America loves small business, and next week, April 29 to May 5, America observes “Small Business Week”—dedicated to recognizing the best small business owners and entrepreneurs. I also want to recognize the best small business support in the country: the consultants of America’s Small Business Development Center (ASBDC) network. So I’m hosting a Facebook Live event in conjunction with the ASBDC to kick off Small Business Week. I hope you’ll join me.

SBDC consultants are the unsung heroes of small business. SBDC consultants have a wealth of knowledge, and I want to share some of that knowledge with you. My Facebook Live event topic is “Start, Grow, Succeed.”  Join the conversation on Monday, April 30 at 2 pm EDT, 11 am Pacific on my Facebook page. I’ll share tips from experienced SBDC consultants, take questions. Many SBDC consultants will participate with me.

Over the years, I’ve met literally thousands of SBDC consultants from the nearly 1000 SBDC centers. They’re knowledgeable, dedicated, supportive. Most are experienced business owners, so they know what you, as a small business owner, are going through. They continually take additional training and stay current on new technology. They really, really want their clients to succeed. Once upon a time, I was a client myself.

SBDC centers offer free counseling, low-cost training, and serve about one million Americans a year. They get some (not enough) support from the federal government, which must be matched by state or local governments.

Here’s just a smattering of tips you’ll get from SBDC consultants on how to start, grow, and run a successful small business:

Start:

If you haven’t researched your market and your competition, do that before you even think about opening your doors. – Jacqueline Taylor, Houston SBDC Network

(when leasing space) Don’t get more space than you need….get maintenance costs in writing…do check out the parking situation. – Karie Williford, Orange County Inland Empire, CA SBDC Network

If you’re a Millennial, learn how to run a business by working at one with a strong track record…More than 13 million Millennials cite “not knowing how to run a business” as their biggest barrier to getting started. – Diane Fournaris, Rhode Island SBDC

“Don’t make it perfect.” Don’t let perfection get in the way of your plans—there is no perfect time, no perfect amount of money, no perfect way to start your business. – Bruce Strong, Minnesota SBDC

Grow:

To get better indexing (show up higher in search results) from Google for your website, write more content. Between 400-600 words per page is an optimal amount…if you don’t have a FAQ section on your website, now is the time to add one. It’s excellent content for Google indexing. – Kim Sherman-Labrum, Boise, ID SBDC

Every interaction with anyone you meet, digitally or personally, is a marketing opportunity; don’t squander yours. – Dolores Stammer, Northwest New Jersey SBDC

Provide Top 10 list to local newspapers. Small news outlets are always looking for content… If you have an HVAC business, for example, consider offering, “Top 10 ways to get your AC ready for summer!” – Glenna Cush, Maryland SBDC

Always have business cards. – Whitney Horton, Arkansas SBTDC

Make marketing efforts easier by reusing content on multiple platforms; a Facebook Live event recording can be uploaded to Youtube and Vimeo to maximize exposure.  – Disa McAlister, Arizona SBDC, America’s SBDC Arizona Network

Growth costs money: Every 3 to 6 months, review your budget projections and make sure you are accounting for new opportunities that may require additional capital. – Jacqueline Sousa, Florida SBDC at Florida International University in Miami

Succeed:

“Run your business like you’re going to sell it, always keeping what a buyer would look for—cash flow, great records, and so on—in mind.” – Bill Fox, Arkansas SBTDC, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark.

Find a mentor, a business coach, a fellow entrepreneur to talk with about the ebb-and-flow of your business. But don’t stop there! Develop relationships with subject matter experts—a business insurance professional, a business banker, a CPA, a business lawyer, a marketing professional, etc. – Tracy L. Hawkins, Clermont SBDC (Ohio)

One of the best ways to start safeguarding your data is identifying the data you need to safeguard in the first place….medical/health information, payment card data, social security numbers, online account credentials, financial accounts, driver’s license information. Check out OCIE SBDC’s Cybersafesmallbiz.com site –  Rachel Neeley, Orange County Inland Empire (CA)


Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2018

This article originally ran in USA Today on April 25, 2018