It isn't often that this page has something good to say about the Federal Government, but the Small Business Administration (SBA) has always held a place of esteem in as much it is one of the few federal agencies that works wholly for the people it purports to help, the small business owner. We would like to introduce you now to a website that will offer more help to small business than ever was available before, Business.gov.
Touted as the “official business link to the US Government,” The site, which was originally launched in 2006, is managed by the US Small Business Administration in a partnership with 21 other federal agencies. This partnership, known as Business Gateway, is a Presidential E-government initiative that provides a single access point to government services and information to help the nation's businesses with their operations.
Helping with the Regulatory Burden
One major area that the Business.gov website seeks to address is the problem that small businesses have with regulatory compliance. A federal study, the Final Report pf the Small Business Paperwork Relief Task force, concluded that:
Reporting and record keeping requirements place a heavy and expensive burden on businesses, particularly small businesses. Compliance with these requirements is made more difficult by the number and complexity of regulations which impose direct burdens of compliance. Businesses are often subject to regulations enforced by multiple Federal agencies. The need to report information to several different government entities also increases compliance costs, particularly when reporting or record keeping requirements are not coordinated across agencies.
The report, which covered fiscal year 2003, demonstrated that businesses and citizens spent approximately 8.2 billion hours and $320 billion filling out paperwork and complying with government regulations. Users spent much of these 8.2 billion hours navigating complex government hierarchies and working their way through millions of documents that are actually meant to help businesses comply with laws and regulations.
Business.gov addresses this issue and seeks to save businesses the time and money spent on regulatory compliance by providing fast, easy to understand access to business laws, government regulations, forms and access to relevant agency contacts. This is accomplished through the following seven areas of the website:
Federal Small Business Guides
Business.gov Small Business Guides help business owners to understand the regulations they have to comply with and improve their operations. These guides, which are organized by Business Area and Industries, offer a one-stop resource for regulatory assistance, and include links to clearly written fact sheets, guidelines, answers to frequently asked questions, interactive tools, training resources, and contacts at Federal regulatory agencies.
State and Local Guides
Through its State and Local Guides, which include information on complying with state and local regulations, and programs for starting and manging a business, Business.gov provides access to over 9,000 official U.S. city government resources as well as extensive business information from all 50 states and territories.
Business.gov Search Engine
One very good feature of the Business.gov website is the unique business search engine, powered by Google's Custom Search Service. This search engine quickly and easily finds information from federal, state and local government web sites. This allows you to go right to the information you want without having to visit multiple government websites.
Finding Licenses and Permits
It is often frustrating to search of just the right license or permit, but Business.gov has an answer for that as well. Their “Permit Me” tool allows visitors to find listings of all of the federal, state and local business licenses and permits that you will need to properly operate your business.
Government Agency Contacts
The Internet is very convenient, but sometimes it can only serve as a starting point. When you reach the point that you need (or just want) to talk to a real person, Business.gov will provide you with a valid list of contacts, including name, phone number, and e-mail, at all of the major federal regulatory agencies.
Government Forms and FAQs
Business.gov provides a gateway to finding commonly request federal forms and answering frequent questions asked of federal agencies by small business owners.
Business Gateway Content Partnerships
Business Gateway Content Partnership Program on Business.gov works with industry, trade associations and other government agencies to provide authoritative information that helps small business comply with government regulations. Business.gov cuts through the clutter by providing a guide to official and authoritative resources of accurate information.
The Bottom Line
In an environment where small business pays an average of 45% more per employee than big business does to comply with the same regulations, the SBA's Business.gov website is something that every small business owner should be familiar with. The site is easy to navigate and the information is solid. For once we can really say, “Your tax dollars at work,” without the irony. It's so refreshing.