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Small-Business Advice is on the Way

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Need Help Surviving the Recession?

Are You Ready for the Recovery?

Do not get caught sucking your thumb while the economy
emerges from the recession. Your competitors are planning to make their move
and they will eat your lunch if you are not prepared.

Now is the time to plan ahead and fortunately help is
available so that you do not have to go it alone.

It takes an assortment of experts to help small-business
owners emerge from this crippling recession and credit crunch. But if you
cannot afford a blue-chip board of directors, there is a village of mentors
willing to help existing and startup businesses succeed.

The village of experts that awaits small-business owners
comes from a group of organizations that partner with the U.S. Small Business
Administration. Most offer workshops and counseling. Some help their clients
procure financing. Others provide microloans when no other lenders are willing
to finance startups and fledgling businesses.

Terri Denison, SBA’s Georgia district director says that
small-business owners first and foremost "want to know how their
businesses can stay viable in the current environment." Accordingly, her
district office takes calls from local business owners and offers workshops
about survival skills. SBA’s national Website explains its various financing
programs and offers online courses at sba.gov/services.

Small Business Development Centers are one of the agency’s
resource partners. They can be found at colleges and universities. Many of the
SBDC’s business counselors have advanced business degrees and some specialize
in specific skill sets such as business planning, marketing and finance.

Meanwhile, SCORE "Counselors to America's Small
Business," another of SBA’s resource partners, is a nonprofit, with more
than 11,200 volunteer business counselors in 370 local chapters. It also gives
online advice from its CyberChapter at score.org. The counselors have hands-on
experience in a wide array of industries and are matched according to their
clients needs. Some are retired while others are still working.

SCORE and SBDCs offer a potpourri of inexpensive workshops
and give free advice about financing, expanding and buying businesses. They
also help clients do business with the government and export their products and
services overseas — a burgeoning marketplace as foreign economies emerge from
the recession.

Even if you have never exported before, SBA’s U.S. Export
Assistance Centers can walk you through the process. Furthermore, USEAC will
help you select the markets where your products are most apt to sell, introduce
you to overseas contacts and tell you about trade missions so that you can form
relationships with prospects. They are located in many large cities.

In addition to SBDCs, SCORE and USEAC, SBA micro-lenders are
an important part of the agency’s arsenal. They make loans up to $35,000. Their
borrowers do not qualify for financing through traditional sources. Micro-loan
recipients are often start-up companies with tainted credit, inadequate
collateral, insufficient business experience or they lack enough savings to
satisfy bankers.

Furthermore, urban bankers are rarely willing to make
small-business loans below $100,000. They say that their cost for underwriting,
approving and servicing micro-loans is more than they can earn by making them.

Micro-lenders require that applicants agree to training as
part of the process. The Obama Administration's stimulus initiative includes
grants to micro-lenders so that they can provide training and financing to more
small-business owners.

SBA also sponsors Women's Business Centers and Veteran’s
Business Outreach Centers that are sensitive to special needs of their clients.

For a more comprehensive list of resource partners, local
government agencies and lenders that make small-business loans, download SBA’s
local resource guide for each state at www.sbaguides.com. Alternatively, call
the agency’s answer desk at (800) 827-5722.

“Our partners can offer struggling entrepreneurs an
objective view and analysis of their particular business situations,” Denison
says. “They can provide fresh insights and perspectives on practical options
these owners have.”

Jerry Chautin is a volunteer SCORE business counselor,
business columnist and SBA’s 2006 national “Journalist of the Year” award
winner, tenonline.org/sref/jc1bio.html. He is a former entrepreneur, commercial
mortgage banker and business lender.