For better or for worse, there is no shortage of information out there for those in business. But how do business owners know which of those resources to use? To help answer that question, I have asked the wonderful CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs to provide their favorite business information resource. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar resources listed, but I kept the ideas separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Mastermind Group(s)
The single most important business resource for me is my mastermind group. In fact, I am now part of four different mastermind groups, although two are much more serious and involved than the other two. I get direct help and I give direct help. We share news and tips. We develop partnerships and refer people who can help with each others' needs. A mastermind group is like networking on steroids.
2. Tools to Get Stuff Done
Foundersuite's tag line says it all: "Tools to get startup sh*t done." Foundersuite is a suite of web apps and a collection of templates for entrepreneurs for doing things like setting up the company, recruiting advisors, raising money, getting feedback on a new product idea, etc. In particular, the collection of free templates called Corporate Docs is useful for small businesses.
3. Thinking Straight
The two books that helped me become a success in business are:
1. Financial Risk Management by Dr. Falkena, Dr. Kok and Dr. Meijer
2. Straight and Crooked Thinking by Robert H Thouless
Both books, bought in the late 1960s, are still prime on my bookshelf, and referred to in any business dealings even today. They served me extremely well over the years.
4. Marketing on Fire!
My favorite small business resource is Firepole Marketing (firepolemarketing.com). Every post is packed with marketing innovation and concepts you can apply right away, and Danny Iny's free training course on how to raise prices is so effective I use it every year. I love recommending Firepole Marketing to all my clients- it helps entrepreneurs develop businesses that just won't quit!
5. Mastermind Group!
Mastermind groups consist of other entrepreneurs and self starters. I have been in a group for over 5 years. We talk weekly and meet in person every month or so. The group helps me stay accountable for my actions. They give suggestions and support. Get a mastermind group of your own!
6. What’s the Big Idea?
“What’s The Big Idea? A Guide To Creative Marketing Communication” is more than just another business e-book touting the latest techno-gimmick or fad-app; it’s an organized approach to creative marketing strategy and concept development. The e-book contains 67 pages, a Concept Mind Map Chart, 28 photographic illustrations, text explaining the overall conceptual framework, a description for each idea, plus 29 videos (53+ minutes) further explaining the concepts.
7. In love with Audiobooks
By far, my favorite resource for getting business "how to" information is through listening to audiobooks. With audiobooks, I can listen to them anywhere - while driving, cleaning the house, relaxing on the patio, etc. I much prefer listening to reading. For me, audiobooks are the perfect way to get the business education I want without being forced to sit down and read. I get my audiobooks from audible.com.
8. Work and Win in the Real World
I think the ONE best business resource is “Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World” by Dr. Phil. Why? Because if you don’t have your 'stuff' together, your business or career could fizzle and die. For example, if you’re a small business owner, do you know how to negotiate? Got employees? You’ll need to know how to parent them. This may sound harsh, but sometimes employees can be like kids. You work in the 'real world', so you may as well study the rules for winning in it.
9. A Marketing Gold Mine
Reference USA, a business information source subscribed to by many local libraries and accessible by computer, offers a data base that contains profiles of 13 million US businesses and 120 million US residents. It can be used to search by SIC Code, Zip Code, City, State, Sales, Number of Employees, and other options. It contains the name, address, phone number, function, and title of the top decision makers in each company.
10. Helping Everyone Out!
The one best business resource that I utilize is HARO or Help a Reporter Out- http://www.helpareporter.com. Not only does it give you a chance to pitch a story to reporters, but it keeps you alerted to current news trends that you can capitalize upon. It's free, but you can also check out other options for a more targeted approach. Having this land in my inbox everyday has brought me business and exposure like no other site!
11. Join a Chamber of Commerce
Joining the local Chamber of Commerce was the best resource for our start-up business. The number of key people we met, the workshops and the networking were all invaluable to getting us up and running. 80% of all new business that year came directly or indirectly from our chamber connections.
12. Excellent Organization
BUSINESS NETWORK INTERNATIONAL (BNI) is my all-time favorite group that helps promote my business beyond expectations. Chapters are in almost every state with friendly, like-minded people. LOVE it!
Thanks to: Kathleen Anderson.
13. The One You'll Use
As a relationship person, I thrive in mastermind groups, meeting with other successful business owners. Its experiential style is highly engaging. The group insight helped me discover the value I offer, differentiate from the competition and avoid costly mistakes. This dynamic process keeps me focused on results-driven steps for growth.
