Take Advantage of Free Resources to Grow Your Business

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Don’t let a tight budget keep you from growing your business. These free resources can connect you with mentors, train employees and save money on software.

Whether you’re just starting a new business venture, thinking about expanding your current business or taking it in a new direction altogether, coming up with the money to fund those plans is a challenge for most aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners. That’s where free or very affordable resources can make a big difference in turning a dream into a reality.

As pointed out by Maryalene LaPonsie at Small Business Computing, free tools and resources can save you money, but the benefits go beyond your immediate cash flow issues. The right information can save you or your employees from making avoidable—and expensive—missteps along the way. And just as important, it can teach you to recognize and take advantage of growth opportunities. These three information-rich resources can help.

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SCORE a Trusted Advisor

Could you use a mentor, someone who’s been in the business trenches, and someone who knows how to avoid the pitfalls and capitalize on the opportunities? Forget high-priced consultants (you can’t afford them anyway). You need a mentor. One of the best, free mentoring resources for anyone who wants to start, grow or expand a business is an outfit called SCORE— the Service Corp of Retired Executives.

This national group of more than 340 chapters encompasses 13,000 working and retired business professionals. Their collective expertise spans 62 industries and 500 skills. SCORE also offers affordable workshops and free online tools and templates.

Basic Training and Beyond

Aspiring and current small business owners—and their employees—can often use training to learn or sharpen the skills necessary to build and grow a business. Through its Small Business Technology and Development Centers, the Small Business Administration offers a range of free workshops and training sessions. Topics vary depending on location, but can include workshops on how to start a business, how to write a business plan, financial management, marketing and the ins and outs of applying for business loans.

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Finding Free Software

While there’s plenty of “free” software to be had on the Internet, you usually end up paying by suffering through malware or ad-infested garbage that doesn’t really help at all.  Instead, check out this list of good, reliable open source applications. They’re actually designed to replace traditional small business software applications such as CRM, security and invoicing. The list is about a year old, but it’s a great starting point that can save you a lot of up-front capital expense.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of Small Business Computing. Follow Lauren on Twitter.

Adapted from Free Business Resources Help Save Money & Avoid Mistakes, by Maryalene LaPonsie at Small Business Computing. Follow Small Business Computing on Twitter.