201 Great Ideas For Your Small Business

a provider who relays the information to the client’s database. RAM Mobile Data, in Woodbridge, New Jersey, provides this type of service. This works well when you have lots of sales reps on the road who need to place orders with a quick turnaround.

In the rush to upgrade computers and buy new software, many business owners forget that people need to be taught how to use the software before they can begin to be more productive.

Yet employees can lose up to three weeks of work time tackling computer problems on their own, according to a recent survey of 400 PC users by SCO, a British software firm, and Harris Research. In fact, the first month after a new software program is introduced, employees spend an average of 100 minutes a week trying to figure out how to use it. "The latest software isn’t empowering these users, it’s disrupting their workday," said Geoff Seabrook of SCO.

One alternative to sending your employees to community college classes or hiring private instructors is to look into customized training provided online.
"I don’t like to be instructed. I like to work on my own," said Barbara Epstein, who recently spent about an hour a day teaching herself how to use Microsoft spreadsheet and database programs with an online tutoring service.

Because her job keeps her so busy, taking classes was not an attractive option. Instead, she taught herself how to use the programs via Learn-ItOnline, a tutoring service offered by Ziff-Davis Education on the World Wide Web.

"I really don’t enjoy reading instruction books," said Epstein. "This has given me confidence with the computer." Because it operates 24 hours a day, LearnItOnline and other services like it allow people to work at their own pace and set their own training
schedules. It’s like having a virtual tutor who never sleeps and isn’t on the payroll.

"The second half of 1997 is witnessing an explosion in the Web-based training market," said Bill Rosenthal, president of Ziff-Davis Education, which entered the market in March 1997. "The people who benefit most from this are often the people who are most scared of being online," said Dina Wood, a spokeswoman for Hand Technologies in Austin, Texas.

Hand, which sells computers to small companies and individuals, has been offering LearnItOnline services to customers on a trial basis. The company, which has 1,000 sales consultants nationwide, now plans to offer the program to clients across the country.

You can check out the site at www.learnitonline.com.

Because everyone learns differently, the online tutorials include audio instruction as well as visual demonstrations.

You can pick up the basics of a program or learn more advanced functions. Then you can practice everything you’ve just learned.

Meanwhile, Epstein said her main complaint about her online tutoring was that the audio portion of the lesson takes several minutes to download. But she said it’s worth the wait.

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