Jacquelyn Daquin, Haitian Quality Services, FSBDC, Business Consulting

Haitian Quality Services

Meeting the needs of your community and building a successful business can sometimes be accomplished simultaneously, especially with assistance from the Florida Small Business Development Center at UCF.

Mr. Jacquelyn Daquin came to the FSBDC at UCF seeking assistance with refinancing the mortgage on his business property.  Mr. Daquin, the owner of Haitian Quality Services, provides a range of fee-based services for residents in the West Orlando community.  Services are provided in French, Creole, and Spanish, and include immigration, bail bond, divorce, document translation, language interpreting, tax preparation, business assistance, college and employment applications etc.

imageThe business began because Mr. Daquin saw a need in the community: residents wanted to better their lives and take advantage of economic opportunities but were struggling with the language barrier and limited education.  Mr. Daquin, who obtained his Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida and is also a Certified Respiratory Therapist, started offering services in a limited capacity.  The business grew as the company’s reputation soared and his services were sought after.

With this in mind, Mr. Daquin decided to purchase a property to house the business, and use the revenue from the business to renovate and expand the facility.  Unfortunately, before the renovation was completed, he ran out of funds and was forced to accept a very high interest rate mortgage to complete the project.  He paid this mortgage for several years before deciding that, if he could substantially reduce the monthly payments, he could grow the business and possibly hire more people, hence the desire to refinance the mortgage.

Mr. Daquin applied to several banks and was denied. It was then that he was referred to Pauline Davis, a certified business consultant at the FSBDC at UCF.  She reviewed his information and assisted him with preparing a business plan, cash flow projections and accompanying financial documents to complete a revised loan package.  He was once again referred to the bank and was once again denied the loan.

At that juncture, the FSBDC at UCF’s Davis contacted the banker for an explanation of the denial, and was told Mr. Daquin had credit issues.  A further review of his credit records showed that there were errors and unexplained items on the report, and that he had a better credit history than represented by the report.  With that understood, he was referred to the Black Business Investment Fund (BBIF) for their specialized loan program.  The SFBDC and BBIF worked with the client to address his credit issues and business needs, and BBIF finally refinance the property.

Mr. Daquin is so grateful for the assistance and states, “There was no way I could have gotten the loan without Pauline Davis at the FSBDC.  I could not understand why I was being denied; she patiently assisted me with the business plan and through the process.  She is truly a “STAR” and my business and the community will be eternally grateful.”  To show his gratitude Mr. Daquin gave her a plaque on behalf of his business and the community.  He is very optimistic about his future and growing the business.

Cesar Bermudez, Sterling Building Services, FSBDC, Business Consulting

Sterling Building Services, Inc.

The American Dream in Progress

 

Achieving the dream demands, in equal measures: hard work, passion, subject matter expertise, patience and caring leadership; characteristics that accurately describe Cesar and Yazmin Bermudez, founders and co-owners of Sterling Building Services, Inc.

imageFollowing immigration to the United States in 1989 with a professional background in financial management, Cesar earned his stripes as a part time employee of ABM Building Services where he rose from building supervisor to Assistant Branch Manager to Branch Manager of Central Florida. Cesar then joined D&A Building Services as Vice President Operations transforming an emerging company with $2.5 million in sales and 200 employees to a mature entity with sales exceeding $20 million and 1,100 employees.

Motivated by the goal of sustainable financial independence, Cesar and Yazmin leveraged their experience and industry relationships to open Sterling Building Services, Inc. in 2007. The firm provides interior and exterior cleaning and maintenance services to property managers, owners and commercial clients. As a Minority Owned Enterprise the company achieved 8(a) certification in 2008.

The business gained serious traction in 2011 followed by an impressive 34% growth rate in 2012. The company is on track to double in size in 2013 with sales projected to increase 113%.

Cesar and Yazmin have responded to the dynamics of rapid growth with three key management assignments. Andrea Vargas was promoted to General Manager, Janitorial and Window Cleaning Divisions. Industry veteran Jerry Garner was named General Manager of the company’s new Facilities Services Division and Sonny Acevedo was hired as Director of Business Development.

