There’s a saying that ‘you get what you pay for’, which is often used to explain why the product you bought cheaply then wore out particularly fast. But there is actually a lot today that doesn’t hold to this philosophy, particularly when you are looking for support, tools and information to grow your business. And then you might ask, ‘but who can I trust?’ This is harder to answer, but always worth starting with recommendations from others you trust. The other great resource is ‘recommendations’ from government funded initiatives and programs; government at any level cannot afford for you to get the wrong advice, so all of their information and resources are heavily vetted. And it’s also in their interests to help you grow, as business growth funds the economy.
Where can you find these tools and resources? Most regions have business groups where you can meet like-minded business people. These are the people you can ask for recommendations while getting to know them and their business. Consider also the ‘give to get’ philosophy that now exists with bloggers. This means that some of the information you can find online for free is valuable if you then know how to implement it. And if you don’t know how to implement it, there are a range of low cost mentors that can help in this area as well. Below are some ideas of resources you can usually access for either no cost or low cost.
The first level of support for many business owners is other business owners. And you can meet others in various stages of building their business at meetings of business groups, at dedicated networking events, and in dedicated business forums online.
There are a number of not-for-profit business groups that meet regularly, often with a guest speaker. Search online for your region’s ‘chamber of commerce’ or ‘business chamber’. There are often industry and interest based business groups as well. A simple online search should uncover a group that includes other from your broad industry. And then there are not-for-profit networking groups, as well as Meet-Up groups.
Online, you can find businesses asking and answering questions in Facebook Groups. Search for groups with the word ‘business’ and aim to join those that are closed groups with active Administrators and criteria for both joining and posting.
Tools and information
You can access some of the best information available internationally online through blogs, newsletter, white papers, TED talks (www.ted.com), webinars and podcasts. Often you will be asked to provide your first name and email address, or sign up to the expert’s newsletter in order to access some of these resources. It can be a good idea to have a dedicated gmail account for this purpose so you don’t clog up your business email with newsletters. And, you can always unsubscribe if you find that future newsletters don’t have the same level of expertise as your initial download with the expert.
The best way to find online resources is with a Google search. The most visited sites – and therefore (theoretically) the best – will come up on page one of whatever topic you’re searching. The Australian government website at business.gov.au (and most State governments also have excellent sites, such as business.vic.gov.au) have information, tools and templates for all things business.
You may also find that your State government, local council or local chamber runs seminars for business that are low cost or no cost. Search for these online and on their websites, or ask other business owners where they go to learn about social media, for example.
So, start networking, asking others for advice, subscribing to newsletters, reading blogs, downloading white papers, and attending seminars. Get smart about how you spend your money, and you’ll learn an immense amount in the meantime.
First published in Business Life, Vol 1 No 5, June 2016