Tag Archives: Oregon Small Business Boost

True Story: Building Business, Changing Lives, One at a Time

I hope you heard–you could have read it here— of the Palo Alto Software’s Oregon Small Business Boost, earlier this month, where we gave away thousands of units of business plan software to help the Oregon economy and reduce its unemployment problem.

The effort depended on more than 85 locations of chambers of commerce and small business development centers and related development organizations. They cooperated by giving away the cards that people used for the download.

I posted here about the results as we knew them immediately afterwards.

Yesterday I received this email. I’m reproducing it word for word here:

One late evening after work, a bunch of us were playing an online game, having fun and just relaxing. It was Friday, and we knew we would be playing all night, since the boss sometimes came in and played with us. It was a great opportunity for the developers, customer service reps and technicians to unwind, though we often were hard core gamers and loved playing whenever we could, sometimes during the day at lunch.

As it turns out, we soon discovered a small business that had opened up in Huntsville, Alabama, called Net-Tricity. It was a computer center that had dozens of stations and with all the newest software that we otherwise didn’t have or didn’t want to purchase for all of us to play. So, on many occasions we’d pack up and head over there and commandeer a dozen stations and duke it out online! The business was a hit and the year was 1997, and such stores were far and few between. Often the only venue for gamers was the colleges and universities, till they started restricting who could access, let alone play. Quake was big then and seemed to be on every available system in the area, though many establishments overlooked it, many did not and made it harder and harder to enjoy camaraderie in a LAN environment.

Eventually, the owners of Net-Tricity sold their business and in the subsequent months, the new owners mismanaged and the store closed. A tried and tested success, shut down after only a year in the black and led the way in the south for this business model. It was 1998 and I was determined to reopen that dream and make it mine.

As with life, I had a family to consider, remarried, moved, change career goals, and resumed trucking. Many years went by as I raised my kids, drove a truck across America, and day dreamed about opening my business. Fortunately, I started a side job repairing computers and consulting for friends in 1998. It was called N3tricity, sounding pretty much like the other company, and exclusive to my operation. It didn’t amount to much till later, as fate would have it. In 2004, my family moved to Oregon to be closer to our family roots.

In 2007, frustrated with serving others interests and making little to nothing for it, I went to visit the Eugene Chamber of Commerce. With a half baked idea and a good intention, I soon discovered that without a business plan, it would be hard to convince anyone to help me out. I hung up my dreams again and returned to my job. Determined to make some progress, I kept running into Business Plan Pro advertisements. I couldn’t afford it and settled with something less and waded through the mountain of information. With my laptop, hunched over my meal in a truck stop, I poured over countless articles online about writing a business plan. It was enough to discourage even a hard-core trucker.

In late 2008, I lost my job and faced the reality that I was quickly becoming too old to be a new hire, and the fear that everyone faces when re-entering the job market. My skills were dated and what worked years ago is no where good enough by today’s hiring standards. The recession made it worse, since it was now an employer favored climate, job seekers are not in demand and businesses can be picky. As early as January, I was quickly moving from interview to interview, all of them saying no, or no thank you. I began ramping up N3tricity’s services through craigslist, business cards, word of mouth, and even networking through the Web.

Now, volunteering my time in the community, church, and social groups, I took another look at business planning software, and came across your product. I still couldn’t afford it and knew if I was to move this project forward, now was the time. I began attending life coaching seminars, gained self confidence and reached out to the malls to find out what they thought about my idea. They loved it. I actually sat down and manually wrote my business plan out. It was done in about a week and I was exhausted. Determined to see N3tricity impact the local community during this recession, I visited SCORE, often. I learned about the give away and planned my entire week around insuring I was first in line.

Now, with it up and running, N3tricity business plan has gone through several revisions, using the resources, assets and outlines, I have a nearly complete plan. It has given me the renewed vision and focus to recommit to building this business. In a follow up meeting with SCORE advisors, the plan actually allows me to focus on what’s important, concentrate on weak areas of my vision, and use my time more wisely. Though it doesn’t remove the anxiety a start-up, it has relieved me of many of my obstacles by simply letting me build a bridge, one step at a time.

Today, N3tricity’s team is becoming a reality. The business plan continues to be a center piece for negotiations, that prospective candidates want to read it, look at the numbers and understand where, what, when, why, and who. Last week I secured my operations coordinator, a gentlemen with over 50 years in the entertainment industry, this would not have been possible without having this plan. Yesterday, I spoke someone I want to be on my IT staff, and he also looked at the business plan first. Later that day, I secured my CPA. Again, the business plan was the first thing they looked at.

With the help of the Chamber of Commerce, SCORE and Palo Alto Software, I am well on my way toward meeting with investors in Seattle and delivering a convincing business plan. There isn’t enough I can say to express my deepest thanks and appreciation for this opportunity you’ve provided to so many, including myself. The simple fact is that this tool is an essential component of any businesses ability to succeed. The resources within were immediately recognized, valued and quickly utilized to create momentum, polish the design, and forward my project to print.

I owe a lot my success to Wings Seminars, the process of moving me off the fence and back into my life, taking charge and moving myself towards my goals, through deliberate action and commitment to change. I owe Business Plan Pro, SCORE and Chamber of Commerce a huge round of applause and gratitude for being available, supportive and a constant reminder to me that success is about passion, drive and intention.

Thank you.

Kind Regards,

Richard Beers

So there: trucker, entrepreneur, and a really good writer of emails (that one is not edited at all, that’s the way I received it).

Business Boost: How Did it Go?

Thanks for asking. Our Oregon Small Business Boost day (business plan software free for Oregonians) yesterday went even better than expected. I like this summary from our local newspaper, which tagged it as “frenzy” on its front page this morning.

And you can click here for our summary of it.

We distributed 16,200 cards through 85 locations. By the next morning, we’d had people logging in and registering their new software from more than 170 different cities and towns in Oregon.

When some locations ran out of cards, we got them more units, even though we’d run out of the formal preprinted cards. We made do. As far as we know, no adult Oregonian who went to one of those locations to get Business Plan Pro for free was turned down.

That was hard. One location had 80 people waiting when they opened the doors. Several locations ran out within the first hour or two.

Was it worth it? Well, just for the skeptics, this was not a light version, hoping for an upgrade. It was Business Plan Pro Premier, the more expensive of the two versions we have. And it was not an end-of-market version either; it’s our latest, and just in case anybody notices a later version within the next few months, if that were to happen, it would be upgradable for free.

So was it worth it? I’m big on planning, objectives, and metrics. Here are some values:

  • We won’t know for a while how many people actually used the software to create new businesses or manage existing businesses better. That will be hard to track. We will be asking people for stories.
  • We know for damned sure that we’ve already helped a bunch of people think about their businesses better. And we’re ready to bet that the massive distribution of business plan software is going to end up helping small business, in general, in Oregon. Which means job and economic improvement.
  • Our 85 distribution spots were organizations trying to help business, not commercial businesses: either chambers of commerce, Small Business Development Centers, economic development agencies, town halls, or similar organizations trying to help people do business. None of them had commercial motives. Calling attention to those locations is a good thing. It did our hearts proud to see crowds outside the SBDCs, for example.
  • We met a lot of cool people, doing good work, within those organizations. That makes us very happy.

So we’ll see. It will be fun to watch. If you’re one of those who got a copy yesterday, keep us posted, okay?