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Mentoring and Training

It's SBDC Day!

By Allen Gutierrez, SBA Official
Published: March 20, 2019 Updated: March 20, 2019

Today, we recognize SBDC Day and the contributions of our Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) across the Nation. Over the last 40 years, countless small businesses have started or expanded with the help of SBDCs. SBDC Day unites the nearly 1,000 SBDCs nationwide, marking the effect they have made in developing successful small businesses.

SBDCs deliver one-on-one counseling, training and technical assistance in all aspects of small business management. They offer services that include help with business planning, financing assistance, manufacturing, marketing, feasibility studies, market research, and finding solutions to technical problems. Many SBDCs also offer specialized assistance in economic development, procurement, venture capital formation, rural development, and importing and exporting.

In addition to core business skills, SBDCs provide access to all of the SBA’s financial and procurement assistance programs. Join in on SBDC Day by visiting your local Small Business Development Center!

If you’re interested in starting, growing, or expanding your business, find the SBDC nearest to you at SBA Get Local Assistance.

Watch my video message for SBDC Day.

Happy SBDC Day!

About the Author:

Allen Gutierrez
Allen Gutierrez

SBA Official

As Associate Administrator of the Office of Entrepreneurial Development, Allen Gutierrez is dedicated to enhancing the nationwide network of offices, business executives, and mentors that support current and aspiring business owners as they start, grow, and compete in today’s global market.

Mentoring: the Missing Link to Small Business Growth and Survival

By Kathleen McShane, SBA Official
Published: February 4, 2019

As a former small business owner and entrepreneur, I know first-hand the support, resources and access to networks and financing that entrepreneurs need. While there are many businesses that experience success, the fact remains that only half of all small businesses survive more than five years (source: SBA Office of Advocacy); and about 10-12 percent of all employee-based firms close each year. There is growing evidence, however, that connecting a business with a mentor can change this statistic.

Having a mentor can change the playing field for a small business. Research has shown us that small businesses that receive mentoring early in the development of the business achieve higher revenues and increased business growth. A survey by the UPS Store found that 70 percent of small businesses that received mentoring survived more than five years – double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses. The same survey found that 88 percent of business owners with a mentor said that having one was invaluable.

When Lorena Cantarovici first set her sights on entrepreneurship, she attended a workshop run by a SBA Denver Small Business Development Center that helped her develop her first business plan. Lorena’s love for hand-crafted empanadas turned into a thriving small business. Early on, she got counseling from the SBDC on accounting, marketing, legal issues and risk management. As demand soared, her business grew and she was able to move from a converted kitchen in her garage to a storefront.

Because starting a business can be overwhelming, a mentor can help to navigate the complex challenges that often come with being a business owner. There are many factors involved in business startup, from applying for licensing to securing financing. And those factors can have an impact on turning one’s passion into a profitable business. Getting guidance from someone who has been there themselves as an entrepreneur or business owner can be an added asset. In addition, there are resources available to provide business owners with the knowledge and guidance that are key to business growth, development and survival.

Having a business mentor can yield many benefits and provide the expertise that you might not have. A mentor can help you avoid common pitfalls through their real-life experiences. And a mentor can help establish you as a lifelong learner.

The SBA’s experienced volunteer mentors can provide meaningful business advice, some at no cost. Lorena is a great example of entrepreneurship, and a symbol of the many ways the SBA supports entrepreneurs as they start and grow. She was even honored as the SBA’s Colorado Small Business Person of the Year in 2017.

There are several SBA resources in the community committed to making your small business a success.

Working with a mentor or counselor from SCORE, a Small Business Development Center, Women’s Business Center or a Veterans Business Outreach Center can help with all aspects of starting, growing or expanding your business.

Learn More:

The SBA will host a Twitter chat on “How to Find a Business Mentor” Thursday, February 7 at 3 p.m. ET. Join us and follow along with the hashtag #SBAchat.

