BLUECHIP: Surviving and thriving - The Register-Guard

BLUECHIP: Surviving and thriving - The Register-Guard

BLUECHIP: Surviving and thriving - The Register-Guard

Posted: 01 Oct 2019 10:34 AM PDT

Local chapter of SCORE finds answers to serve small businesses

"Our focus tends to be small business. All stages, all ages," says Terry Smart, vice president of mentoring for the Willamette chapter of SCORE, an all-volunteer nonprofit dedicated to serving those who want to own or already own small businesses. "We don't want them to just survive, we want them to thrive."

Imagine a young entrepreneur who seems to have so many business ideas, but plenty of uncertainty as to which one could become successful. Or a jewelry company in town that needs help creating what they want out of the business. Or a manufacturing firm that's ready to expand but has challenges with cashflow.

No matter the questions or concerns, SCORE is ready with expert advice.

What if you're someone with a hobby and who thinks said hobby will make a great business? Well, hold your horses.

"There's a big difference between a hobby and a business," Smart allows. "It's a different mindset and a different skill set if you want to transition from a hobby to a business. Because the truth of the matter is that if you really love fixing cars and you open a business to fix cars, you won't be fixing cars. You'll be running around, supervising, looking for space, all those billions of things that will occupy your time running a business."

Good point. On the other hand, maybe said hobbyist is ready to go big rather than go home.

"We'll find answers," Smart says. "We also have a lot of people in the community who we can talk to and help find answers."

Mentoring matters

The way SCORE works is twofold: mentoring and education. Powered by the Small Business Administration, which provides about 90 percent of funding for the nonprofit, Willamette SCORE has 30 mentors available locally, within a network of more than 10,000 mentors from more than 1,500 communities nationwide.

"We also have subject matter experts," Smart explains. "There is a trove of online material available, too, including blog posts, articles and pre-recorded webinars."

Mentors meet with SCORE clients in person for confidential conversation. Telephone and video mentoring are also available, and onsite mentoring accommodates companies seeking advice from experts at their workplace.

"Most of the time, two mentors meet with the client," explains Vivi Carmack, vice president of education for Willamette SCORE.

Online training for mentors prepares each of them to use a process called SLATE, an acronym for Stop and Suspend Judgement, Listen and Learn, Assess and Analyze, Test Ideas and Teach with Tools, and Expectations Setting and Encouraging the Dream.

"The most important part of that process," Smart says, "is to listen to people and not get too wrapped up in our own theories and tell them that this will never work, but to hear what their plan is and help them try to evaluate that plan and bring it to fruition."

Mentors' areas of expertise include business strategy and planning, legal services, operations, sales, marketing and public relations, nonprofit management, mediation, and so much more.

Still, there are specific areas of expertise for which SCORE really needs volunteers, so any business expert out there with specific knowledge about social media, taxation and accounting, and online business, including online sales, should consider getting in touch.

"We are always looking for more mentors," Carmack allows.

"One of our real needs is Spanish-speaking mentors," Smart says. "We don't have any."

Teaching and tools

The other arm of SCORE is education. Carmack organizes twice-monthly free workshops, currently held at the downtown Eugene Public Library, on the second and fourth Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. In November and in December, working around holidays, the workshops take place on the first Thursday of the month only.

Four workshops remain on the 2019 calendar: Maximize Your Business Productivity, Oct. 10; Cyber Security Your Digital Ecosystem, Oct. 24; The Business Plan You Will Really Use, Nov. 7; and Using Free Data to Improve Your Business, Dec. 5.

In the past, popular workshop topics have included Lego Serious Play, focusing on the interactive business planning tool developed by Lego.

"Another one of our really well-attended and popular workshops has been in the nonprofit sector. Eugene is sort of the nonprofit capital in the country," Smart adds.

"We try to use the expertise of our mentors, first and foremost," Carmack says about workshop topics. "And as I meet people in the community, if I find that they are a good speaker with expertise in something that would help small business owners, then I will approach them to be a workshop presenter."

In addition to the library, SCORE holds workshops at its workspace inside the Eugene Chamber of Commerce offices, the agency's long-time partner; and more recently at Eugene Mindworks, a co-working space in the 5th Street Public Market neighborhood.

"We just started having workshops here in May this year, and we'll try to do at least one a quarter, or as often as once a month," Carmack says.

Also at Mindworks, SCORE holds business drop-in hours on Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. Anyone can stop by to see one of the volunteers.

Workshop attendance in general has been an issue — "There are a lot of no-shows," Smart says — but Carmack posits this might be because the workshops are free rather than for a fee.

Even so, providing free services isn't going to change for SCORE. "Our metric is that it has to be free. Period," Smart says of the SBA's expectations.

Carmack still values in-person workshops, where attendees can ask experts direct questions. She adds, "It's also a very good opportunity for business people to network at these workshops."

Smart hopes that the educational arm of SCORE will eventually begin posting videos of workshops to YouTube to generate more interest from younger entrepreneurs.

"Technology has changed things. You have to have young people involved. The ecosystem of entrepreneurs includes everybody. So we need people who can relate to all kinds of people," Smart says.

