Small Business Development Center is back in Bellingham

By Jennifer Shelton, director of the Bellingham Small Business Development Center

The Small Business Development Center is back in town, as many of you may have recently heard. One unique feature about Whatcom County is that the majority of businesses have fewer than 20 employees. These business owners are many of the types of clients the SBDC serves.

In my role as director of the SBDC, I’ve seen hundreds of businesses in all different industries. Here are some common questions and themes that keep coming up:

Business owners want more customers

Many businesses need money, so they can hire or grow

Some businesses would like to improve the value of their business, so they can sell it and retire

Others have come to this area to enjoy the quality of life and find there isn’t the demand or value for the work they do that was commanding top dollar in bigger metropolitan cities.

In this column, I will share my favorite resources, discuss ideas, and offer suggestions that speak to the universal challenges I see and hear about in my day-to-day work with businesses.

Topics I will cover include:

Profitability. Business owners will learn about the five important strategies which will increase their profits.

Operations. This is all about the flow of the product or service to and from the customer. Systems can be identified and implemented to create ease of management and offer a better experience to the customer.

Sales. This is one of my favorite topics. I believe the better the business understands their purpose, their customers, and their customers’ other choices, the easier attracting sales will be. It is all about positioning, customer relationship management systems, and doing market research.

Human Resources
. It is important for the business owner to establish an internal culture which supports the business identity. Everyone coming in contact with a business should feel a part of something great and understand where they fit in.

Marketing. This is the only business function that brings in the money for the business to use. It is also an area that incorporates all other functions of business such as HR, Operations, Sales, and Technology. Once you’re captured, in one sentence, what you sell and why a customer should choose your business, you’ve got your marketing message.

Technology. The tools available to businesses today are vast. Business owners can find solutions for most any business challenge. Technology offers a chance to be more competitive, efficient, and ultimately more profitable.

Financial Management
. Another one of my favorite topics. Have you every heard the saying, ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure.’? Numbers are another language that tells the story of your business. I encourage business owners to learn to read this language and become empowered to use it to make wise decisions.

I look forward to sharing more about these topics with you over the course of this year.

In the meantime, here are a couple of websites you will want to check out for yourself:

Start-Up Nation. A blog that has quality and easy-to-read tips for doing business in today’s environment. The online component of a great magazine for entrepreneurs and a place to search for new ideas and solutions.

Until next time…

**Mentions of resources are due to my own assessment. There is no outside interest for myself or the SBDC network.


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