Requesting Government Assistance
Sorting out the many programs offered by government and other agencies can be a little confusing. But despite their various approaches, they all aim to help small business. Keep this in mind when approaching them for assistance, as well as the following advice.
The initial contact
To find specific information on individual programs that may help your worker co-op, set up an appointment with a counsellor. The next step, the personal interview, is the key to the whole process.
When this step is reached, it is important to appreciate the point of view of the person sitting across the desk. Regardless of the agency, their attitude is businesslike – they are often responsible for delegating tax dollars, and take this responsibility seriously – so don’t be put off by what may appear to be a cool reception.
Counselors’ expectations are minimal. They see many people with many different ideas. They don’t care what you look like or if you’ve taken the time to put a formal proposal together – few people have anything more than an idea in this first meeting. Go to the meeting prepared to discuss your ideas frankly and honestly.
How your project will be evaluated
Before investing a lot of time and energy in putting together a proposal, confirm with program officials that you meet the program’s basic criteria. The fact that you are a worker co-op does not matter to these agencies, as long as jobs are created and maintained. Assuming your worker co-op meets the criteria, your proposal will be evaluated according to three guidelines:
- First, the counsellor must consider your business idea to be viable.
- Secondly, you will be asked how much money you are putting into the project. With few exceptions, the minimum contribution expected is 20 per cent of the total costs. This equity contribution demanded of you may be cash or existing assets, depending on the agency.
- Thirdly, they evaluate your attitude, commitment and energy. In general, counselors are looking for a common-sense, positive, businesslike attitude, and a real commitment to the idea or project. While talking to you to determine the project’s viability, they will also be evaluating the energy and initiative you are putting towards the success of your project.
Remember, the onus is on you to convince the counsellor that you (and your idea) are a worthy investment. Once your idea is accepted, the next step involves paperwork of varying amounts, depending on the agency and program. If a formal business plan or feasibility study is required, they may help you with this.