small business advising

Inexpensive Small Business Advising

For the healthcare professional who is interested in starting their own business there are an impressive number of community resources designed to help you go from an idea in your mind to a viable, structured business. Small business advising is offered by nearly every city and I’m going to review the resources I’ve recently used in Portland, Oregon.

I have been aware of the SBA (small business association) as far back as 1996, when I graduated high school. I remember getting on their website with my AOL browser but I couldn’t find my way around.

So this post won’t be a link to the SBA website or a guide on writing a business plan. This post is about actual community resources which are both hands-on and hand-holding, both necessary traits in my opinion.

 

The Reason For This Free/Low-cost Service

Both the federal as well as the state have set aside funds to help shift those who suffer a job loss into the entrepreneur pool and decreases the burden on both federal and state coffers.

An economy with more successful entrepreneurs can also create more jobs. Small business advising is therefore a very effective investment for the government.

How do you get the gov’t funds to the right people? You assign the resources to 3rd party groups:

 

Alternatives To Community Small Business Advising

Where would go if you didn’t have or know about such community resources?

You would turn to individual business advisers such as my good friend Saro Nikraz who charges a fee based on the size of the project and can assist you from developing an app to negotiating a construction deal to build your first industrial complex in another country.

Alternatively, you can turn to industry specific consultants who advertise that they will take your idea of wanting an urgent care from start to your grand opening for $70,000 (on the low end).

 

The SBDC

My local community college, PCC, partnered up with the SBDC to bring resources to the community. This is the free orientation course I attended which I’ll discuss.

Orientation Session With SBDC

I went online and signed up for a free orientation session with the SBDC led by Yevette. There I learned that this resources isn’t just for those with business ideas but also those who’ve had a business for years and are ready to take on employees or expand to other countries.

 

The Free Orientation Session

Last Monday I walked over to one of the local community college buildings where this SBDC orientation course was being held. It was a beautiful afternoon and an invigorating 45 minute walk.

People slowly trickled into the classroom with the first 2 attendees being NP’s, one had just bought her own pediatric office in Portland and the other wanted to start a mobile pediatric practice.

The room filled up with about 20 people and it totally felt like high school again – everyone quiet and shy and Yevette trying to get everyone engaged.

I won’t bore you with the introductions but let’s talk about what the SBDC offers a young, handsome entrepreneur such as myself. I’ll add that without going to this orientation course I would have never known about all the shit that’s offered – pretty amazing.

 

Stages Of Small Business Advising

small business advising

The flowsheet above lists all the various stages where SBDC can help you. These are the stages which are listed:

  • Pre-start
  • Start-up
  • Pre-growth
  • Growth
  • Maturing
  • Transition

Brainstorming Stage

For those who want to be their own boss but have no idea what they would do, the Brainstorming Stage is a free course where you get a mentor and discuss your talents and interests.

They will help you identify which of your characteristics would add to your success and which would likely hurt you.

Yevette used an actual example of a really successful construction lead who wanted to go out on his own but with the help of his mentor they decided that his personal bookkeeping and problems dealing with an unruly son would actually spell disaster. They straight up advised him to not pursue a business. Shit, that’s blunt!

Business Design Stage

You might be someone who has an idea that’s in your head or on a napkin but you don’t know how to exactly put it down on paper and what factors to consider before deciding if it’s a viable business. This is the Business Design Stage that small business advising helps their clients out with.

I have had an idea of starting an STD clinic (don’t laugh!) in my local neighborhood. It would be simple enough that I could have employees run it.

For $125, the Design Stage allows me to determine whether it would be a viable option. I would be paired up with a mentor who has industry experience and we’d hash out the numbers and make changes until it’s a viable option on paper.

Start-up Stage

The Start-up Stage is for the person who is ready to sign their first lease on a retail location or pay for for materials to manufacture their product.

For $799 they would enroll you into a 14-week course and walk you through each step, holding your hand and keeping you on track.

Once I have my business plan for the cooties clinic, I can then take this business advising course and decide on:

  • my location
  • sign a lease for an office space
  • order supplies

If any capital is needed at this point (there won’t be, in my case), I would be referred to their funding team which can help me with that stage as well.

Skill Series Stage

When it comes down to hiring your employees, firing employees, or building a better rapport with your team and clients, you enroll in the Skill Series Stage and $185/module you can pick and choose where you need help.

You would still have access to your mentor for free through the entire process.

This is where you might need help with:

  • marketing
  • advertising
  • SEO (search engine optimization)
  • web design
  • other design work

There are modules for each of these or community resources the SBDC small business advising has to help you get there.

Growth & Maturing

Yevette described the Growth & Maturing stage as the point when you are so involved in your business that you don’t have time to look up. Small business advising would help you learn delegation skills and hone in your business management skills.

For $1,195 you’d enroll in a course where their team would help you grow your net profits and open up more free time on your personal schedule.

During the Growth & Maturing stage their small business advising team will help entrepreneurs create an exit strategy. It might be because the person wants to pass down their business to heirs or sell it and cash out or start a different business altogether.

 

Getting Recipes To Market

So they have a whole aspect of their SBDC advising where they will help you get a recipe to market. It sounded fascinating. All the way from doing a market assessment to having a food engineer do “recipe upsizing” to having New Seasons evaluate your product to see if it’s a viable product for them to carry.

On the same food-front, the small business advising team will help you start a restaurant from an idea to completion. There was 1 person in our group who was interested in this.

 

Hearing Everyone’s Business Ideas & Stages

One of the most interesting parts of this orientation course was hearing the business ideas of everyone else in the room.

These were the ones I heard:

  • NP wanting to do a mobile pediatric practice
  • another NP wanting to buy a new pediatric practice
  • a photographer wanting to scale up
  • person with a granola recipe she wanted to market
  • a food consultant who was laid off and wanted to go out on his own
  • a guy whose loan fell through for a liquor store and needed to start all over again
  • a couple with a veteran landscaping business who wanted to scale up
  • a historical consultant (?) who was laid off and wanted to know what she could do
  • a software engineer who had 800 ideas and didn’t know which to pursue
  • a school teacher who wanted to buy out her Montessori school

Disappointing

I was disappointed that as soon as the orientation class was over everyone ran out of the room like it was on fire. I had my head down filling out some paper and when I looked up, everyone was gone.

I would think that it would be more effective for everyone to talk to each other afterwards. I’m sure each person there would have a connection or an idea for the other person that might help them take one more step in the right direction.

I definitely wanted to talk to the 2 NP’s and I really wanted to talk to the guy with the liquor store. The only person that stuck around was telling his life story to the course instructor – nice move dude.

 

My Next Steps

When it was my turn to talk about my STD clinic (fucking embarrassing), Yevette recommended that I take the Small Business Builder series. This is an $800 course that spans 10 weeks.

small business advising

This small business advising course would walk me through the following stages:

  • learn difference between working in versus on the business
  • plot a company business model
  • marketing/branding
  • sales forecasting
  • time management
  • identifying key legal factors
  • organizing finances for tax season
  • understanding financial statements

 

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