14. Best Small Business Resource
I found the best resource for me was a good business coach. A business coach can focus you on how to build your business and help you to remove some of the emotion we all go through while building a business. Do your research and find out what successes your business coach has in his or her background, and make sure that he or she understands your business. My coach has been an invaluable resource because he makes me slow down, work my business plan and keeps me on track with my goals.
Seth Godin's blog is a quick, sharp read whose ideas hit hard.
A premier thinker in matters of business, he blows past conventional "Marketing" concepts to explore fundamentals, after which the Marketing concepts either make more sense or none at all.
He typically does this in a few paragraphs. Amazing.
16. Free Does Not Mean Low Budget
I use radio guest list and help a reporter out services and the ripple effect exposure has been definitely positive. The various interview opportunities assisted in me being written up in Christian Science Monitor and being interviewed in the September 2011 United Nations World Peace Day Broadcast. There have been opportunities that got me exposure across the Western Hemisphere in the past.
Lesson learned? FREE exposure still equals receiving GREAT exposure!
17. Working from Home? Read This!
The book “Working from Home” by Paul & Sarah Edwards: elmstreeteconomy.com. I had to figure it out myself, but over the years, the Edwardses sure helped! Elaine St. James’s books on clutter – in fact, anyone’s books on clutter – are also invaluable, whether for an office suite, cubicle or home.
18. Subscribe to SM Examiner
One blog that hits my inbox every morning that I cannot live without is: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com.
This blog is full of tips and tricks that can be easily understood and used by marketers and non-marketers alike. It is an easy read, on point and gives you information in bite-sized pieces. I highly recommend everyone giving it a try.
19. Influence: Get What You Want
The best resource I've ever found is Influence: The Art of Persuasion by Robert Caldini. Robert studied the best sales people in the world and combined this research with the psychology behind his observations. On virtually every page, you will learn something you can apply right away. This single book has been worth more than $100,000 to me over my career in the ideas that I have been able to apply to my own and my clients' businesses. Buy it today you won't regret it.
20. No Cost, High Results
For our businesses, we have used an Indiana resource called the Indiana Small Development Center. This center obtains a grant from the Small Business Administration. They have access to many databases (business information and consumer data) that otherwise, we would have to pay to have that information. Our local libraries also have access to many databases on businesses that we can use at no cost.
21. Critical as Coffee in the AM
About a year ago, I *tripped* over the Social Media Examiner blog. It has everything I could ask for with its practical, easy-to-apply ideas for social media marketing. A daily email, a weekly podcast, 15 minutes a day, 1 cup of coffee, and I am up to speed!
22. Got a Business Idea? Need $$$?
BizPlanBuilder® Business Plan Template
Write a professional business plan quickly and efficiently. It's an organized system of sample plan templates in Microsoft® Word, flexible Excel financial models, and PowerPoint presentation templates. It's the fastest and easiest way of turning your idea into a investment-grade business plan and a successful business. It's proven with banks, SBA, angel investors, and VCs worldwide. It's had more financing successes than any other with 25+ years of refinement.
Burke Franklin of JIAN
23. Gain Traction with Traction
As a business consultant working with CEOs, the ability to focus, drive the company and keep everything on track can be more than challenging, especially if you're a small one person operation. That is where the book Traction comes in. All my clients are on the Traction system and it causes them and their team to focus, focus, focus- thus grow and increase profit. It's the best $10 investment one can make.
24. Get Funding for Your Business
Need funding for your business? The key is knowing your options. Depending on what phase of business you are in (startup or existing business), it's important to understand what you qualify for and how to get the money you need. ObtainSmallBusinessLoans.com is a great resource for learning more about the funding options available to you and where to go to get the funding.
25. Use a Promotion Expert
Every small business requires promotion to succeed, but few entrepreneurs know how to get the best return on their promotion investment. Sometimes, it's really important to learn from the experts. One of the top promoters in the world is Rick Frishman, Publisher at Morgan James Publishing. Our family has had a multi-decade positive relationship with Rick. Not only is he very knowledgeable, but he really cares about helping you to reach your goals. Using an expert can fast track your progress.
26. The Power is Within!!!
I firmly believe that The Spiritual Millionaire by Keith Cameron Smith is the best business resource guide for small businesses in the Country.
It has been said that success in anything is 80% Psychology and 20% Mechanics.
In the book, Keith shifts your attention inwardly and walks you through the process of developing a winning psychology and sense of self-worth, so that ultimately you will not only garner success, but also be able to sustain it for the long haul.
Do you know another great business resource that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!