GTCC/Chamber partner in new venture on behalf of small businesses
When he talks to small business owners, Mark Hagenbuch tries to be more of a generalist than a specialist.
“We’re not consultants. We don’t fix the problem. It’s more a collaboration to help them get better at running their business. I’m not going to go tell a barber how to cut hair, but I will work with a barber to help make more money cutting hair,” he said.
This, in a nutshell, is how Hagenbuch sees his mission as director of Guilford Technical Community College’s Small Business Center, or SBC, which recently stepped up its presence in High Point.
In addition to its main office in Greensboro, the SBC, which is funded by the state, now has a location at the High Point Chamber of Commerce.
Hagenbuch is available two days a week and other times by appointment, offering free one-on-one, confidential consultations for prospective and existing small business owners, as well as a variety of other free services, including business seminars, skills workshops and classes.
Business plan reviews, financial analysis and marketing strategies are some of the services and resources SBC can bring to bear, Hagenbuch said.
The SBC presence adds to the chamber’s efforts to serve its members and the needs of the High Point business community in general, according to chamber board Chairman Kelly Sain. A chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, or SCORE, is based there and offers similar services. Hagenbuch, who holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has been SBC director for 12 years, is collaborating with the chamber to deliver new programming for members on topics such as social media, cloud-based business solutions and finding government contracts.
“We look forward to a great partnership with GTCC that will evolve over time as we get a better understanding of our members’ needs,” Sain said. “Our members will benefit greatly from Mark’s impressive experience and the resources he will bring. The chamber will continue to advocate for its members by implementing programs and bringing resources to help our members grow and thrive in today’s economy.”
The SBC’s main focus is on helping start-up entrepreneurs and businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
It offers about 150 workshops annually on the basics of running a business, from how to get licenses and permits to developing a business plan to pitch to lenders.
Most of his clients don’t have a substantial amount of start-up or operating capital, Hagenbuch said. Credit continues to be a challenge in the wake of the Great Recession, and, as a general rule, lenders expect new ventures to contribute at least 20 to 30 percent of the capital needed to start a business.
Once they’re up and running, Hagenbuch tries to work with them on strategies for sustaining and growing their company, something that can be difficult because it requires them to step back from the day-to-day of running a small business.
“The businesses we are working with that are still around have gone through probably the worst economy they’re going to see in the foreseeable future,” he said. “We’re trying to work with them now on moving out of survival mode into growth. It’s easy to get caught in the business, especially those with five to 10 employees. You’re not the owner. You’re the janitor, the garbage man, the sales clerk, shelf stocker, chauffeur — whatever needs to happen. It’s 24/7. You are that business.”
When it comes to High Point’s specific business needs, Hagenbuch said an example of what the SBC could do is work with students from GTCC’s entertainment technology program.
The program, which is based at GTCC’s High Point campus, trains students for employment in entertainment, particularly in the fields of sound and lighting.
“We want to work with the chamber to get a feel for what they need now, in terms of resources and see how we can partner to make that happen,” he said.