This management structure synergy and the new business development initiatives in all three divisions have created a pipeline that will ensure continuation of dramatic growth in 2014 and beyond.

In Cesar’s words, “We are fortunate to have a growing business, but the challenges that come with growth are sometimes enormous. The advice and counsel we received from the Small Business Development Center at UCF’s Growth Acceleration consultant, Roger Greenwald, has been very helpful enabling us to adjust to growth, keeping our cash flow in check, aligning our management structure with strategic goals and assisting in defining our need for and obtaining working capital.”

Cesar and Yazmin take pride in their journey to achieve the American Dream, not only for themselves and their family, but for their employees as well. Cesar and Yazmin’s dedication to their employees’ success by providing meaningful employment and career opportunities is a central tenet of their business model.

Lesly Miranda, Furry Tails Pet Grooming, FSBDC, Business Consulting

Furry Tails Pet Grooming, LLC

Established in 2008, Furry Tails Pet Grooming, LLC., is successfully owned and operated by Carlos Hernandez and Lesly Miranda. Furry Tails Pet Grooming, located in the heart of Poinciana, Florida, is an independent, full-service grooming salon that caters to all breeds of dogs and cats and emphasizes convenience for the dog owner.0 004Lesly and Carlos started the business after being professionally trained at the Florida Institute of Animal Arts in Winter Park. They complement their business background with a strong retail, customer service experience, and with membership in the National Dog Groomers Association. However, as they reflect back in their journey they confessed “it all started with a deep sense of passion towards animals…dogs in particular! We love animals and thought pet grooming would be an ideal business venture to go into. It was that simple for us…and family support was key.” But how do you turn a passion for animals into a sustainable business? There is not an easy answer especially when their unique story is filled with challenges from raising enough capital for running operations, limited square footage space, and gaining pet owner’s trust.

Earlier this year, they decided assistance was needed to expand their pet grooming business in Osceola County. Fortunately they had heard of the FSBDC at UCF thru a local newspaper. They met with FSBDC at UCF and started to proactively work with the trials of surviving and thriving in a tough economic climate. The FSBDC’s Certified Business Consultant Rafael Pratts assisted and guided them to refocus on marketing; redefine their target market, look for complimentary product/services to offer, invest marketing dollars wisely, and helped identify effective ways to keep in touch with current and past customers. Equally important, he provided insights into how to properly secure additional working capital for our business operations! “The key to their success will likely be in continuing to offer exceptional high quality service, paying attention to the overall retail image and in being proactive business owners,” commented Rafael Pratts of the FSBDC at UCF.

With that said, Furry Tails Pet Grooming expects to reach 20% projected sales growth by end of 2014. They are more excited than ever about their efforts with the assistance of the FSBDC at UCF to increase overall retail space by 300% and at the same time lowering total retail square footage cost by 30% with new services like washing stations, day care services, and boarding. “We are very grateful to the FSBDC at UCF because they are helping with the expansion of the business”, said Lesly. Best of all, they will strive to expand their commitment to the local charities in Poinciana in more than one way like providing prizes, gift certificates, and dog food for a wide range of different non-profits. Together with this, they even help animals find a new home! Furry Tails Pet Grooming, “where belly rubs are always free.”

American Backflow Testing

American Backflow Testing, Inc.

Like many business owners, Gary Gamache, the president and CEO of American Backflow Testing, Inc., was looking for ways to grow his business. He understood that growth costs money and sought out the Florida SBDC at UCF (FSBDC) in Lake County for assistance in securing bank financing. His goal was to obtain a $50,000 line of credit to better manage the cash flow in his business and have funds to expand the business into additional business opportunities.

Gary first came to FSBDC in January 2013 when he attended the Business Plan Writing Made Easy class taught by Stan Austin, a certified business consultant at the FSBDC in Lake County. Shortly after the seminar, Stan started working with Gary to put together the business plan he would need to win approval of his bank loan application.

image (1)Through the summer Stan and Gary revised multiple iterations of his business plan. By early fall, Gary was ready for a final printing. The plan was printed for him in the FSBDC in Lake County’s office and bound with a comb binder. Gary then approached several banks seeking a line of credit for his business. Gary obtained a $50,000 line of credit with a bank in December 2013.

