Secrets For Nebraska Businesses Transcription
Season 1 Episode 19
This is a written Transcription for the episode: The Best Kept Secret For Businesses in Nebraska
Full Written Transcript of The Episode
Matt Tompkins: Hello and welcome back to the Omaha podcast, where Omaha’s most successful entrepreneurs help you grow your business. I’m your host, Matt Tompkins of Two Brothers Creative, and I’ve been excited for this episode to come out for a while now because this episode in particular, it checks off all the boxes for everything that we wanted this podcast to be for you to help you grow your business. I do believe this is going to end up being one of the most resourceful episodes for you yet, because on this episode of the Omaha podcast, we are going to reveal Nebraska’s best kept secret for businesses. Oh, and I almost forgot. It’s totally free.
One thing I love and very much appreciate about entrepreneurs is how much of a unique mindset it requires because the odds are not in our favor. 50% of all businesses will not be open after five years, and only about 25% of all businesses make it to 15 years or more. Those numbers can be terrifying. And they were top of mind for Joe on the day we recorded this on his way to the studio about the odds not stacked in favor of small business owners.
Joseph Kenney: So this morning I was driving down Highway 75, heading south through rural Nebraska, and it was a real honor to go to the ribbon cutting of a brand new grocery store in Peru, Nebraska.
But at the ribbon cutting, I couldn’t help but just sit back and think, what are the chances that this business isn’t going to be here in five years? What are the chances that this business is going to fail? And conversely, what’s going to prevent it from failing?
Matt Tompkins: Now, no business owner goes into it believing they’re going to be one of those 75% that go out of business. But how do you find out what you need to do and how you’re supposed to do it? We had a chance to sit down with Cathy Lang, the executive director of the Nebraska Business Development Center.
They help entrepreneurs and business owners, just like you find that long term success, but also avoid the pitfalls that set back too many businesses early on.
Cathy Lang: So, Joe, what I love about your story is that these two individuals are solving a problem. And as long as they are solving a problem and have customers that want that solution, they will survive. They will stay in business. I think for a lot of business owners, they need to take the time to think through what problem am I solving and if they can have clarity about that, I think they have a greater chance of being successful in the long run.
Joseph Kenney: I think you’re right, Cathy, but it does beg the question, clearly businesses are solving needs regularly, but they’re still failing. Why are they failing?
Cathy Lang: So the other topic that we had visited about was the idea of understanding your cash flow, understanding your balance sheet, understanding your business. And that starts with a business plan. But very specifically, it’ll hone in directly on all of your financials and the Nebraska Business Development Center, which provides no cost confidential one on one services to business owners focuses in that area very specifically.
That is one of the areas that all of our consultants are trained in, and we spend most of our time in that area of business acumen. We are one of many providers in the ecosystem, but that’s our niche.
Joseph Kenney: So what’s the catch? No cost Confidential one on one doesn’t happen, does it?
Matt Tompkins: And I was looking at the list of all the things you provide me being the team here. We’re looking at it going, Oh, wow, Well, when how soon can we schedule an appointment to go down there? We ran into this same issue of of cash flow, and it was actually an episode we did about businesses failing. I thought, you know, I should probably take a look at that. And I’m glad I did, because a few things go wrong. Any business hours included could really base some tough decisions with cash flow. Do you start with an analysis or how do you approach cash flow?
Cathy Lang: So we will do it from two different perspectives. It depends on the client. We have clients that come to us that have not started business yet, so they are just starting and so we’ll do financial projections with them. We will look at the market, we will understand their competitors and we will work with them to build their financials. And let me be really clear, we work with them to do this and here’s why. They have to know their financials. And so if they don’t know their financials inside and out, we have done them a disservice.
The same is true of their business plan. So we work with them on their financials. And so a brand new business will do projections, but if they have an existing business, then we’ll look at their existing projections or their existing financials and and look at how much are they paying for rent, what are they paying for labor and help them analyze where are the pressure points within their business that they can adjust and then let them make those decisions and implement those to help the business be more successful.
Matt Tompkins: And it’s confidential. You mentioned that earlier, which is great. And also, is there no judgment is like a judgment free zone because I feel like the businesses that face cash flow problems, you mentioned earlier that you help them when they’re starting and they’re in there already in business. Is that the same with a business plan? So a business plan, is it too late?
Cathy Lang: So I think it is never too late to create a business plan. And if you’ve gone out and you’ve been brave because it takes a lot of guts to start a business. So if you’ve gone out and you’ve been brave and you’ve started your business and you have no business plan, and that happens, then along the way, you’re you’re concerned, you’re struggling, you’re looking at your financials. You can.
And come to us at any point along the way to work on a business plan, because the benefit of that is it provides great clarity to the business owner, Oh, what are we doing? What are our objectives? Who are our customers? And it can help a business who maybe drifted out a little farther than they should have in terms of the purpose of the business to pull them back. And then looking at now, how would your new financials align to this more clear, concise business plan? And that’s helpful to any business owner at any point, right?
