Resources for Small Business Interview Transcript

Preston Scott: Here on 100.7 FM. I’m not going to get long winded about this, I’m only going to tell you that when we started the show this year I made a pledge. It started with a pledge to my wife; I just said, “I am going to get back to this show making a difference.” I don’t know what form it’s going to take. I don’t know how were going to do it, but were going to go back to plowing ground and it might ruffle feathers in certain issues that we talk about, in others we’re going to come along side and give ideas and suggestions, and other areas were going to just pour information out and maybe who knows in some areas it’s going to be a combination of all of that and then some. But this is an extension to that. I’ve looked around the environment and I hear from you when we talk about the city of Tallahassee and insiders getting subsidized…basically tax payers subsidize loans. I step back and say, “okay, what does the average business person do out there?”, “what is the climate like if you’re an entrepreneur?” You want to start a business or if you have an existing business and you want to expand and you want to do some things, so here is what we’ve done. We’ve got John Medina with us. He is Vice President with First Commerce Credit Union in studio. John, good to see you. How are you?

John Medina: Good morning, great. Thank you for having me here.

PS: I decided that we needed to be proactive and try to make a difference and try to help people out there. So, let’s start with a real fundamental base line question, “what is the climate like,” generally speaking, we will drill down locally here in a bit, but what is the climate like for small business startup in America right now?

JM: Preston, it continues to be very challenging and I will tell you that the Federal Reserve, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business development councils, have surveys with very large sample sizes that come back and the number one issue that’s challenging small businesses is: access to capital. And not far behind that are issues such as, the tax environment that were in, increase in health care cost, cyber technology and mobile payment. There are a lot of challenges facing the small businesses and the particular challenge that they have is that the typical small business owner doesn’t a VP of HR, they don’t have a VP of finance, VP of legal, and they don’t have a lobbyist. Typically, most business owners are working 16-18 hours a day and doing administrative tasks either before or after work. And so, they need to have resources that they can reach to and professionals that can help them circumnavigate, you know, these difficult times.

PS: We are in an era, where there has never been more information available to people. The internet has just opened the world, but it’s really funny, it’s almost as if there is so much information people don’t know what to do. They really don’t know where to get started. So, if you’re an entrepreneur out there listening right now; a small business person and you started the business maybe a few decades ago, with your own money, but you realize you must modernize, you must expand or you must make some changes or whatever, what’s the best place to start? Or is it different for everybody? Are there certain commonalities?

JM: Yeah, I think there are, Preston. First and foremost, will tell you, regardless of the size of your company, you need to have a team of professionals. There is absolutely no substitute for having a relationship with competent professionals that have a holistic outlook and have your best interest in mind. So, I would add, you’ve been a healthy promoter, have a competent CPA or tax preparer, have a competent financial advisor, legal support and others.

PS: So, when you say team because I want to make sure someone who is out there that is like the entrepreneur because we have people out there thinking, “you know, I want to start a business. I know it’s kind of a sketchy time to do it but I just feel like now is the time.” You say, team, some might think, “Oh, I have to employ five people here.” That’s not what you’re talking about.

JM: Not at all. And two books I will just reference. One, for anyone who is considering being an entrepreneur and I can’t credit the author because the name escapes me, but the title of the book is “before you quit your job” *laughs* And it’s a great book to get you to think about the process and the planning that needs to take place before you quit your job and go into business for yourself. The second book is, “Emith”, which is a book that’s been around for many years and it highlights the skill sets you need to have within a business to be successful. You need to have entrepreneurship skill, you need to have a process manager skill, you need to have a technician. Somebody needs to actually know how to do the work and so that is the difference between a really small business, where the business owns the owner and a successful small business that you can grow and flourish.

PS: For those of you tuning in, joining me in studio is John Medina, VP of First Commerce Credit Union. In advance to the segment, he has penned a blog that is on their website and what I love about this blog is that you have so many resources and I think the thing that is important is yeah there are a bunch of challenges facing anyone that wants to go into business, but there are resources that are free that people can access. Talk about just a couple of things that you mentioned in your blog and then let’s let everyone know where they can find the blog so they can get the information.

JM: Absolutely, and Preston I would refer to folks to the blog because it does have the actual websites for a lot of these folks. For example, the small business development center that is located at FAMU. Free resources for financial plans, marketing, certifications for some of the things needed for your industry. A phenomenal free resource throughout the state of Florida, but ours happens to be located at FAMU.

PS: That’s awesome because a lot of people don’t even now know what a business plan is. They got the idea, but they don’t know what a lender is looking for.

JM: It’s a phenomenal resource Preston, more importantly they have the tools. They have a software, “Profit Sense”, for example. It’s a very technical financial modeling software that allows you to do projections, allows you to do modeling and all these tools are free of charge.

PS: So, gone are the days of the yellow pad. *laughs*

JM: Fortunately, for most small business owners you’ve got this resource so encourage folks to look at them, again it is free.

PS: What are some other sources you have on there?

JM: At FSU, the obvious ones, FSU has the Jim Moran institute for entrepreneurship. We have Domi locally. TCC has some great resources. The Florida finance network, I’ve got their website listed on there too. It lists about 5 or 6 different state-owned agencies that are in business to provide resources for small business owners. Whether its SBA loans, export financing capabilities, venture capital and so it’s a great resource for folks that are looking for technical support. Also, I would encourage folks to look at Florida Chamber of Commerce. We’ve got economic data in there, we have legislature information. If you’re looking to get a temperature of where we are as far as legislative landscape the Florida Chamber of Commerce is doing a phenomenal job.

PS: We’re going to talk about some of the legislature issue in just a minute, but folks,the website where can they get this blog?

