When looking to start a new business, or develop an existing one, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of information and advice out there. So, for my first substantive LBBB post, I thought I’d share some invaluable resources that small business owners can use to help stay informed, aware and educated.
#5 – SBA.gov
Politicians talk a lot about supporting entrepreneurship these days…without saying much about how they aim to do it. Luckily, the federal government already provides some basic informational resources for creating and operating small businesses. The trick is that it takes a bit of doing to sort through it all and find the information that actually applies to you. Nevertheless, SBA.gov is a great starting point for any small business owner or entrepreneur. In particular, the materials on how to create a business plan and marketing plan are fairly well done. (In a future post, I’ll be sure to take some time to delve more into my favorite specific resources for business planning.)
#4 – The Wall Street Journal’s Small Business Section “Must-Reads”
Small business owners (in every industry) will benefit from staying informed about current market trends, news and strategies. Even if you have less than zero interest in subscribing, The Wall Street Journal maintains a small online section targeted at startups and small businesses where it compiles each day’s “must-read” articles that should prove especially relevant. I often hear that people feel they don’t have time or patience to actually read through a whole newspaper every morning, so this is a free, easy and efficient way to stay informed about the developments most likely to affect your enterprise.
For those eager to read more about what’s going on in the entrepreneurial landscape, I recommend carving out some time each week to peruse the articles and blog entries offered up by entrepreneurship periodicals such as Inc., Entrepreneur and Fast Company (just to name a few of the more helpful ones). Much like the SBA, INC.’s website in particular contains a wealth of tips and information on how to start and manage a business.
Bear with me on this one. I admit I was highly skeptical of personality tests when I first started business school, likening them to the contrived, self-fulfilling prophecies found in horoscopes (sorry, astrology fans). I quickly realized, however, that personality tests like Myers-Briggs actually offered some meaningful insights into my work style, needs and habits. This quiz is free and only takes a few minutes. Once you know your type, you can search the web for more analysis and interpretations – check out Personality Page. For any business owner with employees, I highly recommend asking your team to take the quiz as well so you can learn more about their orientation as professionals, and how their types interact with each other, as well as your own. These insights can be incredibly helpful in team-building, dealing with motivation and productivity issues, and managing interpersonal conflicts.
I’m cheating a bit here, because all the other entries in this list so far have been 100% free. But for only $26 on Amazon ($19 for the Kindle version), this massively informative reference guide is one of the best investments you can make. As the jacket describes, “small business owners are regularly confronted by a bewildering array of legal questions and problems” – so why not save yourself a ton of time, grief and needless legal fees by keeping this user-friendly overview close at hand? This book was first recommended by one of my business school mentors, Dave Epstein, and has now become an essential resource for my clients.