SBA’s sources of mentoring and counseling:

Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) are part of a nationwide network that provides business training, counseling and other resources to help women start and grow successful businesses. Tied closely to the SBA, WBCs are also able to advise women about business financing such as SBA loan programs. If you are interested in selling to the U.S. government, WBCs can also provide guidance and training resources to help you get started and navigate the process.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) help entrepreneurs realize their dream of business ownership, and SBDC counselors can help businesses remain competitive in an ever-changing global economy. Business owners can access free one-on-one counseling and low-cost training. Some of the counseling and training topics available include marketing, regulatory compliance, technology development and international trade.

SCORE is the nation’s largest network of volunteer business mentors. These business executives share real-world knowledge at no cost and fit your busy schedule. SCORE mentors are available as often as you need in person, via email or over video chat.

Veterans Business Outreach Centers provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard & Reserve members and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business.

About the Author:

Kathleen McShane

SBA Official

As the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women's Business Ownership, Kathy McShane is responsible for overseeing Women’s Business Centers throughout the country. These centers offer counseling, training and mentorship to women who want to launch or expand their business. She provides advice, assistance and support to promote, coordinate, and monitor the efforts of the Federal government to establish, preserve, and strengthen women-owned business. Prior to joining the SBA, she was CEO and Founder of Ladies Launch Club, a company that provided guidance to women who wanted to launch a business.

Supporting Women’s Entrepreneurship is now more important than ever

By Kathleen McShane, SBA Official
Published: October 25, 2018

Now more than ever, women entrepreneurs are making their mark. The growing prevalence of women entrepreneurs hasn’t happened by accident.  A big part of the growth of women-owned small businesses is legislation that targeted the creation of resources and networks for women.  This year, we celebrate one milestone in particular - 30 years since the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act (H.R. 5050).

The Women’s Business Ownership Act was created to address the needs of women entrepreneurs by recognizing the significant role they play in our nation’s economy and provide them with additional resources to become stronger business owners.  The Act was one of the first things that empowered women to be entrepreneurs on their own terms.  It also established the SBA’s Women’s Business Center (WBC) program.

The WBC program was the first SBA initiative to focus solely on women, and our centers continue to be an important resource partner. The mission of the WBC program is to act as the catalyst for providing in-depth, substantive, outcome-oriented business services to women entrepreneurs. These include both budding and established businesses, many of which are socially and economically disadvantaged.

Today, there are more than 100 WBCs all over the country – including nine new centers that opened this year.  These centers provide an incredible service for women entrepreneurs that helps them to launch and grow businesses and create jobs.  In 2017, the WBCs supported more than 150,000 women, resulting in tremendous revenue and job growth for the businesses they served -- $1.7 billion in revenue and 17,000 new job creations.  Research shows that women who receive counseling and mentoring early in the development of their businesses are more successful than those who don’t.

In addition, we recognize National Women’s Small Business Month and the millions of women entrepreneurs who day after day pursue their passion of entrepreneurship and financial independence.  We want women entrepreneurs to feel confident taking a risk on starting or expanding their small businesses. Whether they are writing a business plan, connecting with a business mentor, or receiving a loan to start or grow their businesses, each woman can access SBA resources.

As a former business owner, I know first-hand the resources, support, and access to networks and financing that women need.  I applaud those who have worked hard to overcome the barriers to business ownership and I encourage those who have yet to fulfill their dreams of entrepreneurship.

For the next generation of women entrepreneurs, it will be equally critical for them to have the needed resources to start and grow their businesses, just as women did 30 years ago.  As the nation’s go-to resource for women entrepreneurs, the SBA will be here to help them.  Access to capital, mentors and networking are some of the things women entrepreneurs need the most, and these continue to be the main barriers.

Through our 68 district offices and network of resource partners, we have the proven tools needed to help bridge the gap for women entrepreneurs as they grow their businesses, reach new markets and realize their full potential.  We strive to reach as many entrepreneurs as we can through the Women’s Business Centers, the Small Business Development Centers, SCORE and the Veterans Business Outreach Centers.

We’re excited about the achievements made and don’t plan to stop now.  There is more to be done to build on the foundation that was laid 30 years ago.  We will continue to serve women who are starting and growing their own businesses.  And they won’t have to do it alone – the WBCs and the SBA are on their side!

