Has Your ‘Small Business Development Center’ Actually Helped You?

And especially, have they helped you learn effective, affordable and creative ways to market your business?

I’m curious because I often hear mixed reviews. These organizations are often branches of a govt agency and the leadership within the group (the directors, etc.) many times has no personal ‘hands on’ experience running a business. On the other hand, it seems that occasionally someone runs across an organization that has lucked out and has a great leader with tons of background.

I point this out because often ‘traditional’ books and consultants will tell you to reach out to your local Small Business Development Center and/or your local Chamber of Commerce. I confess, I love my local Chamber of Commerce (especially our lovely, vivacious and charming Executive Director) so I’m certainly not suggesting you overlook this resource. But I AM suggesting that you recognize that they are only a piece of the puzzle. It’s critical that you drill down into exactly they type of support and information you need and get that help from people who know exactly what you’re dealing with every day.

As much as it may kill you to step away from the business of running your business for a few hours, you must force yourself to make the time. I am NOT going to encourage you to get a mani/pedi or watch a movie during this break.

Instead, gather the training and education material you’ve been planning to read but haven’t made the time. Turn off the phone, put our your mental ‘do not disturb’ sign and dig in. Have a notebook with you and capture ideas that come to mind. It doesn’t mean you have to do them all today, it just means they are things to think about and you can execute on them when the time is right.

Or, use the time to connect with a fellow business owner…and DON’T waste the time with small talk. Prepare a list of 4-6 topics you want them to weigh in on. Maybe you need someone to brainstorm a new product or marketing idea. Maybe you are feeling frustrated or discouraged about another aspect of your business and need a new perspective. Make sure you stay on track and talk about the business issues you’re dealing with and get some objective input about the situation.

Owning a small business can be isolating and often you may feel like you’re out there all alone. Sometimes we all have to force ourselves to make planning and collaborating a part of our business, even when we feel like we don’t have the time.