Small businesses’ not-so-secret weapon

June 24, 2009 | J. Bruce Hughes

Editor’s note: This is the first article in a three-part series on starting small businesses that will be posted on Wednesdays.

What if there were a nationwide network of offices with paid, full-time counselors to help you grow your business in revenues, profitability, and size? What if that advice was free?

Map of SBDC locations

Map of SBDC locations

Well, the secret is out.

Such a network exists, and as you can see in this map, where each of the Small Business Development Centers in the U.S. is represented by a red dot, it’s a big network.

Usually, all you need to do to receive these services is to find your local SBDC and register as a client.

SBDCs are a principal source of management and technical assistance for the U.S. small business community. The mission of the SBDC network is to “Promote the growth, expansion, innovation, increased productivity and profitability of the small business sector through improved management.”

SBDCs are principally funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, with matching funds provided by state, regional, or local sources, and are usually associated with an institution of higher education.

Specific help available

SBDCs offer clients individual and confidential counseling, training, research and advocacy.

Here’s how an SBDC can help you. Let’s say you are just thinking about starting a business.

Starting a technology-based business depends on three tracks, each of which is critically important. You know your technology and what it can do. You may not know what the market for your technology or its application may be, and you may need help determining the best niche to enter. You may need help determining the actual number of potential customers for your product or service, and creating a model of market penetration that will help you make credible financial projections.

Even though you are a technology expert, you may not know how the finances of your business will work, and you may need help with cash flow analysis, breakeven analysis, and forecasting to help you understand how and when you and your investors can make money from all your hard work.

An SBDC counselor can help you answer these questions as well as determine whether your idea is feasible, identify the forms of legal organization that are available in your state and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives.

SBDCs can help you in many specific areas where you may need help:

  • Raising capital
  • Marketing/sales assistance
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Human resources
  • Commercialization of technology
  • Tax & benefits administration
  • Accounting/budgeting
  • International trade
  • Government contracting

Find your SBDC and get started

You can find your local SBDC and learn more about the SBDC network by clicking on your state in the map at http://www.asbdc-us.org/ .
Once you have done that, free help to start or grow your business is just a phone call away.

Next Wednesday, Part 2: Counseling and training


J. Bruce Hughes is an ASBDC Certified Technology Commercialization Counselor at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute for Economic Development. He has worked in technology and technology businesses since 1980. The Institute’s web site is at http://www.iedtexas.org/

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