Joseph Kenney: 67% of businesses don’t have a business plan. Excuse me, is it because they don’t have the knowledge to do it? They didn’t know you should have it or they don’t have the funds to do it before they started the business? Which would you say?
Cathy Lang: I think it’s more that they really wanted to start a business. They were very passionate about a concept and they said to themselves, I’m going. And so they began. But as they move along, they become more sophisticated. And then it’s a question of how do you find the resource to help you find to write the business plan. Right. And so to your point, I mean, we and no one likes me to say this, but it’s true.
I think the Nebraska Business Development Center is the best kept secret in economic development in Nebraska. If you know us and if you’ve worked with us, you know who we are. But if you never have, how do you find us? Right. And so a lot of people don’t know we exist.
Matt Tompkins: Well, that’s what we’re doing here. We’re telling the world and the world. I think a lot of businesses keep things secret and they don’t want to ask questions because it’s embarrassing or it feels embarrassing.
Joseph Kenney: Pride gets in the way.
Matt Tompkins: Pride gets in the way. And I’m going to ask a question here that I think I know a lot of people are thinking in their head right now, What the hell is a business plan and how do I even get started making it? It’s not just the the doing it. It’s not knowing what it is in the first place.
Cathy Lang: I think a business plan provides incredible clarity to the owners to know exactly what they’re focused on, and then they stay focused on that problem they’re solving and who are the customers that they want to reach, that they know they are going to solve a problem. They’re going to solve something for a customer.
Matt Tompkins: How much do you charge? How much profit should a business have? And so you have 30% profit after you’ve paid everybody in yourself, right? Oh, well, I know. No, I’m not even getting paid. It’s something you don’t think about. You don’t know. You don’t want to ask because it’s embarrassing.
Cathy Lang: And that’s why I think at least for the the work that we are doing with our clients and doing it confidentially, they know it is confidential.
They know it is one on one. That’s the other thing. You can go to a class how to write a business plan and they’re great and people can dip their toes into Do I really want to start a business and they can go and have those classes? But when it’s your turn and it’s your business plan, you want to be talking to someone who is talking to you and you alone. And so that’s why we believe our services are so valuable for folks that are starting and growing. Small business in Nebraska.
Joseph Kenney: How long is a business plan, even a range, and how long does it take to develop one?
Cathy Lang: So it can? It depends on the client. Some clients get right into it. They set up their business plan, they get it done. It can be three pages, it can be ten pages. It depends on the business, but it’s up to the passion of the business owner, how quickly they want to get it done.
We have people who have come to us and then about a year later they come back and that’s okay because you know how scary this is. You’re not ready to quit your job. You’re not ready to go yet. So we are there for them with them for the long haul. We have customers that are clients that come back to us. We help them start five years later. They’re ready to add a new line to their business. So they’ll come back and we’ll redo the business plan, we’ll redo the financials, and off they go with their new line of business.
Joseph Kenney: How often do you have customers come in, business owners that come in out of necessity, They’ve wanted to rent a space. They wanted to get a loan, talk to a VC firm, and they are requesting a business plan be in place.
Cathy Lang: I would tell you that most of our referrals come to us from lenders. So someone has gone into their local bank, they’ve got their idea written on a napkin and the business or the banker will look at them and go, Come back. After you’ve been to the Nebraska Business Development Center, and the person will say, Well, what’s that? Well, here you go, Here’s a card, get a hold of them.
Matt Tompkins: It’s terrific. My wife told me the same thing the other day. Don’t come back until you’ve gone to the Nebraska Business Development Center. I know at the beginning of the summer I wait a certain amount and till like a couple of weeks ago, I had lost about £19 just from stress, because it’s a new level of stress. When you start out and it’s just you and then you involve other people and there’s more on the line and you care about those people. You care about this idea, this business, this thing you’re doing, what would the percentage change? Like how many businesses would still be open? If they didn’t consume all of that stress like I was doing for a while, how many businesses would still be open? Had they just spoken out?
Cathy Lang: I think that’s what we all hope. But here’s the other thing about a business owner, and you know this. You guys are both in this in this space. You’re very passionate about what you do. You want to go do it. You are head down, hyper focused on this is my business. People always say, why don’t small business owners ever come to these events? They’re running their business, that’s why.
And so you are all consumed in that. And so to pull yourself out of that, to even take a breath is hard. And so how do we make sure that they know about these services that are out there? They are easily accessible to them. 24 seven and then it will make it easier for them. So that’s why one of our programs at NBC is called Source Link Nebraska. And it is a platform of all of the government, education and nonprofit resources that have anything to do with business development. In Nebraska. We have about 500 of them and they are all available on this platform, 24 seven and there’s a calendar of events. So if you wanted to go to how to write a Business Plan Class, it’s listed there and we have other materials that are like we have a template business plan available. So they’re all out there sourcing Nebraska dot com.
Joseph Kenney: So how often do people resist meeting with you simply out of pride, getting in the way for where they are financially speaking or where their business is? I mean, at some point do they overcome it and get to you and say, I wish I would have done this sooner?