Scores for SCORE

By the numbers, the national impact of SCORE in 2018 is impressive: volunteers donated 4,335,760 hours of service; of SCORE's 2018 client base, 61 percent were women, 36 percent were minorities; 67 percent of SCORE clients reported an increase in business revenue; 249,870 attendees were served across 13,286 workshops and 138,394 clients were served across 291,535 mentoring sessions.

But don't ask SCORE mentors for advice about any business that is related to marijuana.

The nonprofit is mostly funded with federal money, and "under federal law, of course, marijuana is still illegal," Smart says. "We have to tell people we can't help you. We can't talk about this stuff."

Where to start

Back to that hobbyist dreaming of opening a business: Even helpful SCORE publications, such as "16 Steps to Starting a Business While Working Full Time," make for interesting reading. Step 1 is to choose a business. And then it's time to write a business plan. If you think a business plan is nothing less than a thick notebook filled with pages of goals, spreadsheets and budgets, it's time for advice.

"What you develop is a roadmap that tells you what you're going to be, where you want to be, and when you want to be there," Smart says. "It's simply a series of checkpoints so you can track your progress."

Better yet, attend the Nov. 7 workshop — The Business Plan You Will Really Use — featuring Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software.

"He's one of the world's foremost authorities on business plans. Right here in Eugene," Smart says.

How To Think Like A Million-Dollar, One-Person Business Owner: One Entrepreneur’s Advice - Forbes

Posted: 30 Sep 2019 03:36 PM PDT

Jason Vander Griendt, 39, broke $1 million in revenue last year at his fast-growing, one-man product design firm, J-Cad Inc., in Toronto. The business, which started as a side gig in 2006, is powered by 40 expert contractors, such as engineers, around the world.

When I wrote about Vander Griendt last year, the post on Forbes went viral, and many young entrepreneurs contacted him for his advice on how to grow their own businesses—so many that he started an online video course about what he did. Recently, we reconnected and he shared some of the approaches that helped him get to $1 million and beyond.

Be consistent. One thing I've noticed in interviewing many owners of million-dollar, one-person businesses, is they are disciplined about working on their business. The business may start as a side hustle, but they still work on it every day. Vander Griendt is very much a case in point. "There wasn't a workday that went by any year that I didn't work on the business," he says. "I just did it. That separates me from the people that say, 'I'll do it tomorrow.'" 

Turn frustration into inspiration. "There are other people doing the same thing, hitting the same problems. They're giving up," says Vander Griendt. "If I'm the only person that says I'm going to push through this and get to the other side, I'm that one person that gets closer to success. When someone feels like this is getting really hard right now, make that a trigger: "This is where a lot of other people are giving up." Let them. You'll have less competition moving forward."

Keep small problems small. "What needs to be done now, I'm not going to put off til tomorrow," says Vander Griendt. "That's how I avoid a lot of unnecessary stress."

He tries to respond right away if a customer asks him a question, so he doesn't have time to procrastinate. "Small problems become big problems if you forget to take care of them when they're small," he says. 

Because he doesn't have any urgent problems in his business, he has plenty of times to indulge in his passion for world travel. He recently went on a tour of Italy, for instance, without having to worry about his business falling apart. "I stay organized, so I don't procrastinate," he says. 

Show your contractors you care. One of the number one questions Vander Griendt has been asked is how he gets his contractors to work so hard when he has no office. For Vander Griendt, building strong work relationships with freelancers isn't optional. He has traveled the world to meet his team.

Investing time in building these relationships has meant that motivating his team isn't an issue. "People want to work," he says. "How many people want to sit around and do nothing? If I'm giving them an opportunity to work whenever and wherever they want and pay them more than in their own country, why would they mess that up? No one has ever quit. That speaks volumes. Be kind, generous and appreciative of the work they are doing for you and they'll be loyal to you forever."

His philosophy is businesses should always be win, win, win—benefiting not just the owner but employees and customers, too. "Everyone should be happy," he says.

Pursue knowledge, not money. Vander Griendt's business took off when he began immersing himself in books, courses and online seminars that helped him grow as an entrepreneur. "Chase the knowledge," he says. "Chase 'How can I get more knowledge about Google ads' 'How can I learn more about remote work?' Then the money comes automatically."

Dive right in. "Some people spend six months delaying the launch for their logo," says Vander Griendt. "They spend way too much time getting the details perfect. When I have ideas, I launch them within the hour. I want to test them as cheaply and quickly as possible."

What does this look like in real life? "I get ideas all the time for businesses," says Vander Griendt. "GoDaddy has a program where if you buy a domain with them you get a free website for a month. In that month, I'll buy the domain, make the website in 30 minutes and spend another 30 minutes driving traffic to that website. I'll run ads to that website."

Vander Griendt will typically let the ads run for a week or two. "If I get a good response, I'll continue it," he says. "If not, I'll shut it down. All I paid was $10 for the domain. That's business. People think their one idea is going to be a home run. It's rarely the case."

The result is all of the businesses he sticks with make money right away. "I'm not taking out a loan for $50,000," he says. Why borrow when you can be cash-flow positive from the beginning?

Jason Vander Griendt


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