About once every six months I end up writing a piece on the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC). Of the calls I take each week, I probably suggest this organization at least half the time. I do so because the mission of the group is to connect and grow small businesses. This is done by soliciting speakers and programs for their monthly (and sometimes weekly) forums. If you are in a services business, have a expertise to share and want to get new referrals, you need to check out your local SBDC today.
Why the SBDC?
When I first moved from San Francisco to Seattle, my network was thin. I contacted the SBDC office, asked about their group forums, the areas of content desired by the SBDC community and whether or not I could partner with the head of the local chapter to create some programs. For free. Side note-it´s all for free. SBDC´s typically locate their chapter meetings out of community colleges, non-profit space or sometimes, corporate campuses. In Bellevue, a city outside Seattle, SBDC forums are held at the Bellevue Community College.
In any case, within a week, I´d contributed a few articles to the SBDC newsletter, scheduled an event for entrepreneurs on growing their business, and then worked with the chapter director to create a series of events around growing a business. I volunteered to round up attorneys, insurance and other service providers that could provide an interesting panel discussion. The chapter director loved me for taking on the workload, and it gave me an opportunity to meet a lot of people very quickly (who by the way, returned my phone call because rarely do people turn down new business opportunities).
Who Can Use this?
Service providers always have something new to share. Life Coaches thrive in this environment, as do marketing consulting firms such as public relations and advertising. Think of it as nurturing future clients. The typical SBDC forum-goer is a 1-2 person organization, but they grow in size and when they do, will be looking around for service providers. Attorney’s can also use this as a great forum. A female partner I know at a local law firm decided to focus on reducing claims of her small business clients by providing educational forums on the best type of insurance coverage, programs and preventative policies. She teamed up with a local insurance provider, and together, they gave three sessions on the subject. Once you have your session accepted, it gets listed on the national site, and any user can use the session locator to view upcoming events.
Where to start?
The first place is the national site, then local sites. The national site has a locater. Watch out though. Two types of locators exist. One for the offices, and the other for “Business Advisors”. When I entered my zip code, a bunch of Business Advisors appeared that showed a bit of resume info. Of course, you might be a business advisor yourself, and want your info to be included. That’s another no cost way to get out there. Contact the director of the programs, have your pitch ready, then listen to his/her needs and adjust on the fly. Remember their goals during your pitch, and be ready to volunteer and get active. Not only will you be able to provide a valuable service to the community, and garner potential clients, but you will also link up with a long-term partner.