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Capitalist Sage: Bill Frey’s Architect of Illuminations [Podcast]

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Have you ever wondered who’s in charge of designing and setting up those amazing holiday light displays? Well, this week, Karl and Rico sit down with Bill Frey – entrepreneur and owner of Illuminating Design, a local business event, holiday and specialty lighting company. Bill talks about his path into creating a business and how he found a niche in the holiday lighting market during the 2008 economic recession. Additionally, he shares about his struggles and solutions to working in a seasonal industry, as well as the joys of using his lighting designs to create and evoke holiday memories.

“I like to think about it in a theoretical way, where we really just provide the backdrops of people’s memories. You have your holidays, you have your holiday pictures and all the memories that you have. We’re the lighting behind that. We’re what brings about the emotion, we’re the ones that bring about the feelings of the season. By seeing our lights in different areas, it really brings about that Christmas spirit and gets people in the mood – whether they need to shop or come in and spend more time with their family – again, to create those memories. And that’s – that’s really the main point of where – what we do and what we like to do.”

Bill frey

Resources:

Illuminating Designs
Website: https://www.illuminating-design.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IlluminatingDesign/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/illuminating_design/
Phone: 404-454-8944

Podcast Transcript:

Karl [01:33 ]: Welcome to the Capitalist Sage podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasons pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Trans World Business Advisors. My cohost is Rico Figliolini, with Mighty Rockets Digital Marketing and publisher of the Peachtree Corners Magazine. Hey Rico, how are you doing today?

Rico [01:50 ]: Good, Karl. Lots of things going on.

Karl [01:52 ]: Absolutely. Why don’t we start off by introducing some of our fabulous sponsors?

Rico [01:56 ]: Sure. So the first thing I should say is Atlanta Tech Park, which is where we are in this podcast studio. We’re doing the recording here in the city of Peachtree Corners. Atlanta Tech Park is an accelerator, right? Go to from a startup place – that’s the incubator – to an accelerator. That’s the next step for a growing company. And they have, I don’t know, how many thousands of square feet here. But they have enough event facilities, they run workshops, they run things with funding and venture capitalists.

Karl [02:28 ]: Absolutely. There’s a cyber – cyber event coming up I think later on. Thin-tech. It’s coming up later this week. Fabulous stuff to get connected in technology and business community here.

Rico [02:38 ]: That’s Peachtree Corners. So anything you need to fund your business, you can – I mean they do some of that pitch stuff.

Karl [02:44 ]: Yup – Friday morning. Pitch Fridays.

Rico 02:46 []: So then our other sponsor is GMC, or Gwinnett Medical. Just got bought out by Northside Hospitals, by the way. So – but it’s the place that just opened. It’s the GMC Primary Care and Specialty Center on Peachtree Parkway, next to Planet Smoothie and QT. And it’s a great place. We just interviewed Dr. Barbara Joy Jones just last week. Find our podcast, by the way, online. But they’re a sponsor as well.

Karl [03:11 ]: Oh, fabulous, fabulous. And I think in the next week we have –

Rico [03:15 ]: Smart City Expo.

Karl [03:17 ]: Smart City Expo coming up. I’m excited about that.

Rico [03:19 ]: It’s going to be great. You, me, Patricia Wenzburg, who’s a writer for Peachtree Corners Magazine. We’re all going to be attending that expo.

Karl [03:27 ]: Absolutely. And it’s kind of going to be looking at smart technologies and cities. And I think Peachtree Corners is going to be featured there.

Rico [03:35 ]: That’s right. So the first day, which is the 11th. It’s the 11th, 12th, and 13th. So the first day is gonna be – we’re gonna have – and it’s probably, I think it’s the only off-demo site for that expo. And there are gonna be people from all over the world and the country visiting, and we’re gonna be showing off our 1.5 mile autonomous vehicle track. Along with a couple of special surprises and stuff like that going on. But there’s quite a few things. I mean, we – to be having that in this city when they do a world conference of this in Barcelona. First time in the United States, so…

Karl [04:12 ]: So much fun stuff happening here. Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners highlighting technology, showing how a city can continue to grow and innovate on itself. And one other thing that’s great about this business community here – we’ve got lots of entrepreneurs in the business community, and today we’re just – it’s an absolute pleasure to have Bill Frey from Illuminating Design – a local entrepreneur, business owner here – that combines technology and art to create amazing lighting displays for holiday seasons, for a variety of cities, commercial customers. Just help them really celebrate the holiday season or whatever festivity they may be having through innovative lighting displays and design and display. So really glad to have you, Bill. Tell us a little bit about how you do that and how you’re able to make clients super happy with their displays and help attract people to come see them. Why don’t we start by you telling us a little bit about yourself?

Bill [05:18 ]: Alright. Well first of all, thank you for having me. I appreciate the time and being out here. This is a great thing that you guys do, and I’m very happy to be a part of it. Well – I graduated from Clemson University and went back to Georgia State to get a Masters degree in marketing, and found that the corporate world wasn’t really for me. I had the advantage of being in a management position at a very young age, however, when you’re dealing with people that are older and have been in the work environment a lot longer than you have, they tend not to take your ideas so seriously. So at that point, I’d always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and that kind of pushed me to do it. I was young, didn’t have any kids, didn’t have a family, didn’t have any responsibilities, so I was able to easily take the jump. I worked for a gentlemen that had a holiday lighting company and saw an opportunity where the market really wasn’t being taken care of. So opportunities for better customer service, better pricing, and really just a better know how on doing the holiday and event lighting. There were a lot of missed opportunities before, and this is back in 2004, so back then, there were maybe a handful of companies out there. Now, recently, there’s been more people jumping into the industry because they see what a good industry can be and the opportunities that are there.

Karl [06:38 ]: Fabulous. Well, for those that do not know, describe what holiday lighting is and how businesses like yours help clients.

Bill [06:45 ]: Well, in – I like to think about it in a theoretical way, where we really just provide the backdrops of people’s memories. You have your holidays, you have your holiday pictures and all the memories that you have. We’re the lighting behind that. We’re what brings about the emotion, we’re the ones that bring about the feelings of the season. By seeing our lights in different areas, it really brings about that Christmas spirit and gets people in the mood – whether they need to shop or come in and spend more time with their family – again, to create those memories. And that’s – that’s really the main point of where – what we do and what we like to do.

Karl [07:25 ]: So what made you choose to go into this industry? You saw – you worked for a company that did that before, but how did you feel that you could make it different or make a difference in this industry?

Bill [07:36 ]: Umm, for a long time, it was kind of like, Henry Ford’s saying – “You can have any color, as long as you want it black.” And that’s not really the way the design and the lighting goes. We saw – if you drive up and down, and you look at different Christmas displays and holiday displays, a lot of them are very similar. They use the same products, same techniques, and we found ways to be a little more creative. To use an artistic side to it. To add pops of color here and there. To add different elements that people wouldn’t necessarily think of. By being Christmas – 365 days a year, versus the other companies that are really doing it as seasonal job, we have the ability to research and work with worldwide vendors, find the best products, and really find what suits you. As a client. We don’t – we use multiple vendors, and we find the best fit for the client. We don’t lock you into proprietary software. We use all open-sourced software. And it’s really giving the client the options again. Giving them their voice in what they want. And a lot of people might not know what their voice should be saying, but we help bring it out what they want. So we have about 20 questions or so that we start our conversations with our clients to get them to kind of relax a little bit and to get into their own design mind and what they like. Are they symmetric people? Do they like the right and left to balance? Do they want – do they want heavily daytime decor? Do they want nighttime decor? Are they a less is more person? A more is more person?

