Business
A new business consulting service offered by the Juneau Economic Development Council is aimed at helping small businesses weather the tough economic climate.
JEDC aims to help small businesses weather tough times 093009 BUSINESS 1 For the CCW A new business consulting service offered by the Juneau Economic Development Council is aimed at helping small businesses weather the tough economic climate.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Story last updated at 9/30/2009 - 11:33 am

JEDC aims to help small businesses weather tough times

A new business consulting service offered by the Juneau Economic Development Council is aimed at helping small businesses weather the tough economic climate.

The new JEDC Business Consulting Service is designed to help business owners raise their productivity and profitability bar and to stimulate the local economy. The service is available to all businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenues and fewer than 50 employees.

JEDC Executive Director Brian Holst says there hasn't been a more important time in decades for business owners to make sure every aspect of their operation is efficient, productive, and profitable.

"We hope this new service model will attract many business owners who might not have sought consulting services in the past," he says.

This new service combines the know-how of JEDC's staff with the expertise of independent consultants - a combination that allows for a deeper level of financial guidance, sales and marketing advice, counsel regarding policies and procedures, and coaching services.

JEDC's Business Consulting Service starts with the business owner filling out a short form describing the business and requesting help. The form is located on the JEDC website at www.jedc.org. Next, a consultant is assigned to spend time with the owner at no charge to identify specific needs and establish a basic plan to address them. The first consulting phase then consists of up to 20 hours with the consultant at just $25 per hour. If the consultant and client agree that additional consulting or coaching would be beneficial, another 30 hours are available within six months of the initial agreement at $60 per hour.

"Such a low hourly rate for a quality and scope of service that would typically cost much more will give any business access to help for a wide range of problems, and the valuable insight and perspective of outside experts can improve both business and personal life," Holst says.

Consultant Barbara Schetter helped develop this new service.

"Just looking at your checking account doesn't tell you about the health of your business," she says, "and not knowing how your business is doing can be very stressful."

Schetter emphasizes that every business owner benefits from knowing what the business's key performance drivers are (the components of the business that determine break-even costs), and from understanding the relationships among inventory levels, receivables, and cash flow.

"Having - and knowing how to use - tools such as regular financial reports to understand your business's health in real time, not just at tax time, enable you to advance your business to another level," she says.

Take employee turnover, which can be very costly, especially for small businesses. The true cost of turnover - which your financial report will tell you, but which you might not notice without regular review - includes advertising, administrative and accounting time, and training. Pay rates can also influence turnover, and your rates may or may not be commensurate with your business's true turnover cost. If you know just how much employee turnover is costing your business, you are operating from a position of strength.

One of the things JEDC's consulting service can do is help business owners identify their business's actual costs.

JEDC's service also includes coaching, which can help business owners avoid business losses or problems by ensuring that they themselves are pursuing healthy, sustainable, successful paths. Whereas consulting is typically focused on the business, coaching focuses on the owner.

For example, coaching can address a question such as: How well are you balancing your business's demands with your family commitments or your personal pursuits? Does your business need an exit strategy or succession plan? Are you thinking about bringing in a partner? Maybe you've decided to bring on a general manager because your business has grown and you can no longer manage the company's affairs without help. Do you know how to develop a successful strategy to give someone else responsibility for things you've always done yourself?

JEDC expects most businesses to see results very quickly.

"We're not interested in project creep," Holst says. "We'll work with you to identify your business's needs and goals in the first phase, resolve those issues, and only if necessary move into the second phase."

Business owners may contact Eva Bornstein at JEDC for more information (907-523-2339, ebornstein@jedc.org) or visit jedc.org to enroll in the program.


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