Digging For Data (In All The Right Places)
Want to search out more stats on the state of small business? You can start with the federal government, but please, rein in your expectations. The U.S. Small Business Administration has long been everybody's favorite Washington whipping boy, and data mavens can see why all too clearly. Scarred by budget cuts and nicked by staff departures, the SBA only recently managed to issue its annual State of Small Business report for -- this is not a typo -- 1998. Still, the agency has put some serious effort into gathering and disseminating data on how many U.S. companies exist, how many are born and die each year, how many are owned by minorities and women, and so on. All those statistics are available in some detail at www.sba.gov/advo/stats/. For a handy one-page cheat sheet, click on "FAQ."
And as long as you're letting your fingers do the walking around Washington, visit the site of the National Federation of Independent Business ; click on "Issues" and then "Research" and download a copy of the NFIB Small Business Policy Guide . It provides a clear and concise sketch of the small-business landscape, along with a generous helping of the NFIB's often curmudgeonly views on such matters as taxes and regulation. You can also retrieve reams of research studies, white papers, surveys, newsletters, policy updates, and such from the likes of the Research Institute for Small & Emerging Business , the National Commission on Entrepreneurship , the National Foundation for Women Business Owners , and National Small Business United . If franchising is your life, visit the International Franchise Association and check out the magazine Franchising World ($24 for a yearly subscription).
Out beyond the Beltway, national statistics are provided by the private sector. Dun & Bradstreet offers less data than it used to -- for example, it recently discontinued its "Business Starts" and "Business Failures" series. But the organization's Annual Small-Business Survey -- the latest results are due out shortly -- offers a great window onto such topics as health-care coverage and Internet use among small companies. Go to D&B's site at www.dnb.com/. The best statistical studies using D&B data come from David Birch's company, Cognetics . For $45 each you can get such reports as Entrepreneurial Hot Spots, Hot Industries, and the comprehensive Corporate Almanac. Call 781-890-0202 for details.
Part two of this issue introduces the concept of nascent entrepreneurs, which is to say people who are actually working on starting a company. Sociologist Paul Reynolds and collaborators all over the world are studying who the would-be entrepreneurs are and how they're going about creating their businesses. You can keep up with the researchers' progress at http://projects.isr.umich.edu/psed/. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, sponsored by Babson College and the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, tracks nascent entrepreneurship in more than 20 countries and issues annual reports on its findings. For a summary of the latest U.S. data, visit www.entreworld.org/USGEM and click on the 2000 U.S. GEM Report image.
And where is the money coming from for these new companies? Get the latest stats on venture capital from the National Venture Capital Association by going to www.nvca.org. (Click on "Industry Research" and then "Venture Capital Statistics.") Plus the SBA keeps track of bank lending to small businesses; go to www.sba.gov/advo/stats/lending/.
Of course, you can't really keep up with the state of small business without following the trends that affect small companies. For information on demographics, check out American Demographics magazine ($69 for 12 issues) along with the sites for Age Wave and Kilter . For the latest on energy issues, visit the Web site for Nth Power Technologies and read New Energy Report (84 Canyon Rd., Fairfax, CA 94930; $60 for six issues). [Editor's note: The report's editor is the brother of the author of this special issue of Inc.] The Web site of Accion USA is a good place for information about microlending; and the site of Initiative for aCompetitive Inner City offers valuable data on inner-city entrepreneurship.
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