I’m now two days into working on my own. I’ve been spending all of my time building the business plan, which also means that I have been inundated with lessons, articles, and guides about starting a small business. I was originally trying to do as much learning and planning as I possibly could before embarking, but I am now beginning to realize that no amount of reading can make up for real experience. I’ve decided to just get going and learn both by reading and by doing – I know I’ll make some textbook mistakes that could be avoided, but I think at this point it’s more important for me to get out there and learn “on the job”.
One of the greatest challenges for me is the shift from analytical thinking to creative thinking. As a software engineer, the majority of my problems were “solvable”. What I mean is that writing code is mostly about understanding and applying a set of rules, or following certain procedures or algorithms in a certain way; in this way, problem solving is straightforward and frequently results in one “best” answer. On the other hand, “how to build brand recognition” yields a huge number of cloudy answers, and it’s unique to every company’s situation, and each small business owner has different recommendations, and on-and-on-and-on. There’s just no checklist to use or algorithm to follow that will provide results with certainty.
Here are a few resources that I have found very helpful in starting a new business…
This is the official SBA site, which has all kinds of training, legal documents, and loan information. SBA makes it easier for small businesses to get loans through the SBA-guarantee program, so a lot of their website is dedicated to getting those loans.
SCORE is a non-profit that provides mentoring to small business owners, workshops, and various tools. It’s definitely a valuable resource for a first time small business owner, as the counseling is both meaningful and free. Some workshops are free, but others have a small fee.
NOLO is an awesome legal resource, and is not limited to small business. It essentially makes law understandable for common people; the articles are written by lawyers and easy to understand. I advise anyone who has a basic legal question to go to NOLO first, before searching online.
Entrepreneur is more of a magazine-style resource, and is much less official than the other resources. However, it is full of valuable content, especially keeping up-to-date with discussions of tablet computing, cloud, and social media. The best thing about reading entrepreneur is that it is positively inspiring, which urges me to keep going even if I feel overwhelmed.
Inc is also a magazine targeted to small business owners about small businesses. I find their website a little bit harder to navigate, but the quality of the content is still great. Compared to Entrepreneur, the articles are generally a little bit more geared towards running an existing small business than starting a business.
Two other useful resources: