SBA offers more help at web site

score Question: I enjoy reading your column and have gotten a lot of ideas of how to run and position my business from it. Are there any other places where I can get information and have my progress reviewed?

Answer: for decades, small businesses needing assistance could get it by simply dropping in at their local Small Business Administration offices. Today it's even easier.

Any small firm with a computer and an Internet link can get just about all of the assistance it needs from the SBA online. I recently visited the Small Business Administration's website, www.sba.gov, and reviewed a host of offerings. One of the most detailed and complete was the business plan at www.sbaonline.sba.gov/starting/businessplan.html. [Both links are provided below.]

Do you have a plan that's really well-thought out? Have you asked all the right questions and comeup with answers to each? One way of answering these questions is to look through the plan provided by the SBA and see if it matches what you've done.

Sure, you could hire a consultant to come in and write your plan for you. Or you could drop by the SBA office in Chicago or get someone from the local office of SCORE to help you.

However, if you pretty much know what you need to do or prefer to write your own plan, the online business plan provided by the SBA is for you. However, it is a good idea to have the local office of SCORE review your plan after it's finished; there's no cost associated with their work.

If you do not have time during normal business hours, small business consulting is available on the SBA web site. Define the topic you want and a counselor experiences in that area will respond via email.

And if you're looking for some handouts that can help you better understand small business ideas, check of the SBA's Directory of Publications. There are nine pages of materials, and none of the publications costs more than $5.

Finally, small business tax information is updated regularly. One area I found particularly useful is "IRS Initiatives on Tax Issues Related to Employee Meals."

So if you want to improve your small business operations, take a look at the things offered by the SBA. You paid for all of it with your tax dollars, why not take advantage of the assistance?

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.


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