Someone asked me what is the best tool to learn how to start a small business. My answer is simple: It depends on what you think you need and what works for you.
1. For some people, they need to sit in a classroom and listen to the lectures of a teacher on how to start a small business. As such, they participate in any of these education opportunities:
- Adult education programs offered by their counties (example is Fairfax County’s Adult and Community Education Programs
- Attend classes given by community colleges
- Entrepreneurship courses offered by Small Business Development Centers
- Private foundations such as Kauffman Foundation offers courses on entrepreneurship such as their FastTrac programs focusing on businesses and individuals hardest hit by the recession.
2. Others prefer a structured learning format, but at their own pace without being forced to sit in a class with strict schedules. Hence, they look for online resources for courses and classes that can flexible enough for their schedules. Examples include:
- The Small Business Administration offers online courses on a variety of topics from business planning to managing financials to exporting
- Trump University also offers a number of online courses on various topics of business ownership such as business planning and finding startup financing
3. There are others who prefer to talk to small business owners or experts, and preferably, find someone willing to mentor them and guide them as they start their venture. Getting help from experienced mentors can be incredibly valuable, as they have the experience, know-how and understanding of what it really means to start a business.
The difficult part, of course, is finding the experienced and successful entrepreneur willing to guide and mentor. Start by networking with other entrepreneur in industry and trade associations, local business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, or even local chapters of business groups. Online networking sites such as LinkedIn can also be a way to find mentors for your business.
There are organizations which provide mentorship services, such as
- Government Mentoring Programs such as SBDCs, which works with community colleges and local business development councils to offer mentoring programs http://www.sba.gov/sbdc/sbdcnear.html ; or the Women’s Network for Entrepreneurial Training http://www.sba.gov/womeninbusiness/wnet_roundtables.html
- Volunteer programs such as SCORE http://www.score.org/ which is composed of mostly retired executives and entrepreneurs
- Formal mentoring programs such as Athena Foundation http://www.athenafoundation.org/programs/globallinks.html , Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program http://www.helzbergmentoring.org/HEMP/ , or The Aspen Institute MicroMentor Program http://www.micromentor.org/
- Professional organizations such as the National Women’s Business Council http://www.nwbc.gov/Mentoring/programs.html
4. Still, there are others who just want to educate themselves by reading books on how to start a business. Get a general guide on entrepreneurship and starting a business, as well as books specific to the business to be started (if available). Examples of good startup books are:
- What No One Ever Tells You About Starting Your Own Business: Real Life Start-Up Advice from 101 Successful Entrepreneurs
- If You’re Clueless About Starting Your Own Business and Want to Know More
- Start Your Own Business : The Only Start-Up Book You’ll Ever Need
- Steps to Small Business Start-Up : Everything You Need to Know to Turn Your Idea into a Successful Business
Another option, of course, is to use combination of the above and gain a more thorough understanding of how to start a business!