Cathy Lang: So we do have clients that tell us that I wish I would have come to you sooner. I knew about you, but I was busy getting my business started, so I just didn’t.
Joseph Kenney: Think We run private Facebook groups in cities across the United States that are hyper focused on just local and independent business owners. And one day we heard from a business owner that was really struggling. So I took to the private Facebook group and mentioned, Hey, listen, if you’re struggling, you have to reach out to somebody for help. Here’s the situation. We, of course, didn’t mention the name of the business, the business owners name, but we did describe what that business owner is feeling right now.
They’re feeling miserable. They aren’t feeling successful. And they couldn’t tell you whether money is coming or going. Within minutes, people started reacting to that post saying, thank you, thank you, thank you. Pretty soon people started saying, Gosh, I’m really struggling to. This is where I need help. Is there anyone in the group that has experience? But privately I started receiving messages that said, Hey, I won’t post in that group, but I need help. I’m struggling. I’m going to lose my business. If if business owners could just understand and I can speak to this. I’m a serial entrepreneur. Since the age of eight. Yes, pride has gotten in my way over the years. The reality is, is if you don’t let go of it, you aren’t going to be here.
Matt Tompkins: Right. You mentioned the busyness of the schedule, and that’s been my excuse. And it’s probably not an excuse. You make time for things that are important. That’s just a truth. And it was actually Joe telling me that story. I think I am. Like most small business owners, there’s a lot of things you didn’t think about when you started.
Cathy Lang: I think people think, Oh, well, if I reach out, then I’ve got to get at this appointment. It’s going to take time and now it’s going to be another four weeks. I will tell you that if a client reaches out to us, we are talking to that client almost immediately. I would tell you within a couple of days maximum. And so I think for business owners to realize, no, if you reach out, these partners are here to support you, they will make time to meet with you and meet on your schedule, because that’s the other thing, what works for the client. And we’re there to serve the client. So we want to meet at the time that works for the client.
Matt Tompkins: That’s a key thing to get you like some of the resources and funding is one of them, like helping people find funding. So government contracts, people don’t know a lot about this little secret.
Cathy Lang: So when it comes to funding your business, first of all, I want to be very clear. The Nebraska Business Development Center does not have grants and we do not have loans. We get a business ready to go for financial resources, whether that’s a loan or VC funding or whatever. There are very few grants for small businesses to start, and a grant is undiluted capital. You don’t repay it.
And that’s a pretty narrow little place. We actually have a program coming in the state of Nebraska that’s going to help with that. But it’s very, very narrow. Government contracting is a business expansion opportunity. So first of all, the government buys everything. The government buys everything.
Matt Tompkins: And they’re listening right.
Cathy Lang: Now and they’re listening. And so that’s federal, state and local all. Those all those branches of government buy everything, but they have a process you have to go through to be able to take your goods and services and offer to them. And that’s the government contracting piece. I could list off like ten acronyms all about government contracting and everybody would glaze over. We have team members at MDC, consultants who help the business owner navigate the process of government contracting.
So you get registered, you get into the database so that you get notices when your business niche is the government is looking for something from you. You then have to prepare your contract. You have to do all the work to get it. It is it is a bureaucratic process, but our people are there with you along the way. Again, one on one confidential, at no charge to help access those government contracts. And as a business, what’s so important is you’ve now expanded your market. You have a new customer.
Matt Tompkins: There’s a dirty little secret. I want to say real quick, just to jump in, is the government has to award a certain number of percentage of their contracts that they they do to small businesses.
Cathy Lang: Yes, We have clients of ours who almost their entire business is government contracting. They have been incredibly successful at it. We have businesses who go out and they have their regular business and then they just turn and pivot and the same service is being provided to a government entity. It’s a new customer.
Joseph Kenney: Would your team come back at some point in the future for another podcast and talk about this a little bit more in depth?
Cathy Lang: Yes, absolutely. And that is that would be real value to your listeners because it is detailed and we have team members who will do a great job of explaining it, right?
Matt Tompkins: Yeah, getting a government job. Joe, is that.
Joseph Kenney: What you’re saying? That’s right. We’re about to.
Matt Tompkins: Pivot. Yeah. These are real issues that every business owner faces, entrepreneurs face. What would your message be to the small business owner who is listening right now to encourage them? What would your personal message to them be?
Cathy Lang: Don’t give up. Stay focused on the problem you’re trying to solve with your business and reach out. Reach out to the partners that are in this ecosystem that are here to support you.
Matt Tompkins: I love doing this podcast. I feel like the side benefit for me is I’m learning so much in every episode, so which is good.
Cathy Lang: We want you to be a client and then you can be one of our stories.
Joseph Kenney: If you’re an entrepreneur or a solopreneur, you’re an aspiring business owner, an established business, a seasoned veteran. Chuck Pride in At the Door. This is confidential expert information at no charge.
Matt Tompkins: Thanks once again for joining us here on the Omaha podcast. Subscribe. So you never miss an episode, and we’ll see you next time.
It’s the Omaha podcast where Omaha’s most successful entrepreneurs help Your business grows.