Craig Caswell and the company he founded and has built into a Central Florida success story – Common Sense Office Furniture — exemplify the best of what it means to be an entrepreneur and small business owner. And this is a special time for Caswell as he celebrates Common Sense’s 20th Anniversary in business.
Success as a small business like that deserves special recognition. And so it is that the Florida SBDC at UCF (FSBDC at UCF) has chosen Caswell and Common Sense Office Furniture as its SBDC Day Company of the Year. Wednesday March 21, 2018 is the second annual SBDC Day, a national movement to help raise awareness about the service offerings and impact of America’s SBDCs –- the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) largest business assistance program.
“For entrepreneurs considering working with the Florida SBDC, I’d say ‘do it faster than I did,” Caswell remarked. “The sooner you can get in and learn the lessons that the FSBDC can teach you, from their services and programs, their consulting and in their classrooms, the sooner you’ll be on firm footing. Their assistance can make a huge difference.”
Like many small business founders, Caswell started his business on his own and grew it on the strength of his determination and skills. But as the business became larger, new, unfamiliar challenges arose. “Fifteen years ago, the business was growing but I was faced with a whole new set of business requirements and needs that I was unfamiliar with, issues like worker’s compensation, warehousing, delivery vehicle investments,” Caswell says. “Help from the FSBDC was the logical solution. They gave me the answers I needed.”
“Once I started working with the FSBDC, my eyes were opened and I understood that for me to continue to grow this business, I couldn’t do it alone, that there were lots of things to consider, to plan for, to prepare for. The Florida SBDC helped me with that, and with recognizing how important it is to share the glory with the people who helped you make it happen because you certainly didn’t do it alone” Caswell went on. “It’s why we have profit sharing and a 401(k) matching program for our employees, because they are the ones who make it happen every day.”
Caswell will tell you that he “took advantage of virtually every service at the FSBDC I could,” starting with its Advisory Board Council program. The Advisory Board Council is a next-level, business support service, assisting established Central Florida businesses by matching them with experienced professionals with a diverse range of skills who work together on a “custom-fit” advisory board.
“My Advisory Board was invaluable,” Caswell states. “The volunteers on my Board were amazing. The FSBDC did a great job matching their background and skills with my company’s needs. Their assistance and insights changed my business.”
A second Florida SBDC service Caswell says has been beneficial is the FSBDC’s CEO XChange, an executive roundtable program that offers a confidential setting for top executives to discuss vital business issues, opportunities and trends with a group of peers. “The CEO XChange has been great,” Caswell claims. “You think you are out there alone, that your problems are uniquely yours. Then you sit down with other business owners at the CEO XChange who have had the same issues and you get ideas, solutions and support. It’s a confidence builder.”
When callers reach out to the company, the response is apt: “Thank you for using Common Sense. How can we help you?” And using common sense is what their clients have been doing. From being located in a modest warehouse, Common Sense Office Furniture has grown into a fabulous showroom downtown. From a handful of employees 20 years ago, the company has grown to more than 20. And from revenues in the thousands, Common Sense has become a multi-million dollar enterprise.
“It’s great knowing that the Florida SBDC at UCF is there to help. I’m pleased to be part of SBDC Day and to be the FSBDC at UCF’s SBDC Day Company of the Year. It’s too bad that the services of the FSBDC aren’t better known. Like me and my company, a lot of businesses could benefit from working with them” Caswell concluded.