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An ear for small businesses

Entrepreneurship: Local organization offers businesspeople a place to meet twice a month to share id

Posted: May 20, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 20, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

More minds are better than one — and that’s the chief concept behind the local business organization called Masterminds.

Masterminds is a local organization made up of businesspeople who meet twice a month to share business ideas, experience and knowledge.

Operating as the owner of a small business can be challenging and isolating. The owner often has few to no resources to bounce ideas off, seek advice from or develop business-growth plans with.

Masterminds becomes the small-business owner’s executive board for consulting purposes.

The net effect for local entrepreneurs attending the meetings is a collective “think tank,” where business owners can receive business development mentoring from peers and advisers alike.

Each meeting centers on a different business topic. The topics evolve based on issues business owners are facing.

In each meeting, members have an opportunity to gain new insights or learn new skills through the discussions and other members sharing their experiences in the collective setting.

Additionally, any member can request to have his or her business be the subject of a smaller focus meeting where a company owner receives business advice, an evaluation or input on a plan to grow business.

Building a new business
MadDogParty owner Mike Spalter first joined Masterminds right after starting his business, a mobile video-game and laser-tag party company, at the end of 2008. Having a group of advisers, via Masterminds, was instrumental in getting his business from concept to opening his doors four months later, he said.

“When I decided to make an investment to add a second truck to my fleet, I made a presentation and the group gave me a peer review,” Spalter said. “Masterminds served as an executive board to make my decision. It gave me another input point.”

Coming from a Fortune 500 environment, Spalter said he also likes solving other peoples’ problems, too, because it helps keep his mind sharp from a business standpoint. Without a doubt, he said, the group has helped him grow his business.

Strength is diversity
The local Masterminds group is headed by Don Earle, a business adviser with the SBDC and a banker for 30 years.

A large business has a board and other people to collaborate with. A small-business owner needs other people, a group of mentors, to round out his or her business, Earle said.

The group works with business owners who work in all fields, from information technology to finance. The group often has members in the retail, insurance, accounting, legal and leasing industries, as well as basic entrepreneurs.

“We want to attract more business owners in manufacturing, too,” Earle said.

Masterminds helps business owners with marketing, accounting, collection, sales and business growth needs.

“Our strength is that we have a very diverse group,” Earle said. “We have business people with startups to owners with 20 to 30 years in business.”

Stan Aaronson, founder and owner of S. M. Aaronson Marketing Strategies, works with clients who generate $20 million or more. Being in Masterminds has allowed him to get to know people in the Santa Clarita Valley, resulting in some business alliances.

“I have been a resident of (the) SCV for more than 20 years,” Aaronson said. “And I have not encountered a higher caliber people of than the ones I rub shoulders with at Masterminds.”

Established businesses
Visions in Glass owner Marion Snyder joined Masterminds two months ago. Her company supplies custom-designed stained and leaded glass doors and windows.

The group is very amicable and open; there is a very close relationship between everyone, Snyder said.

She has used Masterminds to have her business and website reviewed in all details, from how she builds relationships with past and new clients to how she presents her business online and builds sales. She has already begun making some of the recommended changes.

“I’ve never been in a group — and I’ve tried several — where’s this level of camaraderie, and I absolutely enjoy it,” Snyder said. “It benefits me both socially, and as a business (owner).”


Executing effectively
People have a sense of business being global these days, but sometimes fail to take in to account where their business should be based in order to be financially successful.

“Business is business, but are you making any money?” said Charlie Gill, former Masterminds facilitator and president of Integrated Property Services Group Inc.

Forty percent of an owner’s business can be in areas other than where the business is located, but yet represent 75 percent of the business’s costs, Gill said.

He recommends that business owners learn to break their market down and find out what the return on investment is for each of their business activities or sales and service areas.

“It’s hard for a small-business owner to find people they can talk with confidentially,” said Steve Tannehill, director of the Small Business Development Center located at College of the Canyons.

A business owner needs passion and enthusiasm, yes, but he or she needs more than that, Tannehill said. Some people take a simple business and make it too complicated ,or have no sales background, he said. The SBDC and Masterminds can help the owner put a good plan in place.

“There’s a difference between a good idea and a good business plan the owner can execute,” Earle said.

Masterminds meets every Wednesday at the SCV Chamber of Commerce offices. The first visit is free and members pay $35 per quarter. For more information or to register, business owners can contact Masterminds at sbdc@canyons.edu.

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