JM: FirstCommercecu.org, when you get there you will see the link that says business and you click the link and it will take you directly to our blog.

PS: Perfect. That’s your starting point folks because we understand a lot of you are driving in the car, making mental notes and it’s not all going to come back to you, but you can listen to the podcast and this interview is going to be on their website as well and be available to you. Let’s talk for just a couple minutes here. You mentioned the top 5 issues for business; health care cost. The average small business owner, how concerned do they need to be about that? Is that a deal maker or a deal breaker at this point?

JM: I think so Preston, I think the average and I’ve owned multiple businesses, so I’ve signed the front of the check. You know what we’re looking for is a stable environment and reliability. Anytime there are health care costs or taxes and its unpredictable it creates a level of uncertainty. And that means you must plan for worst case scenarios. That’s capital that you could be deploying for development R&D and other types of proactive business tactics as opposed to being reactive and not really knowing what direction we’re headed in. But yeah, health care costs, technology, I would add as a part of that.

PS: You touch on taxes, those are things we don’t have a lot of control of. It’ s just part of business landscape.

JM: Preston, that’s Pandora’s box.

PS: It gets a lot of people in trouble.

JM: Well as a small business owner, we need to elect public officials who have a pro-business mindset ad agenda and so there is a saying, “if you don’t vote, don’t complain” and so we need small business owners to make sure their making educated decisions about who were putting into office. At the local level, the state level, and at the federal level.

PS: You know, I know a lot of people that own a small business. They have a real, genuine motivation to want to help people, obviously build a business for themselves and maybe for their family to hand down, but they want to help people, they want to employ people, they want to make a difference. The minimum wage issues I talk a lot about; I’m very opinionated on this subject. But those are very important issues because as minimum wage increases that are artificially instituted by the government, they hinder business growth.

JM: Absolutely, that is basically going to be a transfer cost. We have a lot of employees that have variable compensation have other forms of compensation too and when you look at their total benefit package. So by increasing wages that cost has to be transferred. It’s either transferred to the ultimate consumer or its transferred in the form of reduction of benefits in other areas. It has to be absorbed by somebody.

PS: Somebody has to pay it.

JM: Yes.

PS: Is it almost a requisite in this day and age that if you’re going to be a small business owner and entrepreneur, you almost always have to be active in the political landscape or else you’re going to be victimized by it.

JM: You do have to be aware of the political environment and sometimes you can do that through trade organizations, which I strongly encourage, but you also need to be aware of the local, state, and federal level. Who is going to be your advocate? The average small business owner, when I was a small business owner, I didn’t have a lobbyist. I had to rely on either trade organizations or the FL Chamber of Commerce to basically lobby on my behalf.

PS: 25 minutes past 8, we’re talking about business. Small business, local business, and entrepreneurship. John Medina, VP of First Commerce Credit Union with us. The blog will be up on the website; after the show go visit the website and click the business tab. It’s firstcommercecu.org and click the business tab. The blog will be there with resources, but John I want to pick up on the subject of just where we are, not just the state, but locally so let’s start with the state. I talked to Mark Wilson a lot with FL Chamber; their research is impeccable. We know that there are a lot of people moving to this state and we’ve got to create jobs in this state. So, on one hand there is a really good environment for entrepreneurs because their jobs and services are going to be needed.

JM: Preston, you’re absolutely correct. The FL Chamber of Foundation predicts that we will need an additional 12,000 jobs by 2020 and an additional 27,000 jobs by 2030. I will tell you that is not going to come from the public sector. That is going to come from the private sector, primarily from small businesses. Four out of 5 jobs that are created over the next 5 years will come from small businesses. Many of your listeners. We need to equip them to be successful. The resources that we’ve talked about before and the resources that are in the blog and in the website are great resources to help our small business owners be able to fulfill that job demand.

PS: I’m going to try to keep this as diplomatic as I can keep it and I can tell by your face you know where I’m going here. How do we make the environment here in Tallahassee, in Leon county, and surrounding area as conducive to small business entrepreneurship, ground floor start up type business as possible?

JM: Yeah and Preston I think it goes back to why you are here and why I’m here. We chose Tallahassee, we chose this region because of the quality of life because it is a vibrant community. We need to continue to look for ways to lower taxes, make us competitive, and you know we need to be a competitive landscape. The quality of life, the tax environment, the opportunities created for small business owners, the resources that we have talked about, and we need to be a catalyst for job creation. Our biggest capital in this community is the intellectual capital that we are exporting every year as kids we are graduating from TCC, FSU, FAMU, Flagler, and so we need to create opportunities for those folks who would like to stay in this community to be able to do so.

PS: John, the final moment or two that we have here, one of the issues that everybody that starts a business is going to deal with eventually, unless it’s strictly homebased/internet business, is going to be, “where do you locate your business?” And one of the biggest issues out there this year in the legislature that is going to greatly impact that, is the business tax issue on rent. Explain that in a nut shell.

JM: Yeah, absolutely. So currently small business owners that do not own their facility have to pay a tax on the rent and really this is beyond…

PS: Were the only state in the nation that does that.

JM: Yeah, that’s what I was about to say, Preston. We need to be a global competitive market place and any time you’re adding a tax, you’re costing small business owners. It works as a detriment. So, we need to look, the rental tax is just one, we need to look at a lot of other ways to reduce the tax and regulatory burden on our small business owners, so they can be competitive.

PS: Website again folks, is firstcommercecu.org and we’re directing you there because John has written a blog and it has everything you are going to need to get the ball rolling and started. And these are resources that will not cost you anything but time.

JM: That’s exactly right Preston.

PS: Thank you so much for coming in this morning. I appreciate the time.

JM: My pleasure. Hope to see you again.