Ideas, Inspiration & Solutions for Entrepreneurs and Small Business

Jun 15, 2012

It was refreshing to see a forum dedicated solely toward the small businesses and entrepreneurs looking to make their mark in our state. It is becoming commonly recognized that small businesses provide a great opportunity for economic growth through the addition of jobs, taxes, and revenue. The Hartford, CBIA, and the MetroHartford Alliance teamed up to deliver a forum that could help these entrepreneurs learn some of the knowledge necessary and resources available to not only start, but significantly grow their business. They featured a great group of speakers to help share this information and inspire everyone in the room.

The first presenter was Professor Noam Wasserman of the Harvard Business School. He started the forum with a bit of a shock as he delivered a quote from New Venture Labs stating: “Most companies fail. It’s an upsetting fact for bright-eyed entrepreneurs, but old news to start-up veterans.” He went on to explain 65% of these failures are directly attributed to people problems, in other words, interpersonal problems and tension between founders or employees. To avoid this possibility for failure, Wasserman encouraged everyone to remember the 3 R’s: “relationships, roles, and rewards.”

In the beginning, the founder[s] of every startup should sit down and determine who they want to work with, whether it be friends, family, or professional contacts. This decision can have a huge impact down the road as things change or tensions develop. Next the role of these people should be pre-determined so as to avoid any misconceptions on who is responsible for what aspect of the business. Going along with this will be the reward profit distribution and what percentage every given member is due.

Next a panel of three experts from varying fields discussed their view on the small business climate in Connecticut. Catherine Smith, Commissioner of the DECD went over the many valuable programs entrepreneurs can utilize through the DECD. They have $100 million set aside for businesses with under 100 employees and have recently made the application process simpler and faster. Also there is hiring tax incentives with a focus on the hiring of veterans.

Claire Kramer of the Federal Reserve went over a poll conducted by the Fed, as well as compared some of last year’s state financials to todays. Not surprisingly, she has determined that some of the fastest growing sectors in Connecticut include: tech, health, life sciences, and professional business services. One pleasant surprise she had found within the results of her poll is one of the fastest growing reasons for seeking outside financing was “expanding business.”

Lastly we heard from Frederick Windish, Co-Owner of K&S Distributors, Inc. Fred explained that K&S was able to steadily grow through the recession because of business practices he had learned through studying competition, customers, and anyone else he could. He determined that an economic downturn is not the time “to hide” and instead K&S has hired many sales people the past few years, bringing with them their existing customer accounts. Fred is also an advocate of friendly contact with your customer base and will often call a customer he hasn’t heard from in awhile just to see how things are going.

Governor Malloy closed the forum by discussing some of successes of his administration as well as the educational challenges they are facing head on. He had recently visited Asnuntuck Community College to see the Manufacturing Program first hand and was so impressed that he encouraged it to be implemented at other Community Colleges in the state. Gov. Malloy is determined that focusing on education is the way to help our state out of this economic turmoil, stating that over $500,000 is lost on each non-graduate through lost wages and other expenditures.

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