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SBA: free business advice from Uncle Sam for small businesses

When a small business or entrepreneur is getting started, sometimes the budget consists of zero dollars, and pricey consultants are a pipe dream – that’s where Uncle Sam’s SBDCs step in to give free advice and help, which can be a massive advantage for any business owner.

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Running on the tightest of budgets

We recently covered the pros and cons of hiring a consultant versus a full-time employee. But, what if you can’t afford either option? What if you need help and advice but your budget is small or non-existent? There is a convenient, accessible solution, no matter in which area you live within the United States. Whether you currently have your own business and need business advice or your goal is to become an entrepreneur sometime in the near future, Uncle Sam can help.

All across the United States, Small Business Development Centers, also known as SBDCs, are physical resources for entrepreneurs in all industries. Located in all fifty states and several U.S. Territories, SBDCs provide educational and consultation services for free. All you have to do is go into your local center and attend a workshop and ask those tough questions that have been plaguing you—topics ranging from marketing, engineering, or even organization and product production.

Boosting your brand’s success

Although you may feel embarrassed seeking free assistance from the government, there is absolutely no need. Even so, all consulting and provided services are kept confidential. This is to protect you, your business, and your customers. These Small Business Development Centers are fully staffed and fully funded, consisting of full-time staff members and volunteers qualified to advise business professionals.

These days, valuable business advice is rarely free. However Uncle Sam understands the importance of small businesses for the vitality and livelihood of the current economy. These centers make professional goals easier to achieve and even more worthwhile and rewarding for everyone involved. Even if you are confident in your knowledge about how to run a business, getting pointers and advice from other professionals can only help to further your efforts.

Depending on your own professional success, consider volunteering in the future. You could be the saving grace for a professional just starting out, just like someone was for you. The small business community should be about supporting each other. The Small Business Development Centers are a great place to start.

The American Genius Staff Writer: Charlene Jimenez earned her Master’s Degree in Arts and Culture with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Denver after earning her Bachelor’s Degree in English from Brigham Young University in Idaho. Jimenez’s column is dedicated to business and technology tips, trends and best practices for entrepreneurs and small business professionals.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Jack Cassedy

    May 24, 2012 at 11:05 am

    I want YOU! …to make more money 😛

  2. usamen24

    December 8, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Wonderful small business tips and tricks. https://hotbusiness.biz

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Business Entrepreneur

Embracing productivity apps, how entrepreneurs can control their time

(ENTREPRENEUR) Owning your own business comes with great reward, but one major risk is inefficiencies – let’s discuss how you can streamline your productivity efforts.

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productivity

As we all know too well, entrepreneurs are time-poor.

Changing the world of technology, developing a life-changing product or finding a new process to a complicated, lengthy task, entrepreneurs are continually moving, shaping and evolving their world around them, but frequently run out of time at the end of their day.

Now many modern entrepreneurs have some form of productivity in place. Whether this is an A3 piece of paper with jottings of what needs to be done next or a manageable to-do list provided by their smartphone where they can brain dump all of their ideas and to-dos into one space.

Working smarter, and harder is usually the object of all those looking to create a new business. But respecting the value of productivity applications can play into the hands of those building the next Facebook or Amazon.

By all means, this doesn’t mean you need the correct productivity tools to become the next prominent entrepreneurs, if that’s the case we’d have much fewer businesses than we have now thriving, the thesis of this is for entrepreneurs and business owners to begin embracing productivity apps to help them scale and capture essential parts of their day to help get more done.

So where does an entrepreneur start?

It’s straightforward. Begin with three core tools.

* A to-do list application.
* A note-taking tool.
* A calendar application.

These three resources will provide you with the fundamental pillars of productivity in your hectic schedule. Let’s examine how that is the case for each one.

A to-do list application can be a primary list of actionable items for to the next 30-days. Think of a to-do list application as your day planner, an actionable set of tasks to get done on the workday.

This window of to-dos will determine your ground level work and checklist for the day. Traditionally they are prioritized allowing you to accomplish the most critical tasks first or getting them done by the end of the day so that you can help progress forward.

This is a potential master tool for the entrepreneur. A to-do list app can help you capture, deter and plan things to do helping to reduce stress and reliability in your brain to remember critical tasks and actions. A proactive theory from the book Getting Things Done by David Allen helps to define this as “open loops” a process that highlights a need to reduce active to-do’s in your head and to capture them on paper or another form of capture method to relieve your brain’s activity focusing on this.

A note-taking tool provides you with a way to capture essential data or information. Unlike a to-do list application, the information you’ll be capturing is static. This means it isn’t necessarily actionable but provides value for reference or planning. Notes are handy for planning and reference purposes. When it comes to planning your projects and high-level work (like clients, product updates, accounting, etc.) using notes will help you to collect everything into one hub to help you to complete all your major projects and tasks.

And finally, a calendar application works as how you’d expect. A way to capture events and activities. Not to be confused with a to-do list application, the calendar application should solely include events and activities, not tasks. Feel free to use the calendar layout to block out time but don’t get into the habit of adding tasks to your calendar application, it’ll make things very messy!

So what productivity apps should I start with?! Let’s give you some recommendations.

For a to-do list applications, an entrepreneur should look for flexibility to scale with the application but the patience to stick with an application to help them get more done. To-do list applications perfect for entrepreneurs include Todoist, TickTick, Asana, Nozbe or Trello. They are strong starting points and will provide you with all the features you’ll need to start capturing and sorting those important to-dos.

