Celebrate small business and its future on June 9

If you’ve been reading this column regularly, you know we’re big on small business.

Small business owners are the backbone of the national economy. As a small business owner, you provide jobs, innovation and leadership. You support your community with retail goods, events to attend, restaurants to savor, and services that help the rest of us. You work long hours, supply jobs, pay a boatload of taxes, provide benefits to your employees and put your own financial necks on the line every day.

But we’re not the only ones that think small business is a big deal.

According to the Small Business Administration, 99.7 percent of all U.S. employer firms are small businesses. The SBA reports that about half of all private sector workers are employed by small companies, which pay approximately 43 percent of the total U.S. private payroll. And over the past 17 years, small businesses have generated 65 percent of the new jobs in the U.S.

That’s pretty impressive.

You may be aware that the Small Business Administration’s designated Small Business Week was the week of May 16th. Locally, the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, the Small Business Development Center, and the UCCS College of Business Daniels Ethics Initiative have partnered to hold the 2011 Small Business Day workshop and awards luncheon on June 9 at the Doubletree Hotel.

This event will highlight business ethics and the seminar/keynote speaker will be Sherron Watkins, the Enron “whistleblower.” It should be an interesting and informative program.

In conjunction with Small Business Day, we wanted to get some leadership perspective so we recently interviewed Carol Odell, executive director of the Better Business Bureau and Marcella Hurley, the new director of the Small Business Development Center.

We started by asking what they believe makes companies successful.

“Successful entrepreneurs set benchmarks and then measure against those benchmarks, evaluating the market impact, economic impacts, changes to the business landscape and how to plan for those changes,” Hurley said.

“Businesses that are innovative, with fresh, forward thinking and that assess the market have a better likelihood of continued success,” Odell said. “Businesses have a better chance of succeeding if they work ON the business rather than just IN the business. Of course, having excellent customer service is paramount.”

When asked about common mistakes made by business owners, Odell said one of the biggest problems arises when companies are hampered by too much overhead and debt.

“Many times, businesses are undercapitalized initially, making it hard to gain traction,” she said. “Start-up businesses fail when they are overly optimistic and have a flawed business plan. They go into business not realizing how much time and money it takes to get a business started and keep it going.”

Hurley said small business entrepreneurs are, by nature, self-motivated, which can lead to problems.

“A common mistake is to forge ahead into startup without the benefit of the legal, financial, and marketing mentors who will create the structured process necessary to achieve their goals of growth, expansion, innovation, and increased productivity,” she said.

She also believes many entrepreneurs do not understand the reality that cash drives the success of the company.

“An undercapitalized business struggles every day to stay alive,” she said.

Finally, we asked for information on how the Better Business Bureau and Small Business Development Center help business owners to be more successful.

“The BBB provides credibility,” Odell said. “Trust continues to be a big issue with consumers. Subsequently, they check out BBB Business Reviews before spending money.”

She added that in April over 60,000 business reviews were read locally, giving the BBB Accredited Businesses more exposure. The BBB also provides support programs, such as the Google campaign, workers compensation safety group, Excellence in Customer Service Award program and other educational seminars.

Although new to our local SBDC, Hurley has 6 years of experience as a Regional Director of an SBDC office in South Dakota.

These are valuable organizations in our business community, and Small Business Day will be an opportunity to gain some valuable information and insight. If you’d like to attend, you can still register by going to www.blacktie-colorado.com/rsvp and entering event code SmBusiness2011 (or by calling the BBB or SBDC).

Small Business Day

8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. June 9
Double Tree Hotel, 1775 East Cheyenne Mountain Blvd.
Featured speaker: Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins
For more information, visit cssbdc.org

Laddie and Judy Blaskowski are partners in BusinessTruths Consulting, Inc. and several other businesses, and authored The Step Dynamic: A Powerful Strategy for Successfully Growing Your Business. They can be reached at Judy@BusinessTruths.com.