By Autumn T. Johnson
This article is not intended to debate the validity of laws, public policies or tax provisions that may or may not be friendly to small businesses. What it is intended to do is tell you about some of the great services available to small businesses right here in Seattle courtesy of the U.S. government.
If you are a solo or small-firm attorney, you may not think of yourself as an entrepreneur or small-business owner, but that is exactly what you are: a small-business owner who sells legal services. Even if you haven't hung a shingle, you might have clients or colleagues who run their own businesses and the following resources have applicability regardless of industry.
When the government shut down last fall, it hit me personally when the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Twitter feed said something along the lines of "closed due to lack of appropriations." It was terrible news. The SBA1 and its affiliates - the Washington Women's Business Center (WBC),2 SCORE,3 the Small Business Development Center (SBDC),4 and the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC)5 - do a lot more than offer small-business loans. These organizations offer comprehensive services that apply to almost every aspect of running a small business, regardless of the industry.
The SBA itself offers an array of services that you should be aware of. First, of course, it offers small-business loans, and has regional offices, including one here in Seattle. The local offices maintain a helpful Twitter feed, send email updates about upcoming events and workshops, and offer local workshops … for free. These include fairly regular seminars and workshops on really relevant topics such as how the Affordable Care Act will impact your business; federal tax issues applicable to small businesses; how to go about getting a federal contract; how to be successful in starting a business; the basics of franchising; and much more.
The SBA also has a ton of helpful resources on its website that break down all of the different kinds of businesses, provide sample documents useful for many businesses and even list possible regulations by industry. These even include tools that walk you through creating different business documents such as a business plan. While I use the resources myself, I also frequently direct prospective clients or small-business owners in the community to these valuable tools.
Most importantly, the SBA gives money to the WBC, SBDC, SCORE and the VBOC. These organizations provide an immense array of services that you or your clients should be taking advantage of.
SBDC has paid advisers, available to you or other small-business owners free of charge. They can meet with you once or on an ongoing basis one on one. SBDC advisers work full time for the organization. They can review business plans, help with developing financial documents, refer you to professional services or help you with other business questions.
SCORE is a collection of volunteers, mostly retired professionals or executives. SCORE provides free one-on-one mentoring. However, it also has great online resources. You can find all kinds of business document templates on SCORE's website, including business plans.
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