You're the boss.You want your business to prosper.
And naturally, you care about your business
reputation. How do you make success happen?
Start by cultivating your business relationships.Your
company has important relationships with customers,
employees, lenders, government agencies, and vendors.
The more you know about dealing with each of these
groups, the better. Don't wait until problems develop to
ask questions. Find out about good business practices now:
Talk with the Experts
- Talk with the experts
- Get ready to get financing
- Sell the smart way
- Respect your customers
- Keep it legal
- Know how to avoid scams
Seek the professional advice of business counselors in your
community. This is the best way to improve your company's chances of
There are many sources of free business advice about important
matters such as local licensing and laws, business plans, selling and
marketing techniques and financing. Business associations and industry
groups provide assistance and offer networking opportunities with other
business people. Contact the local offices of the following
organizations to seek expert advisers:
- U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
- Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE)
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
- Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)/U.S. Department of Commerce
See the Resources section of this piece for contact information on all agencies.
Free Internet access and research on small business services may be
available through your public library and through "community technology
centers" at local nonprofits.
Get Ready to Get Financing
Lower Your Risk Level
When small businesses fail, it is often because they
don't have enough money to operate or grow. Plan
ahead. Don't wait until you are desperate for money to
do your homework. Make sure your personal life, your
credit history, your business plan, and your business
operations are in order long before you seek financing.
Build the relationships you will need in order to seek
and obtain financing. Get to know the loan officer at
the bank where you do business. Look for other sources
of financing that match needs you can anticipate, and
get acquainted with them well in advance.
Your record keeping for inventory and accounting
purposes should be regular, orderly, and consistent with
the standards in your industry. Presenting accurate
records will help you show a strong picture of your
business when you are ready to approach potential
lenders and investors.
Lenders and investors are eager to work with
responsible business owners. At the same time, they
want to minimize their financial risk.They will require
that you present detailed and often very personal
information about you and your partners, as well as
your business. As they review your information, they
will look for evidence that you are trustworthy, that
your business is well managed, and that your company
generates enough revenue to pay back a loan or create
a good return for an investor's money.
To lower the cost of borrowing,
find out how to lower the credit risk
level for your business.
Ideally, your application will show that your business is
a low credit risk candidate for a loan or investment. If you
have a business with high credit risk, there is still a very
good chance that you may get financing, but be aware
that it will cost you more (i.e. higher interest cost, etc.).
The cost of financing is related to the lending risk level.
When you develop the case for funding your business,
make sure your application is truthful, accurate, and
complete. A significant omission or a misleading detail
could make it difficult for you to get financing.Your
resume should demonstrate that you have expertise in
the kind of business for which you are seeking funding.
Your Personal Commitment and Background
If you are asking an investor or bank to risk money
on your business, you will need to show that you (and
your partners, if any) have a deep commitment to your
business.The business owner is typically expected to
show a personal investment and, along with partners,
must provide at least 25% of the total amount needed
for a particular loan purpose.
Many larger loans require collateral, such as property
or securities that are pledged as financial backing for
the loan. For small businesses, especially new ones, the
collateral may need to be personal assets of some kind,
such as a home, other valuable property or a co-signature
on the loan. It is important that you and your family
members understand both the risks and benefits of
offering this kind of pledge of family assets.
Running a small business can also be exhausting,
requiring long hours, and resulting in a lower standard
of living for the owner during the start-up and early
growth years of the business. Lack of family support
could seriously hurt a start-up business.Talk with your
family members about the effort necessary to make
your business a success and be sure that you can count
on them to help you along the way.
Order copies of your personal credit reports in
advance from the major credit-reporting firms and
examine them carefully:
- Trans Union
If the credit reports are not accurate, contact the
credit-reporting firms in writing to request corrections.
Accurate credit reports will inspire confidence from
lenders and investors who review them. If your credit
score is not considered high, consult with the credit
reporting agency or a business adviser to identify ways
to improve your credit score.
