Published: March 31, 2020

SBDC underused asset for small business

Bill Jhung, region I director of North Idaho College’s Small Business Development Center.

Bill Jhung, region I director of North Idaho College’s Small Business Development Center. Courtesy photo

If Socrates was right, the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing. Put another way, smart people seek help. Especially if they own a small business, or plan to start one.

When expert help is free, it should be a no-brainer. Case in point: The Idaho Small Business Development Center.

The Idaho SBDC, an independent government agency housed in the Hedlund building of the North Idaho College campus, provides free one-on-one guidance, business classes on a broad variety of useful topics (free or low-cost), help with navigating legal requirements and accessing low-interest loans, and many other resources to help small business owners succeed.

But the most valuable resource, SBA officials told Press reporter Craig Northrup, is mentors. The SBDC’s statewide offices are essentially the consulting arm of the federal Small Business Administration.

“There are amazing, amazing people who are willing to help,” SBA Regional Administrator Jeremy Field said in the May 19, 2019, article. “I’m just so impressed with the people here who possess that critical business experience, and they just want to give back to the community.”

Too often I encounter local business owners with good ideas and a great work ethic, but whose business still struggles because they lack a basic element of the success formula. Failing to advertise (Facebook doesn’t count) is a common one. Another is not knowing how to balance supplies against anticipated demand.

Why not connect with experts at the SBA? Most services are free and no-commitment. It’s empowering. They want to help and have ready tools. It sure can’t hurt.

According to the Idaho SBDC, their clients outperform peers, with up to 5 times more sales growth than the average Idaho small business. Who couldn’t use more ideas for marketing strategies; pricing for profit growth; Google analytics; finances, accounting, and cash flow projections — all examples of spring 2020 short-course topics?

According to the SBA’s 2018 data (the most recent available at the time of this writing) more than 99 percent of all Idaho firms qualify as small businesses, so almost all the state’s businesses are eligible for help with:

• Starting a business (or just considering it)

• Expanding

• Improving current operations or sales

• Hiring

• Developing or marketing an idea

• Business activities with any impact on the environment

• Specialized help with exporting, technology, intellectual property (copyright, patent or trademark), environmental regulations, or government contracts.

All business counseling is free and can help turn the tide for a struggling — or simply ambitious — entrepreneur.

For more information call 208-665-5085 or request an appointment online at

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Sholeh Patrick, J.D., is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network and former small business legal adviser. Contact her at