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It’s all in the plan

April 18, 2022Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

It’s all in the plan

I remember back to the year 1986 when I was fresh into chamber and economic development work as a bright-eyed kid on the staff of the Dayton (Ohio) Area Chamber of Commerce.

I started in this field as a program coordinator for the Dayton Chamber’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which is one reason I remain a huge fan of our local SBDC – I know what they do, why they do it and the far-reaching impact they have.  It’s a remarkable resource.

A big part of my role in Dayton was to present what we called an “information session.”  I remember those vividly.  Some days, five or six people would show up.  Sometimes, we’d have 30 or 40.  It was an “everything you need to know about starting or growing your business” session, led by someone who didn’t have a clue.

Regardless of the number of people in the room, I was terrified to speak or to be asked questions I didn’t know how to answer.  I knew little about the “business of business.”  But boy, did I learn quickly.  I did those sessions for years and met some of the coolest and most capable people you can imagine.  Many are still friends today.

Those sessions taught me a lot – that listening was more important than speaking, if I really wanted to understand what made people tick or what kept them up at night.  That business is pretty tough – and not necessarily for the faint of heart.  Not at all.  There was a lot more to it.

But of all of those things I picked up as a greenhorn in the Chamber business, one person’s comments still stand out to me to this day.  I’d start those sessions by asking the attendees what brought them to the room.  One person said, “because I’m tired of trying to drive my car without a steering wheel.”

Well, alrighty then.

It took me awhile to absorb that euphemism.  What in the heck did that even mean?

He went on to tell us that in the throes of starting his small business, he was so busy with the minutiae of opening his business that writing a business plan was the least of his priorities.  He went on to say, “and when I’m driving that car without a steering wheel, I have no idea where I’m going or how I’m going to get there.”

That was profound for me, and I’ve never forgotten it.  I’ve realized that one of the many responsibilities of a strong Chamber is to know the local resources, and to promote them to those who need them – startup, existing, troubled small businesses – management assistance in any area of need.

The Chamber’s role isn’t to replicate those services, but rather to promote them.  They exist here in our great community.  But not everyone is aware.

Some years ago, in accordance with the community’s economic development (TIP) strategy, the Chamber committed to helping to grow the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” as it was called for.

The entrepreneurial ecosystem is defined as a community that is made of multiple factors independent from each other, which interact with themselves in a geographical area and evolve. The purpose is to promote the creation of new businesses.

That ecosystem is a series of resources and providers who have one thing in common.  They exist to support your business.  To help it grow.  That “ecosystem” fosters a collaborative culture, the hallmark of Abilene, Texas.

That’s why area resource providers came together and launched the “Entrepreneurial Bootcamp.”  Sponsored by our good friends at Perry Hunter Hall Insurance, the 2022 West Texas Entrepreneurial Bootcamp – the brainchild of Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams, is back and even better than before.

May 5, 2022

8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Hardin Simmons University Houston-Lantrip Center

Topics will range from Business Plan Best Practices, Setting Up Your Business, HR Considerations, Marketing, Networking, Community Involvement and a Leadership Panel Discussion.

Half day and full day options will provide a morning session geared toward the foundations of business and making sure the legal and financial framework is solid, followed by an afternoon learning about marketing your enterprise, networking with peer business owners and leadership skills needed in a small business environment.

For more information or to register, contact Liberty-Grace Bland at libertyGrace@abilenechamber.com.

For a full schedule of the day’s events, click HERE. To join in the fun of celebrating National Small Business Week, right here at home, click HERE.

Abilene has the resources to make your business better, or to help it find its way.  I hope you’ll take advantage of them, whether through our own efforts, our local SBDC, area colleges and universities or one of the many other avenues that exist here.

Whether you’re in business or starting up, the resources you need are here.

Onward!

Doug

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