Starting a small business is no easy task, and many small business owners don’t have the luxury of resources or finances to fund their own businesses. So what do they do? Manage their funding and grants themselves. Here are some tips on how to get started.
Make friends with the government small business administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a government body with a near-endless supply of resources for future, current and past small business owners. It was created under President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 to “aid, counsel, assist and protect the interest of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise, and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.”
The SBA website offers a wide array of information regarding all things small business. From help with front end things such as writing a business plan and calculating startup costs, to legal advice, to information on ways to help your business grow, SBA.gov is a must-use resource for aspiring and current small business owners.
One of their sister resources, Grants.gov, has free information on the entire breadth of grants relating to the small business world, from baseline information like a “Grants 101” presentation and a “Grant Terminology” glossary to very high-level information like correct reporting procedures and how to avoid (or report) grant fraud.
Familiarizing yourself with the free resources and information provided at SBA.gov and Grants.gov should be a no-brainer if deciding whether or not to manage your own funding grants. If you do decide to self-manage, most answers you’ll need along the way can be answered by the website, and/or the U.S. Small Business Association.
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Lack the knowledge? It’s time for an MBA
Knowledge is power, and if you’re hesitant to manage your own funding grants due to a lack of said knowledge, formal education is a great route to take to ensure quality, up-to-date knowledge is being passed on to you.
Your thoughts may be, “Where am I going to find time to earn an MBA? I’m already starting my own business,” and that’s certainly fair, but education is becoming more and more flexible by the semester.
Online options are aplenty and are generally the most flexible, but without a face-to-face aspect with a professor or instructor, some knowledge is sure to be left on the table. With that in mind, innovative schools are enacting “hybrid” educational options that include a large majority of “on-your-own-time” school work coupled with in-person support offered by faculty members who spend the majority of their days on campus.
As an example, USD’s hybrid MBA program is the first of its kind in the San Diego area, and the program’s first tailored semester began January of 2020. The university advertises the hybrid MBA program as being 60% on-campus, and 40% online, but the 60% comes in bulk, as students are only expected to be in class one weekend per month.
If your business requires a lot of travel, but a higher business degree is something you’d like to pursue, a hybrid program like the one at the University of San Diego is certainly worth exploring a little further.
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Seek outside financial management help
Many people start a small business because they are jacks-of-all-trades, or are at least very confident in their abilities to figure things out. A common roadblock for even the most well-rounded entrepreneurs is the infamous crunching of numbers.
Accounting is often viewed as a scary, scary aspect of a new business plan, and with good reason. Making money is the goal, and doing so legally is paramount in allowing the business to exist and hopefully grow.
Including those included in the SBA website mentioned above, online resources to aid with financial management are nearly endless. Some baseline tips include things like keeping business and personal finances separate, having enough set aside for unseen expenses, and knowing when it’s time to seek outside help (even if you think everything is ship-shape).
In the same way that even a great book editor shouldn’t be the only editor for a book they’ve written, even the most confident entrepreneurs should get a second (or third, fourth, fifth, etc.) set of eyes on financial records via a credible financial firm.
Keeping track of the data is essential
Data management is every bit as important as personnel management and financial management in the modern business world. Analyzing your small business’ data will provide insights on every level of your business, and will garner the information you can use to ensure your funding grants are being spent economically. As a bonus, this same data can be used for future grant proposals (if the data reflects positive utilization, of course).
The more an entrepreneur knows about the inner workings of his or her company, the more needed changes can be recognized and acted upon. Just like with financial management, seeking third-party help for data management is recommended if you don’t have a firm grasp on the importance of data analytics. Online resources are aplenty in this field as well, though, if you do wish to take the reins.
Keep it simple by organizing your files and documents
It may seem trivial, and you may be an organizational guru, but the simple organization of funding grant files and documentation can make “staying on top of it” seem like a much less daunting task.
Depending on how many employees your small business will have (even if just two), organization of these, and any other files, help prepare for the morbid-yet-classic “hit by a bus” scenario. Even if “employee A” has no clue what is happening with your business regarding funding grants, common knowledge of where files are can ensure that any and all information can be found in one location by anyone who may need it, regardless of who is in the office at a given time.
This organization can also help save a lot of money in the long run. If a situation arises where grant funding information needs to be shared in a short amount of time, organization can be the difference between saying, “I can have that for you in a short time,” or panicking and potentially losing a customer, or having to pay a third-party to do work for you that you could have easily accomplished yourself, had you been organized.
Again, this is not unique to grant funding files, but having a backup database for all of your paperwork should be included in the early steps of devising your business plan, as well.
All of these tips for managing your small business’ funding grants come from an online resource set up to truly help you out. Third-party services are also available for the majority of work that needs to be done with any business (financial, HR, organization), and even if there is shame in asking for help (which there shouldn’t be), it’s the best way to ensure you and your small business are doing things economically, and legally.