Small-business owners are the unsung heroes of industry. Firms with fewer than 500 employees represent 99.7 precent of the 24.7 million businesses in the United States. In the past decade, small businesses annually generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs.
One of the greatest challenges small businesses face in complying with federal standards is the large number of agencies that they must work with - each with its own set of regulations. Each agency organizes compliance information on its Web site differently, which can make finding this information a bit difficult.
With this challenge in mind, the Small Business Administration (SBA) in 2006 relaunched Business.gov (http://business.usa.gov/). The Web site now provides one Internet source for businesses seeking information on how to comply with government regulations ranging from OSHA to EPA to the Internal Revenue Service. The site also offers links to information from state and local sources.
Since the relaunch in October 2006, the site has averaged 11,000 visits a day.
"The end goal of Business.gov is to cut through the red tape and make it easier for businesses to do business," SBA Administrator Steven Preston said. "This Web site will help streamline access to information and reduce federal compliance barriers to helping businesses save time and money."
SBA, in a partnership with 21 other federal agencies, manages Business.gov. This partnership, known as Business Gateway, is part of a presidential e-government initiative to utilize technology to improve how the federal government services citizens and businesses.
The Small Business Paperwork Relief Act (SBPRA) of 2002 requires that agencies name a staff contact for compliance assistance. Business.gov, with its new focus on compliance assistance, provides easy, one-stop access to those contacts as well as to compliance information and federal forms from across the U.S. government.
Business.gov was launched in October 2004. The site historically has focused on starting, growing and managing a small business. Focus groups held by Business Gateway revealed that the site could better serve businesses by focusing on cross-agency compliance assistance.
Survey Says ... Success!
Small-business owners who visited Business.gov were asked to complete a survey gauging the site's benefits to them. Of the business owners surveyed, 72 percent said they saved up to 25 hours by acquiring all the information they needed in one Internet stop. Almost half of surveyed businesses reported saving money.
"By providing a one-stop Web site for federal compliance resources, Business.gov continues to improve services to businesses through technology," Preston said. "The positive responses and feedback allow Business.gov to streamline the site to businesses' needs."
According to survey respondents, the Business.gov information most searched included compliance, business law, business library, business licenses and permits, launching a business and advertising and marketing. The most useful content areas were the federal forms, business library and business law section.
"Business.gov is a fabulous resource for small business," said Amy Frey, president of ATC International Inc. "I run a company that is growing rapidly and in an ever-changing environment where time is of the essence. I've found it enables me to get information about up-and-coming issues for my business related to legal as well as tax and human resource concerns."
The largest percentage of visitors were small-business owners and people thinking of starting a business. Those surveyed had between 5 years of experience and more than 20 years of experience in their respective fields.
"Just keeping up with the paperwork could be a full-time job," said Beth Boyll, adult day care director for Randolph Hills Nursing Center. "The easy access to federal forms provided by Business.gov makes my job easier and gives me more time to spend on the needs of my clients."