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Small Business

Tricks to Selling on the Net

Our new series continues with a look at everything from Net smarts to family business to books that are supposed to make business easy. Check back each week for surveys, statistics, product comparisons, book reviews, and more

What's the Trick to Selling on the Net?

Build up a reputation for being trustworthy. For the three quarters of a million small businesses that rely primarily on eBay (EBAY), along with hundreds of thousands more that use other sites, the ratings accorded the seller are key in establishing buyer confidence.

A new survey of consumers by, a site that helps businesses establish selling "scores," showed the seller's reputation to be the most important criterion in closing a sale, followed by the site's reputation, and the payment methods accepted. More than 70% of buyers sampled reported not doing business with a seller because they didn't have a sense of trust, and half reported an experience in which the product wasn't accurately pictured or described.

That "Family Feeling" Boosts Profits As Well

Family businesses tend to be more profitable and grow faster in revenue and employment than non-family companies, claims a new study in Family Business Review. The study, conducted by Jim Lee, a professor at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, found that the average profit margin for family firms was 10%, or 2% higher than nonfamily companies. The study measured the financial performance of companies during the 1992 to 2002 period.

What's On Your Bookshelf?

Starting and running a successful business is easy. That is the message communicated by many books targeting entrepreneurs and it is the common bond of two new ones on the widely differing topics of launching an Internet business and spurring creativity.

Internet Riches: The Simple Money-Making Secrets of Online Millionaires by Scott Fox makes the convincing argument that one of the main attractions of an Internet-based business is low entry cost. Indeed, he points out that most such businesses are better off avoiding venture capitalists and the dilution that comes with their money. But many of the businesses he identifies are really lifestyle-type businesses, such as selling products on eBay, and not likely to lead to the Internet riches he suggests.

Take Charge of Your Mind: Core Skills to Enhance Your Performance, Well-Being, and Integrity at Work by Paul Hannam and John Selby is as curious for what it avoids discussing as for what it actually emphasizes. It advocates using such techniques as The Take Charge method and a Wake Up process to put business managers into the present and thereby improve creativity.

The problem is that training the mind to be more in the present is generally a years-long process requiring regular meditation—an ancient technique the authors appear to intentionally avoid in the interest of making creativity stimulation sound easy.

Gumpert is author of Burn Your Business Plan! What Investors Really Want from Entrepreneurs and How to Really Start Your Own Business. His Web site is

David E. Gumpert covers business/health issues and also writes the biweekly What Entrepreneurs Need to Know column.

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