Free Counseling and Advice Every Startup and Growing Business Needs To Succeed

Business counseling fees can be extremely expensive and not knowing where to turn for business advice can be a significant waste of valuable time. That is why there are 80 Business Information Centers (BICs) in the United States and over 1,100 Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). Not only do they provide small business owners with free counseling, but they also have an extensive reference library of books, publications, and video tapes. Small Business Development centers and Business Information Centers help with start-up business planning or assist in expanding an existing business.

BICs are partnered with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) to provide businesses with free business counseling. Retired business men and women volunteer their expertise and experience to assist with any issues that may be confronting your business. These men and women can also assist you in developing a customized business plan for your specific business needs. There are over 10,500 SCORE volunteers in 389 chapter locations who assist small businesses across the country. SCORE also provides an online counseling initiative for businesses. More information on this can be obtained at the SBA.gov website.

Business Information Centers are constantly adding new resources to serve the needs in their local business community. Some BICs, such as the Sacramento Business Information Centers, offer bookkeeping, tax planning, budgeting, business financing and loan information, developing business plans, legal information, management skills, and marketing techniques to name a few of the areas BICs specialize in. The majority of all major cities provide BICs.

The Small Business Development centers are a training resource which is a cooperative effort of the private sector, the educational community and federal, state and local governments. It is the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) largest resource partner and an initiative that enhances economic development by providing small businesses with management and technical assistance. There are more than 1,100 SBDC lead and service centers located around the country. To locate the nearest development center to you visit the following page created by the Small Business Administration (SBA): http://www.sba.gov/sbdc/sbdcnear.html.

Further information on SCORE can be found at SCORE.org. Their website contains more free information for businesses including a unique template gallery which gives businesses templates for business plans, cash flow projection reports, balance sheets, break even analysis reports, cash flow statements, competitive analysis reports, and more. You can also locate the nearest SCORE office via their website.

The SBDCs, SCORE, and the Women’s Business Center all fit into the SBA’s Office of Entrepreneurial Development.

Call Centers Are Intrinsic to Business

It’s the year 2010. Thinking ahead, many things in business have changed and will continue to change as technology advances and businesses become more competitive and global. Business outsourcing, both domestically and internationally, is a reality and frequently is a smart and cost efficient decision for many businesses regardless of their size, since they realize certain services are not their core business and would be better outsourced to another agent. One such frequently outsourced service is the business call center.

However, businesses need to always carefully consider what services they should outsource. Call centers are intrinsic parts of many businesses, but they can be difficult to operate and maintain. Most companies choose to outsource telephone customer service to an external provider, considering all the logistics needed to operate a successful customer service and order taking division: the amount of space needed, the expensive phone equipment needed, the support staff needed to back-up and service the equipment, and all those important operators and telemarketers, customer service support professionals and other layers of management needed to ensure all is running smoothly, and hopefully at a profit.

Many companies are utilizing the services of a professional Call Center. When they choose an industry leader, they’re engaging in domestic outsourcing at its best. Choosing a US-based call center is a both a business-savvy and customer-friendly option. The call center that your company ultimately chooses should prove to you that they are constantly thinking ahead, upgrading their equipment, adding support staff, and providing many cost-efficient services to their diverse client base. They should believe in partnering with their valuable clients to get them the results and cost savings they are seeking.

Forward thinking call centers provide services ranging from answering service, outbound telemarketing, voicemail service, fax to e-mail service, to mail receiving, to business systems installation of phones. Their installation staff might handle all the aspects of phone systems installation, from running cables, to creating an entire infrastructure for your business, to the planning and purchase of telecommunication equipment.

Outsourcing can support and also help your sales force by making telemarketing calls, making follow-up calls, handling and recording incoming calls that come in requesting more company or product information, and even creating an enquiry log for you. As a result, the partner’s agents then become an extension of your sales force. A call center also allows your national or international clients the ability to pick-up their phones and call your company at any hour since when you’re a progressive company and not a traditional 9-5pm company, you are better poised to grow your company. Call centers increasingly are 24-hour, always-open businesses that are available whenever you need them; after-hours, 24/7, 365-days a year if need be.

Sure customers and prospects can e-mail your company at any hour. Frankly speaking, isn’t it a pleasure to be able to place a phone a call to the company of your choice, and be able to speak with a live and pleasant professional who’s there to help you at any hour, on any day of the week? Find a call center who makes it a point to only hire well spoken operators and telemarketers who have excellent communication skills. These important staffers should be articulate, well trained and thoroughly screened. The answering service that you hire should realize that the voice callers hear truly matters.

Thinking past 2010, it’s progressive thinking to allow a call center to be an important part of your business plan as you advance your business. When you team-up with the right call center partner, they will give you the added sales and customer service support you need to move your business forward. They also should realize that client satisfaction, both now and forever, is the most important ingredient to keep you in business, as well as growing it. A professional Call Center allows you to beef-up, build and better support your company without incurring the major expense of having an expensive call center or hiring all the staff needed to provide the all services they offer. Professional telephone support vendors will provide the space needed, the skilled staff and the new technology necessary to help your business profitably advance itself.

Department Of Commerce Grants For Small Businesses

Several businesses have benefited by applying for and receiving grants from the Department of commerce of their states. These grants are designed to help various small businesses operate and develop within that particular state. Small businesses needing information about the grants from the department of commerce can contact the local area development managers, local development organizations, regional planning commissions or the small business information centers for more detailed information.

Profile of Eligible Candidates to Apply For the Grants:

U.S. based, for-profit businesses are eligible. Individuals or groups of individuals can apply for the grants even before the creation of a company but established businesses have a better chance of getting a grant, as they will have time to focus on the project rather than on creating the company. It must be at least 51% owned by American citizens.

The business must be a small business and can qualify for the grant only if it conforms to the definition of a small business of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

They must use technology and innovations regularly in their operations.

It will be an additional qualification, if an experienced and committed individual, who will ensure the success of the project, heads the company. They will have to have the experience in researching and writing proposals as well as be knowledgeable about using emails and the Internet.

They must present the proposals on how to carry out the project and who will help them such as university faculty who may guide them.

The Small Business Innovation Research program offered by the various state departments of commerce, is very helpful and an excellent opportunity for small businesses to avail non-repayable grants. Businesses can apply and compete to make use of up to 1 million dollars given annually as grants. The department offers free counseling for any individual or groups wanting to explore the possibilities of getting a grant. Various businesses compete annually to get these grants and only 1 out of 10 get these grants, as competition is tough.

Small Business Technology Transfer program is another very important grant available to small technology companies. This grant was designed to allow small businesses to collaborate with non-profit research institutions to bring innovative technologies to the market.
It is necessary for individuals to have a good plan ready and they can seek professional help in planning how they will accomplish the project. The researcher must be well qualified, have adequate research and development experience and have good project management experience. These are just some of the small business grants from the department of commerce. Other grants such as The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-ED) Economic Development Program, The Customized Labor Training (CLT) Fund, the Entrepreneurial Training Program (ETP), The Recycling Demonstration Grant Program etc are also provided by the department of commerce in the state of Wisconsin.
There are firms that offer services as well as products to help run a successful business.