Strictly Business

Friday, Mar 23 2012 12:00 PM

RUSS ALLRED: Opportunity knocks for Bakersfield's small businesses

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    Russ Allred, business consultant and author at Sunbelt Business Brokers & Advisors.

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BY RUSS ALLRED Contributing columnist

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, recently hosted a Small Business and Innovation Conference at Cal State Bakersfield. Of approximately 20,000 businesses in the Bakersfield area, fewer than 100 were present. Andy Puzder, CEO of Carl's Jr., was the keynote speaker and many local business owners participated in panel discussions. The two military bases in Kern County sent their small business liaisons to explain the process of doing business with them.

The presenters were generous with their time and they met privately with many who were there. The business owners who attended enjoyed information and introductions that could amount to millions of dollars in future business.

The topic of Puzder's speech may have explained why so many business owners missed the event. He talked about work hours and how entrepreneurs typically invest more than eight hours a day. He said Carl's Jr. intended for the managers of its stores to act like they personally owned the store. Initially, the managers eagerly worked long hours to merit good bonuses and recognition, just like entrepreneurs but with much less risk. The majority did not graduate from college but could earn six figure incomes and benefits.

Puzder said California wage and hour laws discouraged individual effort and prompted class action lawsuits against the company. Subsequent losses forced the company to expand in other, more business friendly states, taking with them thousands of jobs and millions of dollars.

My capitalist tendencies tempted me to denounce our state for its business crushing policies, but I have extenuating experience that tempers my temper. My father managed a Sav-On Drug store in Torrance. He was one of those who worked the business like it was his own. At age 52 the paramedics carried him out of the store with a massive stroke. He never went back to work and never came home. Dad loved his job and the freedom this nation offered him to advance without an advanced education. We must review the rules of government to ensure they are accomplishing what they were intended to do. At the same time, entrepreneurs and employees alike need to work smarter, not longer.

Those conscientious business owners who couldn't find time to attend the seminar may not have been working on tasks that could earn them what an introduction to these powerful presenters could have. They should have delegated the bank deposit or the sales meeting and come to shake hands with one of the most influential individuals in the world. They might have created a business relationship with a military base that could double their current sales or met a contractor who could solve their most pressing problem. Small time operators manage from a parochial perspective. The solutions to your business problems will most likely be found outside the walls of your business. Potential customers certainly aren't in your shop; it only makes sense to go out and find them.

The potential of what lies beyond our comfort should be compelling to any entrepreneur. We're lucky Kevin McCarthy is so influential in Washington, D.C., and we should take advantage of that. He brings with him a host of opportunities.

It may be true that an opportunity only knocks once, but there are many opportunities knocking all the time. We need to lift our troubled heads and answer. I challenge every local business owner to watch for an interesting event. Make arrangements at the shop and go. Go with the goal of meeting someone who can advance your business. Take a stack of business cards and an elevator speech, a brief description of what you do and why people should do business with you. That was one of the things I heard at this conference. I hope to meet you at the next one.

-- Russ Allred, MBA, is a business consultant and author with Sunbelt Business Brokers & Advisors. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.

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