In America, there are literally thousands of support organizations for small-business owners. Within a stone’s throw from most towns and cities, you can find a Small Business Administration office, a Small Business Development Center, a SCORE chapter, a local Chamber of Commerce, or a membership organization dedicated to helping people start, manage, grow, and sometimes save their small businesses. The best part is that much of what they do is either free or offered at a nominal cost. You can get information on financing, take a class on social media, listen to speakers talk about technology, and network with other like-minded entrepreneurs.
There is no reason for you not to leverage these resources for your businesses. Make a point to visit at least two of the organizations listed below before the end of 2013. If you don’t find at least one or two nuggets of information to help you in your business, please contact me and I will personally help you find the information you seek for your company.
The SBA offers small-business counseling and training through district offices across the country. You will find business development specialists providing free and low-cost services in your area.
Best for: A wide range of business owners. In one office, you may find someone who has yet to start a business next to an entrepreneur seeking a $5 million loan to buy real estate.
Known as "counselors to America’s small business," SCORE is a nonprofit association of more than 13,000 volunteer business counselors throughout the United States and its territories. SCORE members are trained to serve as counselors, advisors, and mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners. These services are offered at no fee as a community service.
Best for: Startups during their first two years. SCORE offers tremendous support to companies seeking to avoid the traps that will kill most new companies in the first 24 months.
SBDCs help aspiring entrepreneurs realize their dreams and help existing businesses remain competitive in a complex, ever-changing global marketplace. SBDCs are hosted by leading universities and state economic development agencies.
Best for: Existing companies looking to get to the next level.
Your local or regional chamber is a member community organization that actively facilitates, educates, and advocates on behalf of its members through various services and programs. Chamber member offerings typically include networking opportunities and events, educational seminars, leadership development, and special offers to chamber members from other chamber members.
Best for: Companies interested in local networking and business development.
The Veterans Business Outreach Program (VBOP) is designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, and mentoring, as well as referrals for eligible veterans owning or starting a small business. The SBA has 16 different organizations participating in this cooperative agreement and serving as Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC).
Best for: Veterans who want to start a business or need assistance in managing and growing an existing business.
WBCs represent a national network of nearly 100 educational centers throughout the United States and its territories assisting women in starting and growing small businesses. The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) oversees the WBC network, which provides entrepreneurs (especially women who are economically or socially disadvantaged) comprehensive training and counseling on a variety of topics in several languages.
Best for: Women who own their own businesses, whether it's in the startup or growth phase.
PTACs provide local, in-person counseling and training services designed to assist businesses that want to sell products and services to federal, state, and/or local governments. PTAC services are available either free of charge, or at a nominal cost.
Best for: Business owners who wished they knew about such services before they started on the arduous journey of selling products and services to the government.
Each U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) is staffed by professionals from SBA, Department of Commerce, Export-Import Bank and other public and private organizations. Together, their mission is to help small and midsize businesses compete in today's global marketplace by providing export assistance.
Best for: Entrepreneurs with their sights set on the global stage.
CDCs are nonprofit corporations certified and regulated by the SBA. They work with participating lenders to provide financing to small businesses. There are 270 CDCs nationwide, covering specific geographic areas.
Best for: Existing business owner looking for debt financing to buy capital equipment, another company, or enter new markets.
Running a business today is challenging. Don’t make it harder on yourself by trying to do everything on your own. Take time to visit the above-mentioned support organizations and let them help you run a better and smarter company.
As the founder and CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, Brian helps entrepreneurs run better businesses. He was formerly the executive director at The Wall Street Journal, overseeing the financial and small-business markets across the WSJ franchise. From 2002 to 2010, Brian ran Veracle Media and Moran Media Group, content companies in the SMB market.
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