Note-taking tools come highly recommended. To help the scale driven entrepreneur, there are two tools that standout as the resources entrepreneurs should consider when looking at note-taking applications. They would be Evernote and OneNote. Both provide you with functional experiences for bringing notes in from email, documents and other files helping you to free up time and space. Avoid Apple Notes as your default and sole way of the organization as due to the lack of folders/notebooks you struggle to keep things as organized as you would with the likes of Evernote and OneNote.

Calendar resources are rare to find. Entrepreneurs will discover themselves freeing up a lot of stress by using a calendar tool, by being able to see all the activities coming up and help free up your calendar for important meetings. The features within the calendar tools like “invite a guest” will provide a way to connect with your invitee and avoid any miss-capture of time/date for the meeting.

Try Fantastical 2 (Mac/iOS), Google Calendar, Kin Calendar or Calendars 5 (iOS). These are more advanced calendar tools, so if you are concerned, it’s okay to try Apple Calendar or Outlook Calendar, just make sure you solely use one calendar and not multiple to avoid missing those meetings.

In essence, entrepreneurs should consider productivity app to help control their time. Helping to implement a system might take a few weeks to get used to and a few tweaks along the way, but it’ll undoubtedly free up time from stress and worry, helping you to do the more valuable things like communicating with your customers, chatting with your clients or growing your team.

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Business Entrepreneur

The 7 most improved cities for tech startups

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) While there are several reports about which cities are the best for startups, a new report shows which cities have improved to most for tech startups.

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atlanta most improved

You’ve seen enough lists of the “hottest startup cities” at this point. Thankfully, this isn’t another one.

According to research by the US Chamber of Commerce, presented by their Free Enterprise blog, seven cities have improved the most as tech-friendly cities. Officially, they looked at “how well-poised [cities] are to leverage capital into successful tech industries.”

7.) Pittsburgh, PA rounds out the list with an improvement of two spots. Pittsburgh’s access to engineering talent is its biggest strength in these rankings. Other pluses include “small business-friendly tax incentives and an increasing number of software, biotech and artificial intelligence startups.”

6.) Portland, OR rose two spots from last year’s ranking, thanks in part to a “five-year high” in venture capital funding. Other positive signs include an increased startup density and an improve startup culture, as well as increased access to talent.

5.) Seattle, WA is the highest-ranking “legacy tech” city on the list, rising three spots from past year’s rankings. While Seattle experience “significant losses in industry and culture,” they made up for it by drawing in more startups, talent and capital. As a result, the availability of all three is plentiful in this rainy city.

4.) Philadelphia, PA received a nice capital injection from “city leaders,” improving access to capital and cultural acceptance. Government leaders have achieved this by establishing alliances between the public sector and private corporations. As a bonus, the city’s lenient regulatory environment is a boon for new business.

3.) New Orleans, LA jumped six spots. Given the gap between third and first/second place, it’s a huge testament to the work by Dallas and Atlanta. New Orleans ranked well for local support, “[outshining] other startup enclaves on measures of access to civic institutions and corprorations, and startup partnerships as well.”

2.) Dallas, TX, much like Atlanta, worked to foster relations between the city’s large palate of legacy corporations and local startups. As a result, they jumped twelve places this year to 7th place. The rise of the city’s profile as a whole, more tech talent is moving in, which also boosts the city’s profile.

1.) Atlanta, GA improved 15 spots from last year, making it “the biggest mover” on the list, jumping from 21st place to 6th place. According to Free Enterprise, significant improvement in “network connectivity, access to talent, industry specialization and startup culture” caused the leap. The improvement in connectivity and culture may be due to the work of Invest Atlanta, an organization working to “bridge the gap between startups and the broader business community.”

Community matters a lot. There’s a consistent trend of public/private section collaboration making a difference. It’s a major factor in the two cities who made the biggest strides, but you can also see the trends across most cities on this list. That relationship goes a long way to removing barriers to startup excellent and cultivating a culture that encourages new business.

Talent can also show up in unlikely places. I wouldn’t have expected Pittsburgh to be on this list until I looked at schools in the area. Universities can be a catalyst for building and retaining critical tech talent.

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Business Entrepreneur

Get your team on the same page with Slite

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Slite is the notes taking app for teams that helps keep everyone on the same page.

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slite

When you’re working with a team, the biggest challenge is staying organized. At meetings, everyone takes their own notes and unless prompted may keep those notes all to themselves.

Without a system in place, many great ideas can be overlooked while others may not be heard at all.

This lack of communication hurts productivity across the board, making the entire team ineffective. These are just some of the problems that Slite, a new team-focused note taking app, plans to solve.

Slite is a one-stop shop for team communication. The dashboard allows all members to keep their notes in one place, collaborate on tasks, upload documents and communicate without ever leaving the app. In their words, your team will literally be on the same page.

Slite’s main focus is to create, collaborate and organize. Users can create tasks and lists with custom formatting to prioritize responsibilities. They can add an image, upload a document, and embed or attach a link to give more context to other team members.

In addition, users can tag other team members to assign and communicate about a task, keeping everyone in the loop.

The easy-to-use dashboard lets users prioritize content. Slite has also installed a search feature that will check every note across the board in order to find what you need fast. Team members can also create channels that pertain to specific projects to keep everything in the right place.

There are other note-taking apps out there, but Slite is definitely making strides to make their site one of the top choices. To gain traction, they are currently offering their services for free.

Once the new year starts, teams up to five will still be able to use Slite for free. Larger teams will have the option to choose from one of their flat pricing tiers. Teams with ten or more members will pay $8 per user per month.

Overall, it’s a low cost compared to the money and time a company can save by using Slite effectively.

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