An assessment of educational needs of small business owners in Montana
Small businesses are a vital part of Montana's economy and their contribution to local economies is widely accepted. There has been a great deal of effort to identify and develop resources to assist small business owners in successfully starting their business. However, there is a gap in the research addressing the educational needs of established small business owners. Qualitative research, specifically grounded theory, was used to assess the educational needs of small business owners in Montana. Network sampling was used to identify the sample. Data was gathered using semi-structured interviews. Data was analyzed forming open codes, axial codes and selective codes derived from the data. Data revealed that small business owners in Montana have educational needs in business and financial management, marketing and sales, needs specific to their product or industry, and computer software. Related to marketing participants identified that they would like additional information on expanding markets, utilizing social media and internet marketing, and how to sell a business. Participants also identified that they would like additional resources on tax information, regulations pertaining to small business, and contracting with the Department of Defense. Participants are utilizing the Montana Department Commerce, Made in Montana program, Montana Manufacturing Extension Center, and the local development corporations. Participants revealed a positive attitude towards education. Time and distance to travel were identified as two main barriers to participation. Small business owners seek educational resources to gain the identified critical skills and competencies. The ability for small business owners to meet their educational needs is influenced by their attitude toward education, connections to other business owners and to agencies, and the availability of the education. Resource availability is defined by limited time and travel distance, the small business owners' knowledge the resource exists, and the actual presence of the resource.