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With the launch of a new federal website focused on entrepreneurship, business owners now have a wealth of online information at their fingertips. The problem, though, is finding it.
When asked “What have we got—a republic or a monarchy?” Benjamin Franklin famously quipped, “A republic, if you can keep it.” If you asked today’s federal government employees what useful information they publish for small business owners, you could reasonably expect the bureaucrats to reply, “A ton of it, if you can find it.”
Historically, navigating federal websites to locate relevant business information was akin to finding a needle in a haystack—a haystack with the complexity of a modern-day bureaucracy and a needle still waiting for approval from five different agencies before its placement in the haystack is authorized. While government websites have improved the information available and the ease of finding it, entrepreneurs still waste considerable time scouring dozens of different agency sites.
To help you find business information that matters without combing Google for countless hours, turn to Business USA.
Getting the Most out of Business USA
The government recently launched Business USA (available at www.business.usa.gov), a multi-agency site billed as “a virtual one-stop shop that makes it easier for America's businesses to access the services and information they need to help them grow, hire and export.”
To its credit, Business USA contains information for a wide-range of small business issues and needs, and the site has managed to harness resources once only available in a variety of far-flung sites. And to help you separate the dross from the gold, almost all resources can be commented and voted on. Of course, you’ll have to take other entrepreneurs’ assessments with a grain of salt, especially considering a large chunk of the comments are spam or have been deleted by the administrator.
Because the site is both easy to navigate and, essentially, a repository of all-things-business that federal government agencies have to offer, spending a little time to peruse the site is generally worth your while. The highlights for most entrepreneurs generally fall into a few common categories.
Starting and Growing Your Business
This portion of Business USA isn’t solely focused on general business help—industry-specific topics ranging from Manufacturing Extension Partnerships to the Rural Energy for America Program are covered.
Yes, exporting isn’t right for every small business, and the work involved can be (very) demanding. But consider the facts:
With so much of the world’s purchasing power residing outside of our borders, there’s no better time than now to consider exporting. And to help guide you through the vagaries of beginning an exporting business, Business USA has corralled some helpful exporting resources.
Once you’ve established your exporting business, or if you’re already shipping goods to international markets, you can learn pointers for improving your exporting operations in the Expanding Exporting section.
State and Local Resources
Unfortunately, being a small business owner means not only navigating multiple federal agencies for information but also complying with state and local laws scattered among even more agencies and departments.
While not comprehensive, Business USA’s State and Local section attempts to consolidate the business info you need for your region. Click your state on the map for an index of relevant links.
As the website itself states, “Too often, interactions with the government are burdensome and frustrating...hard-working businesses are spending too much time navigating the federal bureaucracy.” We couldn’t agree more. While we’d rather see less federal bureaucracy for entrepreneurs like you to navigate, consolidating the bureaucracy does allow small business owners to spend more time on what they do best and less time trying to find the information they need.