Local Business Resources
As part of our commitment to your success as a business owner or investor, we want to make sure that in addition to assisting with your commercial real estate needs, we are bringing extra value to the table. That often means helping to connect you with local business resources that you may not know about otherwise.
To that end, we are starting a new series focusing on free or inexpensive resources that can help with starting, growing, or otherwise supporting your business. In this article, we talked with Neal McTighe, Regional Center Director for the Central Carolina office of the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) to find out more about the services that they provide for growing and expanding businesses.
Q: What does the Small Business and Technology Development Center do?
A: We are the boots on the ground of the Small Business Administration. So, whereas the Small Business Administration will provide support for loans and financing, disaster recovery financing, and things like that, they don't do the counseling piece. But that's a key part of it. So, through the Small Business Act, there was an appropriation of money that went to the creation of what are called Small Business Development Centers. We have the T in there because we go through another level of accreditation to assist high-growth technology, intellectual property-based companies.
We're fundamentally business advisors to small and mid-size businesses – from your mom and pops to university spin-outs. We are a taxpayer-funded, statewide organization and are affiliated with the UNC system, so our offices across the state are housed at the various campuses of the UNC system.
Our office serves the whole region of Durham, Orange, Chatham, Lee, Person, and Alamance counties. Our main office is in Chapel Hill and then we have an office at NC Central University.
Q: Is there a fee for your services?
A: Not for our standard services. We do have services that fall outside the scope of our standard services, that could be for a fee. Examples of those include strategic planning facilitation or basically doing work as opposed to advising about the work that needs to be done.
Q: Do you all work with start-ups or only businesses that already exist?
A: A significant chunk of our time is really focused on established businesses. We primarily work with businesses that might have 10 or more employees, $10 or $20 million in revenue, and that might be looking to expand or buy new property. For business owners who are just starting out, we do offer a number of resources on how to start a business including our Business Start-Up Guide and our free Taking the Leap 4-week cohort. In addition, we often refer start-ups to the Small Business Center Network, which is funded by state tax dollars and operates through community colleges.
Q: What types of services do you all offer for established businesses?
A: For those types of companies, we kind of think like an economic developer. That means asking questions like, “What impact is this business going to have? Are they going to be hiring people? Do they have new products they're bringing to market? Are they looking to expand? And how can we help them get there?”
We often work with businesses that are looking to grow internationally; sell products internationally; or contract with local, state, or federal government agencies. These are all places where a more mature business could look to grow and expand, and we can assist with that.
On the flip side, if a business comes into a difficult situation, such as the death of an executive or an owner or some sort of disaster like the pandemic, we can help them navigate that as well.
Also, for companies with very valuable intellectual property or research-based products, something that's protectable, that's very valuable, we have folks who are good at navigating grant funding for research and helping connect the dots to raise venture funding.
So, we have a number of ways that we can help businesses grow and thrive. It's all about who is employing the people in our community and how we can we help them.
Q: How much time do you usually spend with clients?
A: Because we have a small team and are in high demand, we try to pack as much as we can into one session. I would say that, on average, we usually spend about five to seven hours a year with each client. There are special situations where a project might need more attention from us, but we’re probably calling in students to help in those cases.
Q: What does working with you all look like?
A: We focus on what the business owner is trying to do, how they can do that, what resources are available to them, and the steps that they need to be taking.
For example, if someone is looking to purchase a new building, there are those first steps of getting finances and lender relationships in a row. We’ll work with them to develop a checklist of what needs to be done; potentially make introductions and referrals to our partners, lenders, or specialists; and then maybe schedule a meeting in three weeks where they bring back the results. From there, we’ll move on to the next steps.
In other words, we’ll provide direction to the degree that the client is willing, but ultimately, they have to do the work.
Q: So, you really are like an advisor or coach providing an individualized approach for each client?
A: That’s right. We can be a sounding board, play devil’s advocate, challenge their ideas, ask them questions, and basically give them a one-on-one space where they can talk about some business challenge and not worry about anything else but that. We’ve even helped people wind down a business when there are investors or debt involved. The issues that we help to address really cover a wide spectrum.
How to ask us about a business resource
If there’s a resource that you want to know more about, let us know. We’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.