Frontier Online

News and advice from our small-business Web site

The Pinchpenny Phone

The big guys get all the great deals. Take those corporate long-distance plans, where companies' expensive telecom software scans the rates of competing carriers and directs employees' calls to the cheapest available rate. Now a fledgling Bedford (Mass.) startup, MediaCom Co., is trying to use the same "least-cost routing technology" for small business. Its recently launched MegaMiser system ($200 for 10 separate lines) helps companies pick through the long-distance thicket, via PC software and a small device that attaches to the phone.

Touching Up Your Image

All right, you scruffy-looking workaholics. It's time to pack away the cut-off jeans and get your image in shape. A new flock of sartorial advisers is helping over-stressed, underdressed entrepeneurs pick the right duds for corporate presentations and business confabs. What are the most common faux pas detected by these fashionistas? Outmoded styles and the wrong accessories. As in, no matter how rich you are, don't show up bedecked in gold chains.

Uncle Sam's Treat?

Scheduling a summer getaway around a business trip? As long as the trip's primary purpose is work-related, you can write most of the expenses off as business-related tax deductions; the pleasure is considered incidental. Got a Monday meeting in Seattle, for instance? Travel over a Saturday night to get the cheapest airfare, stay in a hotel over the weekend, and sightsee on Sunday. Although your meal deduction is limited to 50%, you can write off the largest portion of the entire trip's cost--travel and lodging.

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