NEW YORK (AP) - Y2K computer worries won't go away this weekend, even if nothing goes wrong. Glitches are likely weeks, even months, into the new year. And a few may linger until 2001 and beyond. The Gartner Group, a technology consulting firm, estimates only 10% of all Y2K failures will occur during the first two weeks of January. Yet an Associated Press poll taken earlier this month found that only 16% of respondents think Y2K problems will last more than two weeks. And the number who think the problems will be confined to less than a few days has increased from 22% to 36%. Most Y2K planners are aware that Jan. 1 is no magic date, but they fear a quiet weekend might leave the public with a false sense of security.

From Chamber of Congress report 12/99, email comments to bustech

Small Firms Use Net, Doubt Impact
Source: The Arizona Republic

Small businesses' use of the Internet is growing, according to some new surveys, though whether the Web has been effective in building business is another matter.

The percentage of small firms on the Net nearly doubled between 1996 and 1998, to 41.2 percent of firms from 21.5 percent, according to an e-commerce research report compiled by the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy. Another survey by Bank One Corp.'s Small Business Banking Group put the share even higher, at 49 percent.

And while e-mail and research are popular uses, having a Web site is no longer an oddity. The share of small businesses with Web sites range anywhere from 19 percent, per the Bank One survey, to 35 percent, per the SBA report. Sage Software Inc. of Irvine, Calif., says the share pushes as high as 69 percent when one combines the small firms that have a Web site with the ones that are building one.

The benefits, small firms say, are mainly promotional.

About 78 percent say the main reason to have a Web site is the ability to reach new and potential customers. Only 29 percent with sites are buying or selling online, Sage says, although the share is expected to rise to 80 percent within a year.

The drawbacks of the Internet come in a variety of forms for small businesses.

About 79 percent of small businesses say they have felt little or no impact of the Net on their business, according to the Sage survey. About 24 percent called the Internet ineffective in promoting their business, and 43 percent rated it as somewhat effective. Bank One survey respondents, however, called it more effective than direct mail, radio, TV or telemarketing.

Most small firms said the obstacles to greater use of Web sites were the start-up costs, the difficulty of attracting and keeping skilled employees to service the sites, and security issues.

As costs go down and confidence in the security of transactions rises, so will Internet use among small firms, the SBA report says.

BOSSES' GIFT GIVING

Only about a third of small-business owners will buy gifts for clients, employees and vendors this season, but those who do will spend more on their employees than their customers.

A recent survey of 800 business owners by [American Express Co.] showed that 38 percent plan on giving gifts, and will spend an average $1,800 each.

A hefty 84 percent of the givers said it improves employee morale, while slightly fewer (78 percent) say it has helped improve their business. Givers will spend an average $207 per employee, compared to an average $120 for clients, the survey showed.

Gifts were slightly more "in" than holiday office parties. Only 32 percent said they had them, with the rest saying either they just didn't hold them, or that the expense or the potential liability was a concern.

VISA SEEKING START-UPS

Credit-card giant Visa has launched a national search for three start-up companies to take part in a new business incubation program.

The Visa Startup 2000 program will provide the lucky three with $25,000 each for business-related expenses, up to $10,000 in products and services from companies like Compaq and [Office Depot], and a year's worth of personal counseling from the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

Entrants must be U.S. citizens age 18 or older. Companies must have 20 or fewer employees, have been in business less than two years, and be able to submit a business plan.

Deadline is Dec. 31. Information and applications: 1-800-209-7611 or www.visa.com/startup2000.

RECORD-KEEPING WORKSHOP

The Arizona Small Business Association will present "Record Keeping for the Small Business Owner" Dec. 8.

CPA Gloria Shelton will discuss several simple ways to determine and keep important records. The free workshop runs 8 to 10 a.m. at association offices, 1500 E. Bethany Home Road, Suite 140, Phoenix.

Information and registration: (602) 265-4563.