Rico [09:07 ]: Do you have the things, like – also, like – you know how the fireworks, you can do that electronically now? Is it all app-based? How do you set up on something like that?

Bill [09:17 ]: There are some app based programs. What we find is a lot of those are limited. We actually use a program for our programming side – an open source software called x-lights. It’s based loosely on, my opinion, it’s based loosely on madrix, which is used for stage lighting. And that’s what I originally started with. So our philosophy is – we take the stage lighting and event lighting and everything and bring that into holiday shows. We go to concerts and say, “You know what, that’s cool. We like that. How can we bring that out? How can we make that relate to the holidays?”

Rico [09:52 ]: So you’re creating as you’re going, almost in a way – because every year it’s a little different?

Bill [09:58 ]: Right. And that’s the one thing that we want. Our philosophy is that, if you dream it, we can make it happen. And that’s what we try to do. We’ve had some wild concepts come to us that we’re working through – a fun project we’re working on now is, we’re working with a couple of people to create art pieces with LED background lighting for it. So they actually, as you’re – it’s not a stagnant picture any longer. So you’ll have color flashes that’ll change. Say, it’s a series of umbrellas, and the umbrella will change colors. 

Rico [10:25 ]: So you find the technology useful? I mean, you’ve been in the business for a while and stuff. Has technology helped you do your work better, do you think?

Bill [10:33 ]: I think so. I think it’s really cool, some of the stuff that we’re putting out. We work with – on one of our big displays, we made – gosh there were 15 by 25 foot light panels that we broadcast massive displays across. So imagery, and it’s the motion and imagery. So it’s not as stagnant. It used to be the only movement you had was twinkle lights. Every now and then, one would twinkle in. If you had your strand of incandescents, put the wrong bulb in, they all start twinkling on you. They didn’t like that.

Rico [11:04 ]: Do you do other things besides the lighting as well? Like mechanical stuff or other inflatables?

Bill [11:10 ]: Yeah. Some of the pieces we have, we can add motion to it if need be. Haven’t had the opportunity to – in our warehouse, yes we have plenty of that. Haven’t found the client yet that wants something with that much movement. With more movement comes sometimes more issues, and they’re afraid of that for a short term installation.

Karl [11:29 ]: I remember growing up in New York – we – the Rockefeller Center display was always a centerpiece, and people would, for years, you’d go and visit, and it would attract people to that display. You fast forward 20, 30 years later, you see more places using lighting and holiday kind of spirit to attract people to there. Do you find that clients get a lot of success by investing in these kind of displays to help attract folks?

Bill [11:59 ]: Definitely. It’s funny that you bring up Rockefeller Center, because that is one of the reasons I’m in the business. My grandparents lived in New York, and I would go see it as a child, and it’s one of my fondest memories as a child. And I’ve always said if I get the Rockefeller Center tree, I’d be done.

Rico [12:15 ]: You’ve reached the pinnacle.

Bill [12:17 ]: Yup – I’ve reached the pinnacle. What more can I do at that point? But yeah. We see – you know, it’s interesting because the first exposure I had to that, where it was really helping to increase revenues and things like that was during the recession – 2008. And when I – I noticed a lot of people were cutting back on what they were doing. Obviously, they were concerned about what was going on in the world, and with the market and everything like that. But what it did was allow me to kind of recenter our company and to see what’s going on out in the world. And neighborhood fronts – you had homes that were diminishing massively in value, and people were fighting against each other to sell their houses. So the first exposure was – we started decorating neighborhoods – neighborhood fronts. And by giving the exposure to those neighborhoods, it gave them more name recognition, allowed the home values to – I’m not gonna say they stayed where they were in 2006, but they did not decrease as much because you had the talk about – the word of mouth going around about what they were doing, and that the community looked nicer. People were doing a lot of cutting back, so we worked for our clients at those points to allow them to have that exposure. And also – you see a definitive difference in shopping centers. You know when you go out during the holidays, a shopping center that is not decorated, it’s like any other time of the year. You go in there, you spend what you would. Holidays are all about excess, you know? And that’s for – a lot of people it’s about, they eat too much, they shop too much, they drink too much. They do everything too much. And that’s what – having the lighting really evokes that feeling of peace and euphoria and good times and cheers.

Karl [13:58 ]: Especially, during the holiday season, if you think about, if you live up north where it’s snow, you feel Christmas coming around, you feel the holiday. If you live in warmer climate, you don’t have the snow, so the lights is something that could still connect people, that you could tell it’s a different time of year. If you have little kids, I know during the winter, people don’t go out as much. But if they’ll drive around the neighborhoods and see the houses that are doing better displays – 

Rico [14:27 ]: So do you find then that – because I totally agree with you. Living in New York or Brooklyn, everyone hung their lights and stuff, but it didn’t matter. If it snowed, it was Christmas – you knew it was coming. Down here, it’s so different. The hurricane’s coming, God forbid. So, but, you know, your lighting during – are you lighting throughout the year as well?

Bill [14:46 ]: We do most of our work during the holiday season. We do still work with events and facilities and things. If they have larger events going on, we’ll go out and help them. What we can do is year round. We’ve really created a niche in the Christmas market, though. We’ve worked on some of the largest areas around the Southeast. And we have really made our names for ourselves in the Christmas area. There are a lot of companies out there that do events. They have a lot of big products, and it’s kind of a different product base that we have, but it is still possible. We have a lot – maybe 50% of it transfers over, which allows us the opportunity to go and decorate for some weddings, or big corporate parties or Fourth of July. We got to go up to – one of the really neat things we got to do is, we went up to Knoxville and lit up the Sun Sphere for the World’s Fair. It was, I want to say, their 250th anniversary. And we had the lights rotate around, red white and blue, and they rotate around the Sun Sphere. It just happened to be the year that Pat Summit passed away, and we were able to dial in the Tennessee orange and light up the Sun Sphere in honor of her, which is a really, really neat and impactful moment for us.

Karl [15:56 ]: How did you get command over the technology? Cause it sounds like you gotta know a little bit about design – artistic design – but also to program, to figure out what pieces to go together, to integrate and all that.

Bill [16:11 ]: You hire the right people. To be honest with you. I dabble in the programming. I like to say I’m good at it, but I brought somebody into the company that has extensive background in it, and he – Tim Griffith – and he is phenomenal at what he does. And he – we work together, and it’s very – it’s kind of we’re yin and yang. I’m the artistic side, he’s the detailed process side. So we balance off each other in very, very great ways.

Rico [16:40 ]: So you can envision what you want, and he sort of implements it.

Bill [16:44 ]: Yeah. I come to him all the time and say, “I wanna see this!” And he kinda looks at me and goes, “Alright, give me an hour.” And it’s great, because you know, it takes him out of his comfort zone and I’m asking for elaborate things, and we kind of bounce ideas off, and I know enough to give suggestions about different ways to look at it rather than the engineering side. Look at it from this direction, see if it changes some things.

