Whether you're launching a new business, buying an existing one or trying to get your business in the best shape possible for an upcoming sale, as a business owner you can be faced with a myriad of challenges. From authoring a business plan to setting an effective tax strategy the range of skills required of a small business owner run the gamut. As an owner, you need to be versed in a broad range of skills but most of all you need to know where to turn for the best advice.
Many businesses fail, not because of faulty product or service offerings but rather, through a lack of focus on any of a number of peripheral areas. All facets of a business are crucial. Without proper marketing support, there is little chance of generating enough interest from the market. Without proper manufacturing techniques you could be incorporating inefficiencies that will price your product out of the running. Without proper hiring and staffing procedures you could be facing a legal nightmare that could put a halt to your best-laid plans. The challenge for most proprietors is where to find relevant timely and unbiased information.
But where do you turn, to get the right information? Often professional consultancy firms or independent contractors are the best choice but they can prove far too costly for a small business to afford. If you're in that group, the Small Business Administration might be just what you're looking for. They provide an astoundingly rich and deep range of programs and resources specifically designed for current and prospective small business owners. Best of all, you can tap into the SBA's services at no cost.
The range of programs, services and resources offered by the SBA is truly staggering. Their web site and offices are must-visits if you are serious about the success of your venture. Spend some time surfing around the SBA site and you'll find resources that will help you market your products and services, help you secure financing, offer advice on setting up the proper form of organization and even provide highly technical resources such as engineering and feasibility studies.
We've provided a few of the most commonly used SBA resources below. but there are far more. Visit their home site at www.sba.gov and take advantage of the site's search capabilities.
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) - Puts retired executives from all types of industries at your disposal.
SBDC (Small Business Development Center) - The goal of the SBDC is to provide business owners and operators with the management, marketing and financial skills necessary for their companies to survive and succeed in today's challenging business environment. With offices all over the country, SBDC resources are readily available and easily accessible.
Financing - Here, you'll find page after page of links providing information on a myriad of financing sources tailored to meet the needs of a full range of industry and ownership types.
Tech-Net - Tech-Net is an electronic gateway of technology information for and about small high tech businesses. It is a search engine for researchers, scientists, state, federal an local government officials, a marketing tool for small firms and a potential "link" to investment opportunities for investors and other sources of capital.
Pro-Net - Pro-Net is an electronic gateway of procurement information - for and about small businesses. It is a search engine for contracting officers, a marketing tool for small firms and a "link" to procurement opportunities and important information. It is designed to be a "virtual" one-stop-procurement-shop.
Sub-Net - Prime contractors use Sub-Net to post subcontracting opportunities. While the web site is designed primarily as a place for large businesses to post solicitations and notices, it is also used by Federal agencies, state and local Governments, non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, and even foreign Governments for the same purpose.
ACE-Net - Angel Capital Electronic Network is an Internet-based network sponsored by the SBA's Office of Advocacy that gives new options to both small companies looking for investors and investors looking for promising opportunities.
Export Assistance - SBA helps small businesses enter and succeed in the global marketplace through counseling by international trade experts, training sessions and publications, business development information, and Matchmaker Trade Missions (co-sponsored with the U.S. Department of Commerce) to link U.S. firms with potential foreign buyers. To assist in expanding your business, the U.S. Small Business Administration through the resources of the Office of International Trade, provides financial and business development assistance to help small businesses take advantage of import and export markets.
HUBZone - Empowerment Contracting Program. The SBA is responsible for regulating and implementing the HUBZone Program. It certifies firms for eligibility to receive HUBZone contracts and maintains a listing of qualified HUBZone small businesses federal agencies can use to locate prospective vendors. To search for eligible HUBZone businesses, contracting officers can use SBA's Procurement Marketing and Access Network (PRO-Net). SBA also adjudicates protests of eligibility to receive contracts.
Office of Technology - The Office of Technology works to strengthen and expand the competitiveness of small U. S. high technology research and development businesses in the federal marketplace. It also assists in achieving the commercialization of the results of both the federal research and development programs mandated by the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 and the Small Business Research and Development Enhancement Act of 1992.
Shareware Files - SBA provides a vast array of software titles that are free to download. From Accounting & Finance programs, to business plans and web authoring software, these programs can save you time and money.
Online Library and Reading Room - Here you'll find everything from articles covering general issues facing small businesses and forms for securing SBA loans to discussions of emerging trends and the latest statistical reports.