Compiled by Cristina Lee, Times staff writer

Free Consultation: The Orange County Chamber of Commerce, the county's largest trade group, has opened a telephone help line to advise distressed small-business owners.

Fifteen experts knowledgeable about banking, computers, marketing and public relations are available for small-business owners to consult for free, said Aaron Lovejoy, who is organizing the chamber project.

Small-business owners can call the chamber, describe their business situation and receive referrals to one of the experts. More than a dozen businesses have called since the program started last week, Lovejoy said.

Most of the problems are a result of a lack of management experience among the business owners, said Rick Lamprecht, president of BusinessVision, an El Toro management consulting firm that has volunteered its services.

"They lack management focus, and they don't know what market they're after," he said.

The hot line number is (714) 634-2900.

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