Information: The Key to Success

The Importance of Information Information is power! It is an asset that can help overcome uncertainty and open new avenues for opportunity. Success in business depends on what you know and how well you can apply what you have learned. With the right information, your business gains an important edge in today's competitive world. Learn to use the following information sources. They are the key to unlocking your business's full potential.

Federal Information Resources: The Small Business Administration

The SBA is an independent government agency created by Congress to help small businesses grow and prosper. The SBA has more than 100 offices that offer small firms financial assistance through guaranteed loans, management assistance, help in obtaining government contracts, counseling services, and many low-cost publications. The SBA is an excellent source of information. Small Business Answer Desk 1-800-8-ASK-SBA This toll-free hotline provides personalized attention to your business needs. Provided by the SBA's Office of Business Initiatives, Education and Training, the ANSWER DESK is an excellent information and referral service.

You're only one call away from improving your business...don't hesitate, phone today! In Washington, D.C. call 205-7333. The hotline operates from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 pm. (EST), Monday through Friday. SBA Publications and Products The SBA has more than 50 business booklets and products available for a small suggested donation (most under $3.00). These publications and products address important business topics and answer the questions most frequently asked by prospective and existing small business owners. Get your free copy of The Small Business Directory listing SBA's products by contacting either your local SBA Office or the SMALL BUSINESS ANSWER DESK. Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) SCORE consists of more than 13,000 business executives who volunteer their time to provide training and free management counseling to small business owners. SCORE's nationwide reputation for helping new and existing businesses is a result of their high-quality service. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) SBDCs are sponsored by SBA in partnership with state and local governments, the educational community and the private sector. They provide high-quality, low-cost assistance, counseling and training to prospective and existing small business owners.

There are more than 700 SBDCs in 50 states. Small Business Institute (SBI) SBIs are operated through the SBA in every state on almost 500 college campuses across the nation. Over the course of a college semester, the Institutes provide in-depth student and faculty counseling to select small business clients. SBA District and Regional Offices Most SBA offices maintain a "training calendar" to help business people locate appropriate training sessions and information. Consult your telephone directory under U.S. Government, or call the SMALL BUSINESS ANSWER DESK at 1-800-8-ASK-SBA to locate the SBA office nearest you.

Department Of Commerce Office Of Business Liaison (OBL) The Office of Business Liaison provides information on business assistance programs offered by all Federal agencies. For a listing of U.S. Department of Commerce services, call 202-377-3176. Economic Development Administration (EDA) EDA assistance is available for areas experiencing high unemployment, low income quotas or sudden and severe economic distress. Call 202-377-5113 for more information. The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) MBDA provides management and technical assistance to business owners and, in general, encourages financial support for minority-owned firms. Look under U.S. Government in your local telephone directory or call the SMALL BUSINESS ANSWER DESK to find the MBDA office nearest you. International Trade Administration (ITA) ITA's office of U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service maintains a vast data base of up-to-date foreign market information and assists in establishing foreign market contacts. Call 202-377-1289 for more information. Internal Revenue Service For more information on your Federal tax obligations, go to the local office of the Director of Internal Revenue Services. An excellent booklet (revised from year to year) on this subject is Tax Guide for Small Business, prepared by the Internal Revenue Service.

STATE INFORMATION RESOURCES: State Economic Development Agencies Most states have agencies that promote economic growth within the state by helping the state's businesses grow and by encouraging outside firms to relocate in the state. These agencies are a valuable source of information on business opportunities, markets and state and local business assistance programs. Check your phone directory under Government (State), for Economic or Industrial Development Agencies.

LOCAL INFORMATION RESOURCES: City or County Development Agencies Like most states, many local governments have their own development agencies which help small businesses in their jurisdiction. Schools Local colleges are an excellent source of business information. Most colleges offer courses in entrepreneurship, business management and other disciplines helpful to the small business owner. The Library Your local library is a virtual gold mine of information -- use it! Most libraries have a business section and there is usually someone available to assist you in finding the specific information you need. Business Periodicals Information on most business topics can be found in a business periodical. These magazines and newspapers are a great source for up-to-date business news, recent technological developments, new marketing and management techniques, finance and related subjects. To find the article you need, look in the Business Periodical Index at your local library. The Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature is another excellent source for locating small business articles. Chambers of Commerce Most cities and towns have a Chamber of Commerce. These organizations promote the interests of local business owners and serve to stimulate business activity throughout their jurisdiction. Your local Chamber is an excellent source for information about local markets, business activity and business opportunities. Banks Many bank officers have a broad understanding of finance, business operations, and the local economic climate. Do not be afraid to ask your banker questions. Consultants Consultants make their living by providing information and can be a great asset to a small business owner. A business consultant's fees typically range between $25 and $250 an hour. If you decide to retain the services of a consultant, make sure he/she is reputable and be certain that you understand the fee schedule up-front.

Ask The Right Questions... Get The Right Answers

Before you rush out to use these valuable resources, it is essential that you have a strategy -- that you have focused on what questions you need answered. If you don't prepare, it won't be long until you're overwhelmed by a tidal wave of meaningless facts, figures and recommendations. 1) Be prepared; know exactly what you want to ask and ask intelligent questions. 2) Express your questions as simply as possible and be diplomatic. 3) Always be prepared to tell someone why you are asking the questions. 4) If the person you ask does not have an answer, ask where you can find the answer. 5) Seek knowledgeable people and be persistent. Knowing where to find the information your business needs is extremely important. Cultivate your knowledge of these resources, learn how to use them to your business's advantage, but most importantly -- use them! All SBA programs are available to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.