About the Author:

Kathleen McShane

SBA Official

As the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women's Business Ownership, Kathy McShane is responsible for overseeing Women’s Business Centers throughout the country. These centers offer counseling, training and mentorship to women who want to launch or expand their business. She provides advice, assistance and support to promote, coordinate, and monitor the efforts of the Federal government to establish, preserve, and strengthen women-owned business. Prior to joining the SBA, she was CEO and Founder of Ladies Launch Club, a company that provided guidance to women who wanted to launch a business.

The Good Karma of Being a Business Mentor

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: April 5, 2018 Updated: April 5, 2018

April is National Volunteer Month, a time to recognize the people who give their time and talents to benefit others. At SCORE, our volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization as they enable us to fulfill our mission of helping entrepreneurs start and grow their small businesses.

SCORE’s volunteer business mentors have provided guidance and resources to more than 11 million entrepreneurs since 1964. In 2017, SCORE volunteers helped create 54,500 businesses and 61,500 jobs. Our clients aren't the only people who reap the rewards from mentoring, though. Our volunteers also gain some valuable advantages through doing their good work.

If you have thought about volunteering as a business mentor but haven't quite decided whether you want to get involved, consider the following ways mentoring enriches volunteers personally and professionally.

Instills a sense of personal accomplishment

Being a mentor brings a sense of achievement as you help aspiring entrepreneurs and existing small business owners overcome uncertainty and obstacles. Whether you're assisting someone to navigate the uncharted territory of launching a startup or offering guidance to help an established company market itself more effectively, you gain the satisfaction of knowing you're making a positive difference in the lives of people within your community who are, in turn, improving the local economy. 

Provides camaraderie

As a SCORE mentor, you are part of a dedicated and accomplished team of more than 10,000 volunteers who share your passion for seeing small businesses succeed. Mentors draw from each others’ strengths and proficiencies as they help entrepreneurs tackle their challenges. SCORE has 300+ chapters across the United States where mentors meet face to face to collaborate, learn from each other and build lasting friendships. 

Strengthens communications skills

Mentoring can help you fine-tune your ability to communicate clearly with others. Through in-person mentoring sessions with clients, leading workshops, conducting roundtable groups or getting involved in other initiatives, you can become stronger and more confident when speaking and writing.

Enhances leadership skills

As a business mentor, you have many opportunities for honing your ability to lead others. Not only can you develop your leadership skills by providing guidance and feedback to clients, but you can also participate in other roles (such as heading a committee) that allow you to engage and motivate other volunteers.

Expands connections within your community

Mentoring opens the door to meeting a wide variety of individuals and organizations. From community leaders to chambers of commerce to economic development groups, you’ll diversify and expand your personal and professional network, which could lead to new opportunities.

Offers continued learning opportunities to enhance your own business acumen

As you guide business owners, you also expand your own expertise. Every SCORE client brings unique questions and situations to the table. While mentoring, you will learn and continually stretch the boundaries of your entrepreneurial know-how through your work with clients and the educational resources available through SCORE, SBA and other organizations. SCORE’s webinars, local workshops and online business resources are marvelous professional development tools.

Provides a point of distinction on your professional resume

If you aspire to advance in your career, serving as a SCORE business mentor will give you a credible and highly regarded community service talking point for your resume. Mentoring demonstrates an ability to lead, solve problems and collaborate productively with others—all traits employers value in prospective job candidates.

As you can see, mentoring generates some good karma. Not only is it a win for the entrepreneurs SCORE serves, but also for the volunteers who enhance their own knowledge, skills and connections through the experience.

Thinking about volunteering?

National Volunteer Month is a perfect time to find the best volunteer position for you. SCORE invites you to join our community of dedicated business mentors so you can enjoy the benefits that come from volunteering while helping small businesses succeed. Become a SCORE volunteer today.

 

About the Author:

bridgetwpollack
Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.

5 Ideas for Kickstarting Your Motivation in the New Year

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: January 4, 2018

January is here, and it’s back to business as usual.

Or is it?

After a holiday break filled with eating, drinking, and being merry, chances are you may be feeling the winter blahs. Psychologists attribute the post-holiday blues to a number of factors including the sudden lack of social events on our calendars, days short on daylight, cold weather, and fatigue.