Rico [17:07 ]: Are you seeing the technology and lighting itself? Like, LED’s been around for a while, right? Are you seeing that changing? Are you seeing anything new coming out?

Bill [17:16 ]: Actually, yeah. And that’s one of the things that’s – and we’ve had to kind of adapt our company because of it. It’s, you know, LED’s – incandescents and LEDs are the first change in lighting in how many years? Forever. So then, so what do you think? Okay, well LEDs are gonna be here for a while, and this is how it’s gonna be. Well now they’re moving onto low voltage. So low voltage gives you – obviously, you’re running less amps, thus you’re having less – when you have a power spike because of rain or something like that, there’s less fluctuation. So it doesn’t trip your GFI. So low voltage lighting is exactly which landscape lighting runs on. So you don’t have problems with that normally when it rains, but your holiday lights, occasionally you do. And that’s honestly a problem. If you have a GFI, and it’s put in there, and it’s working right, and your lights go out because of rain, it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to. But nobody wants their lights out. And you can’t tell somebody – “Well, you know what? Sorry your lights are out, but that’s doing exactly what you want.” So we figure out ways to work around that. And we at – when we were working at Atlanta Botanical Gardens for four years, we had – I’ll never say 100%. So, 99.999% on rate. I don’t – I cannot remember or do not recall or was not told of any situation when the lights went out with low voltage.

Karl [18:31 ]: So you can use technology to help make them more robust and bring all that. When you think about the business side of this, when you started this out, anything that you learned along the way that you think would help someone else that was thinking of starting a business?

Bill [18:46 ]: Yes. A 22 year old does not know everything. I learned that one very quickly. And, you know, you learn to trust your support system. And that’s the foundation of how you’re gonna be successful in business. If you don’t have a strong support system with you, with family, friends, people that believe in you and are going to pick you up when you get knocked down and say, “You know what? Let’s get up tomorrow and try again.” That’s crucial. If you don’t have that, you’re off on an island. And it becomes extremely difficult.

Karl [19:17 ]: What is it like doing business here in Georgia or at least in this part of Georgia area? Have you found there being any advantages of being in a community like Peachtree Corners?

Bill [19:28 ]: Yeah. Well, one, it’s a newer city. So there’s a lot that the city’s doing that we can help out with. We’re actually working in the new City Center this year, which will be great. We’re very happy about that. I was actually – as soon as I heard it was starting to be built, I started calling. Because it’s a project I wanted to be part of. To me, the community is important. The community’s giving me, myself, my family so many opportunities. My children go to school here. Their friends go to school. I coach soccer here. So being part of this community is a great, great thing. I even moved my office here from Norcross so we’d be a little more local and tied more into the business community in Peachtree Corners.

Rico [20:08 ]: Are you part of any of the business associations here locally? 

Bill [20:11 ]: Yes.

Rico [20:12 ]: What are some of the things you’ve been able to gain through a relationship you’ve built through those?

Bill [20:16 ]: Some contacts. That’s really important. You find out – moreso business contacts, it’s personal contacts. People who have gone through what you do. As an entrepreneur, it’s very difficult for people to understand your day to day. What you wake up dealing with, what you go to bed dealing with. What problems you have. And you know what? None of us here are recreating the wheel. Whatever business process we’re working on – whatever situation we’re dealing with – somebody else has dealt with. We’re not the first ones to go through it, so why not ask for feedback? Why not say, “Hey, let’s go get coffee. Let’s talk about a couple things. What’s troubling you? What’s troubling me? What can we help each other work through?” And you never know who’s gonna have that opinion or that little nugget of advice that really helps you out.

Rico [21:03 ]: Let me ask you something, if you don’t mind. It’s a seasonal business. So the one thing that struck me – like urban growers, you know? They have the cycle – the season. Although they, if I remember, they said there’s really no season because they can keep growing throughout the year. How does that work in a business where it’s more seasonal? How does that impact revenue, income – how do you budget the company out? How do you keep staff where they need to be, I guess?

Bill [21:30 ]: That’s one of the harder pieces. That’s – if I knew all the answers to that, it would uber successful. You know, we’re not doing bad. But, it is difficult. The seasonality of the business makes it difficult for staffing. You have – so what we do is, we have a core group of people. That those are our people that we bring in. Then, we wind up bringing in revenue producers that – the guys are doing the actual install. But we bring the team of leaders in before that. We spend about a month with them and training them on what we are, who we are, going around and seeing the jobs. So we catch them up to speed on what’s being produced. Then we bring the next team in and do our OSHA training and those things. So, a lot of times, it’s recreating the wheel each time. It’s restarting the process each year. But we’re fortunate enough that each year, we have some residual people that come back. We try to find business owners that may have another business. That their seasonality goes a little bit lower in time, so we kind of work together in that aspect. And you find – you do have a lot of guys that are out of work over the holidays. So generally, finding labor in the actually installers is not that difficult. Because you have all the other season out – like, the non-winter jobs – pool companies, painters, landscapers, that aren’t doing as much. They all lay off, we hire them in.

Karl [22:51 ]: I’m curious, you know, if you were to advise – whether it’s neighborhood that’s deciding holiday lighting or retail areas and so on. What are top things they should consider if they’re thinking on doing this? Where do people get it wrong? When you go out there and you look at people trying to do it, what do they get wrong about it?

Bill [23:11 ]: A lot of the time, it – you wind up with inconsistencies. Where it doesn’t – it doesn’t flow. There’s – it kind of, it’s sporadic, where they’re not actually – they’re saying, “Okay, let’s light every tree.” Well, lighting every tree, while nice, doesn’t always give you the best visual impact. I like to work in negative space. So it’s not where the light is, it’s where the light is not. Because if you constantly have a wall of light, it’s a blur. It doesn’t give a good visual image. If you’re selective in what you liked – so really, I guess the answer’s editing – I guess, what exactly to do. Anybody can throw stuff up anywhere, but it’s systematic in that type of editing in the overall design that makes everything better. And the consistency in the products. You can’t have one color bow in one area, another color in another area. Or have weird colors. If – I’ve noticed a lot, they try to go with festive colors and things like that now. But it starts looking a little like Mardi Gras. Which is awesome for the Mardi Gras time, but it doesn’t really flow with what most people think of Christmas.

Karl [24:17 ]: And things that will create those memories that you were describing. If you do a blur of lights, it just remembers it’s a blur. But if you can create art with that and create it, that’s what create memories.

Bill [24:29 ]: Our lighting philosophy is, we believe every light is important. You can make a very impactful statement with a single light. So it’s all in the editing of how you edit those lights down.

Karl [24:38 ]: Fabulous, fabulous. Well, I’m curious, you know – as this time of year, we’re getting into the fall season. What’s it like for you this time of year? What do you have coming up? What do you do over the next few months as you gear up for the holiday season?

Bill [24:52 ]: First thing is not sleep. It’s – this is really the busy time. But we’ve set ourselves up over the past few months, and basically, since we’ve finished last year to be ready. So we’ve dotted all the i’s, crossed all the t’s. We’re just ready to go now. We have – we’ve tested all the products. We’re gonna be out. Within the next month or so, we’re gonna be working on some of the bigger installations. We’re gonna be at the battery for the Atlanta Braves, decorating out there. We’ll be building a 35-foot walkthrough ornament at World of Coca Cola. And working on some of the really large displays downtown Atlanta. We put all the garland on Peachtree street. So really finalizing what we’ve worked on for so long. It’s – you’ve had your spring training, and now it’s time to get to action. 

