“A team is not a group of people who work in the same place…
a team is a group of people who trust each other.”
One-on-one no cost advising. Helping businesses start, grow and thrive. These are the hallmark services of Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) that business owners and entrepreneurs rely on whether they are in start-up mode, an established business, or in transition. Beyond those expectations, however, many clients discover a lesser known, more intangible VtSBDC advantage: VtSBDC advisor as a connector to helpful alliances.
VtSBDC area advisor and hospitality specialist Stephen Densham explains that in addition to the traditional role of SBDC advisors, there has been a significant shift in his long-term, established client relationships to serve as a facilitator. He says that clients appreciate when he and his VtSBDC colleagues provide guidance directing them to appropriate private sector resources.
“It’s not in our official job description to make mutually beneficial connections, but it happens that in Vermont, SBDC advisors talk to more small business owners than any other organization, and we make it our business to know who the area experts are,” Steve says. “We develop relationships with Chambers, EDCs and community leaders to better understand the businesses in our community, bringing businesses together to make our region stronger.”
VtSBDC has always created a bridge between clients and lenders, building relationships with key bankers and institutions. During the pandemic, the connection with lenders has been even more critical due to the various federal and state programs that are applied for through financial institutions.
VtSBDC advisors across the state embrace their roles as connectors to the VtSBDC “hub,” connecting clients to one another when it is beneficial and makes sense. For example, Steve has connected his high-end granite countertop client with a construction company client, an architect with clients seeking design work, and an engineer with a builder, just to name a few.
Like Steve, business advisor Debra Boudrieau often guides her clients to various private resources and introduces them to each other. She has identified motivated, established clients to create a Mastermind Group, an intimate network of 10 non-competing business owners with diverse skill sets. Initially moderated by Debra, the group collaborated with each other for two years before taking a hiatus due to the pandemic. Recently, Debra brought the group back together saying, “You need each other now more than ever.” Mastermind discussions range from business pivots to mental health to social media trends. Together, they come up with ideas and solutions, and provide encouragement to take on new challenges.
Based on the “magic” created by this Mastermind Group, Debra is inspired to create new groups around various issues or commonalities.
“I love bringing great minds together,” Debra shares. “It’s gratifying to take part in an atmosphere of motivation and creativity where the participants really have each other’s backs.”
“It’s only natural that VtSBDC’s business advisors initiate helpful connections among Vermont business owners,” says State Director Linda Rossi. “VtSBDC welcomes all the partnerships that grow from being a ‘hub’ – partnerships within the college system, with economic development organizations, and with our community partners. This mindset is good for people and good for doing business in Vermont.”
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