Running a small business can be a daunting task for first timers. It takes more than just a handful of business cards and a company bank account to get your small business off the ground. In all honesty, it can be a daunting task even if you’ve been around the small business block a few times already. The best tool you have on your side to prepare yourself is knowledge. There are all kinds of free Internet-based resources out there to help you get started.
Great, but I have a business to run, you may argue. I understand – you don’t have time to surf half a dozen sites to find what you’re looking for. Often, you don’t even know what you’re looking for. In these situations, a process for gathering information quickly and efficiently is critical. So check out these free resources when you find yourself stuck or trying to learn more.
# 1. Wikipedia
I know the age-old argument that Wikipedia isn’t a credible source. But let’s face it – you’re not writing a doctoral dissertation here. You just need information quickly. Instead of reaching for a search engine, sometimes the best way to get a grip on an issue is to learn about the concept as a whole. For example:
- If you’re struggling with some accounting issues, specfically how to tell whether or not your finances are getting better, you can start with a high-level overview of accounting concepts on Wikipedia first.
- Once you learn some key terms like balance sheets, income statements, and other critical accounting concepts, it’s much easier and more efficient to look up more information via Google or other search engine.
# 2. Entreprenuer.com
A community that is full of wonderful tools for small business owners can be found at Entrepreneur.com. They have a huge repository of quality training and educational pieces to get you up and running fast. While you can subscribe to the paid magazine, many of the articles on their site are absolutely free.
# 3. SBA.gov
The Small Business Administration (SBA) also has a treasure trove of content you can use to educate yourself. Even better, for free you can meet with advisors and counselors who can provide you a vast list of resources in terms of both content and people who can help.
# 4. Score.org
While not an online resource, Score provides free small business counseling – they’ll come to you and their counselors are all vetted, experienced personnel who offer their advice free of charge. If you want a long-term mentor who can coach you as you go and guide you to the right resources, Score is an excellent resource.
# 5. BusinessKnowHow.com
A little known resource, Business Know How is chock full of information regarding marketing and finance for your new small business. They too have a blog with additional articles and resources regarding troubleshooting and Dos and Don’ts. Their goal is to help small business owners understand how to be as effective as they can with their marketing strategies.
# 6. Google
This search engine of choice is listed last for a reason. It’s not to say you should use Google last, but consider that once you know the concepts around your problem better, you are more likely to find the right information more effeciently using Google or other search engines. The key here is to understand your problem; the terms and vernacular are critical to finding the right resources.
# 7. YouTube
Also in the same vein as Google, YouTube can be a powerful resource for educational videos. Instead of reading through a topic, now you can watch or listen to someone showing you how to solve a problem. But, like Google, you should approach this resource with a solid understanding of the issues you’re dealing with so you can skip the basics and get right to the heart of your problem.
What other resources do you reach for when you need a refresher or to learn something new? Do you have some tried-and-true tools and techniques for information gathering?