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Lou Schultz

Basic Business Cents: Businesses benefit from outside perspective

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By Lou Schultz / For the Enterprise

A recently concluded nine-month performance excellence project involved executives from five very different organizations. One of the highlights cited by many of the attendees were the exercises where teams were comprised of a mix of the organizations. They stated that they learned that their organizations were different, but they had the same problems.

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I can relate to that as it reminded me of an experience I once had. I was in the high-flying computer business in the ’60s and we had a pretty high opinion of ourselves. I attended a seminar in San Francisco and quickly learned that most of the other attendees were from soap or oil businesses. I thought I had nothing in common with the others and the seminar would be a waste of time. To my astonishment, I learned that the established companies in mature markets had the same problems that I was facing; the difference was that they had solved them years ago. I returned back to my organization a wiser but much humbler person.

Most organizations could benefit with learning from others outside the organization, but our ego and fear of opening up to others gets in the way. This learning can take the form of private conversations with one of the many retired executives in this area, an advisory board, Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) consultants, or SCORE mentors. Both SBDC and SCORE are affiliates of the Small Business Administration and both offer their services free of charge.

The SBDC provides consulting, training and information in all aspects of small business management and development including (but are not limited to): strategic planning, financial projections, market analysis, mergers and acquisitions, expansion, diversification, franchising, loan packaging, accounting and record keeping, patents, human resources, marketing plans and business planning.

In addition to the one-on-one consulting services, the SBDC will partner with many organizations to provide a variety of business training workshops and events.

To schedule an appointment, contact the SBDC at 218-299-3037 or email sbdc@cord.edu.

SCORE’s mission is to provide guidance and information that will maximize the success for existing and emerging small business. SCORE is a national non-profit organization of volunteers who provide one-on-one assistance to entrepreneurs at no cost. SCORE focuses on the American dream of small business ownership. Their unique service is based on the idea of “giving back” to our communities. Business people with successful careers and entrepreneurial ventures join SCORE to volunteer their time to help new businesses start and existing businesses grow and prosper.

Their national website, www.score.org, provides templates for business plans and other useful tools. They can be reached locally at their office in Room 101 of the Hubbard County Courthouse, by telephone at 218-732-2256, or by email at score@hubbardcounty edc.com.

At a recent SCORE meeting, one of the mentors presented his view of small businesses in the area.

Existing businesses -

successful small business, successful that is doing well but could be doing better, struggling, needs help and too late.

Start-up businesses -

credible, maybe but needs help, wild idea and little hope for success

Our first reaction was that all of the above types of organizations, with the exception of number one, could benefit from outside perspectives.

With further thought, a successful organization can always get better. In our experience, it is always the good organizations that ask for help as they are constantly striving to get better.

Every organization can benefit with an outside perspective and advice from those who have been there before. Help is available; you only need to ask for it.

A friend once told me, whether the situation involves the future of the company or just a daily problem, “Never fail alone!”

Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement. He currently works wit h area business owners as a SCORE counselor. Email him with questions or comments at lou@process

management.com.

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