In the recording of this talk on June 29, 2010 at the Monticello Hotel, Longview Washington, I mention the recent passage of the 2,000-page financial industry reform bill which among other things called for 74 studies to be conducted.

I propose that business associations, Chambers of Commerce and local governing bodies support and endorse widespread use of business coaches to enhance their community’s entrepreneurial climate. Business coaches foster increased business education and skills development leading to greater sustainability of independent ventures.

  1. Economic Restructure – The National Historic Preservation League in its Main Street Program sees “economic restructure” as one of its four core components along with: building renovation, an independent managing organization and promotion.
  2. Business Retention is Primary – The first and most important step in the Main Street Program is retention of existing businesses before attempting to foster new businesses or fill empty space. If we fail to support existing ventures, we’ll have even more empty store fronts.
  3. Stimulating New Ventures is also Important – As existing businesses are supported, generating an atmosphere of possibility for budding or expanding business is the next priority. With as many people out of work and unemployment benefits running out, people are going to be forced into ventures of their own to survive.
  4. Reluctant Entrepreneurs – Some workers are being brought back to their former positions but now as outsourced contractors who must find other clients to have enough work to support their overhead and personal needs. These are in many cases technicians who have never been self-employed and are being forced into to have any work. These reluctant entrepreneurs have special needs to learn how to keep a venture alive.
  5. Small Ventures are Job Creation Machines – Small family businesses are the lifeblood of American business, particularly small town and downtown districts. The operators of these small businesses have not received much formal business education. They are technicians and they benefit by expert business services support. Small business stimulation will result in the fastest, most widespread re-employment for America.
  6. Current Needs Exceed Accounting Skills – The expert business support most small businesses rely upon is their accountant and bookkeeper. Some use attorneys and bankers. The complexity and rate of change for small businesses exceeds the services typically offered by these practitioners. Typically, accountants and attorneys are educated and trained to find weak spots in organizations. Entrepreneurs need both cold-water realism and optimistic encouragement.
  7. Free Help: Sometimes You Do Get What You Pay For – Government advice is available from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Senior Core of Retired Executives (SCORE) helps some entrepreneurs who are very proactive and spend the time and energy to develop and maintain relationships with these sources. Expert help provided in a relationship of trust that costs the entrepreneur and produces results can result in long term business development.
  8. Entrepreneurs are Cautious and Independent – While these services have low or no cost, most entrepreneurs are too busy, too proud, too independent and too concerned about the government being involved in their business to devote the energy necessary to make these relationships pay off. Many find their educational courses valuable but few meet regularly with the advisors. Besides there’s only a very limited number of time slots for entrepreneurs to fit into. When entrepreneurs have a disaster, they need help immediately.
  9. Official Sponsorship Can Produce Increased Confidence – Sponsoring organizations can help defray part of the costs of making coaching available to more entrepreneurs. Business owners must pay something to value the services they receive. If sponsoring organizations participate it makes more help available on a sliding scale basis so growing and troubled ventures can get the help they need when they need it.
  10. Opposing Skills and Talents – There are a variety of frameworks to explain why, but of successful, proven entrepreneurs, most have one extraordinary skill or talent such as sales, operations or administration. They also are adequate at a second of these abilities and then dismal at the third. Business coaches can help fill that void until they’ve developed a supportive staff. New entrepreneurs need enough experience to identify, practice and convert latent talent into professional aptitude.
  11. Empty Retail Stores Hurt A Community’s Spirit and Enthusiasm – We have had a number of local businesses fail during this economic turmoil. Right now we have a few new businesses venturing forward. Let’s come up with creative ways to support additional professional business development and support of existing ventures to keep our community and business district alive.
  12. Fund Raising Events Have Multiple Benefits – I propose the organization plan a series of fundraisers to build the treasury and fund educational programs and member development services. Creating activities that genuinely assist the community will inspire more business owners to join. I’m a member of this organization and I’m prepared to help.

Typical Objections

  1. Why should the community help people who are failing? If they’re not capitalized or service client needs efficiently they deserve to go out of business.
    Empty storefronts discourage shoppers who are driving from stopping and stop walk in traffic from continuing down the block. Anything that can be done to keep retail business in storefronts helps everyone in business downtown and throughout the community. People talk about “all the empty stores” and that just makes buyers more reluctant to be confident when shopping.
  2. No community group ever helped my business or anyone else here, that the problem with government today, it’s building a ‘hand-out’ society.
    I am not proposing a “hand-out.” I am proposing a sponsorship investment in the business fundamentals which are more critical now with business credit all but impossible, revenues down and in many cases costs and overhead higher than normal. Business tools formerly reserved for aggressive growth are now needed for survival in many industries.
  3. There are college courses, online classes and books in the library if someone needs to learn about business. I never had a consultant or coach, what good would a coach do for a real business person.
    To retain existing businesses and encourage new ones, exact answers to specific questions are needed sometimes urgently. Many business owners are not trained in business and don’t have the resources or time for research. Entrepreneurs are independent by nature and frequently embarrassed to ask for help or are not sure who they can ask, when they need the answer today.
  4. Business owners don’t have time to sit and talk, they’re serving customers. People who talk about business don’t do business.
    Entrepreneurs need time to reflect and other business people with whom they can be candid. They know they can’t appear weak of vulnerable with employees and customers so establishing a relationship of trust with a business coach is an invaluable resource.
  5. Our organization is doesn’t have money or time to educate people who want to be in business. They either know it or they don’t.
    Business organizations need to be positive and resourceful about meeting community needs before solutions become even more costly. We’re all business people, if we can’t be creative and make money regardless of the economy, then we need to rethink our community priorities and create new solutions. No business person and no business is an island. More than ever our businesses and communities fortunes are tied together. We must foster a healthy business climate to promote customer confidence and investor confidence.
  6. Our organization doesn’t have money to support coaches or anyone else. Our businesses and our organization are barely hanging on.
    Negative thinking is small thinking. Entrepreneurs create opportunities. Leaders inspire confidence and trust their intuition while developing carefully thought out plans and budgets to support realistic goals. A healthy local economy requires vision and commitment by business leaders.
  7. What kind of possible fund raising could be produce with the economy in this sorry shape?

There are many activities and needs which our organization could sponsor to invigorate our business community and in turn raise funds to invest in more professional business operations.