Small Biz Still Skeptical of E-Commerce

Although an increasing number of small and medium-sized businesses are embracing the Internet, many firms still remain skeptical about e-commerce, according to a study released Wednesday.

The research compiled by National Small Business United and Arthur Andersen found that while 71 percent of the companies surveyed either have a Web presence or are planning to develop one in the next 12 months, 42 percent expect e-commerce to have no impact on their business.

“They see it as something on the fringe,” said Nancy Pechloff, director of Andersen’s Enterprise Group. “In our view, Internet technology is going to have an impact on business. There’s some concern that they don’t see the whole picture.”

By not making a commitment to e-commerce, CEOs of these companies could be putting their organizations in jeopardy, the report said.

Slow To Embrace E-Commerce

According to the survey, more than half the participating companies — 54 percent — do not conduct e-commerce and do not plan to start in the next year.

Conversely, when small and medium-sized companies do realize the importance of e-commerce, they move quickly to add it to their overall business strategy, said John Hexter, chairman of National Small Business United.

“The new economy has been happening very rapidly,” he said. Many business owners are “only beginning to understand the implications of the Internet.”

For example, the report found that most companies surveyed still recruit their workers via classified ads in newspapers, with just three percent using online recruiting and only five percent posting their job openings on their own company sites.

Unusual Perks

With high-tech workers growing increasingly elusive, another survey released Wednesday by Deloitte & Touche found that technology companies are being forced to offer some unusual perks to recruit and retain employees.

“Going against the conventional has become the norm for companies in the new economy, with creative perks ranging from new luxury cars to on-site corporate chefs,” said Mark Evans, managing director of Deloitte & Touche’s Technology & Communications Group.

For some companies, the key to hiring high-tech workers is letting them stay at home, the report added. Forty-two percent of the chief executives interviewed for the survey said they offer telecommuting to their employees, while 45 percent said they allow flexible work schedules and job sharing.

Still, the report found that most high-tech employees prefer coming to the office. At 75 percent of the companies surveyed, less than 5 percent of the employees opted to work from home 100 percent of the time.

Comforts of Home

Many companies are convinced that the more attractive they make the workplace the greater their chances are of keeping top notch talent. One Pennsylvania software company, for example, offers dry cleaning, haircuts, shoeshines, catered meals, flu shots, a gym and massages on site.

However, more conventional perks are still frequently being used in the high-tech sector to attract and keep top talent. According to a separate study by executive-compensation consulting firm Pearl Meyer & Partners, stock options are still a strong recruiting tool.

The study found that large technology companies allocated an average of 19.4 percent of their outstanding shares and granted 2.8 percent of their outstanding shares to employees.

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