Whether your business is growing more every day or you’ve reached a plateau, it’s always a good time to check in with an objective and savvy business guru to see if you’re on the right track.
Only 44% of new businesses with more than one employee survive more than four years, and only 31% make it past seven years, according to the Small Business Administration.
To fight those odds, here’s a bevy of government-affiliated resources to give your business a tune-up. The best part? Their services are free or available for a nominal fee.
Small Business Administration
The nation’s agency charged with promoting small business growth and entrepreneurship offers free online classes that cover marketing, networking, and even crime prevention. Most of the tutorials take about 30 minutes to complete.
The nonprofit Service Corps of Retired Executives bills itself as "counselors to America's small business" and is dedicated to educating entrepreneurs on the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide. SCORE is a resource partner with the SBA and has 370 chapters throughout the U.S. and its territories, with some 11,200 volunteers. Working and retired executives and business owners donate their expertise as business counselors. It also offers free electronic newsletters, online workshops and in-depth information tailored to women entrepreneurs.
Small Business Development Centers
These 63 centers, at least one in each state, provide management and counseling assistance to current and prospective small business owners. The centers assist small firms with financial, marketing, production organization, engineering, trade assistance and other issues. It’s a joint effort of the private sector, educational community and federal, state and local governments and is partly funded by the SBA.
Women’s Business Centers
This network offers management and technical assistance to entrepreneurs, especially those who are economically or socially disadvantaged. The Office of Women’s Business Ownership at the SBA oversees the centers, which also offer services in many languages.
Export Assistance Centers
These centers are located in major metropolitan areas throughout the U.S. and exist as one-stop shops providing small or medium businesses with local export assistance. Business owners can receive one-on-one personalized guidance from professionals from the SBA, the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and other public and private organizations.
Minority Business Development Agency
This branch of the Commerce Department is the only federal agency dedicated to advancing the establishment and growth of minority-owned firms in the U.S. The agency funds business development centers around the country to assist with the start-up, expansion and development of minority-owned firms. Minority business enterprise centers, Native American business enterprise centers and business resource centers provide management and technical assistance to minority entrepreneurs at every stage of business development.
State Web Sites
Each state has a Web site listing business resources particular to that state. For example, Virginia.gov has a small business section with training resources for small firms wishing to establish or expand their electronic commerce business through the Virginia Electronic Commerce Technology Center in Newport News, Va. Search your state’s Web site to find out what your region offers in terms of free classes, training or mentorship.
Local Chambers of Commerce
Just about every county or city has a chamber of commerce designed to help its businesses flourish. They’re great for networking events, workshops and mentorships. The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce offers a great calendar for New York firms interested in attending events, such as basic Google training (Stock Quote: GOOG) for small businesses and how to master social media tools to grow a business.
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