To help small business owners uncover hidden gems, we’ve gathered insights from fifteen experienced founders and CEOs. From leveraging the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) for support to connecting on community platforms like Discord, discover these under-appreciated resources that could be a game-changer for your business.
Leverage NASE for Small Business Support
Small-business owners often overlook the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE), but it can be a great way to access information and networking opportunities. NASE is an advocate for businesses that employ 10 individuals or fewer.
They offer complimentary tools for proprietors of small enterprises and grant additional benefits for their members, including unrestricted consultations with experts on subjects like taxes, retirement planning, finance, and daily operations. Additionally, NASE extends an exclusive benefit for its members: the NASE Succeed Scholarship, which supports business professionals in covering the costs of instructional sessions, business-oriented courses, and higher education.
For all SMB owners, I recommend exploring NASE to leverage their programs, mentorship, and get the chance to expand your network to both experienced and new founders from different industries.
Unlock Potential with Local SBDCs
One resource that often goes unnoticed by many small-business owners is the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). In my experience, especially during my time at Technews, I’ve found that these centers, backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, are treasure troves of information. They provide complimentary consulting and essential business training.
Whether you’re diving into market research, navigating financial planning, or trying to secure a loan, the SBDC can be an invaluable ally. It’s a straightforward yet efficient way to bolster your business’s growth.
Harness Local Communities and Universities
In navigating the intricacies of running a technology startup, especially in the AI SaaS domain, one resource that often goes unnoticed is the richness of local entrepreneurial communities. These communities are brimming with seasoned entrepreneurs, potential collaborators, and investors.
Engaging with such a community can provide a small business owner with insightful feedback, potential partnerships, and even investment opportunities.
Moreover, through my own experience, I’ve found that local universities can also be untapped hubs of innovation, often willing to collaborate with budding entrepreneurs. They offer a vast reservoir of fresh ideas, robust research output, and highly skilled talent that can be harnessed for business growth.
The interplay between local entrepreneurial communities and academia can foster a conducive environment for the thriving and sustenance of small businesses, offering a substantial support system.
Boost Visibility with the Chamber of Commerce
In the early days of our company, we found that we weren’t using our local Chamber of Commerce as much as we should have been. Unbeknownst to many, there are Chambers of Commerce in nearly every city, county, and town, and they can be a valuable resource that small-business owners should utilize.
With the professionals of the town at your side, a Chamber group helps small businesses network and make connections. A small-business owner can also partner with other business owners to sponsor and attend events and get involved with the community. The more visible you make your business, the more business you will do, so connecting with your local Chamber of Commerce could help your business get the visibility boost it needs.
If you’re an online company, still look in your area to see if you can join a Chamber. There may be some business owners looking to advertise online and in exchange, they mention your business when customers shop in their store.
Join Industry Associations for Insights
Joining industry-specific associations and organizations can provide access to industry knowledge, trends, and networking opportunities. These groups often host conferences, webinars, and forums where learning from experts and connecting with peers in the field is possible.
Membership in these organizations grants access to valuable industry insights, market research, and regulatory updates, facilitating informed decision-making. It also provides access to cutting-edge technology and research findings, improving visibility, credibility, and market expansion opportunities.
Maximize Your Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile has the ability to drive more business than any billboard campaign—and it’s free.
Ensure it’s filled out completely. Prioritize getting reviews. Add photos that showcase your people and what you do. Discover how to report spam listings and competitors that are stuffing their listing with keywords or using fake offices.
Encourage people who find your Google Business Profile to contact you more than any competitor. Also, clear the way for your business by shutting down those competitors who aren’t following the rules.
Tap into SCORE for Expert Advice
The Service Corps of Retired Executives—I am not exaggerating when I say that I’ve never met anyone who had heard of the organization, which is a travesty as far as I’m concerned.
SCORE has a wealth of retired executives from a wide variety of businesses and industries, and the advice and mentorship you can get from them is nothing short of game-changing for most small-business owners. These are people who have succeeded in exactly what you’re trying to do, so getting their advice is always going to be hugely valuable.
