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Getting expert business advice doesn’t have to be expensive. [Hed]: Finding The Answer [Dek]: Obtaining expert advice for your small business doesn’t have to be expensive.

If you own and operate a small business, you know that your staff often will come to you with questions. They look to you for expert advice and answers.

But, to whom can you turn when you have questions or need advice? There certainly is no shortage of topic-specific experts who can assist with a variety of business and technology concerns, for a fee.

If you are watching the bottom line, however, check out SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). This non-profit association has more than 11,500 volunteer business counselors and local chapters in many locations.

SCORE volunteers are typically retired business owners, executives, or operations managers. They receive training from the SCORE organization on best practices for providing counseling and mentoring.

The SCORE experts can help you with a wide variety of issues, including cash flow management, writing and maintaining a business plan, and even tips on how to sell your business.

All interactions with SCORE experts are held in confidence via SCORE’s code of ethics, so you needn’t worry about someone getting their hands on your sensitive information. SCORE volunteers commit to the code annually.

The non-profit group has also done a nice job of leveraging the Web. You’ll find business-related resources on their site as well as e-mail access to their experts. In addition, you can locate the closest SCORE chapter if you prefer face-to-face help.

Local chapters usually provide basic business workshops at low cost, too. You can attend sessions on financing issues, marketing, accounting, and more.

SCORE provides a useful way for existing small-business leaders and for entrepreneurs just getting started to obtain advice from experts who have real-world experience, without incurring a huge cost.

Contributing Editor Maggie Biggs has more than 15 years of business and IT experience in the financial sector.

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