From the SBA website: "The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation." Good stuff. If you are thinking of starting a franchise, or for that matter, any type of small business, there are a multitude of free tools that the SBA has for you to use. Here are some of them (from the SBA website): 1. Small Business Planner This section of the website starts off by providing a list of questions to get you thinking about entrepreneurship, and what starting a business of your own would entail. There is also a long list of characteristics that successful entrepreneurs seem to have in common. There is an assessment tool that helps you decide if you really are ready to start a business of your own. 2. Starting Your Business This area of the SBA website starts off by suggesting that you find a mentor, that can help you with all of the necessary steps to small business ownership. One such mentoring group is the Service Corps Of Retired Executives (SCORE). This is a non-profit resource "partner" with the SBA, but is not a U.S. Government agency. There are almost 400 SCORE offices around the country that provide free counseling to future small business owners. Former executives and business owners provide one on one counseling to prospective small business owners on a completely volunteer basis. Next, a comprehensive section on financing, including how to get start-up capital, business cost estimation, break-even analysis, and much more. (Much!) Other headings in this section include How to buy a business, how to buy a franchise, naming your business, deciding on a business structure, protecting your ideas, information on what business licenses to obtain, choosing a location, and even an area that discusses leasing your business equipment. 3. Managing Your Business This section begins with the management side, and includes everything from essential leadership elements needed to have a successful business operation, to setting up a proper business meeting,\u00a0 delegating duties, how to network in the community, setting up business round tables, and business ethics practices. If you would like to learn about how business and technology go hand in hand, there is even a section on just that topic. 4. Exit Strategies How many people think about how they will exit the business they are thinking about starting? An exit strategy is an important part of setting up a start-up business, because it will impact the way you will grow and run it. This part of the SBA website is focused on teaching you ways to get the most value out of your company when and if you decide to sell it. Recommendation's include getting the right legal help when you make the decision to sell. Some folks wait until they have a potential buyer. Also discussed are business valuations, working with CPA's,\u00a0 releases and announcement of a pending sale, and several other important steps to be taken. 5. Tool Section This part of the SBA website has many tools that you can use at no charge. There is "Library and Resources" section, which has subheadings such as laws and regulations, statistics, publications, a glossary of business terms, and even some success stories thrown in. Finally, you can view videos, listen to podcasts, engage in monthly chats, and download a plethora of business forms for your start-up. As you can see, the SBA of today, is not the SBA of 1953. The SBA has gone Web 2.0. Like us. * * * * * About the Author: Joel Libava is President and Life Changer of Franchise Selection Specialists. He blogs at The Franchise King Blog.