Service With a Smile

by Cathy Brower

Every june our cover story features information on what technology companies are doing for you ­ the small business owner. We spend months interviewing those that are touting their wares and we choose the ones we think are best meeting your demands. This year we changed our approach a little.

Who are we, we thought, to decide for you who best serves your needs. We hired IDC, a prominent research firm that specializes in studying small businesses and technology. Together we came up with a list of nine categories of service providers that we wanted to look into: hardware, software, internet, banking, long distance telephone, local telephone, overnight delivery, cellular telephone, and credit card. We then designed a questionnaire that we sent to hundreds of small business owners, asking them to rate service providers in each of those categories. The results ranged from the expected to the surprising. The top winners are in this month’s cover story, along with the criteria the entrepreneurs used when rating them. We also followed up the survey with phone calls to the winners to find out what special packages they are offering small businesses.

Most of the top winners are big companies that we’ve all heard of But some other names cropped up enough times for us to take notice. We called them our unsung heroes. Unfortunately, space constraints prohibited us from including them in the story. I would like to take some space for them here. In most cases they are smaller companies that might be worth a look at, and that you should keep you eye on for the future. Overnight Delivery Service: DHL, Lone Star Overnight, and Little Courier. Local Telephone Service: GTE, SNET, Sprint/United, and Frontier. Long Distance Telephone Service: CGI, Total America, NTS, Network Plus, Cable & Wireless, and McLeod. Cellular Telephone Service: Pacific Bell, Airtouch, Cellular 2000, Nextel, Centennial, and Cellular One. Internet Service: Hydrosoft, EV1, CompuServe, Ionet, NetDoor, and Sygcom. Computer Hardware Service: PowerSpec, Reynolds & Reynolds, Northwest Computer, Acer, Townsend, and Premio. Computer Software Service: Reynolds & Reynolds, Parsons Technology, Apple, Novell, Peachtree, and SMS. Banking Service: AM South, Union Bank, CitiBank, Citizens Bank, National City, Norwest, and Nations Bank. Credit Card Service: None.

As small business owners you are in an envious position right now. Every service provider realizes what a lucrative market you have become. The fact that they are competing for your dollars means that you are being offered an incredible array of products and services. But it also means that some empty promises are being thrown your way as well. We hope this special feature will help you put your dollars in the right place. If you disagree (or agree) with any of our winners, please let us know. My e-mail address is

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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