If you’ve been following our series on how to start a small business in O’Fallon, you know that we’ve discussed ideas for choosing a business concept, including the development of unique business ideas and tips and suggestions for franchise opportunities. We’ve also discussed writing a business plan.
This week, we’re spotlighting free and low-cost business training opportunities for O’Fallon small business owners.
To get some guidance on where to find the best free and low-cost training for small business owners, we talked with entrepreneur Richard Shoaf and franchise consultant, Chris Coleman.
Meet the Experts
Shoaf, a St. Charles County resident, owns several businesses, including Safety Training and Consultations International (STCI), a leading global consulting firm, and Compass Consultant Services, a business dedicated to helping small businesses navigate the way to success.
Coleman owns a St. Louis-based franchise consulting firm and does a lot of business in the O’Fallon area, he said. His company, FranNet, helps business owners choose and pursue franchise ownerships, among other things.
Before you even consider opening a business, Shoaf said, you need to be prepared for long hours with little to no profit, at least in the beginning.
“Don't even think about counting the hours you work,” he said. “The first few years, it may seem you are working for pennies an hour as you build your company. It does pay off in the end.”
The same applies for business training. It might seem unnecessary or too time-consuming at first, but it’s worth the investment of your time in the long run.
Business Training Tips
Shoaf suggests engaging others who are in your industry. He said it’s the “iron sharpens iron” concept, and that you’ll be better for it in the end.
For example, if you’re opening a salon, it’s a good idea to talk with other salon owners to learn how they run their businesses and what you might watch for. That’s where your local chamber of commerce will come in handy, Shoaf said.
“Talk to and join your local chamber of commerce,” he said. “Others have walked in your shoes before you. Engage them and don't make the same mistakes some of us have.”
You could also join a referral networking organization such as Business Network International, he said.
“BNI (Business Network International) Go Givers Chapter is a great local example,” Shoaf said. “This will help you communicate your brand and even help train you to become more effective in communicating your brand.”
He said the city’s economic development department can also be useful when it comes to localized training.
“And our firm, Compass Consultant Services, if you’re looking for customized coaching on growing your business,” Shoaf added.
Online Business and Training Tips
Shoaf’s number one tip for online training is to use the US Small Business Association’s free portal.
“Take the SBA’s online business training,” he said. “Starting, managing, financing, contracting and much more is covered here and worth your time and energy—and it’s online!”
The SBA also offers several free and low-cost local events for business training. Check the online events calendar for details.
Coleman said he recommends a number of resources for his clients as well, both online and in-person.
“Other great resources for potential business owners would be the SCORE organization, local economic development councils, and entrepreneur forums (live and online),” Coleman said.
SCORE stands for Service Corps of Retired Executives. It's a St. Louis-based nonprofit association supported by the SBA and a network of more than 13,000 volunteers dedicated to helping small businesses get started and grow to achieve longer-term goals. SCORE offers mentoring, free, confidential business consulting in person or via email, free online business tools, tips and templates and inexpensive or free business workshops and webinars.
Other Free Training Resources for O’Fallon Small Business Owners
- O’Fallon Economic Development Department— “O’Fallon maintains a close working relationship with the local business community and also with state-wide economic development organizations, developers, site location professionals and others involved in business development,” says the city’s website.
- O’Fallon Chamber of Commerce—If you join the Chamber of Commerce, you’ll receive a variety of benefits, including online member-to-member support and a private social network for members, so you can get advice from a local business owner who has been where you are now.
- The St. Charles City-County Library—The library district offers a number of resources for business owners (and prospective business owners)..
- St. Charles County Economic Development Center—The EDC offers a special program called the “small business incubator” which helps home-based businesses and new start-up companies to benefit from a dynamic and professional environment that has shared offices, staff resources, access to conference rooms, specialized training programs and more. There are also several other business training opportunities available.
- Missouri Business Portal—This website acts as a portal for business registration, filings, licenses and permits in the state of Missouri. It also offers a wide variety of resources.
- University of Missouri Extension—The University of Missouri offers a number of free and low-cost training options for local small business owners. Check out the Business Start-Up page for details and ongoing courses.
- MissouriBusiness.net—Billing itself as “the hub for all resources related to business success in Missouri,” this site offers access to free and low-cost training, both online and in-person.
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)—OSHA provides a number of free resources for small businesses, including safety and health tools and publications, guides for specific OSHA standards and a number of other benefits. Plus, OSHA offers free on-site consultation for small employers for protecting their workers from occupational hazards.
- Dale Carnegie Training—Offers both paid and free training for businesses. Many free options are available online.
Have you always dreamed of starting your own business? Subscribe to our daily newsletter so you won’t miss a single part of this ongoing series! Next week, we’ll discuss the different types of ownership options and how to determine the legal structure of your business.
Do you own your own business in O’Fallon? We want to share your story with the community! Contact Patch reporter Angela Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for an interview.