Building a successful small business from the ground up is a huge challenge in the best of times. You need a solid business plan, limitless reserves of energy and enthusiasm, and a little good luck to see you safely through the early years. Perhaps most importantly, you also need a strong grounding in the principles of small business finance.

Proper financial planning prepares you to withstand business downturns, take advantage of business opportunities and maximize your chances of business success. A poor understanding of business finance may not sink your startup immediately, but it will eventually steer you into rough waters. To prepare yourself adequately, consider taking advantage of the many free financial literacy tools and resources available.

1. Small Business Development Center Program

Local Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are one of the best resources for small business owners. Administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the SBDC program delivers training, counseling and technical assistance to small business owners across the country through a network of more than 900 service locations. Most SBDC locations are housed at universities and community colleges. You can access online financial literacy tools and other educational resources immediately by visiting the website of your local SBDC branch. There is typically a wide variety of resources and tools available, many of which are produced specifically for local small business audiences. You can also sign up for workshops, business counseling and training programs on business finance and other topics held on-site at SBDC locations.

2. FDIC Money Smart for Small Business

Money Smart for Small Business is a comprehensive financial literacy training program created for current and future small business owners by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the SBA. The program includes 13 training modules covering virtually every aspect of small business finance. Learn about initial business planning, cash flow management, credit reporting, insurance, business banking, tax planning and much more. The Money Smart for Small Business program is available as a free download on the FDIC website. The download includes a digital presentation for each module, a course workbook and an instructor guide. The program is also delivered as a classroom course at Small Business Development Centers and other organizations in the Money Smart Alliance Program.

3. SCORE Association

The SCORE Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to training and mentoring current and future entrepreneurs. The SCORE website delivers an excellent selection of online tools and training materials covering all aspects of starting and operating a small business. Financial literacy tools are included in the Finance and Money section of the site, where you can access articles, training documents, interactive financial planning tools and much more. You can also request local or online mentoring from a SCORE volunteer or sign up for a local or online workshop with the click of a button.

4. 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy for Small Business Owners

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the industry's primary professional organization, operates the 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website, which offers educational materials and financial tools for 10 different types of individuals. The section of the website designed for small business owners covers a wide variety of useful topics including business formation, budgeting, debt and business valuation. There is also a variety of online financial tools and calculators covering topics such as cash flow, working capital, breakeven analysis, inventory and profit margin.

5. SME Toolkit

IBM and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank, have partnered to produce a free resource for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) around the world called the SME Toolkit. For the U.S. market, the SME Toolkit website targets minority, women and veteran entrepreneurs, although much of the content on the site is relevant to any small business owner. Visit the Accounting and Finance section of the website to access training materials and dozens of online tools and calculators covering virtually all aspects of small business finance, including financial management and reporting, budgeting, forecasting and much else.

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