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SBDC, chamber seeking to help existing businesses to ‘GrowSmart’

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The SBDC will be offering its GrowSmart program in five modules in conjunction with the Rome Floyd Chamber of Commerce. GrowSmart is designed for businesses that have been in operation for a minimum of two years, have annual receipts of $300,000 or more, and have both an opportunity and desire to grow.

"It has been so impactful for our clients that the SBDC has invested in keeping it current and moving it forward," said Rome SBDC Director Richard Montanaro. “We're making sure we bring in top notch facilitators to work with our entrepreneurs."

Montanaro said the growth previous participants have experienced, in terms of both revenue and employees, has motivated the agency to keep the program going.

The five modules will focus on establishing a blueprint for growth, development of marketing strategies, leadership and management, a complete financial analysis, and a strategy for implementation of the plan.

"When you're working in your business every day or are actively involved in putting out fires, a lot of times people don't take the time to separate themselves and take a strategic overview of the business and look at the different things that happen to them every day. It's hard to move the pieces around that are going to help you grow," Montanaro said. "The ideal candidate is that one who says ‘I cannot take one day for five weeks out of my schedule. I don't have the time for it.’ If you don't have time to take a course like this, to dedicate one day a week for five weeks to strategically plan for growing and improving your business, then your business is running you, you're not running your business."

Montanaro said the results have been phenomenal. The marketing module touches on a common problem, which Montanaro prefers to call an opportunity to do things better.

"What portions of the market are we missing? How can we reach our target customer?" Montanaro said. "We'll bring in a panel of marketing experts from different areas. Some might be advertising firms, some might come from newspaper or radio, some might come from social media. We want to have a broad perspective for our newly engaged marketing minds."

When it comes to leadership and management, the program will show business owners how to get the right employees in the right places to improve efficiency and performance.

The financial session will also involve a panel of advisors.

"We'll bring in folks who talk about Small Business Administration lending. We'll bring in folks who will talk about raising equity and debt from private sources, a group that again, gives a broad perspective," said Montanaro. He said the session helps business operators determine the best way to structure their capital needs and take a long look at budgeting.

"We've really seen several members who have gone through it get great benefits," said Drew Wharton, small business and entrepreneurial coordinator at the Rome Floyd Chamber. "It really helps them take their business to the next level." Wharton said it’s always a good practice to re-evaluate a business plan after several years of operation.

Each of the five modules will be held at the Shorter University Ledbetter College of Business in the Midtown Crossing shopping center. Business College Dean Heath Hooper has been beneficial in looking for ways to partner with the SBDC.

Montanaro said another factor that has made GrowSmart successful in the past is that participants have typically been able to access the SBDC consultants to work on certain materials or clarify items they learned in a recent session.

The cost of the program is $895, with Rome Floyd Chamber members getting a $100 discount. The class runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the SBDC will provide both breakfast and lunch at each session.

Montanaro said a key component of the program is that when a business — such as a florist for example — signs up to participate, no other floral shop operators are permitted to join.

"The reason for that is there is group work. We want everybody to feel comfortable sharing with other entrepreneurs what's going on in their business," Montanaro said.

GrowSmart is co-sponsored in Rome by the Rome Floyd Chamber, Brand Red Studios, Heritage First Bank, Coosa Valley Credit Union and Ameris Bank. Georgia Power is a major statewide sponsor for the event.

Business owners interested in the series should contact the SBDC at 706-622-2006.