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Providing accurate information and a delightful experience: #SFSBW2015 Interview with San Francisco Business Portal

#SFSBW2015 asked small business owners and the organizations that support them throughout the year to share insights, best practices, stories and resources to help small business owners flourish. Today we hear from Jane Gong, Program Director of the San Francisco Business Portal.

Tell us about your organization in one sentence. business-portal-17nov14

The San Francisco Small Business Portal helps business owners easily navigate the steps to start, manage, and grow a business, quickly learn what it takes to be compliant, and obtain resources along the way.

What is your organization doing to help small business owners navigate today’s increasingly competitive marketplace? 

Basically, we’re making the process of obtaining permits and following regulations easier, so you can get back to business.

For years, prospective business owners have navigated San Francisco’s complex permitting process by searching through various websites and making in-person visits to multiple City departments. We built the Business Portal to improve this process—to make our local government more responsive and efficient and help local business owners understand and comply with regulations in a simple and transparent way.

Click here to see an overview of how the Small Business Portal was developed.

What is your organization doing to attract and support new and younger small business owners who are starting out today? What are you doing to bridge the gap between old and new businesses? 

The San Francisco Business Portal helps new businesses get off the ground and older businesses grow and thrive. The Portal has collected and consolidated information on 18 departments and over 400 local, state, and federal permits so you can find everything you need in one place. The site is also available in 8 languages and can be accessed on your phone, desktop, or tablet.

We launched in November 2014, but our work isn’t done. Our team continually engages with business owners and city staff to ensure that the Portal provides accurate information and a delightful experience.


Mayor Lee Quote.jpgPlease describe one of your organization’s innovations. How has this enhanced way you reach and serve your clients or members? 

From our research, we discovered that a lack of clear, consistent, accessible information was the biggest barrier to success for business owners. Without an overview or understanding of the process, aspiring business owners felt lost and frustrated.

In creating the Portal, we did the research to construct a clear roadmap with better instructions. All content in the portal is crafted to be simple and accessible. We deliberately avoided legalese and traditional government lingo to make it easier for everyone to understand.

What is one lesson you would like to share with small business owners—especially those who are struggling to change the way they do business in the current climate? 

Keep reinventing yourself and embrace change.

What is the most important belief or principle that guides your work and the trajectory of your organization?

Do the Right Thing. We always try to set clear expectations for our users, create visibility into our process, and hold ourselves accountable. Improving the way San Franciscans interact with the government is a big goal, but we believe the Portal is a step in the right direction.

Visit the San Francisco Business Portal today!