Wall Street Journal tells the story of voluntary adviser groups that offer advice to small businesses. This is a great opportunity for business owners.

Some small-business owners say their firms are surviving tough economic times thanks in part to advisory boards they regularly turn to for fresh perspectives and support. Yet a number of organizations that pair up small businesses with these volunteer-adviser groups say they haven’t seen more firms take advantage of their programs since the recession began.

Another suggestion that I have for small business owners is to look at the business school programs in your town. In Austin, for example, University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business provides opportunities for small businesses to get free advice from MBAs. (Some of the companies in this list are single-person owned businesses) MBA students work on micro-consulting projects with the business owners on a variety of business problems – ranging from valuation, to financing, to marketing.

MBA+ connects students to companies with which they want to work through short-term micro-consulting projects in the fall, spring or summer. The project client provides a current business question to be addressed, and MBA+ provides a team of four to six students to tackle the issue. MBA+ guides the team through the project management process. At the end of a four to ten-week project period, the team reports their findings and recommendations to their client.

I have worked with  a few businesses as part of this program and have had great feedback from the business owners regarding this program. I am sure other business schools provide these opportunities too. So check with the business school in your town.