Things you need to know before meeting with a business advisor: Top tips from our SBDC advisors
By Gernely Almonte
As an entrepreneur, it can be hard to know where to find the resources you need – but a business advisor can help point you in the right direction.
Known as the nation’s largest small business assistance program, The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Baruch College provides services to ambitious business owners and entrepreneurs with through technical assistance, research and more at no cost. We help clients with financial and lending assistance, preparing business plans, identifying avenues for exporting goods and services, developing marketing plans, and much more.
Before you meet with a business advisor, here are some tips from our business advisors on how to make the most out of your experience.
- What types of businesses do you tend to see, and in what industry or stage of development?
“We advise nearly all types of small businesses at every stage of their development/evolution. Many of our clients are first-time entrepreneurs looking for guidance on business registration and licensing. Others are industry experts seeking our advice on selling their services or building a team. There is also a sizable contingent of active business owners asking us to help analyze difficult management decisions, such as when to expand, how to finance growth and so on.” –Benjamin Cox
“We see businesses from a variety or sectors and stages including professional services (lawyers, doctors, and consultants), technology/app, contractors (government and private) e-commerce, fashion, restaurant/cafés- and recently, many boutique fitness studios. Generally speaking, we see people early on in their venture- within the first 3 to 4 years. However, this is not always the case. Currently, I am working with a home renovation contracting business that’s been around for 25 years!” – Stephanie Peschiera
“We mainly see clients at the pre-startup stage, which means clients that just come to develop an idea they might have and others who are only within the two to three-year mark of their business. We receive clients seeking financial help, particularly those struggling with ROI (return on investment).” – Leo Zhang
- What are some important do’s and dont’s for meeting with a business advisor?
“My biggest piece of advice to any entrepreneur is to talk to your (potential) customers – engage them throughout the design process and make sure their needs are being met first. Too many people develop their ideas in a silo, without ever discussing the problem or their proposed solution with the potential beneficiaries. Both time and money are lost when entrepreneurs fall into this trap, which results in products or services that are undifferentiated, inferior, or altogether unwanted. Entrepreneurs can avoid some of these hard lessons by taking the time to understand their customers and their customers’ needs – well before any product development takes place.”- Benjamin Cox
“Be prepared. Asking insightful questions and having thought out answers, shows interest and it manifest how knowledgeable you are about that area or if you have done your research. Doing your assigned homework (returning clients) really shows your commitment to succeeding.”- Leo Zhang
“My pet peeves are usually around a client trying to cut corners. In particular, when a client lacks knowledge about the industry in which they are trying to build a business. How can you sell a product if you don’t know the market demand, competition, trends, consumer behavior and latest developments? The first step in building a business plan is extensive research on what currently exists to solve the problem you detected: know your industry (and periphery industries) inside and out.” – Stephanie Peschiera
- What do you think makes a meeting productive?
“It is most important that our clients are honest, open, and willing to put in the hard work themselves. Our work is limited to advisory services, meaning that the entrepreneurs have to be willing and able to act on that advice in order to see any progress in their businesses. I think that many people either forget this or have unrealistic expectations from the start, but it is important to emphasize that entrepreneurship is likely the most challenging career path one could choose. Acknowledging this reality and staying open to new ideas and guidance along the way will at least help our meetings to stay productive and positive – and will hopefully allow our clients to grow successful businesses, too.”- Benjamin Cox
“I try to make each meeting productive by zoning in on the exact issues the client needs help with at the moment. Often, the client is not sure of what their issue is, they are simply stuck. So, with a series of questions, I am able to unpack the problem and help build a strategy to overcome it. A step-by-step, task- and goal-oriented approach is usually the most productive and manageable method for clients.” – Stephanie Peschiera