BBB and SBDC Working Together to Support Business: GlassWerks Case Story
Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) congratulates the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) on their inaugural “SBDC Day,” which takes place on Wednesday, March 22. SBDC Day is a national, collective celebration of the success and impact America’s SBDCs have had across the nation in terms of economic development and within the small business community.
To celebrate the first-ever National SBDC Day, BBB publicly thanks the Central Region SBDC for their great partnership and support of BBB’s mission of building marketplace trust, and heralds their great work with local small businesses, such as GlassWerks, in our community.
BBB and SBDC: A Model Partnership:
For more than six years, with the support of the Central Region SBDC in St. Cloud, Minn., BBB has leveraged a unique opportunity to help build marketplace trust throughout Central Minnesota. The partnership originated through the collaboration of SBDC Regional Director Barry Kirchoff and Director of BBB Institute of Marketplace Ethics, Lisa Jemtrud.
“The SBDC provides free, confidential consulting to potential entrepreneurs and small business owners in the areas of operations, marketing and financial management,” explained Kirchoff.
At the time, SBDC was looking to create a regional business “hub” of a variety of key business organizations in the new SBDC offices at the St. Cloud State Welcome Center, just as BBB was looking to continue to expand its outreach and services to businesses and consumers outside the Twin Cities.
“BBB was looking for a way to better provide its services across Central Minnesota, and the SBDC was like a magnet! They pulled us in and created a truly strategic and effective one-stop shop for small business resources,” said Jemtrud. “In turn, we have been able to provide expertise, outreach events, internship opportunities and introduce new resources for SBDC clients.”
Over the years, the two organizations have collaborated on multiple projects to support local businesses and build marketplace trust with consumers, such as free shredding events, Cyber Security programs, ethics training, business and consumer expos, business resource orientations, networking mixers, as well as educational social media and newsletter partnerships. As an example to the shared commitment to both this partnership and serving the Central Minnesota marketplace, Kirchoff joined BBB’s Board of Directors in 2016.
SBDC Integrating Student Body into Projects:
There is a third important partner within the BBB and SBDC partnership – St. Cloud State University (SCSU). Kirchoff, also a professor in the institution’s Herberger Business School, offers a unique platform for students – future business leaders – to get real-life business skills by working and consulting with area businesses as part of their coursework. This is a win-win situation as students experience and accumulate resume-building work on real-time SBDC projects, and the businesses benefit from the talent and training of skilled student consultants. BBB joined SBDC in this endeavor a few years ago with their Social My Way Program, in which SCSU communication/marketing students worked with BBB Accredited Businesses to serve as marketing consultants for area small businesses. Students researched, created and presented marketing plans, strategies and tactics to meet the business’s budget and needs.
“The Central Region SBDC is unique in the fact that it is the only known SBDC to host a BBB outreach site,” said Kirchoff. “This is only possible through the strong, three-way partnership that has been developed with BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota, the Central Region SBDC and St. Cloud State University. It continues to have a positive impact on our businesses, community and future business leaders.”
BBB and SBDC have provided services to numerous businesses, both individually and as partners. GlassWerks, a St. Cloud-based auto and home glass repair/replacement company serving Central Minnesota, is one of the companies that has utilized the services of both organizations. The company, known for their customer service and quality, has numerous positive customer reviews and is a “go-to” business for many residents and insurance agents.
GlassWerks became a BBB Accredited Business in 2010, soon after the company’s formation. Jason Liestman and Randy Lucas, owners of GlassWerks, viewed BBB Accreditation as a source of “instant credibility” for their business, and began using some of their accreditation benefits such as attending educational Focus Luncheons about SEO and social media. They add they “proudly display the BBB logo on all of our marketing materials. BBB provides a reputable resource for customers to not only research, but also review our business.”
Jason and Randy describe their experience with SBDC as “invaluable,” and “the best business decision they ever made,” insisting that they would not be where they are today without SBDC’s help. One of SBDC’s professional consultants, Bruce Theilman, meets with the owners once a month to provide guidance in a wide variety of areas, including: financing, marketing, pricing, website improvement, online presence, customer feedback, business expansion, quality control, profit-loss statement reading, increasing efficiency, staffing and supervising employees. They describe Bruce as “not just an advisor, but a friend.” Regional SBDC director Barry Kirchoff agrees that their continued work together is an example of success of the program, “SBDC consultant Bruce Theilman has enjoyed a long working relationship with Jason and Randy. What makes them so successful is they are always looking for ways to improve their business and are open to change.”
GlassWerks was one of the first BBB Accredited Businesses to participate in the new SCSU Social My Way program, which supported their business efforts as they were exploring and expanding its social media presence, diversifying its customer base and optimizing its hiring and employee performance practices. All in all, GlassWerks is overjoyed with their SBDC experience and say, jokingly, they almost feel bad that SBDC’s high-quality services are absolutely free of cost!
For more details on the SBDC Day, please visit http://americassbdc.org/sbdcday/.
Article written by Tejaswi Yeddula, BBB Marketing Communications & Outreach Intern in the SBDC offices. Teju will graduate from St. Cloud State University in May 2017, with a Master's Degree in Industrial & Organizational Psychology.