Guest Blogger: Heather McWhorter, Regional Director, Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC)
Depending on the size of your small to mid-sized business, you may be the CEO, CFO, COO, CHRO, CTO, and more. Managing a small to mid-sized business is difficult – but you don’t have to do it alone. Tap into passionate, experienced professionals and colleagues that can help you to address critical management issues, while enabling your business grow and thrive.
If you aren’t comfortable with asking for help, this can be one of the most difficult tasks that you need to do to improve your business. However, asking for advice is critical for the long-term success of your business.
Getting started is simple. Your action plan:
1. Set aside time on your calendar and establish a timeframe
When will the mentor/committee/board be established?
2. Determine the initial strategic goal to discuss
Think about a long-term strategic goal or a shorter term goal that you are struggling with. Some ideas to start: understanding existing customers, forming a better management structure, obtaining capital to grow, increasing profitability, addressing personnel issues, identifying new markets, or developing a new product line. Try to just pick one specific goal to focus on initially.
3. Connect with the mentor/committee/board
Who you should reach out to will depend on the primary goal selected in Step 2. Can the goal be conquered internally? Solved through a peer-based mentor relationship? Through professionals? Is confidentiality needed or is a broad innovation group a better solution? Some ideas:
- Form an employee focus group
- Establish a relationship with a mentor from a similar, non-competing company
- Develop an Advisory Board
- Work with a university or economic development partner such as the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC)
4. Schedule a kick-off meeting
Some guidelines: use a facilitator, set a clear agenda, keep the meeting to an hour, listen more than you talk, be flexible, and end on time.
5. Follow up.
Some guidelines: summarize what was learned and next steps. Schedule the next meeting (if appropriate). And know when to move onto another partnership to tackle the next business goal.
You will be surprised at the results – at the willingness of people to help, at the improvements of your business, and at the insights for business growth.
At the UNCW SBTDC, our experienced and knowledgeable counselors are committed to making businesses better. Our goal is to help small to mid-sized businesses thrive by helping business leaders to make more informed decisions, access sources of capital and financing, evaluate and improve financial performance, obtain business and market information, improve leadership skills and employee performance, and plan for a better future.
The UNCW SBTDC Regional Service Center serves the counties of Brunswick, Columbus, Duplin, New Hanover, Onslow, and Pender with counseling, training, research, and technical assistance services for small business owners, mid-sized businesses, entrepreneurs, and firms developing new products, technologies, and markets. This office is connected with UNCW and the Cameron School of Business.
One of the hallmarks of the SBTDC at UNCW is its connectivity to the CSB; most notable is the MBA Learning Alliance, an applied learning opportunity embedded in the professional MBA program. In this program the SBTDC provides the Learning Alliance with small business clients who have real-time business challenges, but may not have the time or wherewithal to devote to these higher-level, strategic issues. The business school provides MBA students to tackle these challenges by applying what they have learned in the classroom to develop practical solutions for the clients. The students are mentored by faculty as well as SBTDC business counselors. Many student recommendations have been enthusiastically received and implemented by the small business clients.