Now that the Small Business Administration (SBA) has a new leader, Karen Miller, it’s expected that the agency will not just open the floodgates to money but also technical assistance – a fancy way of saying support.
Support comes in many shapes and sizes and from many different sources:
- It’s formal and informal. It can include getting your MBA, attending seminars and workshops, talking to vendors and suppliers by phone or chatting with employees by the water cooler. It can also include requests for informational interviews from prospective clients or donors or investors — not to pitch, but to find out how best to position yourself or your product or service in the marketplace. People love to share advice and expertise if you give them the chance.
- You can do it alone, in pairs, a group or a crowd. (Get your mind out of the gutter…this is a business site). Read articles and books. Be mentored or coached. Talk to a colleague. Join a CEO Roundtable or Mastermind Group, both are forms of peer advisory groups. Attend webinars and trade shows. Network, network, network.
- Pay for it or get it for free. Many resources are free including those from the SBA and SCORE (a nonprofit affiliated with the SBA predominantly staffed by retired executives and entrepreneurs who volunteer to train and advise organizations like yours). Or, you can pay a pretty penny – think accountant and lawyer rates — but higher-priced professionals can keep you from getting in a jam and be cost-effective in the long run. Anyone who’s ever been audited or sued can attest to that. If you can’t afford the help, consider offering a barter of services.
One thing’s for sure: no one size fits all. Mix and match what works best for you. Test the waters and build a golden rolodex of support networks. (For those under a certain age who are too embarrassed to ask: a rolodex was a prehistoric contraption that organized contact information. It was popular somewhere after the invention of the light bulb and before Cher’s fourth plastic surgery.)
There’s only one rule and that is to get what you need to prosper.
OK…time for a pop quiz. Name your top three methods of getting support. Mine are networking, mutual coaching with a fellow entrepreneur, web research. I told you my secret. Let’s hear about yours.