At the same time Gary was preparing his business plan, he began looking for new customers. One of the areas Gary has had business success is with local cities that need backflow testing done on a scheduled basis. Stan introduced Gary to Derek Hudson, a CBA and member of the FSBDC’s Government Contracting unit [formerly its Procurement Technical Assistance Center – (PTAC)]. Gary attended all the Government Contracting classes available to better understand the “ins and outs” of working with government entities. He immediately put to use what he had learned by winning business at another city by “piggy backing” on an already in place municipal contract he had with a city in the same area.

So it was that, once Gary had his credit line in hand, he was in a position to finance servicing new customers and better manage his cash flow. In Gary’s business, managing the payroll can put a strain on cash flow. He must pay his employees for the tests they perform immediately, even though there is a lag in time before Gary is paid by his clients. In addition, if Gary is to capitalize on the growth opportunities his national account clients are offering him, he needed operating capital to set up a larger support organization to manage the additional backflow testing calls. The additional workload also would require him to add personnel in the office to manage the necessary paperwork for billing the clients, paying the subcontractors and recording the information regarding the backflow tests with the correct water authorities in each local municipality.

With the credit line in place, Gary was able to grow his business with a few major accounts and with local municipalities. Gary has transitioned his personnel from using 3 subcontractors in 2013 to adding permanent employees in 2014. He now has two permanent office administrators and three employees conducting backflow tests. In May, he projects hiring one more field employee.

Two of his major accounts are now asking Gary to expand his testing operations to states other than Florida. In addition, now that he has a solid working model for managing major accounts, he is actively pursuing additional major accounts with multiple locations.

Over the past year, Gary and Stan have enjoyed building a professional and personal relationship. Gary counts on him and Derek Hudson personally to help him as he continues to grow his business. He is also relying on Stan to continue to direct him to other resources within Florida SBDC when need be. “The FSBDC in Lake County has been an invaluable resource to me and my business,’ says Gary. “They have mentored and coached me on how to better manage and grow my business. Companies in Lake County are making a mistake not to take advantage of their amazing, no-cost consulting, training and support.”

Sunil Tarneja, Architectural Aluminum Techniques

Architectural Aluminum Techniques

The Great Recession of the last decade took a severe toll on the construction industry in Florida. It forced many construction companies and those that supplied them out of business. It took courage and foresight, and a certain white-knuckle fearlessness, to weather the storm and come out whole on the other side. But for those that did survive, and were able to keep their core intact and maintain their reputation, there has been significant opportunity in recent years.

Architectural Aluminum Techniques (AAT) and its CEO and owner Sunil Tarneja weathered just such a storm and, with the help of his wife and CFO Sujata, key members of his management team and a group of CEOs brought together by the Florida SBDC at UCF in its CEO XChange program, he navigated the company through the Great Recession and on to a record year in 2013 when it recorded a 200% increase in revenues.

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AAT is a sub-contractor to construction companies. It supplies architectural aluminum and steel engineered glazing systems that are often integral to the architectural style of an office building. They also often produce the materials that make up the unique architectural elements that make a building distinctive and memorable, such as the a 10,000 square foot outdoor balcony structure that juts from the Amway Center toward I-4 in Orlando, Florida, the Center’s 20,000 square foot glass entrance atrium facing Church Street or the modern glass and aluminum of the iconic UCF College of Medicine building. Architectural Aluminum Techniques had a hand in the construction of each of those remarkable buildings.

Founded in 1992 when Sunil and Sujata moved to Orlando from Toronto, Canada, AAT was built from a standing start, competitive bid by competitive bid. The company achieved break even in 1996 and enjoyed positive growth and profitability in the following years. They grew to be a multi-million dollar business with upward to 90 employees by 2009.

