Build a Small Business Network to Help Your Business Succeed

As a small business owner you can often feel alone, even when surrounded by many people.

How is this possible? The answer is that many small business owners keep their business challenges to themselves. They don’t want employees, or customers, or suppliers, or family and friends for that matter, to know that they have business issues that might be difficult to manage.

If this describes your business environment, consider building a business network to help you manage your challenges and grow your business.

What is a small business network? In this instance it is a network of either similar or dissimilar small businesses that work together to help each other solve their business issues and also to help each other manage and grow their businesses.

Let’s examine an example of a small business network for similar businesses.

A group of between eight and twelve business owners in the same industry but in non-competing locations set up a peer business network. They get together (either face-to-face or online) at a regularly scheduled day and time (maybe monthly or quarterly) to discuss their small business strategy and issues and they each ask for, and get, feedback from the rest of the group — all experienced business owners of similar type businesses.

Some of the discussion might center on human resource issues such as training, hiring, firing, turn-over rates, and comparative wages or salaries. Other discussions might be on common customer centric issues such as turn-around times, over promising and under delivering, quality, service, handling difficult customers. Some sessions might focus on business planning, marketing planning, sales planning or results from plans.

To form this type of group, business owners could meet through national or international industry trade associations. To make this type of network work, the participants must sign confidentiality agreements and non-compete agreements — even though today the businesses are non-competing, there is no guarantee that tomorrow they won’t be competing. It is important that legal advice is obtained at the start of setting up this type of network — your group will need to know what is allowed or not allowed by government competition acts.

The advantage of this type of network is that all participants already know and understand the industry and can bring that knowledge and expertise to the discussions.

Now, let’s examine an example of a small business network for dissimilar businesses.

This type of network would work best in a group of not less than eight and not many more than twelve business owners (too small and the input is weakened; too large and it’s hard to have a voice or hear what’s going on). This group would get together on a regular basis (likely monthly) and review each business’ progress, operations, challenges, or the designated topic of the month. Since this is a network of non-competing, dissimilar businesses, the group could be local and meetings could be face-to-face.

An advantage for local meetings is that the group would be operating in the same economic climate and would have a thorough understanding of what that means to local businesses. It would be relatively easy to form a local group by meeting businesses through local small business associations.

Topics could be selected in advance by month, by quarter, by year and each business owner would attend a network meeting prepared to discuss issues surrounding that topic. For example, one month’s topic could be about reducing the cost of financing and sharing tips and tactics. Another month’s topic could be about the use of the best and most successful recruiting methods for that local area. Another month’s topic could be on creating a business plan and the necessary tools to do so.

In this type of network it is also important to have confidentiality agreements and non-compete agreements at the start of the network meetings. You will want to have the assurance that if someone leaves the group that they won’t share confidential information with others.

The advantage of this type of network is that you can more easily set this group up in your local market so that face-to-face meetings would not be difficult and that you might actually get more out-of-the-box thinking from business owners outside of the industry who are not constrained by past practices.

For both types of networks, use an outside facilitator to ensure that the group stays on track and that each member gets out of the network what it needs (its reason for joining). The concept of a business network is to provide small business owners with a small business advisory group to test solutions, find answers, change old ways of doing things, and more. In large businesses, that type of network support typically comes from other departments or management. In small businesses, a strong small business network is part of an overall business community that becomes part of the infrastructure for your business’ success.

Can I Get Free Money From Government Grants For My Small Business?

On a regular basis I have clients walk into my office and ask the same question, how do I get free money from the government in the form of a grant? We have all seen the commercials or got the phone calls from the companies that are going to get us this free money by writing the perfect proposal. Well unfortunately there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Government grants for small businesses do exist but they are very rare and all most impossible to come by. Private grant money is a little more readily available from large non profits and foundations but mainly focuses on non profits.

There is some confusion from business owners in what a government grant actually is, a lot of small business owners thing a grant is free money from the government to start or develop a small business. This is a complete myth, the government does have many helpful programs to help the entrepreneur succeed, but free money is not one of them.

Government Grants – Here is where the confusion sets in the government does provide free money but it is restricted to educational institutions and associations but these are rarely ever available to small businesses.

Government Guaranteed Small Business Loans – This is a great benefit to small businesses while the government itself does not lend money to small businesses it has a program through the SBA that will guarantee the loan for the banks which in turn makes them more inclined to loan money to start ups or existing businesses.

In conclusion do not pay top dollar for software programs or slick sales people that promise you loads of free money through grants more than likely it will cost you more money than you will ever receive. If you are in need of business capital think about a SBA loan. There is a wealth of information on the Small Business Associations website and consult a business consultant to help you figure out what programs you might qualify for and would be the best for your particular program.

Government Small Business Loans to See Your Business Grow

An idea can change the world, for good or bad – that’s a separate issue. But an idea really changes the world – we have all witnessed it time and again. To cite examples, there were groups which invented the internet. And now, using the same platform, there has been something that no one thought that would happen – it has virtually sucked out profits from its competitors and is the Numero Uno in the world; a small startup as a college networking site, evolved into the gigantic $200 billion Facebook – as we know it today!

Small ideas but the ability to implement them in a manner than profits you and the society makes all the difference today! The human brain is so complex and full of ideas that you need not go anywhere else to scratch for ideas. Unfortunately, we only use a part of the brain’s immense, un-comprehended power. Now, that you have got an idea and want to implement it by starting off with a small venture, we all know that you’ll need money for that.

