How the Indiana SBDC Works to Help Small Businesses

February 22, 2022


“Professional business consulting” may sound expensive and intimidating to small and moderate-sized business owners alike. Prefix the word, “free” to the statement and it may resonate with some as cheap, that there is a hidden cost, and perhaps the service is not worthwhile. After all, how can something free help a business? Such are the misnomers of life as an SBDC business advisor. To represent all that we do in a single sentence or statement is hard. My stalworth elevator pitch has always been “We help businesses to develop and grow,” in which the typical mental response is “How?”

This is an attempt to address the “how” we help entrepreneurs and small businesses, because there are not many businesses in Indiana that have less than 100 employees in which there is not at least one task that we can assist with. This may surprise some, who recognize the SBDC as a place that works exclusively with start-ups and new ventures. Sure, we do that well, thank you, but there is so much more in our toolbox than most know.

As a life-long farmer, I know my tools. Anyone that has turned a wrench for hobby or business is always interested in tools. When looking inside someone else’s toolbox, we often begin to understand what work the person does. A plumber’s box will contain different objects compared to an electrician’s. Tool-turners are fascinated by unique contraptions derived to fix something unusual, like a crows-foot socket, designed to place an open-ended wrench into a very tight space. If you ever have a need for one, you’ll never again want to be without. Now, let’s dig deep into our Indiana SBDC toolbox.

blog image

On top, you’ll find our regular go-to tool, one-to-one business consulting This is the foundation of all we do Clients meet with a business advisor and converse what the business needs are and begin a dialogue. Ask any of our advisors and they will tell you of the interesting tasks that clients approach us with. One may want to start a bakery while another may be expanding their widget factory. The greatest benefit of engaging a business advisor is often simply having someone knowledgeable who will listen in a professional confidential manner and offer real unbiased dialogue. The advisor then may help the client to choose the right instrument to make the needed adjustments in their business.

In the next drawer, we find data wrenches. Yep, data is in our toolbox One is GIS spatial demographics (ESRI) to determine market values at exact locations and periphery IBIS World reports are available for nearly every known industry that provide independent detailed internal and external analysis. Another is Reference Solutions, where we can search and find broad information on just about every organized business in the USA Fancy tools cost money and these do too. Thanks to our state sponsor, the Indiana Economic Development Corp, and our host institutions (the Purdue Center for Regional Development hosts the Hoosier Heartland region), who pay for these tools, we have free access for our clients. (There is that word again). To utilize datasets like this combined with counseling has a real market value that extends into thousands of dollars per use, per client.

Opening another drawer will reveal the export tools We have big ones and little ones Exporting depends on how it fits for a business. Our export advisors help to define that The most recognizable is the Export Indiana Assistance Program (yes, it is free too) You’ll not be able to find another exporting service as comprehensive as this.

To the right of the export tools is the hiring box The Indiana SBDC has the Hire Up! Program where our advisors connect you with contracted hiring specialists to help a business identify and hire key employees Of course, there is no charge for this turn-key service. Our advisors can assist with all type of workforce challenges.

The huge bottom drawer contains knowledge of Small Business Administration and state of Indiana government programs. You may have noticed that we had to make more space for these during the pandemic We help so many clients to navigate numerous federal, state, and local programs.

And then there are all the little drawers stuffed full of contacts, networking, stakeholders, partners programs, chambers, universities, economic development organizations, bankers, lawyers, and CPA’s. It sounds cliché’ but if we cannot find an answer, it is rare that we cannot find someone who does.

Ours is a big toolbox and like the one in my shop, there are too many to write about in this space. In opening all these drawers, my hope is that you now understand more about “how” we help businesses. It isn’t just one or two things. The Indiana SBDC offers a plethora of assistance via the use of many tools. That’s how we help Indiana businesses to grow.

Useful Resources:

Authored by Monty Henderson, regional director, Hoosier Heartland Indiana SBDC.

Hoosier Heartland ISBDC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the State of Indiana, and our many local partners. All opinions, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance by calling your local SBDC. All promotional literature and other materials are provided on a non-discriminatory basis.