Karl [25:41 ]: You remember when Christmas season used to start the week after Thanksgiving? And now, I remember – I think in August, I saw Halloween stuff start to show up, and I’m pretty sure it’s happening with the season. When is Christmas really starting now? Is it October? Early November?

Bill [26:02 ]: November 1st is when a lot of the turn on dates. And you know – it’s understandable. If they’re spending good money on the displays, it makes sense. Go ahead and get them up. Yes, it mixes Thanksgiving and Christmas. But the idea is to spread the joy. To get people out there.

Karl [26:19 ]: So if they’re starting November 1st, that means if you want to have a spectacular display, you probably should be starting now having conversations with folks like you.

Bill [26:28 ]: Very much so. If not a few weeks ago. We’re – it’s time now. We’re locking in most of our bigger installations. And there are still some slots open that we’ll take as we go through. But yeah, there’s plenty of opportunity to still get decorated and for us to work with you.

Karl [26:45 ]: Fabulous. So how do people reach you? If they want to know more about what you do and how you do it, what’s the best way to reach you?

Bill [26:50 ]: First thing I suggest is to go onto our website and take a look at some of the projects we’ve done. See if it’s something you’d like to do and see if there – we can work together. We like to create a union with our clients. It’s – we’re not a one and done type company. We like to create relationships. So go onto the webpage. It’s www.illuminating-design.com. Or you can give us a call at 404-454-8944.

Rico [27:25 ]: We can also find you on instagram on @illumin. I’m assuming there’s lots of pictures there too.

Bill [27:32 ]: Yes there are.

Karl [27:33 ]: Fabulous. Well it’s great to see a local company here in Peachtree Corners. Entrepreneurs that are doing really fun business. I gotta imagine, when you complete a project, you get a big smile on your face, on your client. Who doesn’t like a business that helps create smiles?

Bill [27:48 ]: Oh, it’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing.

Karl [27:50 ]: It’s fabulous for that. We want to thank you for being our guest today. Bill Frey, from Illuminating Design for being our guest. Taking time out and sharing your experience and journey on this, and giving some advice to folks that are looking to start in their own businesses that may not be as traditional as others. Maybe taking a different look in providing a different service for clients. And we also want to thank Atlanta Tech Park for hosting the Capitalist Sage podcast. If you’re starting a business and looking to network with other people, like minded folks in there, there’s no better place to start in a community designed around supporting entrepreneurs and business owners. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree. We help people – help business owners understand their business. When they’re ready to sell their business, when they’re ready to buy a business, when they’re ready to grow their business. We offer services to help them all throughout their business life cycle. And Rico – why don’t you tell them a little bit about what you’ve got going on?

Rico [28:49 ]: Sure. I publish Peachtree Corners Magazine. Just launched that this year. Cities – hopefully of what’s going on in the city on a bi-monthly business. We’ve got a lot of traction on it. We’re planning the three major stories that are coming in this forthcoming issues. One is – the cover story is a Pat and the People story. So submit your – this can be a contest giveaway starting Friday. You’ll find that on Facebook. So we’re gonna be giving away some prizes. But that’s one of the main features. The other one is Great Spaces for your Corporate and Holiday Events. We have a writer out there, and she’s already on the 8th or 9th or maybe 10th place. So she’s putting out there – she’s putting together the article as well. But that’s Patricia Windspur. And we have a third piece on technology in the school system, which is cool. So the magazine, of course, you can find my work also at MightyRockets.com. I handle social media, social media content, videography, product videos, a whole bunch of things that different types of companies may need. And that’s where you can find me.

Karl [29:54 ]: And follow us on Facebook. Peachtree Corners Life on Facebook if you want to get an update.

Rico [30:00 ]: That’s right. So, like us there because once you like us there, then you get notification of these live Facebook feeds. You can find the podcast, Capitalist Sage, on iTunes, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Stitcher – almost anywhere that – FM, that’s another one – almost anywhere you can find podcasts. Find this, listen to the drive, 25 minutes, and you’re good. And LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com is the website for the magazine, the podcasts, and all that.

Karl [30:28 ]: If you want to keep up with what’s going on, a fabulous job of keeping up, you go in there, you’ll see articles in there, it’ll give you highlights on what’s going on around Peachtree Corners and greater Gwinnett in general. But just lots of ways to get connected back to the community. And please do tune into the Capitalist Sage podcast, and all of the other podcasts that highlight local people in your community. About business owners, political leaders, community leaders, schools.

Rico [30:58 ]: We have two other podcasts – Prime Lunchtime with City Manager which is once a month. And we have Peachtree Corners Life which is a whole host of things, and we do interviews.

Karl [31:08 ]: So thank you very much for tuning in, and looking forward to bringing you more great guests on the Capitalist Sage Podcast. Thank you everyone, have a great day.

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Business

3 Things and More that Small Business Owners Should Focus on in 2022 [Podcast]

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On this special episode of the Capitalist Sage, Karl and Rico are joined by Mark Collier, business consultant and faculty member with the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center. What is affectionately called the SBDC, is a great resource to the small business community. Listen in to this episode to learn more about the SBDC and just how this asset can help you build your business.

Resources:

SBDC Website: GeorgiaSBDC.org
Mark’s Email: MCollier@GeorgiaSBDC.org
SBDC DeKalb Number: (770) 414-3110

Timestamp:

[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:30] – About Mark and SBDC
[00:05:07] – Hiring and The Labor Crunch
[00:09:52] – The Importance of a Business Plan
[00:11:30] – Supply Chain and Strategizing
[00:13:34] – Finding Your Differentiating Factors
[00:17:01] – Getting Financial Systems and Plans in Place
[00:23:54] – Resources with SBDC
[00:27:36] – Closing

“We have a singular, sole mission and that’s to help Georgia businesses grow. That is all we do. We help businesses along all, what we call five core business functional areas. Strategic planning, marketing, operations, human resources, and financial reporting. So we’ve got a variety of tools and resources for small businesses.”

Mark Collier

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:30] Karl: Welcome to the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree, and my co-host is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets, Digital Marketing, and the publisher of the Peachtree Corners Magazine. Hey Rico, how you doing today?

[00:00:50] Rico: Good Karl, it’s a beautiful day.

[00:00:53] Karl: Yes, no snow this weekend. As we sit here in January, getting ready for our mini exposure to winter. Excited to continue to have some great shows today. Why don’t you introduce our sponsor for today?

[00:01:06] Rico: Sure. Our sponsor is Peachtree Corners Magazine. The sponsor of the family of podcasts that we do, right? Between this and the Peachtree Corners Life and Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager. So, and now we’re working on our next issue, which is the best of Reader’s Choice Awards for Peachtree Corners. That’ll be coming out the beginning of next month. So a lot of stuff in there and it’s going to be a good issue.

[00:01:28] Karl: I think a deadline is coming up for that. I know I went in and made some, when is the deadline for people to get their votes in?

[00:01:36] Rico: Today actually is the deadline. The 20th when we’re filming, when we’re streaming this and filming this rather. So yeah, we’ve had over 1800 responses so far, which is phenomenal, I think for this type of survey.

