Local resources plentiful for owners of small businesses


August 14, 2011|By BOB POOR

Q: Where does one begin a search for help in learning how to operate a small business? We don’t have a lot of money, so it has to be inexpensive.

A: Entrepreneur magazine published an article titled “The Five Best Small Business ReSources You’re Not Using.” I saved some excerpts, which I am happy to pass along.

It seems that many small-business owners don’t ask for assistance even when there are valuable and affordable resources out there providing advice and support. Here are five often-overlooked sources of help for small businesses of all sizes:

 1. The Small Business Administration and SCORE. The SBA is not just for business owners who want to get a loan. If you have never set foot in a local SBA office, visited a Small Business Development Center, taken an SBA training program or met with a volunteer mentor, check out the range of offerings. The men and women who serve as SCORE volunteers are an unheralded, often overlooked national treasure.

2. Your Chamber of Commerce. It will cost money to join. However, most chambers will have at least an occasional free networking event you can drop in on and other events designed to help businesses in their city. It could definitely pay to get involved.

3. Your industry association. It has always surprised me that many business owners don’t join their industry trade group, which usually takes the lead in advocating for businesses like yours in state and national legislatures. Trade groups also are great sources of useful research and forecasting on industry trends. Membership can give you a jump on the competition.

4. Other local business owners. Smart business owners look around their town and find ways to team up with other local entrepreneurs, whether to market their business, form a mastermind group or just commiserate. It costs nothing to organize a monthly meeting with a few other business owners, and a lot of great ideas could come out of it.

5. Your community and business college. Local colleges can be a great source of entry-level job applicants, a conduit for finding interns and a place to send workers to get inexpensive training. Many institutions are focused on meeting the needs of their local business community, so they want to hear from you.

A great place to start in Hagerstown is the local SCORE chapter. Call 301-766-2043 or go to Ask about the next SCORE roundtable and networking event, one-on-one confidential and free mentoring, and low-cost seminars and workshops. We are here to help.

• Robert A. “Bob” Poor is a local small business owner/operator. He is chairman of the local SCORE chapter, a small-business counselor and a regular contributor to the Ask SCORE column. Questions may be e-mailed to him at or by mail in care of The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, MD 21741, ATTN: Ask SCORE column.



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