Whether you’re just starting out or an experienced business owner, everyone needs help and guidance from time to time. Thankfully, there are a myriad of free and low-cost resources out there to provide assistance in various aspects of business management.
Following are eight resources and programs even the most seasoned professional may not be aware of:
1. AARP Magazine and AARP.org – Most think of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) as just an ‘end of career’ resource. However, both the monthly magazine and web site are filled with content relating to business management, career changes, continuing education and more. Tips and advice are offered for both those managing an existing business and career as well as those either at the beginning or end of the journey. On the AARP web site, click the “Work & Jobs” tab for more information relating to entrepreneurship. Additionally, the “Financial Planning” tab has a variety of articles and links to all aspects of financial management you may find helpful in your day to day operations or personal estate planning.
2. State and Local Tax Offices – If you only think of your tax offices as locations to send payments, you’re missing a vital resource. Most city and county (as well as state) tax offices will have links to valuable updates or planning documents from their web sites, along with critical timeline updates to ensure your business is in compliance. If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to sign up for regular e-blast or newsletter updates from your specific jurisdictions, which may frequently contain information on free seminars/webinars or other public outreach events.
3. Local Utility Providers – Many local or regional utility providers (electric/gas, cable, internet) provide links to business owners on a variety of topics, frequently updated seasonally. For example, clicking through the links on your electric/gas provider may give you calculators to ensure you are in the right rate plan for your business or payment options you might not have previously explored.
4. State Office of the Small Business Administration (SBA) – You may have applied for or received an SBA loan when starting or expanding your business. The SBA is so much more than just a lending institution. This valuable resource has countless links on management and expansion topics, regulation and most importantly — Links to your individual state’s SBA page. Be sure to click “State Business Resources” on the SBA site, navigate to your state and review all the links there, especially the specific opportunities for how to do business with the state. Most states will offer detailed information on how to be considered for state contract opportunities which can be an excellent boost to your bottom line.
5. SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) – SCORE is an incredible nationwide network with an army of retired executives and business owners eager to help others through mentoring opportunities — best of all, mentoring services are FREE! Log on to score.org and peruse the local mentors near you and all the ways you can learn from those who have come before. In addition to one-on-one mentorship, SCORE also has an excellent library of resources and on-demand video knowledge base on a wide variety of topics.
6. Local Colleges – Both traditional four-year universities and community colleges can be an excellent resource when it comes to learning a new skill, understanding different technologies or looking ahead to the future of your industry. Examine your opportunities for either free informational sessions or low tuition longer format classes to broaden your expertise. Additionally, colleges are wonderful recruiting locations for new or entry-level staff!
7. Free or Reduced Cost Online Education – Especially in the last year and a half, online education is booming more than ever. While there are countless places for tuition-based online learning to enhance your knowledge base, there are a number of free options. Known for being a tool for students, Khan Academy is also a good spot to brush up on any core competencies or branch into a new level of study, potentially even before attempting other online education in your field. For college-level training and even certification or degrees in various fields of study, check out Coursera, specifically Coursera for Business which has downloadable resource guides and e-books on a variety of topics (for a fee).
8. Free Online Digital Design Tools – If you haven’t played around with these options yet, be sure to check out web sites like Canva and Spaces. These two powerful online tools are perfect for even the not-so-tech-savvy set, giving you templates and ideas for everything from logos and signage to web sites, social media posts and more. Even if you already are set when it comes to your graphic design needs, spend a little time learning how these tools can help you unleash even more business creativity!