The Saratoga Sun -

Building business: new or old

Small Business Development Center offers free consulting from finance to cyber security

 


Jim Drever, the Regional Director for the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), wants Carbon County residents to know SBDC is a resource for both those who are thinking of starting a business and those who have been in business for years.

SBDC doesn’t charge for its confidential, one-on-one advice concerning starting or helping established businesses.

SBDC can help a business with advice on strategic planning, marketing, growth and capital access.

“Market research, risk management, financial avenues are services SBDC provide,” said Drever. “We can also help with government contracting and technology services, which includes a big problem; cyber security.”

Drever has been helping Wyoming start-ups and established enterprises for seven years.

Born in Laramie, Drever was mostly educated in the state except for some years in Switzerland as a youth. A graduate of the University of Wyoming with a degree in Geology, Drever’s first job was in the oil fields of Bairoil. Eventually he found he wanted to do something else, so he moved to Scotland where he worked for Microsoft

While in Scotland, Drever applied for the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, was accepted and lived in Japan for three years. JET is a U.S. government program created in the 1980s to open Japanese businesses to the U.S. He got exposure to many types of businesses and realized he wanted a MBA. He came back to Wyoming after the University’s program in 2005.

He graduated and became marketing director for a software company in Laramie. In 2010, a friend told him about the SBDC position. Drever says the opportunity was excellent because it allowed him a variety of challenges in helping different types of enterprises.

“I might be advising a restaurant in the morning, a software business in the afternoon where they think they have new product technology for the government and I end helping a business start up or expand,” said Drever explaining a typical day.

He feels gratified when he sees a business open or expand because of some role he played.

Help for new business

When someone wants to start a business, Drever likes to meet with them and ask questions so he can find out their biggest challenges. He usually can help personally, through the organization, or by contacting somebody in the business resource network or a private individual. Many times a founder knows some of the challenges, but Drever tries to find out what they might be missing and advise accordingly.

He doesn’t always push for a business plan, but an informal document spelling out how the business runs and who their customer base is needed, not only to guide the business, but to help when approaching financial institutions.

It is not Drever’s position to tell someone if a plan is feasible, but he does find out what they know about the market, what they don’t and how SBDC can help them. Getting third party data can help when approaching a bank–which SBDC can research for no cost.

SBDC can also advise on funding choices.

For instance, Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR), a program initiated by the Small Business Administration, funds research on technology projects that banks would not feel secure doing.

If research finds a project is feasible in theory, then money can acquired to build a prototype.

“There are definitely people in Carbon County that have used SBIR, although SBDC sees more use of this program in Laramie,” said Drever. “There are smart people here.”

There is opportunity to open a business in Carbon County because of lower labor cost and minimal land regulations in comparison to other places says Drever.

“There are lot of things working for Carbon County, especially if you can leverage your idea outside the local market,” Drever explained.

Aid for established

companies too

It can be easy for an owner of an established business to think SBDC doesn’t offer much help.

Drever says one aspect to consider is what a business has done for their marketing.

“Have they looked at their marketing plan recently, if they have one? Have they developed a website; what is their social media, marketing and what is their signage?” Drever said he asks owners.

He said a good presence on the web has become important. It is how most customers learn about a business, especially if the person is not local. It is essential if a business is a service to have destination marketing because in places like Saratoga, tourism is a draw, but often people only learn what the town offers by looking on the web.

Communities in Carbon County that have no destination marketing are likely to stay off the agenda of many visitors.

Drever said understanding the financial health of a current business by checking for red flags is useful. He says having a financial document to refer to every few months is a good practice and SBDC offers financial health checkups. Advice on how to use and maintain Quickbooks, a popular business software program.

“Helping people to understand where they are with their economic health can prevent bigger problems down the road,” said Drever.

Cyber security

Another facet SBDC offers assistance with is cyber security. Drever said doctors, lawyers and financial consultants are sometimes are at risk to hackers. SBDC can test how secure a network is and what vulnerabilities exist.

“A hacker can break into your computer and hold it for ransom. If you don’t have backup, this can be a serious problem,” said Drever. “Think about a business’ billing addresses suddenly disappearing with no backup.”

Cyber security is a must to consider says Drever. The internet and computers are essential tools to most businesses and SBDC can help a business stay safe.

Whether a business is new or established, SBDC is worth checking out says Drever.

“When in doubt, ask. It is cost free and confidential.”

For more information, James Drever can be contacted at 307-766-3505 or by going online to http://www.wyomingsbdc.org.

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