But duty calls—it’s time to take action and snap out of it. Your business needs you!

Now that the excitement and adrenaline of the holidays are over, how will you kick off this new year with a renewed sense of determination?

Here are 5 tips to help reclaim your motivation.

1. Ease back into your work.

Trying to check off everything on your to-do list in the first few weeks of the new year will leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Instead, create a manageable plan by reserving dedicated blocks of time for all the tasks, meetings, etc. that you need to accomplish. That will help you stay on track and prevent you from trying to multitask, a habit that hurts rather than improves productivity.

Also, consider focusing on uncomplicated tasks first, like sending invoices, paying bills, organizing paperwork for tax time or tackling other simple administrative work. Because they require less mental energy, you can complete them more easily and build momentum for carrying out more complex responsibilities.

2. Walk off sluggishness and stress.

The weather outside may be frightful, but provided it’s not dangerously cold and you’re in good health, a brisk walk can do you a lot of good. Besides the cardiovascular and muscle-toning benefits, a daily 30-minute walk can diminish feelings of stress, brighten your mood and boost your creativity. Those are solid reasons to step away from technology, and get a breath of fresh air.

3. Reconnect with a colleague.

Whether you meet up over coffee and bagels or grab lunch at your favorite diner, reconnecting with a business colleague offers three benefits:

  • It will help remedy the social withdrawal you might be feeling now that all the holiday get-togethers and celebrations have concluded.
  • It jumpstarts your networking and relationship-building efforts in the new year.
  • Bonus: Your discussion might shed light on new ideas for growing your business or tackling challenges.

 

4. Take stock of your achievements, and envision the great things to come.

Reflect on all that you have accomplished in the past year or since you started your business. Pat yourself on the back in recognition of how far you’ve come and how hard you’ve worked.

Now, get excited about where you’re going to take your business in this new year. Sit down with pen and paper (or computer), and make a list of what you want your business to achieve. You might also consider creating a vision board, a tool that uses visuals to facilitate an emotional connection between you and your goals.

5. Find someone to be your sounding board.

Sometimes escaping a slump can be difficult on your own, so consider enlisting the help of a SCORE mentor. Our mentors have experience in all aspects of starting and growing a business. Many have faced the same uncertainties and challenges that you are encountering. They can offer valuable advice, feedback and encouragement when you need guidance, honesty, or a little push. Get your 2018 off to an inspirational start; meet with a SCORE mentor. Our mentoring is free of charge and available through face-to-face sessions, by phone, via email, and through Skype or Google Hangouts.

Where will your business be next year?

I hope these tips will empower you to get unstuck and move your business forward. You have the whole year ahead of you—stay motivated and succeed.

About the Author:

bridgetwpollack
Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.

Small Business Owners Share Challenges of Hiring Employees and Gig Workers

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: December 5, 2017

Small businesses employ almost half of all workers in the United States and have been responsible for much of the post-2008 economic recovery through their hiring efforts.

Over the past year, hiring activity has been on an upward trend for small businesses, with plans to add workers hitting the highest level since 1999.

SCORE’s latest Megaphone of Main Street Small Business Jobs Report surveyed more than 1,700 small business owners to rate their hiring experiences of employees and contractors.

 

Difficulty filling positions

More than 50 percent of small businesses said it was very or somewhat difficult to fill open positions, with about 55 percent of micro businesses, or those with 0 to 4 employees, in agreement.

Twenty-seven percent of openings went unfilled in the past six months, which was consistent across different small business sizes and locations. Business owners cited problems finding skilled, qualified applicants as a primary reason for not filling positions.

Offering competitive wages and salaries is another common challenge, along with a lack of healthcare and other employee benefits. Hiring takes time, too — about 18 percent of all small businesses said it was too time-consuming to hire qualified workers - they’ll just do the job themselves.

Small businesses use job-posting sites, recommendations from other business owners, networking groups and online platforms drive hiring efforts, but by far, recommendations from other workers proved most fruitful in finding new employees.

Our infographic, “The Megaphone of Main Street: Small Business and Employment,” identifies more hiring challenges faced by small businesses.