[00:01:49] Karl: Well, looking forward to see that. And again, a lot of the small businesses that are featured in that survey also, I’m glad to see the many businesses that the community here supports. So really appreciate that. Well, today I want to jump right in and I’m excited to welcome today’s guest is Mark Collier. He is the business consultant and faculty member with the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center. And if you don’t know, what we affectionately call the SBDC is, this is a time to learn a little bit about it and understand it’s great resource to the small business community. Hey Mark, how you doing today?

[00:02:27] Mark: I’m doing well. Karl, and Rico, thanks for having me on.

[00:02:30] Karl: We’re really excited to talk. Why don’t you introduce yourself a little bit to our audience. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do with the SBDC to help the small business community?

[00:02:40] Mark: Absolutely. Again, my name is Mark Collier. I’m a business consultant at the University of Georgia, Small Business Development Center. I office in the DeKalb office, one of 18 offices around the state. And we have a singular sole mission and that’s to help Georgia businesses grow. That is all we do. We help businesses along all, what we call five core business functional areas. Strategic planning, marketing, operations, human resources, and financial reporting. So we’ve got a variety of tools and resources for small businesses. And here’s the best thing Karl, anyone who chooses to use our services have already paid for us through the tax dollars that they pay. So our services come at no direct cost because we have one singular mission. And that is when we help Georgia businesses grow and scale, and they grow their revenue, grow their employees, guess what? They pay more taxes.

[00:03:35] Karl: That’s right.

[00:03:36] Mark: A very simple business model that we work off of.

[00:03:38] Karl: Well, I love it. And most people already know. And if you don’t, most of the businesses in the US, 90 plus percent are small businesses. So continuing to support that is a mission that the SBDC and the folks that help advise and support the small business community is really passionate about. Well, today I wanted to start off by talking about some of the top issues you see business owners struggling with. And some of the things that they can do about it. Why don’t we start with the first thing that when you talk to business owners, where do you see them really having challenges?

[00:04:12] Mark: Well, that has shifted over the last couple of years. Prior to the pandemic year of 2020, it was the traditional things. Access to capital, strategic planning and marketing. Since the pandemic their needs have shifted dramatically to how do I deal with this pandemic? How do I pivot in an effective manner to continue to drive revenue growth for my company? So that’s kind of the core challenge that we are seeing now is how can businesses best compete in our emerging post COVID economy.

[00:04:44] Karl: Yeah. We’re seeing a lot of that when we talk to business owners. It’s actually incredible to think that in 2021, what constrained most business owners from having a really stronger bounce back from COVID in 2021 was that they didn’t have the people and they were struggling with supply chain issues that would allow them to continue to grow their business.

[00:05:07] Mark: Correct.

[00:05:07] Karl: But I’m curious, have you seen techniques and strategies that business owners have been doing, to succeed to navigate? Let’s say start on if you’re a service business, the people part, and then we could talk a little bit about people that sell products in the supply chain area.

[00:05:23] Mark: Sure. Well, from the people perspective, there’s been a labor crunch. Across the board labor crunch in a lot of sectors. So what small business owners have had to do is really wrap up their offerings to attract and retain good people. Not only in terms of salary but a huge one, Karl that’s emerged since the pandemic is the ability to work from home or some type of hybrid arrangement where they can work partly in the office and partly at home. Businesses who are focused on wrapping up their benefits and pay, are the ones who have gained a competitive edge in keeping and finding and retaining good people for their company.

[00:06:04] Rico: Has it become a problem with some companies trying to up their salaries, up their hourly pay to be able to meet the demand? Has that helped employment at all?

[00:06:14] Mark: Well, it’s gonna cause some kind of wage inflation, which we’re starting to see some reminiscence of out here. But in terms of the difficulty, yes. Obviously anytime you raise a pay of your employees, that impacts your bottom line because your labor costs start to rise. And there’s only so, so far that you can rise the prices of your goods and services to help mitigate that.

[00:06:37] Rico: Right. And to pay more for new employees to attract them, you also have to lift the wage just to your existing employees too.

[00:06:43] Mark: Correct. Rico, what smart employers are doing is they’re trying to get folks away from focusing purely on the dollars and starting to offer some ancillary benefits. Like I said, perhaps a hybrid work environment. Some additional vacation days or other incentives that are non-monetary that wouldn’t have that direct impact to a company’s bottom line.

[00:07:04] Karl: I think the market and what this has done, it’s accelerated a trend that we saw in large corporations for probably 20 years. You know, you work for a large company like Coca-Cola or UPS, you get benefits and vacation and all these things. that drove retention. That’s why you have people that have worked there for 20 years and 30 years. It wasn’t always about just the salary, although they were competitive. Some of that expectation now is creeping into the small business environment. And I know a lot of small business owners pride themselves of how disposable their workers were. If you wanted more money, I could find someone else to do it. Well, when unemployments under 3% here in Georgia right now. It’s 2.8, 2.7 and continuing to decline. The recognition in 2022, is that the market has shifted.

[00:07:56] Mark: Yes.

[00:07:56] Karl: We’re announcing it here. We’re calling it out. You can continue the same practices pre pandemic, but what you’re risking is being able to hire, attract, retain the best quality employees in this environment. And if you don’t have the employees to service your customers, you can’t grow your revenue.

[00:08:16] Mark: No. Not only can you grow your revenue, but you’re putting your entire business livelihood at stake. You may go out of business.

[00:08:23] Karl: Absolutely. It is something that when we look at financials for folks and we see what they pay on leads and salary, we’re just expressing to them the need. Now we understand that it’s going to decrease profit. If you act alone in that way. Some of these other benefits can be something that’s lower cost to deliver, but you’ve also got to think about ways of adding more value to what you provide so you can increase prices. That’s when it’s forcing you to think holistically about your business model. And if labor is going up by 10, 20%, what else can shrink? And where else can you grow revenue to help maintain an increased profitability?

[00:09:01] Mark: No, I was going to say probably you’re spot on that the words value added has taken on a new meaning for small business owners that they’ve got to have that value add.

[00:09:09] Rico: I was just gonna point out that, I mean from my experience with advertisers and such and being out there with some of the small businesses in retail, is that if there’s not enough employees, you end up limiting the hours that you’re opened. You end up, the service suffers and people are funny. The Yelp reviews we’ll go flying. And in fact for every one bad Yelp review, there may be 10 people that are not even going to bother doing a review. They just won’t go back. So it’s not just saying I don’t have enough money to do this. It’s more like, is my business going to suffer? And I’m going to lose clients because of that. Because eventually you ended up closing.

[00:09:50] Mark: No, absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:09:52] Karl: So this leaded to an interesting discussion for business owners. If when you have business owners come into your office, I’m curious to how often they walk in and they open up and present you a business plan for the new year, 2022. Here, Mark, here’s my business plan. Here’s where I’m going to grow revenue. I’m going to diversify revenue stream, I’m going to offer catering in my business. I’m going to offer delivery. And then here’s my cost basis and here’s how much profit and here’s some of the things I’m doing strategically. That’s what you get when people come in every day, right?

