Despite past successes, Lee has been frustrated by the economic downturn, as he watches his business decline and takes out personal loans to cover basic operational expenses. Lee decided it would be wise to seek counsel and training from those with seasoned business experience.
Lee is young and is learning many business lessons, some of which, he admits, “come through the school of hard knocks.”
Lee had heard of the Small Business Accelerator program through Everett Community College's Corporate and Continuing Education Center from a friend and decided to apply for the 10-month program. He hopes it will help him re-energize his business as he looks to bring on talent that will reduce his personal role in running the business.
Designed for experienced business owners who are seeking to accelerate the growth and profits of their businesses, the Accelerator combines classroom instruction, one-on-one coaching, and networking with other entrepreneurs.
“The program has been a real godsend,” Lee said. “I needed to surround myself with other small-business owners who are feeling the same pressures and frustrations that I have been feeling. I needed to experience a sense that I'm not in this alone — or that there is something wrong with me.”
Travis Snider, leader of the Accelerator program, said nearly all of the participants have shared the same sentiment concerning the economy. Most, however, have been surprised to discover that they need not fall victim to the economy. Rather, by working smarter and becoming proactive with all of the elements within their control, they can beat bad times by becoming better.
Almost every participant listed internal people problems as an area of great concern, yet few had made the tough decisions to shake up and reshape their work force, Snider said.
At Express Employment Professionals, Lee was facing some of the same issues.
“I've poured my heart, soul and finances into the business and then discovered that I was trying to do it all on my own,” he said. “I needed a reality check to help bring me in line with my goals.”
Most small-business owners work too hard, Snider said.
“Ultimately they're setting themselves up to experience burnout,” he said. “The key to success is counter-intuitive: Work less to experience growth.”
Lee agrees. Hiring and retaining the right people is of paramount importance and is something that a staffing agency should be very familiar with. Yes, even a staffing company needs quality staff.
Lee also was struggling with decisions that had more to do with emotion than intellect.
“I've truly enjoyed the one-to-one coaching with Travis that helped me learn the importance of taking confusion and turning it to confidence,” he said. “I've benefited greatly from applying a real focus to the issues that need attention. I needed to take ownership and action, rather than wait out a bad economy.”
Since his business is a franchise operation, Lee said he has benefited from the support that is supplied by the franchiser. Much of the training and teaching connected with the Small Business Accelerator program reinforced those ideas.
“It's great to know that we're all speaking the same language, and that in my business, I do still have plenty of opportunity — even in a bad economy,” Lee said.
Lee senses an economic turnaround coming. Staffing and temp agencies are often used as an economic barometer for hiring shifts. When business was starting its decline in 2007, Express was already losing several major clients. Business was hard to come by, Lee said. But now there are new clients and signs of growth.
“Businesses will often use an agency for staffing needs to test the capacity of their operation,” Lee said. “If the new placements are providing a positive return, the companies will often consider hiring as they expand operations.”
Lee is not alone in wanting to see his small business grow. What Lee needed was a forum to help him explore key business strategies that would help him see beyond the day-to-day operations and create a vision of what the business may look like in three to five years.
In order to get to that new horizon, a few things will need to happen. The most important ingredient to expand the business, Lee learned, is to surround himself with the talent that takes the burden off his back and spreads the load.
Pat Sisneros is the vice president of College Services at Everett Community College. Juergen Kneifel is an associate faculty member in the EvCC Entrepreneurship program. Please send your comments to entrepreneurship@ everettcc.edu.
Learn more information about the Small Business Accelerator program at www.everettcc.edu/ accelerator or e-mail Travis Snider at accelerator@ everettcc.edu.