In the first article of this series on cutting IT costs for small businesses, we provided a definition of Information Technology (IT) in terms that are simple and relevant for you, the small business owner – using technology to enhance the way you use, store and share information.
The purpose of this article is to provide information about the free resources that are available online for small business owners to help you learn about utilizing, selecting and implementing technology within your business. These resources and trainings will also help you to determine which things you can do on your own when it comes to Information Technology and which things you may want to pay someone else to do.
As a business consultant, it always surprises me to find out how many of my clients are not taking advantage of the free resources that are available to help them make their businesses more competitive and efficient. These resources are actually an example of “information technology” – and because of the internet – information is available to any one, any time, any where. You just have to know that they exist, and where to find them.
While it will take some time on your part, the more information you have, the better you will be at making decisions before purchasing new technologies and the more effective you will be at utilizing the technologies you have to their full potential once you get them. Ultimately, this will not only increase your productivity, but in the end, it will help you save money on your IT costs.
Technology Guide for Small Businesses
If you haven’t read it, a great place to start is with “Business Technology Simplified.”
Co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Microsoft, this guide includes fundamentals on the importance of technology and how it can be used to achieve the goals of your business. This guide is available online in a course format on the SBA website or as pdf from Microsoft.
Many people may think of the SBA for being an agency to turn to in hopes of getting financing for their business but what you may not know is that they do MUCH more. The SBA provides free individual face-to-face, and internet counseling for small businesses, and low-cost training to nascent entrepreneurs and established small businesses in over 1,800 locations throughout the United States and US territories.
Free on-line resources can be accessed under the “Counseling and Training” tab where you will find articles and courses related to things such as: Starting a Business, Managing a Business, Financing a Business, just to name a few.
One course – Technology 101: A Small Business Guide - is a self-paced introduction to technology (including information about websites and e-commerce) and only takes about 30 minutes to complete. The course includes audio, slides, practical examples and a great list of resources. You even get a certificate of completion. It’s a great way to get started.
SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Because SCORE is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to a network of 13,000+ volunteers, they are able to deliver our services at no charge or at very low cost.
Inexpensive or free business workshops, webinars, tools, templates and resources are available in a wide variety of subjects including: Accounting & Budgeting, Business Planning, Cash Flow Management, Customer Relations, Financing, Legal, Human Resources, Management, Sales, Marketing & PR, Social Media & Networking, Buying & Selling A Business, Disaster Preparation & Relief, Technology & Computers, Internet & eCommerce, Home-Based Business, Tax Planning and Implementing a Green Business.
Another great feature of SCORE is that it has an entire section dedicated to tools and templates for small businesses.
While the mission of the Small Business Development Center at Kutztown University is to grow the economy of South Eastern and South Central Pennsylvania, and if you are not from there, your first thought when you reach this site is that it may not be for you, but don’t go anywhere. This site has a free e-learning center that is open 24/7 to anyone!
The SBDC of Kutztown offers over 90 online courses and is reported to house one of the largest collections of free, on-demand entrepreneurial training resources available in the United States. Courses are open to international users as well and are available in English and Spanish.
You will find courses in categories such as: Starting and Growing a Business, Business Planning, Accounting, Business Operations and Management, Finance, Government, International Business, Legal, Management Development, Marketing, Sales, and Small Business Tax.
My Own Business, Inc. is a nonprofit organization committed to helping people start and succeed in business. The free courses are presented by successful business owners who point out the common, avoidable mistakes.
This website provides a wealth of information for small business owners on topics related to starting and maintaining a business.
If you are looking for a course that is specifically about how Information Technology relates to communication, jump to Section 8 of the “Starting My Own Business” Course.
Are you considering a Microsoft product for your business? Do you have one already but want to learn how to use it more effectively? If so, Microsoft’s online training site has extensive tutorials – ranging from basic “getting started” to more advanced training. The site also has downloadable training presentations, interactive guides, workbooks and program demos that can help you get more out of the business applications that Microsoft offers.
One of the benefits that these tutorials offer is the opportunity to get a feel for a product BEFORE you buy it. Also – many of the products are available in a free trial version. (I recommend going through one free trial at a time so you can maximize the 30 day window – don’t try too much at once!)
By taking advantage of the training prior to making a purchase, you will be able to get a feel of whether the product is a fit for you. To save you time searching the Microsoft site Click Here to go directly to the training section.
At the time of this writing, the HP Learning Center is currently undergoing maintenance, but if you are looking for information about how to get the most of the information technology that you use for your business, then you will want to bookmark this site. According to the Hewlett-Packard website, they will “continue to provide the compelling classes and quick lessons you’ve come to rely on, and the new design will make your learning experience that much better.”
If so, then we look forward to a comprehensive collection of self-based learning courses that are completely free of charge such as:
- Digital Photography: Taking and organizing photos, using Adobe Photoshop to optimize photos, scanning and troubleshooting.
- Home Office: Creating marketing materials, networking tips, using technology and other home office topics.
- Microsoft Office and Adobe: Getting the most out of Microsoft Office and Adobe applications.
- PC Security and Maintenance: Using the Windows operating system, protecting your PC and backing up data.
- Business Basics: Using technology to start and grow your business.
- IT Professionals: Programming, data protection and networking.
I hope that you take the time to check out these resources. None of us can do it alone!
And please, if you find something that is really useful at one of these sites, leave a reply so other’s can benefit from it too.