Management

Finding a Community: Best Small Business Associations

Updated: October 15th, 2020

Finding a Community: Best Small Business Associations

When you’re a small business owner, one thing you should remember is that you’re not on an island. Millions of entrepreneurs have struggled and made it through to the other side. Some do this by taking out a business line of credit or other types of business financing. However, there are other ways for business owners to feel supported, financially or otherwise. Not only that, but there are dozens of organizations designed to provide support to the small business community. 

Whether you are looking to grow your business through a business loan, gain a mentor, or add more diversity, a small business association could make all the difference. Let’s explore some well-known associations. 

SBA Support

You might only think of the Small Business Administration (SBA) when you need a loan, and you wouldn’t be wrong for doing so. But small business loans are only one of the many benefits the SBA offers. The agency also has some tailored resources that can help you to craft a more comprehensive small business strategy for success.  

While the SBA is headquartered in Washington, D.C., they offer local and regional support, too. These offices tend to fall into one of several categories: 

  • District offices, where business owners can gain access to counseling, training, and business development for both getting their business off the ground and growing it. 
  • Regional offices have a broader focus. They typically support local economic growth and competitiveness for a given geographical area.  
  • Disaster field offices provide counseling and financial assistance to businesses that need to rebuild in the unfortunate event of a natural disaster. 

The SBA also partners with other agencies that could be of assistance if you are looking to explore small business loans. They could also be useful in answering questions like, ‘what credit score is needed for an SBA loan?’ or ‘how can I benefit from SBA?’

Let’s take a look at some of these agencies. 

SBDC

America’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) serves as an educational resource for small business finances. For instance, if you are working on qualifying for an SBA loan, they can help you to get organized and increase your chances of getting approved. While having a bad credit score has a reputation as being the biggest hurdle to receiving financing, disorganized finances could be just as damaging. The SBDC makes it their mission to help business owners organize their finances. Some of their top tips in a nutshell are: 

  • Create a filing system. Organization is key to staying on top of your bills and other paperwork. Rather than ignoring the inevitable and letting unopened mail pile up, designate one day of the week to deal with it, such as “Money Monday” or “Finances Friday,” suggests CPA Belinda Rosenblum.  
  • Separate your personal and business finances. The first step to doing so is making sure you’ve got a separate business checking account. Otherwise, you run the risk of mixing personal and business expenses. That could set you up for an overly complicated tax season, not to mention possible legal implications. 
  • Have a plan for your bills. If you don’t create a budget, you could find yourself coming up short, especially for large one-time annual expenses. One tip is to add up annual expenses and divide by 12. Automatically transfer that monthly amount to a designated savings account so when yearly bills are due, you won’t be caught off guard. 
  • Use auto-pay for bills. This can help you avoid forgetting to pay your bills and can allow you to avoid unnecessary late fees so that you can keep your credit score in tip top shape.
  • Establish your own financial report so that you can see the health of the balance sheet at a glance. While potential lenders might look at certain financial statements, you can tailor your own report to gain insight into the financial health of your business. You can choose which items you want to include to make month-over-month or year-over-year comparisons. 

SCORE

SCORE is another partner of the SBA that acts as a marketplace that matches small business owners with mentors. SCORE, which boasts a network of 10,000 volunteers, offers free business mentoring including remote mentoring during the pandemic and a library of resources. 

They have a specific hub dedicated to certain demographics – such as Hispanic business owners – in addition to a resilience hub that can help small businesses come back strong after economic slowdowns. 

It’s important to remember to listen to your mentor and ask for their advice, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to follow their advice. As real estate tycoon Barbara Corcoran says, mentors can be overrated and you also should trust your instincts.Source: Twitter 

Chambers of Commerce

In addition to the SBA’s regional support, you might also want to consider joining your local chamber of commerce. This is especially crucial if your business is a part of the local community, as it can provide networking opportunities to grow your influence. Unlike some of the other associations mentioned, membership to your local chamber will likely come with a fee. However, it can be a small price to pay when you find that participating in local events earns you more customers. 

Staying Connected 

While you may feel isolated as a business owner, especially during the pandemic, it helps to know there are ways to stay connected to your community and other business owners. You can find community and guidance from small business associations and strategies like the ones we have been through. Though small business loans are certainly a part of this support, they are only one rung in the ladder of a healthy business-growth repertoire. 

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