Where to Find Good Business Advice
September 23rd 2020
Sometimes it’s hard to know where to find reliable, useful advice from people who know what they’re talking about. Sure, everyone has opinions, but which are the opinions worth listening to? It can be hard to distinguish between people who’ve been there, done that and can share how they handled a situation similar to yours and people who believe they know how they would handle a situation should they ever face it. Big difference.
Fortunately, there are organizations, agencies, and communities you can turn to when you have a “what would you do?” type of question. And you’ll get answers from people who can talk about what they did, and what they’d do now if they faced the same situation.
Here are some of the best we’ve heard of or dealt with:
This unit of the Small Business Administration—SCORE– provides free business counseling to entrepreneurs and business owners, delivered by retired executives and entrepreneurs who serve as mentors. We’ve heard SCORE can be great at helping you problem-solve when you’re facing a specific challenge or obstacle.
Frequently located on the campuses of community colleges or universities and partially funded by the Small Business Administration, SBDCs also offer free or low-cost advice to aspiring and existing business owners. Face-to-face (or maybe virtual right now) counseling is no-cost, while training is offered at cost, on topics ranging from marketing to business planning to exporting, regulatory compliance, and more. Search to find your local SBDC to learn about the services they provide.
This legal advice website allows you to submit a question on the site for free, which an attorney will answer. There are also plenty of useful articles on topics of interest to small business owners, all of which are free to read.
Like SCORE, which pairs you with a mentor, Business Advising matches US small business owners with a volunteer advisor who works with you for free. The nonprofit claims that companies that work with its mentors achieve a 20% increase in revenue, on average, as a result. Although there are no firm rules, the companies that benefit most from the organization’s mentoring typically have been in business for at least a year, have more than one employee, and revenue over $100,000.
This website is chock full of free useful articles offering startups and existing businesses information and guidance designed to help you grow.
This old-school bulletin board-style site is a place where you can post questions for other business owners to answer, for free. The group is active and could provide a broader perspective on whatever you’d like help with.
Y Combinator is a very well-known and respected business accelerator for smaller companies trying to scale quickly. Its YouTube channel, with more than 268,000 subscribers, features instructional videos from a wide variety of entrepreneurial superstars.
Your alma mater
Many colleges and universities—and especially larger ones—have incredible networks that you should definitely tap into. From local meet-and-greets to venture investment funds. MIT’s Castor Ventures, for example, is a venture capital fund to which MIT alums have access as investors. Its sister fund, Alumni Ventures Group, is a potential starting point for MIT alums heading small ventures.
The key with any challenge you may be facing is to zero in on the question you need answered. What piece of information will allow you to progress? Then investigate who is best positioned to answer your question. Some of these organizations may be able to help you.