SHERIDAN — Say you work as a small business owner in Sheridan County. Your operation consists of just you and a couple of part-time employees. Where do you turn for advice?
Many small business owners likely turn to friends and family in times of need. Whether in need of advice, a sounding board or somebody with whom to brainstorm, those closest to us can serve as wonderful partners. But when business advice requires a business background, not all entrepreneurs have someone to help them through rough patches.
The Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce started the Ignite Your Business peer groups, which meet for about seven weeks. Each group puts together six to eight individuals in various industries to share challenges and solutions with one another. Travis Evans of Steamboat Technical Services said he has seen consistent issues arise for businesses, no matter the industry in which they operate. Evans has participated in and facilities Ignite peer groups.
Common themes seen in both interactions — the first in 2015 and the second in the spring of 2017 — included topics like how to work with business partners, health insurance, human resources concerns, business valuations and how to find employees.
The biggest takeaway, though, centered around the networking aspect of the peer groups. Each group member pledges to maintain confidentiality about issues discussed in each group, creating a trust among participants. Evans said participating both as a peer group member and a facilitator allowed him to walk away from both experiences with several colleagues on whom he could rely for sound, unbiased business advice.
Susie Ponce, who works with D.A. Davidson, agreed. She participated in the Ignite peer group facilitated by Evans. She appreciated the advice given throughout the formal program, but echoed Evans’ sentiments about gaining a group of trusted advisors for the long term.
Ponce noted that it seemed each person in her group seemed to be facing major challenges or changes in their businesses, some of which would have proven much more difficult had those individuals had to face them alone.
From a logistics standpoint, each group meets for 60-90 minutes each week for seven weeks. The group determines the best time and place for everyone involved and sticks to it for the designated timeframe. The facilitator helps to keep conversations going and helps prevent one individual or situation from dominating the group’s discussions.
The bottom line, according to Evans and Ponce, is that no business owner — whether flying solo or working with partners — needs to navigate issues alone.