Audio interview with Janet A. Harte
Small businesses in Southwest Washington face the same economic challenges as the rest of the country, but they have the opportunity to tap into the powerful resources of Vancouver’s Small Business Development Center. INC. Magazine rated Vancouver’s center as one of “America’s 10 Most Helpful.” That puts the local office in the top one percent of the more than 900 other small business centers in the U.S and Puerto Rico.
The local center is a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration and Washington State University-Vancouver. One strategic advantage it wields is harnessing the talents of certified business advisor Janet A. Harte. Harte has worked at the center for 19 years and counsels business owners and speaks to small groups with the message that sound business practices are not a mystery and can be learned.
The three major areas of the center’s focus deal with assisting start-ups, helping businesses in survival mode, and propelling businesses poised for growth toward success. While the center offers classes, the bulk of the work it does is one-on-one business advising.
“We expect the person who comes to be an expert at what they do,” says Harte, but prior to opening their doors they may not have acquired all the tools of running a successful business. That’s where good advice comes in.
She has helped business owners improve their management skills, offered advice to streamline operations, increase sales, and implement business expansion – all of which can lead to better profitability. She also assists with business plans, loan applications, identifying which customer demographic to focus on, and consults on targeting marketing efforts.
Strong small businesses build a strong community and the SBDA wants to help Clark County grow, says Harte. The resources she provides from the Small Business Development Center not only helps the individual business, but it also creates new jobs, which ultimately improves the economic outlook for the greater community.As Harte reflects on what makes a successful business she notes they are comprised of people of character – those who meet their obligations. They have good credit, and when necessary they have collateral to secure a loan.
What improves the likelihood of business success is ascertaining whether the business offers enough goods or services that meet the demands of the market, and once that is established, the business needs to identify and profile their best customer. Qualified customers build and sustain cash flow.
“Cash is the lifeblood of their business,” says Harte. A business needs to use it wisely, “so it will always be there when they need it.”
Harte says the best candidate for the Small Business Development Center is someone interested in learning best practices.
“They are very committed to the growth and success of their business. They want to take someone’s advice and they want to use it.”
What’s your best tip for a new business?