with Aliza Sherman
If you own a business - home-based or otherwise - this is the blog where you'll find practical tips and smart ideas about entrepreneurship. I've started and run 4 different businesses so "been there, done that." I'll also invite successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice with you.
To learn more about Aliza, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! and her website, www.mediaegg.com.
Over the years, I seem to always be in the position of giving business advice, whether in my columns or to colleagues running their own companies. With a handful of companies under my belt, I have a lot of “life” experience with businesses. Also, I’m a proponent of being an open book so others can learn from both my successes and failures. In the same way I’m very self-revealing about my personal life in articles and blogs, I do the same on the entrepreneurship front.
So it was a major “aha” moment for me last week when I found myself turning to someone else for advice. Someone suggested that I might want to call my local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) office to get some financial advice for my corporation. SBDC’s are a program of the SBA to provide management assistant to aspiring and current entrepreneurs.
My dealings to date with the SBDC have been as a consultant or as a speaker or instructor, never as a business owner looking for help. But with some major corporate changes in the works for my company, I suddenly found myself in a deep ocean without a life vest. And of course my local SBDC was well-stocked with life preservers, life vests and even life rafts.
So what are some of the reasons why you might want to consider touching base with your local SBDC?
1. Free. While a good business coach is probably worth every penny, you can get some very nitty gritty, nuts and bolts consulting at no cost from an SBDC counselor.
2. Confidential. As part of the SBA, the SBDCs adhere to strict confidentiality standards so you know that what you discuss won’t be shared with others.
3. Objective. An SBDC counselor is not a part of your business and most likely not a part of your business circle so can provide a non-biased opinion about your circumstances.
4. Accountable. Being an offshoot of a federal government agency means that SBDCs must provide careful reporting of the work they do with each client so there is always a record of your interactions.
5. Skilled. Being hired as an SBDC counselor requires a certain level of business experience and knowledge so you know that you’re speaking to someone with solid skills.
6. Solutions-oriented. SBDC counselors are “in the business” of helping your business and can even offer assistance obtaining loans in the short or long term to help your business.
Back to My Story…
I called my local SBDC last week because of this sudden crisis I was facing that was related to both my personal life and my corporation. I have to admit that I was embarrassed to be calling and even cried on the phone because of the emotional nature of my situation.
But the SBDC counselor I was referred to - Klaus - provided the right balance of sympathetic ear and upbeat problem solver. He spent the latter part of his Friday afternoon making calls to his contact at my business bank to get me a meeting with him first thing Monday morning.
On Monday, I met with my banker - the first time in three years that I actually felt empowered to do so. The meeting went better than I had expected. Then Tuesday afternoon, I met with Klaus in person to discuss the near-term strategy for my corporation finances. He agreed with my direction. I then met again with my banker and set some positive changes in motion.
I feel like I’m on the right path now with my corporation. What could have been weeks of misery, frustration and confusion was reduced to a phone call that cleared through the clutter and a few meetings with the right people. Within three business days, I went from despair to confidence.
Hey, I would have paid for that kind of counseling. But all of this guidance and support was absolutely free. You can’t beat that now, can you?
What has been YOUR experience with your local SBDC?
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