The SLBDC provides a broad range of business information and services including an on-site resource library. As well, a free counselling service is also available which provides referral to specialized consulting services. Potential entrepreneurs are educated about small business start up. They learn about business planning, regulations, sources of funding, government loan programs, the Self-Employment Benefit (SEB) program and the hardships of being self-employed. Consulting is also available for both Business Planning Club and Export Development Initiative. Many people, both employed and unemployed, consider self-employment at one time or another, but not everyone is a good candidate. Successful entrepreneurs have a good business idea, are driven to succeed and work extremely hard. One of the purposes of the SLBDC's counselling service is to help people decide if self-employment is right for them. After this initial investigation, some people decide not to start their own business. In turn this prevents non-serious businesses from starting up, therefore protecting area businesses and people from losses that could result in bankruptcy. The SLBDC dedicates substantial time to providing free counselling to support the start-up, expansion and diversification of small and medium-sized businesses in Lambton County with the objective of improving their competitiveness. Free counselling is provided on topics including business planning, problem solving, financial management and income tax issues, cost control, service, quality and inventory control, marketing and sales and other key functions. Last year staff spent about 3,300 hours talking to over 2,200 people with general business inquiries. This translates into 2 staff members working full time, year-round, just to deal with initial business questions. The benefits of this free counselling service are immeasurable. People who cannot afford the services of a professional consultant and/or an accountant are especially grateful to get the basic information that they need from the SLBDC. Clients may also be provided with a referral to a person or organization who can further discuss the issues and problems that they face. These clients often express frustration that they have been referred from one government office to another with no results.
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