Go Pro in Business, a seminar sponsored by the Jefferson County Development Authority and Sonic Promotions, offered a variety of speakers bringing tips to business owners on how to grow and improve. The event, held Apr. 18 at American Public University in Charles Town, focused first on some of the details of starting, financing and defining a business.
Tom Halverstadt, WV Small Business Development Center business coach, spoke about what actually makes up a small business. There are different measures, he said, including revenue, number of employees and the like.
"The vast majority of business in West Virginia is small business," Halverstadt said. "And the bottom line is small business is big business."
Josh Householder, loan officer for Bank of Charles Town, shared how businesses become 'bankable' so that they can receive loans from banks for different needs.
"The number one thing you need is a business plan," Householder said. He explained that there are five C's of credit that the bank looks at when evaluating whether to offer financing. Those include character, capacity, collateral, capital and conditions.
When a bank chooses not to fund a loan, there are other options, Householder said. One can acquire an equity partner or even apply via the Small Business Administration or other entities who sometimes are able to loan despite some credit weaknesses.
Speaking to that at the seminar was Hannah Vargason, project manager with national Capital Investment Fund, a nonprofit loan fund that gives to small businesses, nonprofits and government agencies.
"We fill the gap where banks don't work. We can offer more flexibility," Vargason said.
Following the detailed aspects of banking and finance, the attendees were treated to a recorded message from Larry Michael, senior vice president of the Washington Redskins, who shared what he sees as three keys to success. Preparation, consistency and passion are the key, Michael said.
Michael's recorded appearance came via Melanie Miller, owner of Sonic Promotions who helped present the seminar. Miller took to the stage to liven things up by first sharing her story of how she started her business.
"Ken Harvey came to speak at Covenant Church 11 years ago," Miller said. "If he hadn't spoken there, this event wouldn't be happening today."
Miller's business, which promotes others and helps them grow their businesses, represents many high-profile individuals such as Harvey and Mark Moseley, both former Redskin players.
While her business didn't become a success overnight, Miller stressed that "You can never be afraid in business! We go through adversities and pain in business," she said, "but if we work, it will be successful. I don't believe in failure!"
One thing Miller stressed is that each business represented in the room needs to make sure they have a marketing plan. Included in such a plan is how to target customers, how to reach customers and how to retain them. Also on Miller's list of must-haves were a promotional calendar, branding and tools such as business cards, brochures, etc. They need to be up to date and exciting, she shared.
Following Miller's energized speech was Ken Harvey who now is the development manager for ETS Credit and Debit Card Processing in Sterling, Va. A former pro-bowler who finished second int he NFL with a career0high 13.5 sacks, had the audience engrossed from his first words.
"Football was a long time ago," he laughed. "I have had to move on from that."
Harvey said that it is important to make the choice of what you want to be known as. He said individuals must aks themselves, 'How do others see me?'
"Sometimes it's hard to see that change is needed and to make that change," Harvey said. "You might need to break habits, habits you didn't even know you had."
He encouraged the audience members to realize that sometimes one has to go back to the basics and re-learn things at a small level.
"And you have to learn to give back," Harvey said. "It doesn't have to be money; go out and work with your hands. It helps you realize the blessings you have and makes you work harder," he said.
Closing out the day was Mark Moseley, 1982 MVP for the NFL, who shared his story from youth to pro football, to losing millions from his travel business via an employee who stole from him to working with the Five Guys corporation.
"As a small business, you have to find something that separates you from the rest," he advised. He shared that at Five Guys, where he is now director of franchise sales, the company has a brand of core values that include quality, service and cleanliness.
"We stay with that," he said. "It's not necessary to do all kinds of change and add stuff. You need to develop your core."
He explained that his success with Five Guys stems from their core, but also from their employees.
"Your employees are the most important thing. Without them, we are nothing," he said.
The owner of the local Five Guys in Ranson, Moseley said the store here is his top selling store.
"The people have really responded to Five Guys here," Moseley said. "It is, though, the toughest store to find employees," he shared.
Following the scheduled speeches, Harvey, Moseley and Miller held a round table question and answer session where more prime advice came out.
Harvey shared that while he earned money playing ball, "sometimes having money is more dangerous than not having money."
Moseley laughed saying that his $19,000 to start playing for the Redskins in 1974 didn't go very far. Sharing the story of an employee who embezzled more than $3 million from his travel agency, Moseley said that rather than declare bankruptcy, he worked with each creditor until it was completely repaid.
The lesson he learned, he said is that "You have to depend on yourself. You have to know everything going on in your business."
Miller plans to schedule a future Go Pro event, she said. Her goal is to help businesses in her community, Jefferson County, to thrive and grow.