How to Get Funds for Your Small Business?

One thing has been taken care of here and that is – THE idea. Now you require funds; where can you seek funds? There are multiple avenues for seeking the same; however it is the government that people are so comfortable to approach. The government seems to be a source of immense funds, but the question is – is it willing to fund your idea? The answer is simple, if you have confidence in your idea/project the government will also have. However, the government agency – Small Business Association which oversees all this and more has become a bit of investment shy after the recent wave of recession.

However, with rising rates of unemployment and job sacking and mounting debts – the federal government is encouraging small entrepreneurs and wants to help them to create jobs for themselves and grow enough so that it starts generating employment for others. That is the government’s side of thinking. Whatever it is, you have to make sure that you will concentrate on your business and nothing else. The main thing is to make your business stand and make it stand quickly with a solid foundation.

Loans even before starting a business are seen as a debt but that’s fine! At a point o time, every business is in debt but that does not mean even for once that it cannot make profits or generate revenues. It is natural to be in a little debt. That sustains the revenue pull in your business. But one thing to be aware of is that the debts should not mount over the period of running your business. Unless your firm is controlling the country’s economy, the government won’t come and bail you out!

Small Business Association of the government will fund you by providing loans at nominal rates. This amount will be largely helpful for you to start and run your business further on.

Shocking Truth About Small Businesses and the Economic Stimulus Package

The government has it all wrong in creating new jobs. The economic stimulus program was to primarily help large struggling corporations, which often was a waste of money.

Did the banks, who received this money, start lending more money? They did not in most cases. The key to getting the economy to turn around was to get money to small businesses. If the government wants to create employment, it needs to assist small business owners and not the larger corporations whose greed and mismanagement has caused them a hardship.

It would have been wiser to give a much larger share of the economic stimulus to small business owners. Every analysis shows that small businesses have a far greater economic impact on communities than larger, chain businesses. Small businesses in the United States are about half of the workforce and 70 percent of job growth If most of this money was spread to the 26 million businesses in America, the economy would be doing much better.

Independent Business owners do not give out lavish bonuses to themselves or employees if the financials do not warrant it. They are tight with the buck and will hire employees when it is prudent to do so. Normally, customer service is superior in the small business compared to the larger franchise or chain business.

I had to chuckle when I hear the excuses from the companies losing millions of dollars. They had to pay huge bonuses and salaries to attract the best employees. Maybe, hiring someone less qualified who would have explained, about the hole getting deeper with these outrageous bonuses.

I have seen how large corporations managed their operation, but now I am strictly involved with small businesses. For the last six years, I have been working with small business owners all over the United States. The industries and locations were different; many things are common among small business owners.

They are the lifeblood of the community and what separates one town from another. They give and participate in many local charities and events. Many small business owners will pass the business to their children. However with the expansion of the large corporate stores, this is becoming much rarer.

Large businesses have clout getting laws passed that favor them. Small Businesses must get together and form small business associations to fight back against the corporate giants. Otherwise, small businesses will continue to disappear in record numbers and job growth will be slow.

Resources Offered by the Small Business Association

For those interested in starting a business, the Small Business Administration (SBA), can be an important resource. The SBA is well known as a source for small business loans, but they offer much more. The organization is an outstanding government agency with resources geared specifically to help small business owners start up and stay in business. And even better news is that many of those resources are free of charge.

First founded in 1953, the SBA is an independent agency that provides counsel, aid, and assistance, designed to protect small business interests. Other focuses of the SBA include preserving and maintaining free competitive enterprise, as well as well as strengthening the nation’s economy. Small businesses are a vital part of this country’s existence, providing products and services to consumers while providing income to employees of the company.

Over the years, the SBA has grown and established a system for building the future of this country. Throughout their existence, the mission has remained the same – assisting the American people in starting, building, and growing businesses of various industries. In addition to providing needed services to the United States, this government agency also aids businesses in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

The services and programs offered by the SBA include contracting opportunities, loans, training programs, and even aid in the event of disaster. Although not all offers provided by the SBA are listed in this article, we have listed some of the key benefits associated with the services offered.

Financial Aid and Planning

Many small businesses fail within the first five years. This failure is often due to under capitalization and poor management. To create and build a small business, you need ready capital, coupled with the right knowledge and planning. SBA can help by calculating finances needed for the business, as well as strategies for proper management. They offer free assistance from business experts. These experts will review your business plan and provide advice on improving and strengthening your plan. You can also utilize their resources to develop your plan.

Disaster Relief

The SBA also has a special division called the Office of Disaster Assistance, which has the responsibility of providing financial assistance to homeowners and businesses in an affordable, accessible, and timely manner. The major benefit is the long-term, low interest loans. If your company were to experience disaster, the SBA would step up to provide assistance for repairing and/or rebuilding.

Miscellaneous Programs

In addition to the two programs mentioned, keep in mind that it has a variety of solutions specific to small business owners. For instance, you could take advantage of online training from the SBA, which includes a number of free online courses. Counseling and assistance is also provided by the SBA, offering help through Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and a number of national training events.

Finally, the SBA is known for reaching out to audiences that many other organizations or agencies would not touch. It has special programs, tools, and resources specifically available to veterans, women, Native American Indians, and young entrepreneurs. Remember, the focus of this agency is to make it possible for anyone to become a successful business owner in the United States. Over the years, the SBA has proven a highly successful entity.