[00:10:24] Mark: Oh, absolutely Karl. It’s routine, no. Absolutely not. Most folks who come in, and it really depends on what stage they’re in. If they’re a pre venture or startup, there’s a whole different set of needs that are very different than an established business or what we call professionally managed business. But you’re right. The majority of business owners come in, they do not have a business plan. And that’s something I strongly urge because a business plan serves as a blueprint for success. You can’t get to a destination if you don’t have a roadmap to get there. And that is what a business plan serves. It is a living breathing document that kind of drives the company’s culture, it drives the mission, drives the vision. It drives everything. And Karl, you mentioned something where they come in at the beginning of the year. But within that overarching business plan, there has to be a strategic plan that has to be a part of that business plan. But that’s something that has to be looked at least on a quarterly basis to make sure that you’re on track. And if any course corrections need to be made at that point.

[00:11:30] Karl: One great example around that, as we talked a little bit about the impact of supply chain. I was talking to a business owner the other day, you know, we started talking about some of the challenges that’s happening currently. And I ran into a business owner that did a really smart thing. They saw what was coming with the supply chain challenges and they placed orders for key materials months in advance. And so now they’re going into their peak season in the spring and they’ve got all the inventory they need for over a year of the business. So they did some tactics, but they saw it coming around the curve. When I talked to them some further, the next evolution is they’re looking at getting suppliers that are more domestically based versus overseas. All the way around it, they don’t know how long ports are going to be jammed up, but they realize they have to make a strategic shift in their supply base so they don’t have to keep ordering all that inventory in advance and dealing with that. How important is it to start talking to somebody through those things to be successful?

[00:12:35] Mark: I can guarantee you that client of yours had a strategic plan in place with some mitigating factors that helped them forecast those types of things. And typically those things are uncovered during your SWOT analysis, your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. So you can start to make some adjustments when things happen and do some better forecasting. But your client also has understood the importance of supply chain diversification. Because the clogged supply chains, and there was a point early on in the pandemic where nobody even wanted anything from China. They didn’t know if it would come over infected with COVID. We didn’t know what extent that virus can infiltrate products. So we went through that stage where they didn’t want any products from China. And what that did is created a mini revolution of Made in America products. Which I think we’ll start to see the fruits of that as this year rolls on and on into 2023.

[00:13:33] Karl: Absolutely.

[00:13:34] Rico: Yeah. And I agree with you, Mark. Politically speaking, even if the supply chain fixes itself to a degree with the world politics, the way it is and the stresses that are going on in the South China Sea and all that stuff. I mean, most people are moving towards American products. There are international things going on that we can’t even fathom at this point. But Ukraine is an example, what’s going on right now. So imagine something like that going on. What’s the practical things businesses should think about when they come to see you to be able to know. So then you can help them with a business plan? What’s the top three or four things they need to know to come to you with?

[00:14:15] Mark: Top three things is to have kind of their strategy, their overall strategy in place. What is their differentiating factor? What makes a client or customer want to purchase their product or service versus other offerings in the marketplace? And you’d be surprised at the number of businesses that can not answer that question. And I tell them, the business owners, you can’t answer the question, what makes you better than the competition? You really need to reevaluate if you want to go into this business.

[00:14:41] Karl: That’s a great point. I know that differentiation and starting to understand how you’re different for a neighborhood pizza shop may not think like it makes sense. But what this pandemic is showing is, taking the time to think through that and coming up with that, and it could be simple as service. We provide better service than anybody else. Dominos made a killing off of the 30 minute guarantee when they started. Why? No one else did it. No one else was guaranteeing the pizza’s free in 30 minutes or less. And guess what? All the competitors started trying to figure out how to deliver their pizza faster, because they wanted to make the claim and build systems to support that.

[00:15:24] Mark: No, I mean you hit on it. I mean, there are three broad categories that you can compete on. The low price, differentiation, or quick response as Domino’s did, we’ll get you a pizza in 30 minutes, quick response. Not going to be the cheapest. Not going to be the best pizza. But we’ll get it there in 30 minutes. So those are the three broad categories that you can compete on. And of course there’s some hybrids in some other underlying areas that have overlap. But those, you hit that one right on the head Karl.

[00:15:50] Rico: Because most businesses are, they don’t have a cutting edge technology. They don’t really have anything completely different. An HVAC company, a pizza place, a restaurant. They’re providing the same thing that you probably could get somewhere else.

[00:16:03] Mark: Correct.

[00:16:04] Rico: But you’re right. How do you position yourself and how you think about yourself? Would make some difference, at least, right?

[00:16:12] Mark: Rico, you’ve made a very important point. You raised the HVAC component. I’ll give you a prime example of that. I’ve got a client who has an HVAC company. He grew his business tremendously with one simple pivot technique. When he went out to service an AC, his people would find a loose door knob, something else that was totally unrelated to the HVAC problem. And they would fix that. Screw in that funny light bulb, fix a door handle, fix this. That small pivot created a, just a groundswell of goodwill for them. Positive reviews. And it just exponentially grew their business.

[00:16:51] Rico: Wow. Doing something outside their…

[00:16:53] Mark: Doing something extra. I spent seven years in New Orleans they call it lagniappe. A little something extra.

[00:17:01] Karl: There’s another area that I’m curious what you’ve been seeing. Many people start or acquire a business and one of the skillsets that I noticed that’s in high demand is good bookkeeping and accounting financials. I ask business owners three basic questions. I asked them, do they know how much money they made last year? That’s the first question. And it’s an open book test. I love it if they go in and grab their tax return or anything to be able to answer that question. Then I asked them if they know how much they made last month. And that’s usually telling me the difference between someone that’s really paying attention to the details of their business and really know what the quote unquote score is. The third question that I ask is, do they know how much cashflow they generated last month. That shows me that they’re at another level in their financial acumen in their business. Because despite all the claims of profit being good, cash is king, when it comes to business. Businesses don’t go bankrupt or go out of business for profit, they go when they run out of cash.

[00:18:05] Mark: That’s right.

[00:18:05] Karl: What can you advise people to close this gap in where you see people at today with their financial acumen and where they think they need to be a professionally managed business?

[00:18:16] Mark: Well, I think it comes down to utilizing the resources that are out here available. I mean, experts like you, Karl. The experts that we have at the SBDC who can help a business owner, get his arms around his finances. Help understand what the inflows and outflows are of his cash each month. Cashflow projections. Most companies don’t even do that. You’ve got to do some type of monthly cash flow projections in order to get your arms around your cash and what’s running, moving in and out of your business. So I would say one of the first necessary step is to get educated in better cash management techniques and financial techniques. And if not, reach out to the available resources that are out here that have experts that can help them go from one level to the next.

[00:19:02] Karl: What’s key in that thought is, we’re not suggesting that you need to become a certified CPA accountant. You need to build in your team. Somebody with good financial acumen to help keep the books. But you as the owner and leader of your business is responsible to what that score is. So if you’re not looking and reviewing your financials, I would almost argue, it doesn’t even make sense you keep it. You’ve got to track it. So that review of them and taking actions based on deviations from what you expect, is what the great companies do differently than everyone else.

[00:19:40] Rico: I was going to say, there’s enough absent technology out there, that once you have someone set it up for you. A couple of hours of them set up, you can pull down your phone app of QuickBooks or FreshBooks or whatever you using. There’s no excuse. It’s so simple to be able to track your stuff day to day, or week to week on it.

