Friday, December 12, 2008

Help for Small Business Owners In These Difficult Times

In these very difficult economic conditions there are important resources that small business owners should be aware of. Small Business Development Counselors are available to work with businesses on any issues they may have, including workforce training and development. Brad Swanson, one of the counselors I have had the pleasure to work with in a few situations has written a wonderful article about the help the counselors can provide. He also mentions the Maine's 2-1-1 system when someone needs personal help through these difficult times. He has given me permission to share his article here and since it is public record he hopes it is shared widely. Brad's contact information is within the article and go to the SBDC website for more information on the services provided through this program.

Getting the Right Kind of Help When Your Small Business is in Trouble
By Brad Swanson, Maine SBDC Certified Master Business Counselor

As a Business Counselor with the Maine Small Business Development Centers ( I am all too aware of how the current global economic and financial crisis is impacting Maine’s small business community. Conditions are very, very tough out there right now. Sales are down. Expenses are up. Cash flow is tight. Credit is tight. Many businesses are finding it hard, if not impossible to survive.

The Maine Small Business Development Centers is one organization that Mainers turn to for assistance, to start, to grow, and now to try to save their businesses. My colleagues around the state and I are trained, experienced and certified to assist. We have business acumen, technical skills and knowledge of local, regional, state and federal resources targeted to help the self-employed and small business owners here in Maine. We work diligently, one on one with our clients; we listen and offer free, confidential, honest and respectfully business management support. In troubled times, this support is often what we are told has made the biggest difference to getting through. Small business ownership can be a lonely job. And to have a trained professional with whom to talk things through is very helpful.

Our assistance is on-line as well. The Maine SBDC has recently posted a special section on our web site that offers good, solid, clear advice and tools on how to survive the sort of downturn we are currently experiencing. There are live links to a wide range of resources available to inform and assist small businessmen and businesswomen in Maine as they adjust to these trying economic times.

We know that there are circumstances where a business solution is not possible, however, where neither credit, nor cost cutting, nor any other intervention will make a difference. The business situation is not reversible. Often, these situations will escalate the level of stress for the business owner, or self-employed individual, causing anxiety, fear, and confusion. When this occurs the questions change from the need for business support to a need for personal support. Where does one go when business counseling cannot make a difference, when there is a pending business failure with its resultant emotional turmoil? Where is the support for someone in crisis, unable to cope any further with the realities of their business situation and the impact that it is having on the rest of their life? Many Mainers in crisis turn first to family, friends, church and community. The support of trusted and caring others is a time honored means for making it through the toughest of times.

If a crisis intensifies beyond the family’s or close friend’s ability to assist, Maine’s 2-1-1 (211) system provides an easy access statewide call-in directory for local and regional professional health and human services support for services including food, clothing, shelter, crisis intervention, counseling, suicide prevention and many other emergency services. 2-1-1 represents a better and easier way to find answers when this level of support is needed.

Small business is challenging and not without its risks. Knowing where to turn for support in the face of a business crisis is essential. Knowing what other support is available to weather the personal impact from a storm such as the one blowing through our economy right now, is clearly as important.

Brad Swanson is a certified Master Business Counselor at Maine Small Business Development Centers. He is part of the Maine SBDC service center at Coastal Enterprises, Inc. With an office in Brunswick, Brad is currently assigned to work with businesses under the North Star Alliance Initiative. He can be reached at

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