I had the opportunity to interview a panel of economic and business development providers at a small-business conference recently. These organizations provide support to small businesses in the form of access to capital, business planning, marketing and much more.
Although their services vary, one thing came across loud and clear. They all work with one common goal in mind: to help you be successful.
Another message was that they work together on your behalf. That means that you can walk in the door of any organization or agency that works with small businesses in the state and basically connect to all of them. Every service provider knows all of the other service providers and can refer you to another person or organization based on your needs.
Here are five more ways these organizations can help your business:
Whether you are in the early stages of starting a business or you’ve been operating your business for years, it’s helpful to meet with someone who can help you develop your plan. A business plan is necessary if you are seeking financing for your business. But more importantly, it helps you see where you need to be going and provides a map to get you there.
In addition to banks, there are a number of organizations in Maine that provide financing for business start-up and expansion. Many work with banks to package financing deals, from microloans to venture capital to SBA guarantees. There is money out there.
Expanding your markets
Do you need help with your marketing strategy? Do you want to expand to international markets or do you have a product you want to sell to gift shops? There are organizations and programs here in Maine that can help you improve your marketing efforts and expand your markets.
There are ample networking opportunities in the state, from your local Chamber of Commerce to pitch competitions. Connect with these organizations and attend as many of these events as you can.
When you reach out to an economic or business development person, you are networking. It is common for that person to know another person or business that would be good for you to know and to make that introduction on your behalf.
An objective ear
Resource providers are there to provide you with objective feedback and support. They have no stake in your business and nothing to gain or lose from your efforts. They do want you to succeed, but they are not emotionally invested as a family member, friend or investor might be.
Having a business “coach” when you need to brainstorm, need affirmation that you are on the right track, or when you are in trouble, is the reason you should add one to your business team. In addition, they have a lot more experience with a lot more businesses than you likely have. They have seen and heard it all and that experience can help them help you.
Most of these organizations offer their services for free and are well worth your time to check out. To find the organization best suited for you, start with your local town office, economic development agency or Chamber of Commerce. Check out these sources:
“Business Answers” is a great resource. Call them at 800-872-3838 or go to maine.gov/businessanswers.