[00:19:59] Mark: You’re absolutely right. I mean, those systems, that’s part of the systems that you want to put in place. I call them the three P’s, policies, processes and procedures. They all build up into your systems. I’ll ask business owners all the time, what’s the highest and best use of your time? Is it doing books? Is it HR functions? Is it doing the marketing? Typically for most small business entrepreneurs, the highest and best use of their time is going out, making connections that will drive revenue, additional revenue for the company. That’s the highest and best use of their time.

[00:20:32] Karl: Absolutely. I’d say a close second to that is being a leader to your employees. Training them, building culture, building value, building ethics. If you’re going to focus on two groups of people, your customers and your employees, I’ll let you pick the order. Each businesses. But if that’s where you have to spend your time, you can outsource the bookkeeping. You can outsource the marketing, you can outsource some of these other functions. But being present and really focusing on that, is going to be really key. The one other tip I’d give is starting out in January of 2022, have a conversation with your accountant, your bookkeeper, or even with yourself and your team to create a budget for this year. A forecast. How much in revenue do you plan on doing each month? A monthly budget. And how much expenses? Both costs of goods sold costs, as well as operating costs, all those. Just by putting out a number, a target each month that you sold, those great tools Rico was mentioning QuickBooks and others, you could easily see whether or not you win or lose each month.

[00:21:38] Mark: Yes.

[00:21:38] Rico: And if you keep life as simple as that each month you want to win. And if you win 12 months in a row, you are going to have a good year.

[00:21:46] Mark: Oh, absolutely. And you know, I’d like to add something to that. In addition to setting that goal, you also have to have a set of tasks underneath that goal that are going to illustrate how are you going to do it? You know, I always say a plan without some detailed steps behind it is a dream. That’s all it is.

[00:22:04] Karl: Absolutely. Perfect example is, you want to increase revenue by 20%? You’re going to implement a marketing plan, that includes digital marketing. You are going to engage in X amount of sales calls per month. You’re going to approach new clientele or new customers or new channels and take those actions and each quarter break the year into four quarters. Each 90 days, set a goal to improve your business and put the actions in place to do it and hit it. Don’t move on until you hit those goals. If it takes you five months, then take five months. Then you set a new set of goals and repeat. And that’s what world-class companies do.

[00:22:45] Mark: Fully agree. Fully agree.

[00:22:46] Karl: The other thing I’d mentioned along that is once you set the budget, you have to review it. And if you’re going to ask me the frequency, a minimum of monthly. Depending on your business, you might need to review it weekly or twice a month. But a plan without some review and accountability to it just really isn’t helpful.

[00:23:04] Mark: No, you’re right. I mean the old adage is true. What can not be measured can not be improved. So without those measurement intervals, as you said, you’re like a hamster on a wheel.

[00:23:15] Rico: And that gets a little scary, I think for businesses that don’t have contractual agreements that don’t have expected certain amount of revenue every month. I mean it could be a restaurant that, every month is going to be different for them. Mother’s day. Father’s day. Those are going to be big events. Christmas maybe, thanksgiving. For other types of companies, like HVAC, the beginning of the spring, the beginning of winter. So, and some of them will have contracts, those monthly maintenance, but not all of them. So, being able to understand what you did the last two years, where you think you’re going forward, that’ll help protect maybe, you know, any losses that might be coming because you didn’t plan ahead.

[00:23:52] Mark: Great, great points Rico.

[00:23:54] Rico: Can people come to you to get regular assistance, even? Instead of just the initial thing. Can they come to you on a regular basis somehow?

[00:24:02] Mark: They certainly can. I’ve got clients across the continuum. Like I said, we kind of segment our clients out into pre-ventures, basic businesses, established businesses, and professionally managed. And typically those business segments will have different needs. But I’ve got clients where I do a monthly check-in. I’ve got clients where I do a quarterly check-in and some are semi-annual check-in. And I serve as a sounding board for them. And they know that I have no other vested interests other than to see them succeed and grow their revenue.

[00:24:35] Rico: And just to, so that people remember, this is free. There’s no fees here. You’re a professional. And you’re providing these surfaces.

[00:24:41] Mark: Yes. Well, we don’t like to use the word free cause that sometimes implies no value, but we say it comes at no direct cost. You’ve already paid for us through the taxes that you pay. So why don’t you go ahead and maximize your ROI on those taxes?

[00:24:54] Rico: Yeah. And people can come back to you, I mean, accountability partner to be able to hit things off with you.

[00:24:59] Mark: Absolutely. Yeah, so that’s one of the key needs that we feel as an accountability partner. And many business owners are very appreciative of that.

[00:25:07] Karl: So let’s talk a little bit about some of the resources that the SBDC and some of the other resources available to small business owners. And I’d like you to comment on one small thing and see if this. When folks are looking at doing their planning, they’re always asking the question, how are my peers doing? If I’m setting a goal for profit or how much I’m spending on labor relative to my revenue. Does the SBDC have resources that can help people answer some of those questions?

[00:25:37] Mark: Absolutely. We all have access being University of Georgia, to a number of databases that can generate some impactful reports for our clients. Industrial CFO is a benchmarking data that lets you know, how am I doing relative to revenue, expenses, where my revenue is coming from? So it’s kind of a benchmarking report for other similar firms that are in your industry. We also have access to what are called Vertical IQ and that is an industry report. Good at giving forecasts for what changes or forecastings are upcoming in a particular industry. So, those are two of the most impactful reports that we have access to that we can distribute to our clients, again at no direct cost.

[00:26:18] Karl: And if you were to try to buy these reports online. And so some of these costs thousands of dollars.

[00:26:24] Mark: Absolutely.

[00:26:24] Karl: Just on that alone. I just want to make people aware of that. One of the great ones is there’s resources like IBISWorld and other similar. This benchmarking, if you are a professionally managed business or a business that has some scale and size, going out and seeing how you compare to your peers, benchmarking will tell you a couple of things. If you are below the financial metric averages for your industry, it tells you, you’ve got some work to do. If you’re looking at selling one day or exiting or valuing a business, it’s going to matter whether you’re above the average, below the average, or at the average. So understanding that sooner so you could take action to make improvements. But on the other side, if you’re performing well above the average for your industry, that’s a point of pride. And you need to figure out what is making you do that? How is it? Bottle it up and leverage it to scale and grow the business. So something as simple as that, if you wanted to do this year, go out and benchmark your business. Approach one of the great SBDC consultants like Mark out there and start that process of learning more about your business.

[00:27:34] Mark: Absolutely Karl.

[00:27:36] Karl: Perfect. Well, I’d like to attack, you know, do you have things going on? Besides the consulting service, I know you offer training and classes and stuff. Do you have anything that’s coming up or things you’d want to highlight?

[00:27:48] Mark: Sure. For a kind of an overview of our upcoming trainings and classes, you can go to our website, GeorgiaSBDC.org. It’s Georgia spelled out sbdc.org. Go to the training tab and you’ll see all of the training on there, but I’d like to highlight two signature programs that we have. One is called our Grow Smart Program. And that is like an mini MBA. It is an intensive eight week program that business owners come in once a week, for eight hours a day, for eight weeks. And they cover all of the business, core business functional areas. That class is open. It’s only open to businesses that are generating at least $300,000 in revenue, have some full-time employees. But that class is one of our signature programs because it can really make a huge difference in propelling that company from good to great. The other signature program we have is called Start Smart. And that’s at the other end of the spectrum for people who are either looking at getting into business or have been in business for less than a year. That program is more foundational. It’s a four weeks, it extends four weeks, I think, twice a week. Three hours after work night. But what it does is it sets the foundation for success. And I came from a Capital Projects Management background. And what I know is that businesses are much like buildings. The most important part is the foundation. So what that Start Smart class delivers are those business foundations that will help business owners get off on the right foot.

