The Idaho Small Business Development Center in Post Falls helped create 150 jobs for Idahoans last year. It’s an impressive feat for a grant-funded organization that has had the same budget for 15 years.
“This is the smallest budget I’ve worked with,” said director Bill Jhung.
The center is funded by North Idaho College, the Small Business Administration and the state. Jhung, who took over as director three years ago, said the purpose of the center is to help businesses thrive and grow, and to create wealth in Idaho. Since the center is a part of the Association of Small Business Development Centers, with more than 1,000 offices nationwide, Jhung said they have tremendous resources to draw from.
They achieve the goal of helping businesses with coaching, workshops and resources Jhung said. With only five coaches, all former business executives, 230 businesses are receiving personalized coaching. Only two of the coaches are paid – the other three are retirees who volunteer. Experienced as they are, all the coaches go through five to eight months of training before meeting with clients one-on-one.
As coaches, Jhung said, they bring context to the individual businesses, “what’s important versus what’s critical.” Coaching is at no cost and is totally confidential.
“We establish a goal and help them walk it out,” he said. “Obviously there are a lot of businesses in crisis, but we do have businesses that are thriving.”
Jhung said the focus is on businesses that have great multiplier impact. He said a company that manufactures and sells a product all over the country has a multiplier effect of three or four.
“We help all kinds of businesses but want to focus on economic development,” he said.
Russell Mann, the owner of Enoteca, a fine wine shop in Post Falls, said the center has been a big help. He was amazed that actual business people and entrepreneurs were teaching the workshops, not academics. Mann said his coach, Frank Bendinelli, has been fantastic, helping him get a grasp on his expenses.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you make, rather how much you keep,” Mann said. “The end result is net profit. Frank’s been good keeping me on task.”
During Bendinelli’s 27 years with IBM, 11 of those years were spent teaching management leadership training. He is also a former consultant. He said whereas a consultant analyzes problem areas and fixes the problem, with coaching they help the business owner discover his or her own challenges and brainstorm ideas and concepts to step out and succeed. He said Mann is “very teachable,” very good at listening to and applying input.
“It’s a wonderful time to build back into other people’s lives – these are great folks with great spirit in them,” Bendinelli said.
Jhung said the center conducts about 70 workshops throughout each year.
“Our philosophy in the workshops is very practical – learn today and use it tomorrow,” he said.
Topics range from something as straight forward as QuickBooks, to e-commerce, selling to the government, leadership, or Entrepreneurial Leadership Training, at nine-months the most intensive of their workshop and also the most expensive at $495.
Created by Jhung, ELT combines training and coaching, and teaches business owners how to plan for business growth, develop an effective organization, make smart hires, develop market strategies, understand and use financial tools, develop financial plans and budgets, negotiate and close deals and manage growth.
Jhung was a strategic planner for World Vision in addition to running five businesses for 10 years. He said the center works to bring its clients the tools they need – everything from cash flow analysis to employee management – rather than overwhelm them. The center also teaches LEAN methods of operational improvement, which helps eliminate inefficiency and waste.
“Don’t be average, be excellent – know your customer and be lean,” he said.
Jhung said he and the other coaches are always looking for people with business expertise who are looking to make a significant contribution to their community, to volunteer to coach.
“We equip the (business) owner to help take them to the next level,” Jhung said.
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