Interestingly, the research also revealed a couple core challenges for U.S. small businesses, specifically long/short-term capital access and marketing. We (Network Solutions) are hosting a free webinar next Thursday, April 30 from 2-3pm ET to address these issues. We’ve got a panel of small biz owners and experts lined up to talk about overcoming these challenges to stay profitable in this economy. Now there’s a glimmer of hope. Hope you can join us and spread the word. Full details are available at www.growsmartbusiness.com/webinar. Thanks again, Chad!

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