 

The gig economy and small business

The area of largest hiring growth among those surveyed was in one-time project or gig workers at 37 percent.

Eighteen percent of businesses reported replacing employees of any type with contractors over the past six months.

Of those business owners, 50.8 percent reported choosing a contractor or temporary worker for the benefit of their specialized expertise. Forty-one percent reported only having seasonal or temporary needs; 35.1 percent said they preferred hiring a contractor over needing ongoing cash reserves for payroll. The costs and complexities of offering employee benefits like healthcare and retirement plans also drove the decision to hire a contractor.

Forty-seven percent of solopreneurs reported hiring other people for part-time help running their businesses. Their firms had an average of 3.2 workers, including the owner.

Contractors are most likely to be called in to complete technical, accounting, bookkeeping and marketing tasks. Other important roles for contractors include manufacturing, sales, business planning and logistics.

When respondents noted their reasons for hiring an employee over a contractor, consistency of work and commitment to the company were primary. Having the same person in a position rather than a rotating contractor was another major factor, as was the ability to direct work tasks and schedule work hours.

Some business owners commented that their concerns about correctly following IRS regulations— and dealing with related paperwork — guided their decisions whether to hire a contractor or an employee.

For more insight on the growth of the gig economy, see our infographic “The Megaphone of Main Street: The Gig Economy.”

How does your experience hiring qualified employees and contractors fit in with our findings? Meet with a SCORE mentor about how to ensure you find the best talent for your growing small business. 

About the Author:

bridgetwpollack
Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.

Lifelong Learning Ensures Success for Small Business Mentors

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: October 3, 2017 Updated: October 3, 2017
To succeed in small business, entrepreneurs must be committed to learning throughout their careers. That learning doesn’t stop once they gain the expertise and confidence to become business mentors.
 
A few months ago, we welcomed 420 SCORE volunteers from all over the country to our National Leadership Conference, where we focus on one of our core values: lifelong learning. Over the course of three days, volunteer mentors learned new ways to best serve and reach their mentoring clients.
 
Mentors also take this time to learn about the topics about which their clients most frequently seek advice: finance, marketing, and technology. By bringing our volunteers together at this annual event, they’re not just able to hear from some industry experts – they’re also able to engage from various chapters to learn how their fellow mentors are serving small businesses in their area.
 
Because there is so much information out there, mentors can struggle with knowing what sources to go to and which are most reliable – just like our clients. That is why SCORE has our Learning Management System, so we can sift through all of the information and share what makes the most sense.
 
Mentors Share Diversity in Learning
 
I always enjoy hearing from mentors, who radiate enthusiasm whether they’re talking about their clients or attending a seminar to sharpen their skills.
 
“My experience with SCORE is that you never stop learning,” reported mentor Mary Jane Good from the Greater Cincinnati chapter told SCORE in a recent profile highlighting her successes. “You learn from other volunteers, your clients and National. SCORE's Mission on supporting and growing small business keeps me involved in the organization. It is a sincere pleasure seeing a client come to SCORE for counseling and with our input and their hard work, a new business is started and we, in our way, had a hand in it.” Good, who spent 24 years in leadership at a human resources and staffing firm, was recognized with the “Excellence in Leadership” award last year from the Columbus district office of the Small Business Administration.
 
Roberta Fleischman, who volunteers in Northeast New Jersey, came to SCORE after early retirement from her service at a large pharmaceutical company. She’s brought her financial and management skills to the table as she serves clients in various stages of business development. “I’m learning so much about running a small business,” she told a regional magazine this summer.
 
Just as each aspiring entrepreneur who comes to SCORE is different, so are the goals and growth of our mentors. “I have learned to be a better listener,” Michael Fisher, who has served as a volunteer mentor for four years, says. “I have gained knowledge in new areas, such as social media and how to be honest with someone, yet still encouraging them in their quest. One of the best things I have learned is to have more patience and understanding.”
 
Small business owners who are lifetime learners adapt to change more readily and are more successful. Volunteers as lifelong learners remain relevant, achieve personal satisfaction and growth. Together, they both contribute to a strong small-business landscape.
 
How can you commit to a lifetime of learning? Learn more about becoming a SCORE mentor and the ways you can give back to your local small business community.