AAT was a success story indeed. Until the Great Recession hit, that is. Commercial construction tends to lag residential construction and when Sunil saw the dramatic decline in residential building activity in 2009, he knew there was trouble around the corner. Having felt the pain of the 1990 recession in Canada, he was prepared to do what was needed to save his company. In 2010 he slowly began downsizing the company, releasing good people because there was no work. 2011 was no better for AAT and the downsizing continued.

By 2012, Architectural Aluminum Techniques was down to its core team of 20 employees. For many of them, there was no work. Revenues had fallen precipitously to the point where they did not cover payroll. The times were dark and the future looked bleak. Fortunately, Sunil had learned from his experience during the Canadian recession, and had always run AAT very conservatively, making sure that it was financially strong with adequate cash on hand at all times. During 2012 he had to use some of those cash resources to make payroll. And he led an “all hands on deck” sales effort during the down times, having all of his employees calling clients and bidding on almost any deal they found.

It was during these difficult times in mid-2012 that Sunil brought his challenges to the Florida SBDC at UCF’s CEO XChange program. An executive roundtable program serving progressive chief executives and business owners, CEO XChange offers a confidential setting to discuss vital business issues, opportunities and trends with a group of peers and benefit from their experience and counsel. At the CEO XChange meeting, Sunil laid out his issues; he had battened down the hatches, cut overhead, downsized to his core employees but was still bleeding money. His inclination was to hold on for as long as was necessary, but he wanted to hear from his peers about what they thought. An intense discussion ensued. Hard questions were asked. Painful experiences were shared. In the end, the group’s consensus was that Sunil should follow his instincts and experience, hold onto his core people and ride out the storm.

Buoyed by this vote of confidence, Sunil determined to stay the course. He retained his core team and continued to have everyone in the company pursue sales opportunities. Several months later, the construction market turned the corner. The Presidential elections seemed to be a turning point, as suddenly money for construction projects began to pour into the market. Architectural Aluminum Techniques began to win bids. They found that their strong reputation for quality products, the industry’s familiarity with AAT and its people and its financial staying power combined to help the company win business, even though theirs was not always the low bid. As a result, while the company endured a loss for 2012, it experienced a dramatic increase in revenues for 2013 which has turned into one of the company’s best years yet.

While Sunil recognizes that there were many factors that got him and Architectural Aluminum Techniques through the Great Recession, he acknowledges his CEO XChange experience as having made an important contribution. “The CEO XChange was of great value to me when I needed it. The other executives shared their experiences – good and bad, provided clear-eyed analysis of the problem and offered honest feedback and suggestions. They didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear the way an employee might and didn’t bring their self-interest to the problem. My company and I benefited greatly from the input of the CEO XChange members,” Sunil said.

Ray Levy, Coldwell Banker Camelot Realty, FSBDC, Business Consultant

Coldwell Banker Camelot Realty

Florida residential real estate has been a tricky proposition since the end of the last decade’s great recession, and its reduced property values has affected all aspects of the industry, including depressing values in the real estate brokerage business. For some, however, the diminished values of brokerages and the uncertainty around the recovery of the Florida real estate market represented an opportunity if the pieces of an investment could be pulled together in time to take advantage of an unpredictable market and ambiguous future.

Karen and Ray Levy were just such people. Having been successful Real Estate Professionals in the Lake County Area for 7+ years, they knew the industry. And with a sales team of four individuals working as representatives of Coldwell Banker Camelot Realty in Mount Dora, Florida, they had an ear to the market that told them there were opportunities to be had in the future as a full service brokerage office.

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By early spring 2013, Karen and Ray had decided to move on the opportunities they saw and visited the office of the Florida SBDC at UCF in Eustis, Florida (Lake County). Their goal was to acquire Coldwell Banker Camelot Realty by year end 2013. While they are both astute Real Estate professionals, they were in need of guidance on how to build a plan to acquire the brokerage business and its related commercial property. In addition they weren’t sure how to evaluate the selling price for the business. Finally, they knew they needed a robust Business Plan to convince potential investors to help them make their dream a reality.