Types of Funding and Providers
Match the funding purpose and the nature of your
business to the type of financing needed. Approach
providers that specialize in that sort of financing.
You may need financing for short- or long-term
purposes. Most short-term loans mature in a year or less.
Short-terms loans include lines of credit (the option to
borrow modest sums on short notice for a short time),
which give you access to working capital (money that
helps you run your business when cash flow is low).
The value of the assets purchased and the
company's ability to repay may affect the loan repayment
period. Long-term loans are generally repaid
between one to seven years, and are usually given for
major business purposes, such as the purchase of
equipment or inventory.
Answer these questions when seeking financing.
- Are you seeking money for short-term or long-term purposes?
- Exactly how much will you need-a lot of money or just a modest sum?
- Can you afford to make loan payments?
- What kind of financing is the least expensive one for your business purpose?
- Are you willing to sell part of your business -
and lose some control over it?
Even if you have enough money of your own to
start your business (personal assets), eventually you will
probably need to borrow money (debt financing) or
sell an equity interest in your business (equity financing)
to make your company grow. These different types of
financing may have tax advantages and disadvantages.
You may wish to consult a professional tax adviser, such
as an accountant, about your options.
Your Personal Assets
Your personal assets include your own cash, credit
and other valuable property such as real estate (your
home) and securities.You should always plan to invest
in your own business using your own personal assets.
Be careful not to rely too heavily on financing your
business with expensive forms of debt financing, such as
credit cards.This is risky and may affect you negatively
when the time comes to seek other financing.
Debt Financing (Loans)
Debt financing through traditional loans must be
Friends and relatives - The people closest to you know
and trust you, but could sometimes become difficult
business partners. If you seek financial help from
relatives and friends, make sure your business relationship
is spelled out in writing.
Tip: Put all your business agreements in
writing, even when doing business with
friends and relatives.
Commercial and savings banks - Banks are very willing to
provide financing if you present a good case for your
business.The Small Business Administration (SBA) has
made it easier for banks to provide loans to businesses
by providing government guarantees for many kinds of
bank loans that might not otherwise qualify, and by
simplifying application procedures.
Credit unions - Credit unions may offer good terms if
you are eligible. Often credit unions are related to a
company or a labor group.
Insurance companies - Some insurance companies may offer
loans. Ask your insurance broker about possibilities.
Consumer finance companies - These companies make
small personal loans, often to individuals with poor
credit, and the cost of the loan is generally higher. If
the loan is not repaid, the collateral providing the
financial backing or the item purchased with the loan
funds may be seized. Check the company's reliability
with the Better Business Bureau.
Commercial finance companies - These companies operate
much like consumer finance lenders, but make loans
for business purposes such as purchases of inventory
and equipment. Again, you'll pay more for these loans,
which are often made to higher risk businesses, and
your purchase typically becomes collateral for the loan.
Review terms carefully.
Non-profit "micro-lenders" - Your community may have
non-profit organizations that assist business owners
with needed funding and business counseling.These
organizations may provide loans up to $35,000, and
offer special services to start-up and developing
businesses. Frequently these programs are targeted to
women, minorities and immigrants whose businesses
cannot obtain financing from other sources. Ask your
local SCORE office, SBDC, or BBB to identify
organizations in your area that may have such services.
Business owner financing of a business purchase - If you
purchase an existing business, the current owner may
finance part of the purchase price for you.
Franchise financing - Franchise businesses come with
established brand names and a pre-defined business plan
and style of operation that the new owner is expected
to follow. For some types of franchises, the start-up
funds may be available directly from the firm offering
the franchise business. Check the terms and profit
Economic Development Commission - This is a division of
the U.S. Department of Commerce. It facilitates loans
to businesses in economically deprived regions, with
the goal of creating new jobs. Contact the Department
of Commerce for details about the special requirements
for such loans.
Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities
(EZ or EC) - EZ and EC help businesses in target
geographic areas to grow their businesses through
business and tax incentives provided through federal
and state legislation.
