A Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is a great resource for entrepreneurs who are trying to make every penny count.
Funded by the federal government, SBDCs give small business owners direct access to resources that are vital for their companies' growth and continued viability.
One of the most popular resources the SBDC network offers is free one-on-one counseling with a certified SBDC counselor. SBDC counselors are experienced business leaders who have been trained to give entrepreneurs practical advice on small business topics like business planning, capital acquisition, marketing, personnel, and more.
Working with a SBDC counselor is a relatively straightforward experience. However, the counseling process is not designed to make someone else do the work for you. Successful SBDC counseling requires you, the business owner, to be integrally involved in the process.
Here's what to expect:
- Group Workshop. Your experience with a SBDC counselor will most likely kick off with a group workshop, especially if your business is in the early stages of development. Group workshops lay the groundwork for your company by providing important information about the components of a business plan, how to do financial projections, and where to look for sources of capital.
- Business Plan Writing. Although the process may vary from one SBDC to the next (there are 1,000 SBDCs located across the U.S.), the next step is typically something you do on your own, i.e. business plan writing. A solid business plan is usually one of the first steps in getting your business off the ground. Using information you gathered from the group workshop, you'll be asked to go home and create a business plan that includes financial projections, cash flow analysis, marketing analysis, and other information.
- One-on-One Counseling. After you have completed your business plan, it's time to sit down for a one-on-one session with a SBDC counselor. This session may seem similar to the group workshop except that the material covered will applied to the specific content of your business plan. It's also common for SBDC counselors to offer referrals for other professionals who can help you execute your business plan.
- Follow-up Sessions. SBDCs are eager to work with small businesses at every stage of development. When it's time for your business to take a significant leap forward, contact your local SBDC to arrange another sitdown with a counselor.