There’s nothing wrong with getting help for your small business when you need it. Running a business is tough, and even in the best economy, businesses face challenges every day. Smart business owners understand that when the going gets tough, the tough reach out and look for assistance. There are a number of great ways to get help for your business – let’s take a look at a few of them and explore how they can help you keep your business healthy.
1. Buffer Your Cash Flow With a Loan
One common problem for many small businesses is not enough cash on hand! One fix for that is to get a loan. Note that not having enough cash on hand doesn’t necessarily mean not having enough revenue. In fact, if you don’t have enough revenue, then getting a loan is actually probably unwise unless you are using the money for something guaranteed to fix that problem. However, many businesses, especially those in cyclical industries like tourism, find themselves short on cash and unable to take advantage of opportunities that may arise when they’re on the dry side of the cycle. Depending on your situation, buffering your cash flow with a loan may be a way to bridge those times and not miss out on chances to develop your business even when the revenue stream is temporarily dry. It is crucial, however, that you not take on loans that you don’t have a way to pay back. Hoping things “turn around” is just a recipe for bankruptcy. Rather, this is a tactic to use when you know your income will rebound in the near future.
2. Network in the Community
It’s not always a material shortage that can cause problems for your business. Sometimes it’s information, help, or just communication with people in similar situations that you need. Networking with other business professionals in your community is an excellent way to make new connections and find out how other people like you are dealing with the issues that arise in their businesses. Your local Chamber of Commerce sponsors get-togethers for business owners, and is also a great place to find out about other organizations doing the same thing. Groups like the Lions Club, Rotary Club, or Key Club (depending on where you live) do similar work. You can also cruise online for peer groups. Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and even Reddit are good places to find like-minded people.
3. Don’t Be a Fool…Go Back to School
No matter how much you know, there is always more to learn. If you need more information than your peer group can give you informally and socially, then consider going back to school for some continuing education. This can be anything from taking a free class online to going back to get your MBA. You might study business management, or perhaps pick up a completely different skill that supports your company’s operation, like coding or graphic design.
Online education has never been easier to find. Try Coursera.org if you’re looking for actual free and low-cost academic classes that can lead to a degree, or Udemy.com for technical programs that teach specific skills. If you’re really serious, check out the MIT Open Courseware program, where you can get a free college education in just about any topic. If online education isn’t your thing, community colleges and state schools offer quality programs in entrepreneurship, marketing, IT, business administration, and many other topics, and the expense is often very reasonable, particularly at the community college level.
4. Find a Small Business Development Center
You might not have time for school, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot that you could learn with some assistance. There are small business development centers in nearly every major city (and in a whole lot of minor cities, too). Often operated as a partnership between local governments, universities, and the business communities, small business development centers offer training, counseling, free consulting, help with hiring, and many other services.
SCORE is a nonprofit business outreach service originally started by the Small Business Administration and now operating in cooperation with the SBA and supporting corporations. There are more than 300 SCORE offices across the country offering free and low-cost classes and workshops. However, the most valuable service SCORE offers is free mentoring from real-world business experts.
These are actual business owners, managers, and executives (some still working and some retired) who volunteer to share what they know with business owners who need some professional guidance. These mentors can talk over day-to-day problems you’re having in your business, give suggestions about strategy and big-picture questions, advise you on finding legal and financial help, and just about anything else you can think of. It’s absolutely free to take advantage of SCORE services.
No matter what kind of issues your business may encounter, there is help out there. All you have to do is find the right kind of help, and then reach out to ask for it. Good luck!