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Participants hit ground running in Small Business Boot Camp

Editor’s note: This story is the second in a series following the progress of Small Business Boot Camp participants.

Tina Baggett has a hard time finding a courier service in her job as a buyer for a large furniture maker. It is not uncommon to need a part for an assembly-line machine, locate it and not be able to get it to the Pontotoc County factory in a timely manner.

“I forever have a hard time getting parts delivered,” said Baggett. “And it’s always been a problem in the 15 years I’ve been doing it.”

Mother of invention

Necessity being the mother of invention, Baggett signed up for the 12-week Small Business Boot Camp being held by Mississippi Small Business Development Centers (MSBDCs) through April 8 in Tupelo, New Albany and Pontotoc. She and her husband, Randy, decided that opening a courier service was practically a no-brainer.

Randy, who currently runs a newspaper delivery route, “enjoys being on the road,” explained Baggett. She added that the free Boot Camp was a natural and timely offering for their quest.

It kicked off January 22 in the board room of Tupelo’s Community Development Foundation, site of the first four meetings. The second four will be held in New Albany, with the final four in Pontotoc.

Time of year

“The beginning of a new year is when people think about opening or starting a business,” Wayne Averett, director of the Renasant Center for IDEAS business incubator, told the more than two dozen attendees. The capacity for Boot Camp is 40 and all those slots were filled, with a waiting list of more than 30. The opening-night, no-show slots will be filled from the waiting list.

“We’re going to ask you to work on a business plan over the next 12 weeks,” said Frank Wiebe, an MSBDC counselor. He explained that the business plan is foundation of practically every aspect of running a business, from implementation to financing to actual day-to-day operation.

Wiebe continued, “We also want you to think about your ‘elevator pitch’ and your financial plan.”

The elevator pitch, or elevator statement, is a one-minute introductory declaration presented to potential new customers so they know immediately who you are and what services/products you can provide them.

“I’m working on my elevator statement,” Baggett said after the second, January 29, session.

A few of the keys

The first session was an overview, according to Don Fischer, MSBDC director at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and primary presenter for the initial meeting. Using a slide show, Fischer presented “The Keys for a Successful Small Business.”

His 12 key points were: 1) Vision (have a clear vision of where the business is going); 2) Experience (having or gaining the knowledge to run the business); and 3) Management Skills.

“The number one reason for business failure,” said Fischer, “is a lack of management skills.” He pointed out those skills comprise planning, organizing, directing/leading and controlling.

Other keys to success, as enumerated by Fischer, include: 4) Knowledge of Markets; 5) Business Plan; 6) Identifying and Satisfying Customer Expectations; 7) Consistent Quality. The final five are: 8) Attracting, Selecting and Training the Best People; 9) Awareness and Management of Change; 10) Awareness of Business Vital Signs; 11) Business Best Friends (surrounding yourself with quality CPAs, attorneys, bankers, etc.); and, 12) The One-Minute Elevator Statement.

During subsequent Boot Camp sessions, Fischer said, the Keys to Success would be covered and discussed in more detail.

Going full-time

Renee Dulaney and Lisa Howell, partners in a screen-printing, embroidering and sign-making enterprise called Master Grafix, sat rapt during the first session. They run the graphics company after finishing their full-time jobs in the finance sector.

Dulaney said they intend to use Boot Camp to turn Master Grafix into a full-time company. “We want to get our business plan and minority business status, then maybe get some work from Toyota.” She referred to the new Japanese auto assembly plant being built in nearby Union County. “But we don’t intend to quit our day jobs.”

Fischer and Wiebe said Boot Camp is a pilot program that could eventually be offered in other parts of the state.

Contact MBJ contributing writer C. Richard Cotton at rcotton4@earthlink.com .

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