Stan Austin, Area Manager for the FSBDC at UCF in Lake County, was uniquely suited to assist the Levy’s and welcomed the chance to work with them by providing them with the expert, no-cost consulting the FSBDC at UCF is known for. The FSBDC services like no-cost consulting, training seminars and data base research resources, are an integral part of the three Business Opportunity Centers (BOC’s) in Lake County, Florida. The Business Opportunity Centers offer incubation services along with the training and consulting services provided by the Florida SBDC at UCF team in Lake County

Being a Business Broker in a prior life, Stan helped the Levy’s re-cast the current owner’s financial information to estimate the value of the business portion of the transaction. In addition Stan recommended they obtain a certified commercial appraisal on the business property. That would give them the pieces of the puzzle necessary to begin negotiating a sales price that would be fair to all parties concerned.

In the meantime, Karen and Ray availed themselves of the training offered byFSBDC at UCF in Lake County. They attended the “Start-Up Basics” and “Business Plan Writing Made Easy” seminars to better acquaint themselves with the best practices of both. After the Business Plan class, Ray began working in earnest to put together their own business plan. After multiple iterations it was decided it would be necessary to recast the current owner’s financial information in light of the operational changes the Levy’s desired to make to the business (when they owned it). Stan worked with them to document the changes and reflect the savings in the Profit and Loss statements as if the changes had already been made. The savings were substantial.

During the summer of 2013, as work continued on the business plan, the Levy’s obtained the appraisal for the commercial property and began “floating trial balloons” with potential private investors and financial institutions. The intent was to test the feasibility of obtaining financing to purchase Coldwell Banker Camelot Realty.

As the year went on, Stan re-worked the financial information multiple times with the passing of each quarter. The good news is the real estate market in the area, as the Levys had foreseen, also began to rebound some as well. The financial picture and projections became more and more positive! As we approached the end of the year, it became easier to project the year-end financial picture, as well as project 2014.

Late in the summer, the Levy’s obtained a loan commitment from United Southern Bank to finance the commercial property. Around the same time, they were able to line up financing for the remaining amount needed to buy the business portion of the acquisition. The financing consisted of a private investor, seller financing and an equity position by the Levy’s.

On December 27, 2013, the Levy’s closed on the transaction and met their goal to acquire the business prior to January, 2014! They have already added five full employees and are well on their way to implementing the operational changes they stated in the business plan!

Ray Levy summarized his feeling by saying, “There are a lot of people out there that have good ideas, but they don’t have the expertise of business consultants,” said Ray Levy. “The FSBDC at UCF in Lake County and the BOC really moved the needle forward for us.”

Jing Zhou, Interventions Unlimited, SBA Award Winner, FSBD, Business Consulting

Interventions Unlimited

It was December 2012 and Jing Zhou, founder and owner of Interventions Unlimited, was facing a challenge: what was the best strategy for expanding her business? She had made many right decisions in building her company up until this point but this was one decision that she wanted some help with. She turned to the Florida SBDC at UCF for assistance.

0 001For over 20 years, Jing Zhou has been dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of special needs children. In 2000, Interventions Unlimited was established to provide an exceptional education to children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. Driven by the philosophy that all children can learn with the right instructional approach, Interventions Unlimited teaches special needs children cognitive, social, academic, adaptive, communication and motor skills.

Starting as a part-time, home-based business, providing one-to-one behavioral therapy with only two therapists, Interventions Unlimited now has a team of approximately 70 behavior therapists, educators, paraprofessionals and administrative staff serving special needs children and their families. In 2007, Jing expanded Interventions Unlimited services to include a full-time school, now known as Alpine Academy, to provide an educational alternative to children with special needs. By teaching them adaptive skills and behaviors, these children are now able to achieve maximum potential in their homes, schools, and communities. The quality of life for the child and his/her entire family is very often greatly improved as a result of these services.