About the Author:

bridgetwpollack
Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.

Conversation with SBA’s 2017 Exporter of the Year

By Peter J. Cazamias, SBA Official
Published: September 22, 2017 Updated: September 25, 2017

Rose Morris is the ‘mompreneur’ behind The Safety Sleeper™, the winner of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 2017 Exporter of the Year Award. Creating the product out of personal necessity in 2009, Morris’ business has since grown year over year, hitting the $1 million sales mark in 2016.

When Morris’ middle son, Abram, was a toddler, he had difficulty maintaining a regular sleep cycle because of his autism diagnosis. Worried about the health and safety of her young child, Morris developed a lightweight tent-like structure that is placed on top of the bed, which includes padding and an air mattress.

Over the years, Morris made myriad improvements to increase the quality and durability of her product, including an extra safety zipper system, fire retardant material, and stabilizing straps to prevent tipping. She did this in part due classes and counsesling from her local SCORE Pittsburgh Chapter, the Duquesne University Small Business Development Center, and Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship. Morris also conducted additional research by speaking with other parents and learning about different sleep disorders.

Almost a decade after starting her business, Morris has expanded beyond our borders to include sales to 12 different countries around the world. Recently, the SBA’s Office of International Trade had an opportunity to speak with Morris and dive deeper into her expansion into the global marketplace.  

The conversation has been edited and condensed.

SBA: Describe the circumstances that caused you to go global? What prompted to you begin selling abroad?

Rose Morris: It all began because of a call from a father in Europe. He said ‘I saw your product online, can you ship it to England?’ Since I don’t have ‘no’ in my vocabulary, I said ‘yes’ and then set out to figure out how. I reached out to my original manufacturer and asked if it could be done. He did some research and paperwork on it. Despite the product being held up in customs, we were able to complete the shipment successfully. Shortly thereafter, I received a similar phone call from a parent in Ireland. That’s really how we began to sell abroad.

At the start, did you have an exporting plan?

No, we did not have an official international business plan at the beginning. But we learned a lot as we went through the process. For example, we learned you can be refunded the VAT (value added tax) in areas in Europe by completing the right paperwork.

So how did you go about creating the plan?

About 3 or 4 years into the business, I was introduced to a SCORE mentor by a member of my women’s bible group. I ended up having 2 mentors there and learned as much as I could from them. They helped as I developed my business plan and grew my company.

Did you focus on specific countries or geographic areas when selling abroad?

No, I did not. However, I did notice that of the 12 countries we currently sell to, they tend to be a bit more established countries in terms of medical billing and nonprofits. We work a lot with groups related to sleep diagnoses to see if and how the product can be covered by insurance. We always focus on the customers first, and worry about the funding after.

What was the toughest challenge related to exporting that you had to overcome?

Paperwork was definitely a concern in the beginning. While we used UPS originally, the paperwork was the responsibility of our company. After we shifted to using an export management company and they took on the burdensome paperwork, we were able to free up time and resources to devote back to further developing the product.

What advice do you have for small business owners considering selling abroad?

Trust your gut, and definitely trust your intuition!

To learn more about the counseling, training, and financial tools available to help your small business sell abroad and to find the offices located closest to you, visit: www.SBA.gov/local-assistance.

About the Author:

Peter J. Cazamias
Peter J. Cazamias

SBA Official

Peter J. Cazamias serves as the Associate Administrator for SBA's Office of International Trade.

Training the Staff You Envision

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: August 8, 2017 Updated: August 9, 2017
For small business owners, it can be difficult to find good job candidates. Small businesses often times have to compete in the job market with large employers offering an attractive menu of fringe benefits. A possible solution for small businesses is finding workers who can be trained for the jobs they have.

