One of my professional functions is to serve as a small business advisor. I give advice on income taxes, product pricing, employment issues and anything else that relates to a business. Questions can often be handled through a quick phone conversation, but there are times when detailed discussions are necessary.
There are also times when clients are better served by consulting an expert on a given issue, be it another professional or a nonprofit or government agency. Let's take a look at some of the public and governmental resources that are available to you.
Chamber of Commerce
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and your local chamber provide a wealth of information to members. The U.S. Chamber's website includes small business toolkits. Topics covered include employment practices, business startup and sales and marketing tips. Much of the information is necessarily broad in its approach, but it provides a starting point.
Local chambers of commerce can help fill in the gaps left by the more general information from the U.S. Chamber's website. Local chambers are more in tune with the local business environment. In addition to serving in an advocacy role, some either sponsor programs or can direct you to programs that mentor small businesses.
Originally the Service Corps of Retired Executives, the SCORE Association provides free online and face-to-face mentoring for small businesses. SCORE has approximately 12,400 volunteers whose mission is to help entrepreneurs start and manage their businesses. In addition to the online resources available, you can submit questions that a qualified executive will answer. Local chapters also offer face-to-face mentoring opportunities. SCORE is a nonprofit organization that receives funding from the Small Business Administration and numerous public and private companies.
Colleges and Universities
Most colleges and universities count business administration among the majors they offer. In many cases, these organizations also provide small business counseling services. Services offered include help with business planning and assistance in packaging expansion plans. These organizations can also help you locate training for your employees, develop pricing models for your products and direct you to market research. Funded by a combination of federal, state and local (public and private) resources, the services are often free or low-cost.
Other Not-For-Profit and Governmental Programs
Just about any city is interested in nurturing its business environment - after all, businesses provide jobs and a steady tax base. As a result, state and local governments often encourage establishment of economic development foundations and might even have offices dedicated to assisting businesses. Take a trip to city hall and ask if there are any local programs to help you with a particular problem. You might be surprised at what is offered by your local government.
This article touches on just a few free or low-cost options to help answer some of your business questions. Though each has its place, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to address your business issues. That's why it is best to have a combination of resources, both public and private, to help you run your business. Do you have any issues that have been troubling you? Give me and my firm a call. We will be glad to assist you in any way we can and direct you to the best resource to find the answers you need.
Enjoy your month!