With an unwavering passion to expand services for special needs children and with the demand for these services on the rise, it was in December of 2012 that Ms. Zhou sought out the assistance of the Florida SBDC’s Growth Acceleration Services to assist her in planning for this strategic expansion. The FSBDC at UCF consultant, Jill McLaughlin, conducted an in-depth analysis of the business and identified key performance indicators to monitor operations and company finances. In addition, the Growth Acceleration consultant recommended strategies and tactics to achieve growth goals. Once the business analysis was completed and presented to Ms. Zhou, the FSBDC consultant worked with her to implement the report’s recommendations. In May of 2013, Interventions Unlimited was able to acquire the building next door, allowing it to double the capacity of the school and behavioral therapy services.

“I’m very appreciative of the consulting I received from the Growth Acceleration services at the Florida SBDC at UCF. My consultant, Jill McLaughlin, was attentive and thoroughly understood my business. She prepared a detailed financial analysis, providing great insights on the company and key performance indicators to successfully manage our growth.  Her recommendations have given me the tools to plan more strategically. Since then, we have improved our operations and business management.  We are now in a much better position for growth.”

In recognition for her business success and contributions to the community, the SBA named Jing Zhou the 2014 Woman-Owned Small Business Person of the Year award for the State of Florida.

The Florida SBDC’s no-cost Growth Acceleration services are available to companies throughout the state. To qualify for the services, the company must have growth as a goal, be in operation for at least three years, have annual revenues ranging from $500,000 to $10 million, and employ five or more workers. Florida SBDC Growth Acceleration consultants are available statewide to provide assistance to qualified emerging and growth business who are looking to advance. Specifically, the SBDC at UCF Growth Acceleration services consultants will provide high level consulting of 50 – 100 hours (fair market value of over $10,000) to help qualified SMEs develop sustainable growth strategies. For more information about the SBDC’s Growth Acceleration services, contact FSBDC at UCF Regional Director Eunice Choi at 407-420-4850 or echoi@ucf.edu.

Sarah Blake, Elipsis Engineering

Elipsis Engineering & Consulting Realizes Success With Assistance from FSBDC at UCF’s Advisory Board Council

Engineering Firm Achieves Rapid Growth While Staying True to Guiding Principles

 

In the beginning of 2009, with the economy in a severe downturn and many businesses failing, Sarah Blake took a risk and opened Elipsis Engineering & Consulting, LLC with no capital, two employees and $200,000 in revenue.

This risk has reaped many rewards as the firm recently celebrated its fifth year in operation and was named one of the 2014 fastest growing private companies in Central Florida by the Orlando Business Journal (OBJ).

A second significant milestone for the firm occurred in 2012 when Elipsis applied to participate in the FSBDC at UCF’s Advisory Board Council program. “We joined the Advisory Board Council because we were such a young company and didn’t have all the expertise we needed,” remarked Blake.  She worked with Advisory Board Council Program Manager Jill Kaufman, who hand-picked a team of board members to address the company’s needs and accelerate their growth.  Experts in marketing, human resources, business law, finance, accounting, strategic planning and government contracting comprised Elipsis’ board of advisors.  According to Blake, “It’s an opportunity that you don’t typically have as a small business.  It’s hard to get the professional advice that you need and that’s affordable.  I would recommend the Advisory Board Council program because it is a great resource at no cost.”

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The board acted as a catalyst that helped drive the firm’s rapid development and expansion. “My board always made themselves available to me,” explained Blake.  “They have helped develop our business strategy and improve our hiring process, especially in a tighter labor market.  With the financials they have helped me understand our profit margin and develop goals and metrics for strong financial growth.  They have helped us establish a plan for our growth and resources.”  In addition to the board’s input on the business, they also mentored Blake on her personal development.  “The board has helped me develop as a business owner,” commented Blake.  “My perspective has changed and I have realized what I need to be delegating.  They have helped me to become a better leader.”

Blake says the top accomplishments of her company since her advisory board began in 2012 include: purchase of an office building which expanded their facility from 3,000 sq. ft. to 7,000 sq. ft.; doubling the size of their fleet of vehicles from 10 to 20;   increased staff from 17 to 30 employees; and increased revenue by 82%. Moreover, the firm was awarded two 5 year $5 million continuing service contracts with the Florida Department of Transportation for materials testing and geotechnical services and construction engineering inspection support.  In addition, Elipsis has worked on some of the region’s largest projects including Sunrail, Wekiva Parkway and I-4 Ultimate.

