Joe Johnson, Ph.D.
Entrepreneur. Investor. Startup Expert.

As part of their mission to assist and counsel small business owners across the nation, the Small Business Association (SBA) provides (in partnership with universities, nonprofits, and state economic development agencies) partial funding to Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) as a means of assisting business owners as they start their businesses or encounter challenges along the way. These SBDCs constitute an important – and often overlooked – resource for new entrepreneurs. With nearly 1,000 SBDCs around the country, there’s a good chance that you’ll find one near you.

On the America’s SBDC website, you can research the beneficial effects that SBDCs have had on those businesses with which they’ve worked. The latest results reflect the period from 2014 through 2015. During that time, SBDCs helped entrepreneurs begin more than 17,000 businesses, create over 100k jobs, and earn almost $7 billion in sales. Businesses that partnered with an SBDC grew at a faster rate and received the essential support they required in order to make informed decisions about their businesses, their products, and their markets.

How Can an SBDC Help You?

Regardless of your business stage, an SBDC can provide useful assistance. If you’re trying to compose a business plan, you can secure expert input on your financial projections from individuals who understand your community and who have relevant business and consulting experience. If you need advice on a loan application, an SBDC can help with that, too.

An SBDC can also help in locating loans and grants, growing your network, learning new skills, marketing your products or services, and more. SBDC employees possess invaluable business expertise that can yield important insights for your enterprise. Additionally, classes and events can further your knowledge and improve the likelihood of your experiencing business success.

Benefits of Using an SBDC

Another Set of Eyes

Entrepreneurs needn’t work in a bubble. While it may feel as though it’s vital to guard your company’s secrets in order to remain competitive, seeking help when confronted with a problem can serve to provide you with more options and expert insights. Being close to a problem can make it difficult to maintain objectivity and openness to all available solutions. SBDCs can provide an essential sounding board for entrepreneurs.

Plus, SBDCs aren’t meant exclusively for startups. Existing companies can benefit greatly from seeking SBDC-sourced professional advice. Whether you’re experiencing challenges penning your business model or issues with your distribution channels, an SBDC may be able to provide suggestions that you hadn’t considered.

Knowledge

SBDC consultants often possess particular business knowledge. With free and low-cost business consulting, you can tap into their resources and buttress your own business expertise. SBDCs partners are well-positioned to share their experiences in venues ranging from community groups to business schools.

Networking

Meeting other entrepreneurs can be difficult when you’re focused on financial statements or other small-picture tasks. SBDC events provide occasions on which to socialize and network with other entrepreneurs and business professionals. From informal mixers to conferences, you’ll find opportunities to engage with others having similar interests, compatible businesses, or more. You can choose to connect with others by industry or geographical area.

Online Resources

Entrepreneurs and small business owners are busy and SBDCs understand that reality, which they address by providing online learning portals. With webinars and training available day and night, entrepreneurs can easily find events to suit their individual schedules. Whether you want to learn a little more about marketing or how one might purchase a franchise, SBDCs will share the resources necessary to point you in the right direction.

What an SBDC Does Not Do

Although an SBDC will assist with loan applications, they cannot loan money or offer financing. Some SBDCs (depending on the individual location) may also be able to introduce entrepreneurs to local grant opportunities.

SBDCs won’t do the work for you, but will always provide a helping hand. They can assist with editing your loan application or make suggestions on how to better organize your business plan. They can discuss a marketing plan for your new product or suggest alterations to your business model. Remember, though: despite their help, the onus is always on you to make things happen for your business.

To locate an SBDC near you, visit the SBA website and select your state. You’ll be provided with a map and a list of local offices, resource centers, and events. On the left-hand side of the page, you can alter your selection and expand your search. Most SBDCs have websites that you can visit to learn more about that particular center and information regarding its upcoming events. Consider attending an SBDC event in order to become better acquainted with the range of assistance on offer.

If you don’t have an SBDC in your vicinity and you’re either a veteran or a woman, consider looking into (if appropriate) a Veteran’s Business Outreach Center (VBOC) or a Women’s Business Center (WBC). Seventeen states currently have VBOCs offering special programs for veterans seeking to start a business or purchase a franchise. WBCs aim to help women to start and grow small businesses. There are over 100 centers nationwide. Some groups classified as WBCs also offer assistance to other small business owners and function as general business centers.

If you’re seeking a mentor or a one-on-one relationship with an established entrepreneur, consider checking out an SBDC.

About the Author

Dr. Joe Johnson is an entrepreneur, investor, and startup expert. He is the founder and principal of GoodField Investments and the GoodField Foundation (www.GoodField.com).

Joe has a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurial Leadership and an MBA. He is the author of the upcoming book on The Science of Why Most Entrepreneurs Fail and Some Succeed.

Most importantly, he is the incredibly blessed husband of one amazing wife and father of six wonderful children. He resides in Bradenton, Florida. For more information on Dr. Johnson and his work, go to www.JoeJohnson.com.