Bruce Thompson, chairman of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce, announced in January the chamber's plans to launch a Small Business Mentoring Program. That initiative began this month with the selection of two local businesses in their first months of operation.
"As a small business person, some of the challenges that I encounter are some of the same challenges other small businesses encounter and it's no secret that statistics say nearly 80 percent of all small businesses fail in the first three to five years," Thompson said. "From a chamber's perspective, anything we can do to reduce that is not only good for the community and for the jobs here but it's good for the well being of the people that have invested their hard earned money, their time, their talents -- everything."
The Small Business Mentoring Program has been dubbed by Thompson as Get REAL, an acronym standing for relationships, engagement, attitude and listening. Chamber members come together to form a team of experts to meet regularly with the new business owners participating in the program. Each participating business is assigned a business coach, a legal expert, a marketing advisor, a banking and finance expert and a certified public accountant.
The program's first participant was Tricia Spivey, a registered nurse who began IPAC -- Independent Patient Advocacy Consulting, in January. Daunted by the demands of starting her own business, Spivey approached Thompson about the program after the announcement earlier this year.
"It's a great plan. It's community helping community, which is fantastic," Spivey said. "I have a team of local chamber members helping me in the areas that I need help with. Obviously, I understand the health care world but the business world is a totally different animal.
"Most of them are business owners and they're taking time out of their busy schedule to help me."
As an independent patient advocate, Spivey sees to the needs of patients wherever they may be bridging the transitions from home care to hospitalization, rehabilitation or assisted living. With experience as a nurse, Spivey related the challenges she faced as a health care professional starting her own business. Branching out on her own to offer a new product, she was relieved to find help within the business community to tackle the issues with which she was unfamiliar.
"I worked as a hospice nurse for the past year and a half and I noticed that there were patients that were falling between the cracks, patients that couldn't necessarily get home care -- because with home care you need to have a skilled need, like a wound or physical therapy -- although they didn't qualify for home care, they weren't really ready for hospice either," Spivey said. "This business was just kind of born out of frustration with the system and seeing a need.
"It's a very broad title. It's relatively new in the medical world. Nurses have always been patient advocates but independent patient advocates are relatively new. ... Any coordination of care, anything that a patient needs, that benefits them -- I can help coordinate and take care of."
The Small Business Mentoring Program's most recent participants are Doug and Cheryl Hyde, owners of Hyde, Hyde and Hyde. They began their business on March 1 buying and recycling X-rays, lithographic film and industrial film for silver recovery. Having just completed their first mentoring session, the Hydes look forward to the knowledge and resources to be gained from their team's collective experience.
"We're very excited about the whole thing," Cheryl Hyde said. "They sat us down and asked us a lot of questions, like 'What does your budget look like?' And, 'Who are your customers?' And some questions we should of thought of but haven't. They gave us homework to do before our next meeting, which has been difficult but it's things I wish I had known about before we even started.
"It's a great program and I'm excited about the people they have put together. It's a combination you probably wouldn't see anywhere else."
The program plans to begin the six-month process with one new business each month. After getting off to a late start this spring, Thompson hopes to begin more than one a month this year to reach their goal of mentoring 12 businesses a year.
"The fundamentals of what we are trying to accomplish here is, obviously we need to make sure they have a business plan, a marketing plan, they understand that plan, all the fundamentals you need to succeed as a small business," Thompson said. "The cool thing is you have very strong business leaders within the community donating their time for this six month program with the goal in mind for them to be much stronger when they emerge from this program."
For more information about the Small Business Mentoring Program, call Thompson at 404-660-1665 or the chamber at 770-382-1466.