Discover Treasures in Government Auctions
One often-overlooked resource for small business owners is government surplus auctions. I remember stumbling upon one such auction early in our journey. We found quality hardwood flooring and fixtures at nearly half the price we’d usually pay. It not only reduced our costs, but also added a unique touch to some of our designs. These auctions can offer unexpected treasures, perfect for innovative businesses like ours.
Hire Professionals via Fiverr
Fiverr is a marketplace that provides access to skilled freelancers specializing in creative disciplines. This is particularly beneficial for small businesses that may not have the in-house talent for creative needs. Fiverr allows these businesses to hire professionals at a fraction of the cost of employing full-time staff. Freelancers work fractionally, meaning businesses only pay for what they need without incurring ongoing costs.
Services available include website design, copywriting, PPC ads, audio recording, video marketing, blogging, and many more. The Fiverr marketplace fosters trust between buyers and sellers, and the talent available is top-notch in the industry.
Grow with Business Incubators
I discovered the goldmine that is business incubators. Many overlook them, but for me, joining one was pivotal.
In the early days, we had a vision and drive, but were somewhat lost in execution. The incubator provided us with valuable mentorship, resources, and even a space to work. It wasn’t just about the tangible benefits; it was the community. Being surrounded by other budding entrepreneurs, sharing challenges, and celebrating small victories together gave us a boost that’s hard to put into words. I genuinely believe every small-business owner should consider leveraging such a resource.
Enhance Visibility with Local Citations
One often-overlooked resource that holds immense potential for small-business owners is local citations. These are online mentions of a business’s name, address, and phone number on directories, websites, and social platforms. While they might seem inconspicuous, local citations are pivotal in enhancing a business’s online visibility.
Local citations not only boost search engine rankings but also offer free advertising. Owners can significantly increase their reach by ensuring that they list their business on local directories and platforms without spending a dime. This strategy is especially crucial for companies targeting local clientele. A well-placed citation can direct potential customers right to your doorstep.
In the digital age, where every marketing avenue counts, leveraging local citations provides small businesses with a competitive edge, ensuring they remain at the forefront of local searches and in the minds of potential customers.
Value Your Employees’ Contributions
I think the most under-appreciated resource that small business owners should know more about is their employees.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of running a business, but every day your employees are dealing with customers, taking calls, and working hard to keep the lights on. It can be easy to forget that they’re human beings too!
Try to remember what it was like when you first started working for yourself—you were probably nervous and excited all at once. Make sure you take the time to show your gratitude for the work they do by giving them a break from time to time, or asking how they’re doing when things get tough. You never know—you might just surprise them with some extra holiday cash!
Nurture Relationships with Current Clients
One of the most under-appreciated resources that small businesses should know about is their current customers and clients. Small-business owners spend so much time chasing new business that they often overlook the opportunities to build with existing clients. Your clients are an excellent resource for research; they are also your most prominent advocates.
Current clients are also most likely to trust you and try out your new services, which helps to increase revenue, as well as your insight into what works with your targeted audience.
As small-business owners, most of us could be more successful by simply nurturing the relationships we have with our current clients.
Use BBB for Dispute Handling
Every small-business owner needs to plan for potential litigation or heated disputes with customers. Unknown to many, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers dispute handling for their accredited members.
This can be in the form of conciliation, mediation, or arbitration. Thus, the BBB is a great resource that could potentially save you the cost of hiring a lawyer. More information can be found at homestardr.com/gallery.
Connect on Community Platforms Like Discord
Modern community platforms like Discord are currently associated with gamers and gaming communities. However, like all good social tools, it has broadened its appeal and provides channels (also known as servers) for all sorts of interests. This includes servers dedicated to startups, business hacks, growth, and marketing.
These servers and communities are unlike similar platforms such as LinkedIn, as they encourage honest and helpful conversations without the emphasis on self-promotion and selling. On these servers, it can be easy to connect with a community on a similar journey to your own, who are eager to support fellow members with their broad and diverse set of skills and knowledge.