 

Internships

Companies may want to engage interns through colleges or other programs. This gives employers the opportunity “test drive” a worker to see if he/she fits into the company culture and is trainable.
Be sure to note that internships aren’t free labor. Companies must pay at least minimum wage unless the internship program meet certain criteria outlined by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

Apprenticeships 

Apprenticeships used to be commonplace. They date back to the Middle Ages when they were used by tradespeople in the craft guilds to train the next generation. They are still used today in all types of industries. According to DOL, there are currently more than 150,000 employers employing more than 500,000 apprentices in over 1,000 occupations.
Apprenticeships provide paid on-the-job training (“earn and learn”) with related instruction designed to progressively increase workers’ skill levels and wages. According to DOL, registered apprenticeships (which are run through state agencies) allow “employers to develop and apply industry standards to training programs, thereby increasing productivity and the quality of the workforce.”

There may be federal income tax incentives hiring apprentices:

  • Work opportunity credit If the apprentice falls into one of various targeted groups (such as certain disabled veterans or ex-felons), an employer can claim a federal income tax credit related to the wages paid to the apprentice. The amount of the credit varies with the applicable targeted group. Find details in the instructions to Form 5884.
Find more information about apprenticeships through the DOL.

 

Training current employees

An employer doesn’t necessarily have to look beyond the company’s doorstep. The company can train employees for the tasks that need to be done.

Incentivize employees to learn. Some skills require higher education, and employers can help them get it by paying some or all of the cost. This can be a tax-free fringe benefit to employees and no payroll taxes for you.
  • If the education is job-related, there’s no cap on the tax-free amount. It’s treated as a “working condition fringe benefit.”
  • If the education isn’t job-related, you can pay up to $5,250 tax free under an education assistance plan

“Brown bag” Training Make learning easy by bringing in trainers during the lunch hour. Employers can foot the bill for lunch to ensure attendance.

 

Conclusion

Small businesses can create the workforce they envision not only by hiring suitable employees. They can craft their workforce by appropriate training.

About the Author:

BarbaraWeltman
Barbara Weltman

Guest Blogger

Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes, J.K. Lasser's Guide to Self-Employment, and Smooth Failing as well as a trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® and host of Build Your Business Radio. She has been included in the List of 100 Small Business Influencers for three years in a row. Follow her on Twitter: @BigIdeas4SB or at www.BigIdeasforSmallBusiness.com

Why December is a Great Time to Review Your Business Plan

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: December 1, 2016 Updated: December 1, 2016

While December is a busy time for small businesses trying to end the year on a high note, it should also be a time for introspection and review. After all, December is National Write a Business Plan Month!

You might think this occasion is reserved for new, aspiring business owners. But a business plan is so crucial for success that it’s also a good idea to take time to review your plan on a regular basis. This month is a great time for that.

Here’s how to review your business plan to prepare for success in the coming year.

1. Set aside one hour to review your business plan

Yes, you can make progress in just one hour! Set aside quiet time to read through your business plan — no matter how old it is — cover to cover.

Don’t be hard on yourself if your current business reality isn’t the same as your plan projected. Celebrate your successes, of course! But your real task here is to read and contemplate your plan. Pay attention to how you feel as you do this, and jot down any ideas or thoughts that come to mind.

2. Step away from your plan for a short time

Don’t rush to any conclusions or judgments when you finish reading your plan. Set aside the document. Take a walk. Get back to work for a few hours.

See what thoughts bubble up about your plan. Do any ideas spring to mind to improve your business plan?

If you find yourself feeling frustrated during this step, remember that your business plan is a living document that can be changed at any time. No plan is set in stone unless you want it to be.

3. Set goals for 2017

It’s time to set goals for 2017. What do you hope to accomplish? Do those goals fall in line with your original business plan, or is it time to draft a new version?

One of the best ways your business plan can guide you in setting new goals is by reviewing your weaknesses.

Your business plan includes a SWOT analysis, evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your own business compared to your competition. Go back to the “weaknesses” portion of that report. Do you still agree with what you listed for your business? Are those weaknesses still true for your business, yourself as the boss, or both? Whether you’ve added skills and strengths to your business endeavor or you’re still struggling, think about how you can grow — or ask for more help — in 2017.

When you’re finished, you’ll probably have a lot of ideas for your business for 2017 and years to come. The beginning of the year is a great time to set up a meeting with a SCORE mentor to talk about how to help your business grow. Anxious to get started right away? Don’t wait! Volunteer mentors work all year round — including around the holidays — to support small business.

About the Author:

bridgetwpollack
Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.

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