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Five Cool Resources for Small Businesses in Hot Water

(FeatureSource) It doesn’t take much to scald a small business: disputes that just can’t seem to be resolved, website security breaches, on-the-job accidents that send insurance rates soaring. A number of issues can singe your business. When the heat is on, business owners need to know where to find help. And fast.

Today more than 26 million Americans operate small businesses, and millions more will start over the next five years. Nearly all of those entrepreneurs will find themselves in a sticky situation at one time or another. Knowing exactly where to find solutions for problems can make the difference between success and failure.

“All businesses face challenges,” says Daniel Kehrer, nationally syndicated business columnist and editor of “The 100 Best Resources for Small Business” (BizBest Media, $19.95 at www.bizbest100.com). “Those that conquer their challenges have access to the best connections to solutions, which ultimately boosts profits and gets things done.”

With over 20 years of experience as a business journalist, publisher and author, Daniel Kehrer is one of America’s leading experts on small business and entrepreneurship. He writes a nationally syndicated column on small business and has been a frequent guest on business-related radio and television programs. His company, BizBest Media, publishes resources and solution information that set the standard in the industry.

As a business owner and journalist, Kehrer has spent decades sniffing out resources that can provide solutions for the unique challenges faced by small businesses. Here are five:

    1. The American Arbitration Association (AAA) is a not-for-profit organization that offers alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services, helping resolve over 200,000 cases yearly. AAA provides a forum for hearing disputes via 34 offices nationwide and use broadly accepted rules and a roster of 8,000 impartial experts to help resolve cases.

    Most disputes use mediation and arbitration, but even less formal methods like fact-finding, mini-trial and partnering are being used more by small firms. AAA has excellent ADR publications, plus downloadable forms that can help you head off disputes in the future.

    2. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) helps resolve business disputes by using common sense alternatives to expensive legal actions. Programs are run through local BBBs under the direction of the group’s national umbrella organization, the Virginia-based Council of Better Business Bureaus.

    BBBs offer several levels of help, from informal advice to structured mediation and arbitration. The BBB’s Dispute Resolution website explains how it works. A program called BBB Care helps small businesses and their customers quickly address disputes at low cost and without attorneys. More than 100 BBB offices nationwide offer the program. Bureau staff will work with you and the people involved to help resolve the dispute.

    3. McAfee Security delivers world-class software and service solutions that help small businesses secure and protect their computers and make their technology work better. McAfee’s well-regarded anti-virus, security, encryption and desktop optimization products include VirusScan, SpamKiller, Personal FireWall, EasyRecovery and QuickClean. Prices for most products range from $35 to $99. In addition to “over-the-counter” retail security products, McAfee also offers security services by subscription via the Web.

    4. Norton AntiVirus from Symantec ranks among the world’s most trusted anti-virus software. It repairs common virus infections automatically, without interrupting your work. It also scans and cleans both incoming and outgoing e-mail and defends against script-based viruses, even between virus definition updates.

    Also, Norton Personal Firewall is an easy-to-use program that keeps hackers out and your data in. It helps protect confidential data in e-mail, Microsoft Office attachments, websites and instant messages. Symantec offers both AntiVirus and Personal Firewall as a bundle for $79. They also have a line of related products to provide Internet security and help solve common computer problems.

    5. The National Safety Council (NSC) is an excellent source for workplace safety advice and information. This nonprofit operates under a federal charter and is one of the nation’s leading safety resources.

    NSC offers posters and banners, safety publications, software, training programs, videos and more. Their website has helpful information for small businesses in areas such as repetitive motion injuries, emergency care, ergonomics and compliance with standards set by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). NSC also offers an emergency preparedness package and info on proper use and handling of chemicals.

    If you have employees who drive as part of your business, the NSC’s safe driving manual can be especially helpful. Consulting services are also available. Annual membership of $215–$300 includes discounts and additional services.

You must find the right resources and connections to keep things running smoothly for your small business. “There’s a gold mine of help in every area,” says Kehrer, “You just have to know where to find it.” Don’t let your business get singed.

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