Debt Financing Alternatives to Traditional Loans
Debt financing may also include ways of manipulating
credit or debt in order to manage cash flow.
Alternatives to loans might make
good business sense - or they might cost
more. Check terms carefully.
- Trade credit or vendor credit is used
when a business makes a major purchase, to be paid
over time on credit from a vendor. Comparison-shop
to see whether you might do better by paying for the
purchase with some other form of financing. Discuss
terms with your vendor, and don't be afraid to negotiate
for a better deal.
- Sometimes a major customer or
potential customer for your business may help you by
providing special financial assistance. In this case, review
the terms offered and make sure the requirements would
not be too limiting for your business in the long run.
- The "factor" purchases your accounts
receivable (money owed to you) at a discount for cash.
Risks associated with collection may or may not be
transferred to the factor. This provides your business
with cash flow sooner. If you work with a factor, be
sure the company is a reputable one that will not
destroy your customer relationships through problem
collection tactics. Ask for references, check them, and
negotiate terms. Be sure you get the best deal possible,
taking into consideration issues such as the amounts
payable and the credit history of your accounts.
- By leasing equipment, you avoid
having to pay a large sum all at once for a purchase,
and also avoid owning outdated equipment. Review
the leasing agreement carefully and check the tax effect,
to make sure the deal is not too expensive compared to
other types of financing that could give you ownership
of the equipment.
Types of equity financing involve selling all or part
of your business to others. This means you will lose
some or potentially all of your control over the business.
Are you ready to share decision-making power?
If not, this option might not work for you. For more
information about contacting sources of equity financing,
talk with a professional business adviser from a group
such as SCORE.
If you seek equity financing,
be prepared to share decision-making
control over your business.
Venture capital firms, closed-end investment companies
Such entities provide money to finance growth, and
in return, get to own part of your business, which
generally means that you keep control of your company.
Closed-end investment companies usually specialize
in proven businesses, are registered with the federal
government, and generally provide larger sums.
Private investment partnerships
- In private investment
partnerships, one or more individuals supply capital
and become passive partners in your business.This
means that you as general partner run the business and
provide returns to your investor partners. Review the
terms of any such deal carefully with an expert before
Employee stock ownership plans (ESOP)
- Your employees
-if you have any-may be willing to work for smaller
pay and benefits in return for "sweat equity," meaning
part ownership of your firm. Consult with your
accountant or attorney on ESOP.
- Major corporations may invest in
your business, if you can show good prospects for your
company's future growth.This may involve a complete
or partial purchase of your company, a joint venture
(where several companies share ownership), or a licensing
agreement (meaning specific rights are granted to the
corporation providing funds).Your new owner or
corporate partner may or may not want you to
continue running the business. Be sure the nature of
your relationship is clear from the beginning.
Develop a Business Plan
and a Financing Proposal
A written business plan is an important management
tool.Your plan should cover these types of matters:
- Describe you, your partners, your staff,
and your business operations in detail
- Correctly show the existing assets, debts,
and seasonal cash flow of your business
- Evaluate your customer base and the
competition you face in the marketplace
- Explain how you overcome the competition
- Review any past business financial performance,
including a three-year history of sales and costs
- List the measurable business goals you have for
each part of your business
- Project how your business will perform
financially in the next three years
Get an expert to help you
prepare your business plan.
It is a good idea to have an accountant, lawyer, or
other professional business adviser help you prepare
your business plan and financing proposal.You should
be able to demonstrate exactly what purpose the new
financing will serve and show that your business will
generate enough cash flow to repay a loan or provide a
good return on an investor's money.
Once you have written a model business plan and
financing proposal, identify the best potential sources of
funding for your purpose in your community or industry.
Contact these sources to ask what special requirements
they might have for reviewing requests for funding;
then tailor your financial proposal to meet the needs
of each target.
