We all know that small business owners have to wear a lot of hats. When you own a small business, you are the CEO, the CFO, the hiring manager, the IT department, the accountant—you name it. You may be one of only three or four in the office. While it’s important to be knowledgeable in a lot of areas and to potentially be able to function with a small amount of manpower, savvy small business owners know that sometimes, they need good advice and feedback that they can’t always find among their co-workers.
So where can the small business owner go for business advice? Here are a few common places:
Mentors: Having a mentor is one of the best ways to learn more about how to run a business. A business mentor can open doors, teach skills and give valuable feedback. No doubt it is a good deal for you, but it is often equally satisfying, if not more so, for the mentors, as they can see their advice and guidance making a difference.
Where do you find a mentor? A while back I covered this topic on the SBC, but there are so many good resources I had to share some more.
- Ask: Finding a mentor is often the result of simply having the chutzpah to ask someone whom you admire whether he would be willing to mentor you. Or just ask around. Tell people that you are looking for a mentor— you may be surprised at how willing people are to help.
- Pay: If someone knows what you want to learn but is disinclined to be your mentor for whatever reason, consider buying his or her time. Is it ideal? No, but it may still work.
SCORE: SCORE, an organization made up of business executives and entrepreneurs, offers free, confidential counseling and education on almost any subject you can name. Need help with a marketing campaign? SCORE can help. Opening an auto repair shop? A SCORE volunteer probably has done that, too. SCORE matches you up with a counselor who will give you as much help as your business needs, and if he that counselor cannot help you with a specific problem, there is another SCORE counselor who can.
The Small Business Administration: The SBA, both online and via its field offices throughout the United States, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam, offers classes, counseling and a variety of programs designed to help small businesses succeed. You can also get advice at its Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs).
Networking groups: Your chamber of commerce can be an excellent source of expert advice, as can other networking groups like LeTip and various trade associations. There are also groups like the Young Presidents’ Association and various women’s, veterans and minority networking groups that are specifically intended for giving these business owners the assistance, advice and help that best fits their business.
Your teammates: Don’t forget to look in your own backyard. According to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, small business owners turn most often to their own network when seeking help. Specifically, they speak with:
- Accountants and bookkeepers (75%)
- Other small businesses owners (50%)
- Financial advisors (48%), and
- Friends and family (40%)
Social media: What’s the point of having all of those followers on Twitter, connections on LinkedIn, and Likes on Facebook if you can’t take advantage of that vast network when you need some good, old-fashioned business advice? Again, I bet you will be surprised at how willing people are to help you.
Websites: Finally, there are a lot of websites out there where you can post a question, read answers, meet other small business owners and so on. Right here on the Small Business Community, for instance, you can meet other entrepreneurs and get great feedback. I am, of course, also partial to my own site, TheSelfEmployed.
Have you ever helped another small business owner with advice, or are you currently seeking it? Share your story with the community below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.