Catching Up on Executive Reading

Busy owners of small businesses barely have time to read their mail, but because they must keep up with trends and their competition, most try to squeeze a bit of reading time into their day. As a result, sales of small business magazines are growing at a phenomenal rate.

For example, Entrepreneur is the fastest-growing business magazine and the fourth-fastest-growing U.S. magazine of any type, according to industry reports.

But, with nearly 1,100 business and economic magazines published worldwide, and hundreds more specific trade magazines, the challenge is to choose the right publication for your needs.

Magazines serving small business owners fall into three general categories. The first includes inspirational, idea-packed magazines, such as Income Opportunities, which is aimed at people looking for a way out of their corporate life styles or for a second career.

The second group, including Entrepreneur, Success and Venture, are basically how-to magazines featuring practical guides and profiles of successful business owners.

The third group, led by the granddaddy of small business magazines, Inc., offers more sophisticated information and strategies geared toward helping a business owner overcome obstacles to growth.

"The person I like to describe as our reader is on the rocky voyage from the garage to a full-blown company," said Bernard Goldhirsh, chairman of Inc. "We are not edited to be an inspirational magazine or for people who have been laid off or are unhappy in a large corporation."

Joel Kotkin, Inc.'s West Coast editor, said that when Inc. made its debut in 1979, people doubted that there would be a market for a small business magazine. Inc. not only proved them wrong, but opened the doors for nearly a dozen competitors, Kotkin said.

"We are not a mom-and-pop magazine, but we are certainly not a Business Week, Forbes or Fortune," he added. "Our average reader has about 200 employees and $16 million in sales."

Entrepreneur is aimed at serving the 700,000 new small U.S. businesses that incorporate each year, according to Rieva Lesonsky, editor of the Irvine-based magazine. Lesonsky said a recent independent readership survey showed that 44% of Entrepreneur's readers own or have a partnership interest in a business and about 40% plan to buy or start a business within the next 12 months. About one-third of those who already own businesses intend to start another.

"We don't like to give them a lot of fluff or pie in the sky," Lesonsky said.

Recent issues of Entrepreneur provided detailed guides to buying laptop computers and facsimile machines, among other topics. The current issue focuses on the boom in mail-order sales and how to place products in various catalogues.

Entrepreneur plans to launch a magazine focusing on new business opportunities, Lesonsky said.

So, what if you are willing to spend about $25 a year to subscribe to a useful business magazine?

The first step is to visit your local bookstore or newsstand and buy a few. Good newsstands have about 30 different ones, including some that most readers have never seen before--such as Fast Lane, which calls itself "The Business Magazine for the Up and Coming." A recent issue featured a photograph of a couple undressing in their bedroom to illustrate a cover story titled "Sex & Working Couples . . . Why Sex Drive Dives."

An intriguing magazine, dollars & Sense, is "edited and produced by a collective of economists and journalists. We offer interpretations of current economic events from a socialistic perspective." One recent story was titled "Labor After Reagan."

In my view, the best all-around small business magazine is Nation's Business, published monthly by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. Recent issues have featured well-written, informative stories on congressional proposals to raise the minimum wage, how to sell your business and then, if you change your mind, how to buy it back, and a cover story on three top salesmen and their personal formulas for success.

Franchising World is a no-frills, practical guide to buying a franchise. Its "Concepts to Watch" section features hot new ideas, including one called "Heel Quick," the shoe repair shop version of the fast-food concept that is available for a total investment of $53,500 to $107,000.

If you want to spend $2 reading advertisements for home-based businesses, Income Opportunities is your best bet. A few brief articles on subjects including effective direct-mail techniques and how to set up a day-care center are sandwiched between ads for mysterious programs promising income of $25,000 "every weekend."

Entrepreneur Contests

Two new contests are aimed at honoring entrepreneurs. Inc. magazine and the accounting and consulting firm of Arthur Young are searching for a regional "Entrepreneur of the Year." The winners will be "dynamic business owners" who have demonstrated excellence in areas including innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.

Applications must be submitted by April 30 and self-nominations are encouraged. The winners will be honored in June and be inducted into the Institute of American Entrepreneurs in the fall. There is no fee for nominations. For information, write to Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, Arthur Young, 2121 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 2500, Los Angeles, CA 90067, or call (213) 551-7822.

The second contest takes a different slant by seeking six people who best exemplify "extrapreneurship." The new Chivas Regal Extrapreneur Award honors business leaders who are devoted to public service.

Winners must be principals in their own companies and contribute time toward a public or community service effort or donate money to a cause in a unique fashion. Preliminary applications are due by March 15. For applications, write: Chivas Regal Extrapreneur Awards, 301 East 57th St., Suite 300, New York, NY 10022.

Asian Business Symposium

The Small Business Administration and Pacific Bell Directory are sponsoring the first Asian Small Business Symposium March 11 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, 404 S. Figueroa St., in downtown Los Angeles.

"It is significant that two important entities representing the public and private sectors recognize the special needs of Asian business owners," said Sophie Wong, president of the Monterey Park Chamber of Commerce.

The Korean Chamber of Commerce, Monterey Park Chamber of Commerce, Alhambra Chamber of Commerce and the Asian Business Assn. are among the organizations encouraging their members to attend. Subjects to be covered in the 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. session include getting started in business, selling to major corporations and public agencies, and doing business American style.

Tickets purchased by Sunday are $35. The regular ticket price, including lunch, is $50. For registration information, called Uyeda & Associates at (213) 933-1151.

GROWTH OF BUSINESS MAGAZINES

Circulation increase from December, 1987, to December, 1988.

Publication % Growth Entrepreneur 39.4 Venture 5.0 Business Week 2.5 Success 1.9 Inc. 0.8 Fortune 0.4 Forbes 0.2

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulation, industry estimates

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