Be patient and persistent. Seeking financing takes
time and determination. Perfectly good requests for
funding may be rejected by many potential providers
before you find the right match for your business and
your needs. Don't worry if you don't get financing
right away. Financing is available through legitimate
sources. If you seek out good business advice, write a
solid business plan, and keep on searching for financing
from reputable sources, chances are very good you will
find the help you need.
Sell the Smart way
"Up to 80% off!" "We guarantee the lowest prices on all brand name computers!"
You probably see these kinds of claims all the time, in shop windows,
in advertisements, and on Web sites. Informed business people know that
such claims could be considered deceptive advertising.
If you ask a few questions, you'll realize why. For example, how
many items in the store are actually available at 80% off-how many are
discounted at all- and what is the lowest rate of discount? If only a
few items are sold at 80% off, the "up to 80% off " claim could be
deceptive. Today, when competition takes place globally over the
Internet, how could anybody track prices from moment to moment in order
to prove that a particular company has "lowest" prices?
Make sure all your communications and selling techniques are clearly
stated and provable. This will help you minimize potential problems
with customers and regulatory agencies, and make it easier to get
TIP: If you can't prove it, don't say it in any kind of business communication.
These basic principles can help you steer clear of trouble:
- Be truthful. A truthful representation is not just
partly or literally true; it is entirely true and not misleading. It is
truthful not only in its words, but also visually. The image or design
must not create a misleading impression about what is being claimed.
- Prove it. If you can't prove that something is
true, don't say it in a store sign, an advertisement, a sales
presentation, a Web site, or any other form of communication. Opinions
usually fall into the category of sales puffery; but statements of
supposed fact must be proven with evidence. To be safe- avoid
- Tell all. Disclose all the terms and
conditions of sale. This would include all specifics about how to
identify, locate and contact your business; complete details of
policies about returns, delivery, extra shipping charges, rebates,
refunds, warranties or guarantees; and all details about charitable
donations related to a sale. All information important to a customer's
decision to buy your product or service should be fully revealed before
- Honor your offers. Be careful what you say
when you make an offer to the public. For example, if you mistakenly
offer an item at a wrong price, the law may require that you honor the
offer or publish a correction. A business should never knowingly offer
a product or service that it cannot provide, or offer a low-cost item
as bait when intending to provide another, costlier item instead.Your
business is legally obligated to keep track of inventory and notify
customers promptly if an order cannot be filled.
- Protect your customers. In the course of
business, you may collect very private information from your customers.
It is important to disclose how the information will be used, get
customer permission, and say clearly how you will safeguard the privacy
and security of this data. In many cases the law requires this.
Communications directed to children are especially sensitive and must
meet extra legal requirements.
- Comply with the law. Find out about federal, state and local laws that regulate your business.
For additional information about guidelines and laws regulating
advertising, direct marketing, and privacy, you can contact the Better
Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), your state or city
Department of Consumer Affairs, and the office of your state's Attorney
Respect Your Customers
Trust is the essential element for business
success.When customers trust you, they will keep doing business with
you, and they will send other customers to you.
If you are the only person handling your own
business, you have complete control over the relationship with the
consumer. When you hire others, you will need to train your employees
to respond to customers in the way that you want.
Unhappy customers may file a formal complaint with
the Better Business Bureau (BBB).The BBB would then work with your
company to resolve the complaint. More often, unhappy customers will
tell other people how badly your business treated them. Over time, your
company's reputation could suffer. Don't let this happen.You can
prevent most customer problems.
TIP: Develop a formal complaint-handling procedure and train your employees to use it.
It's a good idea to develop a consistent
complaint-handling program, including a written policy. Be sure your
plan includes responses that comply with the law. Consumers complain to
the BBB about these kinds of problems:
- Bad treatment. Customers complain when they feel they
have been mistreated.This is the easiest problem to avoid. Make your
customers feel respected.
- Poor or slow complaint handling. Respond promptly. Acknowledge receiving the complaint, and say when you might be able to resolve the problem.
Failure to deliver a promised item of merchandise or a service.