[00:29:24] Karl: Thank you for sharing that. And I’ve taken courses through the SBDC and I refer many clients to them. Those that go through and set that strong foundation from the beginning have a higher success rate and they were able to build and scale the business much, much quicker than learning along the way. It’s always tougher to learn after you realized you should’ve done a thing. To be able to learn that afterwards in the middle of satisfying customers, trying to hire employees, dealing with a pandemic, you want to get the foundation strong.

[00:29:56] Mark: Absolutely, Karl. You hit something very important. Now, sometimes those real life lessons can be very, very expensive in both time and money. So you will try to want to avoid those.

[00:30:06] Karl: Absolutely. Well Mark, if someone wanted to reach out and contact you, what’s the best way to reach and contact you?

[00:30:12] Mark: Sure. They can email me at MCollier, C O L I E R, @GeorgiaSBDC.org. And then our office number in DeKalb is (770) 414-3110.

[00:30:28] Karl: Excellent. Well Mark, I want to thank you so much. Let me reintroduce Mark Collier. He’s a business consultant, a faculty member with the University of Georgia. Go Bulldogs. Small business development center.

[00:30:40] Mark: National champion Bulldogs.

[00:30:42] Karl: National champion Bulldogs. Have to make sure I get that in there. Respect. At the University of Georgia SBDC, he and his colleagues all around the state. There’s offices in South Georgia, North Georgia, all around the Metro Atlanta area. There’s plenty of people out there to help you plan, execute. Whether you’re starting a business, whether you’re growing your business, where you’re planning on an exit feel free to reach out and leverage these resources in the community. And Mark, I want to thank you so much for sharing your insights and experience.

[00:31:11] Mark: You’re welcome Karl and Rico. And I really appreciate both of you for allowing me the opportunity.

[00:31:17] Karl: It’s our pleasure. We would like to thank our audience for tuning in. And we enjoy that. I’ll introduce myself again. Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree. Our business advisors are passionate about small businesses. We’re available to consult on your business. Whether you’re looking to improve it or looking to grow in particular by acquisition, or you’re looking to exit the business. We are qualified in doing valuations and consulting business owners. And feel free to schedule a consult with us. I can be reached at KBarham@TWorld.com. Or you can visit our website, www.TWorld.com/AtlantaPeachtree. And come in and see some of the tools we have, information we have for small business owners to help them grow and be successful in their business. Rico, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’ve got coming up?

[00:32:06] Rico: Sure. Our Pastry Corners Magazine, we’re working on the next set of feature stories for this issue coming up, February and March. The cover story is Reader’s Choice Award. So we did a survey, we have over 37 categories. So our readers and social media followers have told us who their favorites are in some of these categories. And we’re going to be sharing that in the next issue. Along with some information about we’re doing an overview article about the commercial and residential development that’s going on in the city over, the next year in 2022. What’s been approved, what’s in construction, and what’s coming up. So we’re doing that overview plus there’s a whole bunch of other features in there that, we’re be talking about Pinckneyville Middle School, about businesses opening up, restaurants and such. A lot of stuff going on there. You can find more information at LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com. Follow us on social media. Peachtree Corners Magazine can be found on Instagram, @PeachtreeCornersLife. Facebook, same thing, Peachtree Corners Life. Search those and you’ll find that. Follow us on LinkedIn. We have a page for the magazine there as well. And if you’re looking for someone to do content online or social media or other things along those lines, just check me out at MightyRockets.com or look me up on LinkedIn as well. And I’ll be more than happy to consult with you and see what you need.

[00:33:22] Karl: Sounds good. And we’re continually excited to bring you these Capitalist Sage podcasts. We have more folks coming in, in the upcoming weeks and months. We’re highlighting some local business owners. We’re talking to some of the great resources that are available here in the community. If you have a topic, feel free to reach out through the website and suggest a show topic.

[00:33:42] Rico: And actually you should follow us on Instagram @TheCapitalistSage and visit us on Facebook @TheCapitalistSage as well. So there’s a few places you can go to pick up more of these podcasts and learn more of what’s going on.

[00:33:56] Karl: Absolutely. Thank you everybody for joining today, have a great day.

[00:33:59] Rico: Take care.

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Business

Cutting Edge Firewood Now Offered At Home Depot

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Cutting Edge Firewood

Cutting Edge Firewood, a Peachtree Corners-based firewood company that features ultra-premium firewood and cooking wood, announces that its best-selling cooking wood products are now available through Home Depot online. 

The products at Home Depot include four species of cooking wood:

  • cherry wood for a wonderful sweet flavor and fragrant smoke;
  • pecan wood for a nutty, smoky flavor;
  • oak wood for traditional hardwood that adds a subtle smoky flavor; and
  • hickory wood for a bold flavor with a powerful punch.

“We are thrilled to partner with Home Depot to make Cutting Edge cooking wood available to more customers than ever before,” said Leroy Hite, CEO and founder of Cutting Edge Firewood. “When it comes to BBQ, wood is equally important as a flavor and as a fuel. Whether you enjoy grilling in your own backyard or whether you compete in large-scale BBQ events, we have a cut and a species of cooking wood to infuse your meals with delicious smoky flavor.”

Cutting Edge cooking wood is 100% natural, with no chemicals or additives to guarantee a clean, bright burn. The company’s special drying process ensures all Cutting Edge wood is free of mold, fungus or pests.

The Cutting Edge products are available in a variety of sizes to work with every type of grill and smoker. Cuts include wood chunks, 16” splits and 8” splits to give Home Depot customers options and sizes to work best with their cooking equipment.

For those who seek authentic wood-fired crusts for their pizzas, Cutting Edge and Home Depot offer a 16” pizza wood cut for traditional pizza ovens and a mini 6”splits for portable pizza ovens.

Home Depot carries both standard and large boxes of the popular Cutting Edge cooking wood products, giving customers a wide selection for every cooking need. Each box includes matches, firestarter bundles, kindling and wood logs.

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Business

Intuitive Surgical to demolish buildings in Tech Park

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Constructed in 1986, this 1-story office building at 3790 Data Drive will soon be demolished to make room for a new Intuitive Surgical training facility. Another building at 3770 Data Drive is in the process of being demolished. The demolition is part of an expansion plan announced last August. Intuitive, a publicly-traded company that makes robotic-assisted surgical systems, is expanding its presence in Peachtree Corners, investing over $500 million into its current campus and creating over 1,200 high-paying jobs.

According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Intuitive’s expansion is among the largest announced projects in the state this year in terms of jobs and investment and the largest in Gwinnett County’s entire 200-year history.

Located at 5655 Spalding Drive, Intuitive will expand its current location to create a regional headquarters. The expansion will include a six-building campus totaling more than 750,000 square feet of manufacturing and engineering operations, state-of-the-art training facilities for surgeons and hospital care teams, and administrative offices. The new facilities will open in phases, as they are constructed, with the entire expansion project scheduled to be completed by 2024.

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