Bizmore Brings the Experts to the (Virtual) Office

Last Updated Sep 24, 2009 6:02 PM EDT

It's often noted that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are where most of the jobs are in the U.S. economy, and are the source of virtually all innovation -- with one large firm, Google, being the prime exception, of course.

But ask anyone trying to run these smaller enterprises, including throughout the media startup world, and they'll tell you that good advice can be hard to find. Bizmore, a new online community for business execs to share insights with peers and get advice from experts, is launching today, in beta, with the expressed goal of filling this gap.

The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vistage International, the big executive membership organization owned by Larry Ellison, Michael Milken, and Thomson Reuters. Bizmore intends to "help CEOs of small and medium companies get the advice they need to steer their companies to the next level," says company founder Alice Hill. "By and large these are people that will never pay the $13,000 to join Vistage, or attend the once-a-month eight-hour meetings."

After some experimentation, the format that Hill and her team are betting on is the simplest content method of all -- the Q&A. "There really isn't any one answer to most business problems," says Hill. "There instead are many possible answers. So we hope to initiate a conversation, whereby execs of smaller companies can talk with experts in real time about real-world issues."

Bizmore's editor-in-chief, Jeff Davis*, has been pulling together the initial panel of experts who will help drive the new advice community. "I really didn't know at first when I started whether I'd have to pay experts or not," he explains. "But when I started calling people up, I was very pleasantly suprised to learn how much these folks were willing to engage with their peers at SMBs.

"They all said they would be happy to give advice," he continues, "But they said, 'please don't ask me to write a blog.' That's when it became clear that the Q&A format was the way to go." So far, Bizmore has signed up a dozen or so experts and expects top add a couple dozen more in the upcoming months.

"We are creating small chunks of original content," says Davis. "Each expert answers two or three questions a week."

Hill says the business model supporting the site will rely on advertising initially, and once the community is growing sufficiently, Bizmore will add a premium service, with private networks available for a monthly fee on a pricing model based on the size of the networks and the amount of server space they require.

At launch, one feature the company has live is a series of "Best Practices" features.

"The management tactics featured in this mix range from executive management (the one-hour board meeting, the succession coach, the 'no-BS CEO bonus') to recruitment ('the referral bonus') and communication ('always-on customer feedback), and so on," says Davis. "There's no limit to the types of specific methods we can showcase, or the size or type of company."

He adds that "there's a strong 'show, don't tell' ethos behind everything we're gonna be doing here with content, and Best Practice pieces are the first big step in that direction."

*Disclosure: Bizmore editor-in-chief Jeff Davis is the former editor here at Bnet and the person who originally invited me to write this Media industry blog starting in early 2008. He and I have worked together previously in several other venues over the years, as well.

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.