Government and Business—Innovating with a Twist
SBETA and RedFusion Consulting Team Partnership Stimulates San Bernardino Business
There is no shortage of controversy about government involvement in business and economic assistance. At least one agency has done some innovating to help businesses grow. SBETA – San Bernardino Employment Training Agency, the Workforce Investment Board of the City of San Bernardino, has traditionally trained and placed workers with businesses. With one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, few businesses were growing so that they could add jobs.
SBETA decided to try something to increase business growth for businesses in the city. They hired growth experts to help those businesses with a chance of growing in this economy. If the businesses grew, they could then hire local workers.
Growing businesses in this economy requires a sound understanding of the market and a clear perception on how the market niche perceives a business. Enter Ron Burgess and Ray Anderson of RedFusion Consulting. Ron is an expert in strategic growth issues, and Ray specializes in leadership and management issues.
Starting with self-assessment tools, company priorities were quickly and painlessly set by the management. The next element was the action plan. The vast majority of program companies identified activities having to do with sales volume rather than cost or employee management.
“We try to teach business owners to fish—not give them a fish,” states Anderson. “If we can increase management efficiency and help them understand how to ‘institutionalize”—that is, how to continue to execute the marketing process—growth could continue for decades. So, the few thousands of dollars we spend on them is more like planting a seed than transplanting the tree.”
Using this assessment, the businesses with a propensity to grow, were selected for more intensive direct consulting in the areas of growth. Directed by Ron Burgess, who has over 25-years’ experience working with larger small businesses, the first step was to evaluate the each business’ position in their market niche. Burgess is skilled at the process of defining position, which is a very important, since correctly positioning a company can be the most important issue to business growth.
“The way a company is perceived by its customers, prospects and competition, can grease the wheels or block the reputation of the company,” states Burgess. “Maximizing growth must match a company’s competencies with the customers’ expectations. So much waste can occur when the whole company is not moving in the same direction. An owner may believe one thing, his customers another; and, employees yet another. The result is wasted effort.”
SBETA’s main goal is to provide a trained workforce for the city’s employers. They recognize that the economy must grow to create the jobs to lower the huge unemployment rate.
To be sure, hiring experts to assist businesses is a risky investment, but is actually small when compared to many other government assistance programs. Several local, state and federal government agencies have various programs that provide money for property improvements or tax incentives. Money used for assets provide a place to do business, but that does not necessarily translate into additional hiring, several years down the road.
Scott Cathey, owner of Brydenscott Metal Products reports that, “We have received grants to keep us in San Bernardino, which was a real help to our business, but once it’s spent, it’s spent. This program has changed the way we grow our business, now and in the future.”
The program is just over half-way through—How is it doing?
“So far results are very good,” says Annette Kelly, program administrator for SBETA. “The 24 businesses that RedFusion Consulting has done work for to date, give them high scores. Most of the businesses would love to spend more time with the consultants. Some have been given a second round of consulting, because they have a strong propensity to do more hiring.”
Several businesses have already hired new people, recognizing increasing or returning revenues during the first six months of the project. Just fifteen, $30,000 jobs would yield three times the new wage base that will be spent on the program, for as many years as that job is maintained. So far, six clients report new employees have been added, and more new hires are anticipated to come.
SBETA Executive Director, Dr. Ernest Dowdy, says, “Our board, which is made up of at least 51% business people, has supported us in this vision. It is a risk—hiring business consultants who can deliver such a tall order—but we simply had to innovate. We need positions open so we can fill them, otherwise we’d be part of the problem; we like finding solutions.”
“I have spent my 25-year consulting career learning what it takes to grow businesses,” states Burgess of RedFusion Consulting. “The secret sauce is proper market positioning. Add that to good management, hard work and proper marketing execution, and real growth tends to follow. That is what we do for clients.”
“SBETA is really innovating here, by partnering with seasoned consultants, and providing services that a business would not be inclined to buy in a recession, they have broken the “retreat” mentality that often accompanies recessions. I applaud them for their vision, and of course we are happy to work our tails off to meet the goals. We want them to be pleased. But, more important, is our participation in trying to lift up one of the worst economies in the nation. It gives us real satisfaction that we can change lives,” says Anderson.