There are numerous online tools and resources to guide entrepreneurs through the process of launching and growing a business. A few of these are mentioned below. These resources includes guides, templates and calculators that will assist in business planning, feasibility and souring financing.
Using these resources will allow the entrepreneur to better understand his/her business, and to be prepared when approaching lenders and investors. By using these tools, it will also help when engaging professional advisors to undertake specific tasks such as raising capital.
IBM and the International Finance
Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, launched a new
version of a free small business toolkit specifically for small business owners
in emerging markets as well as women, Black, Hispanic, Native American, and
Asian entrepreneurs in the U.S., to receive highly developed business
information, tools, and training services usually reserved for Fortune 1000
While small businesses generated
between 60 to 80 percent of the new jobs annually in the U.S. over the past
decade, they are often hurt by the lack of skills, knowledge and access to the
information that larger businesses routinely use to grow and succeed. The same
applies to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the developing world who also
find that access to best practice and business management tools is a significant
barrier to their growth and sustainability.
The SME Toolkit (www.smetoolkit.org)
is a free program that enables entrepreneurs and small businesses to learn how
to implement the sustainable business management practices needed for growth in
areas such as finance, accounting, international business, marketing, human
resources or legal.
"Small businesses are the growth
engines of the world's economies; yet their success rate is not as good as it
could be simply because of a lack of access to good business management
practices," said IFC Executive Vice President and CEO Lars Thunell. "Giving
small businesses the information and new collaborative technologies they need,
will help them grow and prosper."
In the U.S., the SME Toolkit will
focus largely on women and constituent-owned businesses. Globally, the IFC has
joined with local partners to launch the Toolkit in more than 13 languages in 24
countries, all of which can now take advantage of the new enhanced version.
Among the specially designed free tools are:
Small businesses can also receive business training delivered via classroom workshops and partnerships with local
support providers. The Toolkit can also help small businesses go global by
providing detailed market access, investment and trade information for the 64
countries most exported to.
Local partners in each of the countries hosting the Toolkit, such as Elite in Nepal, Dunn & Bradstreet in
Singapore, and FUNDES in Latin America, are responsible for making sure the more
than 500 pieces of content, tools and resources are customized, localized and
available in the language of their respective markets. These partnerships
provide small businesses with local support, thus nurturing their businesses to
improve their chance of survival and to generate more jobs. In the U.S., an
Advisory Group will serve this same role to review existing content and identify
new tools specifically for Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, and
"This truly is one stop shopping for small businesses and it levels the playing field. We know the tools that large businesses use most and we know the role technology can play in leading to growth. Now, every business can have the same chance to succeed. It's vitally important that we help small businesses who are the major employers and growth engines in developing markets," said Stanley Litow, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs. "These are just the kind of tools that can help underserved markets be successful."
The Toolkit was launched by IFC in
2002. IBM has dedicated more than $1.6 million to transform the Toolkit and
rebuild it on an innovative open source platform using top talent in IBM
research. The Toolkit now includes new Web 2.0 features such as live chat,
online forums, business directories and survey capabilities to create a
community where small and medium sized business can collaborate -- anywhere
around the world. For example, a group of small businesses could gather in an
online forum to devise a strategy to bid on a large supply contract rather than
as separate bids. The community tools also create an opportunity for peer
In the future the Toolkit will add new
partners, markets and languages and is planned to allow users to connect to it
using wireless devices, such as cell phones. In developing markets, mobile
devices are increasingly becoming the way users connect to the Internet, and
sometimes the only way.
The Toolkit is expanding to reach the
massive small business market in India, South Africa and Brazil. The Toolkit is
available in English and Spanish and translated in 14 other languages including,
Nepali, Vietnamese and Urdu, with Hindi and Arabic set for release in 2007.
US Small Business Administration (SBA) is the agency of the US Government
responsible for supporting and promoting small businesses. SBA has a range of
programs to support SMEs, including a loan guarantee program. However, SBA has a
broad outreach program throughout the US with a network of business development
centers, where entrepreneurs can get face-to-face assistance.
There are specifically tailored resources for women, veterans, exporters and
disaster assistance. Mentorship programs are also available.
The SBA’s “Business Guide” provides a suite of useful information: www.sba.gov/business-guide.