If there will be a delay, contact the customer to explain when the
product or service might be available. The law may require that you
offer the option to cancel or accept a substitute. It is certainly good
business practice to do so.
- Product or service quality is poor or damaged.
When you sell something, it is implied that the item is good enough to
sell ("implied warranty"). Because of this, if you supply a defective
item or service, you are required to offer to substitute a good item or
service, provide a repair, or supply some other solution.
- Refusal to provide a refund. Make your refund
policy available at the point of purchase before the sale is made.
Abide by the terms of your policy. Customer can't locate help. Make it
easy for the customer. Print your name, address, and customer hotline
number on your receipts, contracts, and Web site.
- Misrepresentation. Avoid this problem by teaching employees how to communicate your policies honestly, clearly and consistently.
- Failure to honor prices, warranties, or deceptive advertising. Deliberately misleading customers is illegal and bad for business.
- Misuse of private customer information. Create a
privacy and data security policy that complies with applicable laws,
make the policy available to customers in writing, and train employees
to safeguard private customer information.
The key to good customer service is an honest and friendly attitude
towards the customer. Pay attention to workplace stresses (conditions
such as temperature, light, noise, access to adequate information,
etc.) that affect your employees; do your best to make it easier for
them to serve your customers politely.
TIP: Show that you're willing to help solve the customer's problem, even if you don't agree with what the customer says.
These practices can help you and your employees have a positive attitude with benefits for your bottom line:
Keep It Legal
- Listen to the customer. If you are talking, you
aren't listening. Listen actively, to understand the main points and
show that you hear what is being said.
- Don't run away from anger, and don't respond with anger. Say you are sorry that something made the customer unhappy, and offer to help solve the problem.
- Make sure you understand the customer's complaint. Summarize what you think you heard and ask the customer if that is what he or she means.
- Ask the customer to tell you exactly what kind of solution he or she wants. Be friendly and sympathetic.
- Offer some kind of solution. If you can't offer
everything the customer wants, try to provide a solution that will make
the customer feel better about your business.
- Make the customer feel important. Always thank the customer for doing business with you.
Legal Issues That Affect Your Business
Federal, state, county, or city laws can affect your business.
Professional business advisers and attorneys are the best sources for
this type of information:
- Legal forms of business ownership, such as partnerships and corporations, and their advantages and disadvantages
- Required business licenses, professional licenses, and permits
- Tax laws
- Laws affecting your relationship with your employees
- Laws regulating consumer matters such as advertising,
marketing, refund rights, warranties, delivery of goods or services,
sales, contract cancellations, receipts, repairs, debt collection
practices, required notices, privacy and security of sensitive data,
and protection of children
When choosing professionals to help you, it is a good idea to
interview several candidates and ask questions about their
qualifications, fees, and references before deciding to work with one.
Most people check the yellow pages when seeking a lawyer, or ask a
relative or friend to recommend someone. This may not be the best way
to locate a skilled lawyer.
Look for someone who has experience advising businesses of a similar
size, ideally in your industry. Many bar associations have excellent
referral services that can help you find a qualified lawyer, usually
for a small fee.
It's important to find a good accountant for your business. Even if
you maintain all your business records yourself, at some point, you
will probably need to consult a professional about tax laws, loan
applications, or other matters that affect your business finances.
Look for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).You can get referrals
from business friends.You can also locate such individuals through
national or local CPA associations, which you can find through the
Internet or phone book.
Smart business owners understand that they have to obtain a license
to operate when the law requires it. Since you are putting a lot of
money and effort into your business, you don't want to endanger it by
failing to get something as simple as a license.
How do you learn about licensing? Consult a business adviser or the
local association for your industry. You are likely to find information
through the following government agencies:
Know How to Avoid Scams
- City: Department of Consumer Affairs, Mayor's Office, Economic Development or Business Development office
- County: County Clerk or County Executive
- State: Department of State, usually located in your state's capital
- Federal: Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and other federal agencies
You worked hard to get the money you need to start and build up your
business. Be on your guard against con artists who may try to take
advantage of you.
