By Amy Kuhlers, Iowa Economic Development Authority
When you begin --or build-- a business, it can feel like you are alone through the process. America's Small Business Development Center of Iowa is designed to help you get access to the training, business counseling, and planning services you need to grow. Tricia Janes, Associate State Director of America's Small Business Development Center, was kind enough to catch up with us to tell us more about what the SBDC does for business owners like you everyday.
There are 15 regional Small Business Development Centers located across Iowa. Can you share a brief overview of the SBDC resources available to entrepreneurial clients?
America’s SBDC Iowa provides resources and services to entrepreneurs at every stage of their business. We provide one-on-one confidential counseling to small businesses, making sure that we are addressing the needs of the business. Our SBDC centers can help businesses with their business planning, market research, cash flow, financial analysis, and preparing your information to pitch for funding. We can be a sounding boarding for small businesses and help connect them with the correct resources.
Do each of the SBDC locations offer the same services, or do some specialize in certain areas of expertise such as social media marketing, taxes and accounting, etc.?
All of the SBDC centers offer the same basic services. We are fortunate that we have a strong network of experts to help small businesses. Some of our centers have expertise in social media and digital marketing, some centers have individuals that are CPAs and familiar with taxes and accounting, some centers have experts in industries such as food or publications. The expertise and knowledge is shared among the network and each client can be connected to any of the centers to receive the best information and resources as possible.
This month’s issue is focused on marketing, which is a very broad area. Can you share with readers the types of marketing assistance and education the SBDC’s be able to provide?
Marketing is a very broad area for any type of business. There are many channels and options on how to get the word out about your business. The SBDC centers can help businesses determine who their ideal customer is and where they are located. We are able to provide market research information that includes information about customers, industries, and competitors. The counselors will help businesses develop a marketing plan on how best to go about reaching their customers. Additionally classes are offered around the state that focus on topics such as social media, website development, and digital marketing.
The SBDC system has been around since the mid-80’s. Do you believe the issues faced by today’s businesses are similar to the barriers of 30 years ago? If not, what has changed?
There will always be some basic issues that small businesses face such as how to grow their business, how to hire employees, and how to manage their cash flow. The increase in the use of technology over the years has definitely changed the way business is done and has come with new challenges. One of those challenges is Cybersecurity. No one really worried about Cybersecurity even a few years ago. Today we see headline frequently about how businesses have had their information compromised. This is not happening to just big businesses, small businesses are being affected as well. Statistics show that 43% of cyberattack are targeted at small businesses. The attackers are using small businesses as a conduit to reach larger businesses. According to a recent study, 55% of the respondents said their companies had experienced a cyberattack during a 12 month period.
In order to help get the word out about Cybersecurity, America’s SBDC Iowa has developed a workbook that gives businesses an overview of the consequences of Cybersecurity as well as tips to start looking at how they are addressing this concern. We will also be launching a new website that provides small businesses with a way to assess their risk in terms of Cybersecurity and some additional resources.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs as they look to the future?
Planning and being intentional are key to the success of a business. It is never too early to start thinking about how an owner is going to address transitioning the business over to a new owner, be that a family member or someone else. Small business owners have put so much time and effort in building their businesses and they need to think about how they want their business to continue into the future.
Any last comments?
Small businesses are a vital part of the communities of Iowa. We want to help small businesses in anyway and to grow the small business community in Iowa. We would not be able to do this without the help of our partners and the great work they do.
Thank you for sharing about how the SBDC provides business assistance across Iowa, Tricia!
The next time you feel like your only option to grow your business is to go it alone... remember, America's Small Business Center is ready to lend you a helping hand, and you are not alone in the small business world. Keep pressing on!