As she leads Elipsis, Blake is guided by a set of deeply-held core values which include “Significance”.  “We strive to be Significant by giving back to our community and assisting organizations that are making a difference locally and internationally,” Blake explained.  Although Blake and Elipsis have won numerous accolades including 2014 OBJ Fast 50; 2013 OBJ 40 Under 40; Orlando’s 2014 OBJ Top Engineering Firms; Orlando’s 2013 Largest Women-Owned Businesses; 2013 OBJ Women Who Mean Business; and 2014 OBJ Best Places to Work, one of the awards she is most proud of was being named among the 2013 Central Florida Top Philanthropic Companies.  “Our focus hasn’t been on large profits,” explained Blake.  “Our focus has been on having a good, stable work environment.  What we have found is that we have been more blessed than we ever could have imagined.  We are a company that our employees are proud to work for.”

Craig Caswell, Common Sense Office Furniture

A Common Sense Approach to Business Success

“Always use Common Sense.” That marketing slogan neatly sums up the philosophy Craig Caswell has used to guide his business. Caswell opened Common Sense Office Furniture in 1997 and that guiding principle has helped him to build his firm into one of the largest office furniture dealers in Central Florida. Based in Orlando, Common Sense Office Furniture offers design, sales, delivery and installation of new, used and remanufactured office furniture out of its more than 30,000 sq. ft. showroom and warehouse. Common Sense has become known for the excellent value and service they provide and today’s cost consciousness has made their offerings even more popular. A key element of the firm’s business growth strategy and common sense approach has been to utilize the services of the Small Business Development Center at UCF. According to Caswell, “Nowhere are there valuable services and advice available, at no charge, like at the SBDC and Advisory Board Council. They are a great tool to grow a business and get advice that otherwise you may never have access to…”.

image (4)Caswell has utilized the services of the SBDC’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center and in 2010 he joined CEO XChange, a CEO roundtable group, but the Advisory Board Council (ABC) was the first SBDC program to attract his interest. In fact, his first interaction with the ABC was when he signed up to donate his time and expertise to help other business owners by serving as a volunteer advisor for the program in early 2008. Yet, as Caswell learned more about the ABC and the next level business assistance it provides he thought it would be a useful tool to help propel his own business growth.

Later that same year Common Sense Office Furniture became a client of the Advisory Board Council. Caswell worked with ABC Program Manager, Jill Kaufman, to identify areas of opportunity and challenge facing his business. Kaufman formed a board of advisors for Common Sense to address the firm’s strategic planning, marketing, sales management and training, operations and business development. According to Caswell, “The board members all had backgrounds directly related to the operations and sales parts of my business and they understood each component. I never could have afforded this kind of advice without the SBDC.” The Advisory Board Council worked with Caswell to take a more strategic view of his business, build a stronger business foundation and lay out a roadmap for business growth. “One of the missing components they helped me identify was a lack of consistency and follow through on ideas, projects and marketing as we were caught up in the day to day trials of running a small business,” commented Caswell. “The Advisory Board helped me pull my head out of the sand, take a look around and find a path that would lead to future growth.”

Common Sense Office Furniture’s advisory board has proven so advantageous to the business that Caswell requested and was approved to remain in the program for a second term. Throughout Common Sense’s tenure in the ABC the firm has demonstrated strong growth in revenue and their number of employees has doubled from six to twelve, strengthening the firm’s organizational structure and allowing Caswell to focus on expansion opportunities. The company has refined its marketing strategy and increased its visibility in the community. In fact, the business received significant exposure when Common Sense Office Furniture was named to the 2010 Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. due to its 41% 3-year revenue growth. Upon learning of this honor Caswell recognized the contribution of the SBDC. “The SBDC has been instrumental in helping me grow my business for the past two years. This is evidenced by the inclusion of our company in the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing small businesses this year.”