Many scams fall into common patterns.The most common scam offers an
overly large profit for a business requiring little or no effort to
run, or for a supposedly "risk-free" investment. If someone approaches
you with these types of schemes, be very suspicious.
TIP: Be cautious! Home business or vending schemes that appear to offer big money for simple jobs may be scams.
Scams often target people who are ready to set up new businesses, as well as established business owners.
Work at home schemes. Beware of programs that seem to offer
high pay for tasks you can do at home, that don't require great skill.
Quite often these programs are fraudulent. Common programs involve
envelope stuffing, medical billing, discount or coupon programs,
distributorships, sales, or the purchase of special equipment or
software to start such businesses. Many people lose large sums of money
through work at home scams.
Multilevel marketing or pyramid schemes. Programs of this
nature typically involve sales of products or services, or payment of
returns on investments, and may also offer high rewards to participants
for recruiting other people into the program. Usually early recruits
are paid out of entry fees collected from new participants. Eventually
the program collapses, and most of the participants lose their
investments. In many states and at the federal level, this type of
program is illegal. It is almost always dangerous; avoid it.
Business opportunities and get rich quick seminars. If you
are considering an investment in a business, or in money-making items
such as vending machines, investigate thoroughly and require proof of
claims. Not all business opportunities are legitimate. Sometimes
promoters of risky or fraudulent business opportunities draw in
prospects through seminars that promise to teach anyone how to make
huge sums. Be wary if you attend this kind of event.
Invoice scams for office supplies, yellow pages ads,Web sites, or advertising.
It is very common for con artists to send invoices for goods or
services that you did not purchase, hoping that you will pay without
questioning the bill.
False "free" offers. Be skeptical if a company offers you
something for "free" on a trial basis, especially if this requires you
to give out financial information about your business, or you are asked
to download a strange program onto your computer through the
Internet.You may never receive the "free" item, and instead might find
a fraudulent charge on your credit card, bank account, phone bill or
Internet service bill.
Telephone and voice mail misuse. Criminals may try to get
access to your telephone system through voice mail boxes or other
points of entry, which they reprogram so that they can fraudulently
charge huge long-distance bills to your company.
Identity theft. Identity theft happens when someone
misrepresents his or her financial identity in order to steal money or
things of value. Identity thieves may use the following tactics, as
well as other schemes, to commit serious financial crimes:
- Approach your business to make a purchase, using a false identity
- Purchase goods or services by pretending to represent your business
- Attempt to get private identity information about an employee from your company
- Steal private financial data from you, either from inside your company, or through the Internet
However it happens, identity theft can expose your businessand your customers to potential loss.
TIP: If the deal sounds too good to be true, do not spend money on it.
- Avoid any program that promises an unrealistically big return, especially if it requires a large up front payment.
someone pushes you to make a quick decision about a business
opportunity, be very cautious. Take your time, get all the facts, and
don't give in to pressure.
Basic Scam Avoidance Practices
- Get all promises and claims in writing. Ask for proof of claims.
- Require references and check them. Be aware that people may
falsely give good references on a company. Try to get many references,
not just one or two. When checking references, ask detailed questions
about business procedures and performance that only a person with real
experience in that industry could answer.
- Before signing any document, read it carefully. Sometimes
items such as checks and purchase orders contain legal agreements that
you might not realize you are authorizing. Never sign a contract that
contains blank spaces.
- Be sure you understand a written business agreement
completely, and if possible, get a lawyer's help. If you can't explain
the agreement to someone else, don't sign it. Keep asking questions
until you get answers that satisfy you.
- Screen all of your employees before you hire them.
- Set up a tightly controlled system for authorizing purchase orders and payments.
- Keep control of your mail; it is full of valuable items, such as checks and private financial information.
