It’s the start of National Small Business Week, and Windstream Small Business is celebrating by helping you accomplish your business goals. Small businesses — those that have 500 or fewer employees — are the backbone of the U.S. economy: there are nearly 28 million of them, and they create almost two-thirds of all new jobs in the nation.
At the end of 2017, the outlook for small businesses was positive, according to the National Small Business Association’s year-end economic report. Owners thought the national economy was faring well and had confidence in their own businesses, job growth increased and more than half of firms reported revenue gains.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll go the whole way without a hitch! So, whether you’re wanting to start up a new business or whether you’re looking to learn more about your craft, our Windstream Small Business team has put together key resources to help your company grow.
1. Consulting and Networking
The U.S. Small Business Administration and SCORE, a nonprofit organization that helps small business owners start and grow companies, both offer free counseling and mentoring programs. The administration encourages owners to reach out to officials in its more than 50 district offices across the nation, while SCORE matches you with a mentor based on your business questions or goals.
Many local colleges and universities have business development centers, similar to business incubators, that are dedicated to helping small-business owners get their start and grow through personalized consulting as well.
Join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or your local chamber of commerce — even if you’re ponying up a fee. The membership will bring you into a networking mecca. Chambers can connect you with other like-minded entrepreneurs in your area and help you generate leads or solve a problem.
2. Funding and Incentives
Finding funding to either start up your business or start a new project can seem like a daunting task. You could pitch your business to investors a la Shark Tank, but there are other methods to consider.
The Small Business Administration backs loans, which typically come with guidelines like continued education and competitive rates and fees, and guarantees surety bonds. The federal government also has grant programs specifically for businesses specializing in scientific research and development and doles out money to states to help small businesses with export development.
State economic-development organizations are also a wealth of information about funding on a granular level, such as tax incentives and local grants or financing programs.
3. Higher Education and Continued Learning
Employers rave about lifelong learners, and what’s not to love? Lifelong learning can affect everything from your lifetime earnings to your health, studies have found.
If you want an affordable way to build on what you and your employees already know, look no further than your local community colleges. Two-year schools are typically tied in with area industries to help train today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce, which could also supply your small business with qualified interns or entry-level employees.
As a part of National Small Business Week, the Small Business Administration and SCORE are hosting for the first time a virtual conference with topics ranging from addressing workplace harassment to sharing your story through video. A full agenda of the May 1-3 conference can be found here. Both groups typically provide training year-round through live and recorded webinars, interactive courses and in-person workshops.
4. Market Research and Analysis and Advocacy
Industry associations, such as the National Small Business Association, the Small Business Entrepreneurship Council or, for those in the food industry, the American Culinary Federation, are some of your strongest proponents. These groups are on the pulse of your industry and can provide valuable research and analysis on what has happened, what’s to come and why. Trade associations typically require you to shell out an annual fee, but these groups, along with chambers of commerce, employ lobbyists who will go to bat for businesses should any city, state or federal roadblocks arise.
Local groups like chambers and economic-development organizations may also have city- or state-level data about your market that, paired with your industry data, can help you decide if — and when — you want to expand.
Now that you’ve chartered your course to growth, remember to augment the technologies that make your business run smoothly, too. Windstream Small Business can help support your company with phone, high-speed internet and cloud-based services that are designed to meet the needs of the ever-changing business environment.
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