For the more than 3,300 small businesses that call Ashe County home, the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Consulting Service has offered resources, support, and solutions tailor-made to help them start and grow their enterprise since 2010 - at no cost.
“Our services run the full spectrum of business needs,” said ACBCS Coordinator George Hayworth. “I’m really happy to say there’s been nothing so far that we’ve not been able to address. It’s been humbling to me that we have had consultants meet challenges from time management and the creation of partnership agreements to helping create new accounting systems. We’ve had no issue come up that we’ve not been able to address.”
The consulting service is a free, confidential program founded by the Chamber in 2010 to provide local start-ups and existing businesses resources and solutions to help solve their individual problems, start a new venture, or grow an existing business.
As program coordinator, it’s Hayworth’s job to help clients identify their needs, and match them with the correct consultants that may best help them.
“We sit down and talk about their individual specific needs,” said Hayworth. “Through that process, I can determine who is the most appropriate consultant that they should work with.”
Hayworth is one of the program’s 10 consultants, and spent more than a quarter century in the mortgage banking field with Wachovia. After retiring, Hayworth turned his expertise into a career as a real estate buyer’s agent specialist. He pairs his expertise with retired executives from many different business disciplines to offer local clients a broad base of experience.
“Our group has 10 consultants, from a variety of backgrounds,” said Hayworth. “They are retired business executives who volunteer their time and expertise, and have a knowledge base applicable to our clients’ needs.”
Program consultants can provide help with everything from developing a simple business plan, to more difficult topics including personnel management and inventory control, organizational structure, revenue and expense management, cash flow, marketing, and generation of customer traffic.
Since 2010, the service has worked with 35 county businesses, and provided more than 135 hours of service, though Hayworth said many small business owners are reluctant to ask for outside help.
“I think everyone has concerns about privacy and confidentiality, but everything that we do with our clients is on a confidential basis,” said Hayworth. “We don’t even share the name of our clients amongst ourselves.”
Hayworth said situations that require the expertise of more than one consultant must be approved by the client before any action is taken.
“If we’re working with someone that needs additional resources or experience that the current consultant cannot provide, we’ll only bring another consultant in with the client’s approval,” said Hayworth. “Client confidentiality is very serious.”
In his experience to date, Hayworth said access to capital to start and run a business is a major client need.
“Does a business owner have access to the financial resources to capitalize their business, or run it long enough to earn net income?” said Hayworth. “The fact of the matter is that access to working capital is probably the biggest problem for small businesses across the country. We work to help owners identify all potential sources of capital available to them, including rural business grants they may not know exist.”
At the local level, generating customer traffic is also a major need, according to Hayworth.
“The predominant need in this area, in my experience, has been generating customer traffic,” said Hayworth. All of the consulting services for clients to date have been primarily brick and mortar operations that rely on in-store traffic to sell products or services. Many of these clients have turned to the Ashe Chamber Small Business Consulting Service to better plan their marketing efforts, according to Hayworth.
To find out if Hayworth and his team of consultants can help your small business, contact the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce Director Cabot Hamilton at 336-846-9550 or by email at email@example.com.
Hamilton will contact Hayworth who will then coordinate all consulting activities. After identifying a business’ needs, Hayworth contacts the appropriate consultants who can best help the owner.
“The reason for this process is to make sure we match each small business owner with the consultant who can provide him or her with the best information and guidance,” according to ashechamber.com. “This process allows us to draw on the unique talents and experiences of our consulting team to get you expert assistance for your business. The whole point is to get you the best advice and guidance possible.”
Hayworth said business owners may live outside Ashe County, but the business must be located in Ashe County.
“It’s also important to note that clients do not have to be a member of the Chamber to take advantage of the service, though we hope they’d join if they found the service valuable,” said Hayworth.