- Change pass-codes for telephone, voice mail, and other
billable communications systems frequently. Use complex passwords at
least six characters long or longer. Passwords should never consist of
character combinations that can be guessed easily, such as phone
numbers, birthdays, or names.
- Review all financial statements and bills, to make sure
there are no unauthorized amounts on your accounts. Keep these
sensitive documents in a secure place. Destroy or shred any such items
that you do not want to store.
Dos and Don'ts
- Do not pay for goods or services that you did not order. If
fraudulent charges appear on bank statements, credit card bills, or
other bills, send a letter disputing the false charges right away.
Notify the BBB and appropriate law enforcement agencies, such as your
state's Attorney General and the FTC, about the problem.
- Do not respond to unsolicited email business offers from
strangers, especially messages from persons in foreign countries that
request the use of your bank account (the classic "Nigerian letter"
scam, which may also seem to come from other troubled countries).
- Do not confirm or provide private financial information by
email. Some email frauds look like a message from your own Internet
service provider, bank, credit card company, or other vendor,
requesting email confirmation of financial data. If you are concerned,
print out the email and send it with a written inquiry to your vendor's
fraud prevention department.
- Do protect your company's financial data and any data about
your customers that could be used for identity fraud purposes.You may
wish to hire privacy and security consultants to review your company's
operations and advise you.
- Do investigate an unfamiliar business before you buy. Find
out its street address, phone number, whether it is licensed if
required, names of key contacts, and its business reputation. Check on
it with the Attorney General of your state, your local Department of
Consumer Affairs, or the Better Business Bureau.
TIP: When in doubt, check
it out with the BBB, the FTC, your state's Attorney General, or your
local Department of Consumer Affairs.
Expert Business Advice
Small Business Administration
U.S. Small Business Administration offers a diverse array of services
to small businesses through the nation, including training,
publications about business planning and getting financing, and help in
SBA licensing information hotlist by state
SBA certified and preferred lenders
SBA's Small Business Investment Company Program (SBIC)
SBA resources for women in business
National SBA Answer Desk:
(800) UASK-SBA (1-800-827-5722)
Answer Desk TTY: (704) 344-6640
New York District Office
(includes Long Island, Downstate New York)
26 Federal Plaza, Suite 3100, New York, NY 10278
Phone: (212) 264-4354 Fax: (212) 264-4963
Buffalo District Office (Upstate New York)
111 West Huron Street, Suite 1311, Buffalo, New York 14202
Phone: (716) 551-4301 Fax: (716) 551-4418
New Jersey District Office
Two Gateway Center, 15th Floor, Newark, New Jersey 07102
Phone: (973) 645-2434
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
a non-profit resource partner of the SBA, provides free counseling and
mentoring to small businesses throughout the U.S, through face-to-face
meetings, email, and telephone. The range of expertise covers many
business topics, including start-ups, business plan development,
non-profits, and advice on seeking financing. Free services are
available to all. SCORE has multiple locations in New York and New
Jersey, which can be located through www.score.org. You may also call
the national SCORE office toll free at (800) 634-0245 to find the
nearest SCORE counseling location.
Minority Business Development Agency (U.S. Dept. of Commerce)
Minority Business Development Agency, which is part of the U.S.
Department of Commerce, is designed to help minority owned businesses
find the special resources they need to start up and grow. Go to
www.mdba.gov to locate minority business development centers near you.
MBDA Regional Office -
New York and New Jersey
26 Federal Plaza, Room 3720, New York, NY 10278
Phone: (212) 264-3262 Fax: (212) 264-0725
350 5th Ave., Suite 2202, New York, NY 10118
Phone: (212) 947-5351 Fax: (212) 947-1506
90-33 160th St., Jamaica, NY 11432
Phone: (718) 206-2255 Fax: (718) 206-3693
Williamsburg (Brooklyn) MBDC
12 Heyward St., Brooklyn, NY 11211
Phone: (718) 522-5620 Fax: (718) 522-5931
New Jersey Statewide MBDC
744 Broad St., Suite 2001, Newark, NJ 07102
Phone: (973) 297-1142 Fax: (973) 297-1439
Small Business Development Centers
Association of Small Business Development Centers
Business Development Centers are expert business advisement programs.
