Quietly, outside the headlines about bonuses and bailouts, the smarter entrepreneurs among us head to their local SBDC. There, they find classes on starting a business, classes on running a business, classes on business planning, tips, introductions...and sometimes just a touch of real-world experience, when it's badly needed.
SBDC stands for Small Business Development Center. There are about 1,000 of them across the United States. To find an SBDC near you, you can use the map at bplans.com or the umbrella organization website at asbdc-us.org.
Here are some of the things SBDCs do for small business:
- Lots of classes, like starting your business, running your business, planning your business, setting up the accounting, doing the marketing. These are almost always smaller group classes, and most of them are at night so that real business people working real businesses can afford to attend. They are generally very—amazingly—cheap, like $50, $100, $200 or so for a 10-week class.
- Counseling, one-on-one, on small-business issues with somebody who has experience in the field.
- Good advice on books, software, tools.
- Introductions to other local businesses.
- Help with developing a business plan and finding local investors for a new business.
There's been a lot of publicity about the Small Business Administration lately, and I'm glad. The SBA performs vital functions related to making business loans available to small businesses and start-ups. But there's not enough said about the SBDC programs, which are helping real businesses survive the recession, grow, and create new jobs.
Tim Berry is president and founder of Palo Alto Software, founder of bplans.com, and a co f ounder of Borland International. He teaches starting a business at the University of Oregon. He is author of books and software including Business Plan Pro, published by Palo Alto Software, and The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan, published by Entrepreneur Press. He has a Stanford M.B.A. degree and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. He blogs at Planning Startup Stories and Up and Running.