Ridgely Evers: Tips for keeping your small business afloat right now

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, there used to be these commercials where a lot of talking would be going on, and then suddenly someone would mention this bank's name, and all the noise would come to a standstill. And that's when the audience heard the slogan, "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen."

That's how I felt when I recently interviewed Ridgely Evers for an upcoming magazine article. Evers talked; I was going to intently listen and hope whatever wisdom he'd dispense, I'd internalize. After all, Evers created the famed accounting software, QuickBooks, shortly after going to work for Intuit in 1988. (I'm guessing he must have fun when he goes to his high school reunions.) So after I finished our interview, I started up another one, specifically for WalletPop, and asked him if he had any advice for any of our readers who own small or medium-sized businesses and are worried about surviving this recession, or economic meltdown, or whatever we're in.

And here's what he had to say."I'd suggest three things. First, you want to tighten your existing relationship with your customers. I'm a big believer in small businesses knowing their customers, and that's an advantage you have over the bigger companies. They have to hire a greeter to stand at your door. You can be there yourself. Secondly, you should eliminate your costs wherever you can, but make sure you retain your best employees. And thirdly, you should take this time to invest in technology to automate everything you can, and that will sound a little bit self-serving..."

(He is referring to the fact that, long gone from Intuit, his own company, NetBooks, Inc., now produces a product he recently launched called NetBooks, which is this vast array of downloadable software for businesses that handles payroll, production, inventory, shipping -- he claims it can pretty much run your entire business.)

Evers continued, "Two really bad things that can happen in a recession when you're up and running a business, and one is that you're spending more on operating your business than you're bringing in, and two, that you lose employees that you don't want to lose, which can be deadly because the data that your business depends on lives in people's heads, and so when you lose those people, you lose that data." NetBooks, asserts Evers, will help quash that problem.

Hmmm. Yes, that does sound self-serving, though I guess it shouldn't be a newsflash that an entrepreneur feels his business product is the best thing to hit the scene since the coffee break was invented. He may be correct, of course, and I have no doubt that he's sincere, especially when he told me, "Small business owners are the foundation of this economy, and the coolest people on the planet."

Everyone else, he added, are just a bunch of dweebs.

(OK, he didn't really say that. But I had you for a moment, didn't I?)

Geoff Williams is a business journalist, whose latest article appeared today on Bankrate.com, and is also the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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