Services are usually free. Search the national Web site to locate an
SBDC near you. To contact centers in New York or New Jersey, visit
these Web sites:
New York State Small Business Development Centers
New Jersey Small Business Development Centers
State Development Agencies
State development agencies typically help small businesses with
information about international markets, selling to government,
obtaining bank loans at reduced interest rates, technology resources,
enterprise zone opportunities, real estate, environmental issues,
workforce development, productivity, and help for minority and
New York Empire State Development Corporation
633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6706
(800) STATE-NY www.nylovessmallbiz.com or www.empire.state.ny.us
New Jersey Economic Development Authority
P.O. Box 990, Trenton, NJ 08625-0990
(609) 292-1800 www.njeda.com
New Jersey Commerce & Economic Growth Commission
P.O. Box 820, Trenton, NJ 08625-0820
(609) 777-0885 www.state.nj.us/commerce
Guidelines for Good Business
Better Business Bureau (BBB)
The Better Business Bureau is an association of outstanding
companies that have joined together to encourage the growth of a
marketplace that is fair, as well as profitable. Your BBB prevents and
resolves problems between customers and businesses through public
education, and through impartial dispute resolution programs that are
free or very low in cost. Many local BBBs also have substantial charity
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Financial Institutions and Customer Data: Complying with the Safeguards Rule
Businessperson's Guide to the Mail and Telephone Order Merchandise Rule
Five Steps to Avoiding Office Supply Scams
A Business Checklist for Direct Marketers
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is the nation's primary consumer
protection agency. Its Web site contains detailed, helpful information
for your business about federal laws and guidelines covering issues
such as advertising, telemarketing, debt collection, telephone and mail
order sales, retail sales, warranties, auto leasing and sales, privacy
and security safeguards, and many other topics.
More Advertising and Marketing Guidelines
In addition to the BBB and the FTC, these groups may be able to
provide information about advertising standards and best practices. American Advertising Federation (local advertising clubs)
Direct Marketing Association (DMA)
Other Sources of Business Help
To find special business groups in your area, or to locate an
industry specific association, search the Internet for Web sites or
look in the yellow pages.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce
National Association of Women Business Owners
Center for Women's Business Research
Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities
Credit Reporting Agencies
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Order reports: (800) 685-1111 Report fraud: (800) 525-6285
P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013
Order report or report fraud: (888) EXPERIAN (397-3742)
P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022
Report fraud: (800) 680-7289
Lawyers and Accountants
American Bar Association
Online Lawyer Search Web Sites
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Small Business Corner
Small Business Corner provides guidance for small businesses about
strengthening the security of their computer and information systems.
Licensing and Legal Information
City of New York
New York City Licenses
Citywide Licensing Center, 42 Broadway, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
Phone: (212) 487-4444
New York City Department of Small Business Services
New York City Economic Development Corporation
State of New York
Click on the link "e-bizNYS" then on "Business Guide" and "Business Licenses, Business Permits."
NY State licensing
New York State Department of State Division of Licensing Services
84 Holland Avenue, Albany, NY 12208-3490
NYC Office, NY State Department of State (212) 417-5747
24-Hour Customer Service Voice Response (518) 474-4429
Phone: (518) 474-4429 Fax: (518) 473-6648
Fax a request for an application to (518) 473-6648
Other NY State Licensing Agencies :
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (800) 554-4501
New York State Liquor Authority (212) 417-4002/4003
State of New Jersey
NJ Commerce & Economic Growth Commission
Licenses and Certification Hotline: 609-777-2642, or (toll-free, in state) 800-533-0186
Information About Non-Profit Groups
Wise Giving Alliance (Council of Better Business Bureaus)
New Jersey Better Business Bureau
New York BBB Foundation Charity Accountability Program