Get Bit, FSBDC at UCF, Business Consulting, Pauline Davis

Get Bit Entrepreneur Gets Bit

Get Bit LLC was founded to offer the ultimate in extreme adventure. And, with the assistance of the Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (SBDC at UCF), the company is on its way to doing just that.

Whether its supplying custom rod building components, teaching rod building classes, guiding gator hunts or managing world class tarpon fishing trips, Capt. Kevin Brotz, the owner of Get Bit LLC, has an obsession for the outdoors. His passion is focused around sharing the world of nature in ways that most people don’t get to experience. When Kevin was two years old, he would wake his parents at 6:00 am to go ‘pishing’. He couldn’t pronounce the word ‘fishing’ but could cast his own rod even at that young age. He started his outdoor life then and hasn’t looked back since; he was hooked for life.

Harking back to the old saying that “It isn’t work if you love what you’re doing,” Kevin knew he wanted to build a business that incorporated his love of the great outdoors. After graduating from the University of Florida with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration and a minor in Entrepreneurship, Kevin was licensed by the United States Coast Guard. Today, Captain Brotz has combined his professional designation, experience and solid foundation in business to make his dream a reality.

Help from the SBDC at UCF
Kevin wanted to set his business up for success from the very beginning and knew he needed assistance in getting the business off the ground.  He contacted Pauline Davis, consultant at the Small Business Development Center at UCF, for no-cost assistance. Together, they worked on several versions of Get Bit LLC’s business plan and cash flow projections.  Recognizing that he would have to fund the business himself, the planning process became even more crucial.  Through a lot of prayer and even more hard work, Get Bit LLC opened for business in February 2011 and has been well received.

There’s a reason why Get Bit LLC is off to a strong start: it’s a sportsman’s paradise and a dream come true for anyone who enjoys the outdoors that is built upon a strong business foundation developed with the help of the SBDC at UCF. The business services include:

  • Custom Rod Building Supply & Academy – distributing components to wholesale and retail custom fishing rod builders. Through their full service e-commerce site, Get Bit has a global marketplace. Holding monthly classes in the shop, Get Bit Rod Building Academy teaches first timers how to build and customize their very own fishing rods.
  • Extreme Adventures – Guiding Trophy Alligator Hunts in Central Florida and Trophy Tarpon Fishing Trips in World Famous Boca Grande FL, Get Bit provides the Experience of a Lifetime!
  • Trophy Fish Mounts – Get Bit has a world renowned Taxidermist whose sole job is bringing that Trophy of a Lifetime back to life as a true piece of art.
  • Outdoor Ministry – Kevin loves nothing more than using the outdoors as a platform to help others find and build relationships with Christ. Kevin has full intentions to build Get Bit Outdoors to a level where he can devote his efforts to this ministry full time.

Kevin is very excited about the business’s potential and is grateful to his wife for her unwavering support and confidence in his ability to build this business. He also appreciates the assistance of Pauline Davis and the SBDC at UCF and states, “The SBDC has a wealth of knowledge and experience with small businesses. Every meeting forced me to do more due diligence and build a stronger business plan. Just knowing the resource that is the SBDC at UCF is available was and is reassuring and gave me the confidence to move ahead”.

Working within a tight budget, Kevin finds creative ways to market his business. “With huge potential for growth I refuse to let our limited marketing budget hold us back,” he commented. We have to think outside the box.”

Looking Ahead
Kevin loves nothing more than helping clients experience the extreme outdoors. “The opportunity to build this business is a blessing in many ways, not to mention the excitement of playing tug of war with Swamp Lizards weighing an average of 500 lbs!” says Kevin. “There is nothing to compare it to!  It is an absolute Blast!”  He is confident that his faith will successfully see him through this business adventure and hopes to be an inspiration for others to reach and achieve their dreams. And he is grateful to the SBDC at UCF for its assistance in getting him off to a strong start.

Get Bit LLC,
950 North Central Avenue, Suite 1,
Oviedo, Florida 32765
407-542-7840
www.GetBitOutdoors.com