The Secret Behind One Small Business’s Success—Hint: It’s Free!

By Gerri Detweiler

MentoringShane and Melissa Nichols’ five-year-old business, Arkansas-based Medex Waste, is on track to bring in $1 million in revenue, thanks in large part to the free help they received from the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center. “I don’t think we could have made it without them,” says Shane. “Without them there to answer questions and to lead us in the right direction, it would have taken us a lot longer and cost us a lot more money.”

The idea for the Nichols’ business, a firm that transports medical waste for disposal, started percolating after Melissa lost her sales job with a large national medical waste disposal firm when her office closed. As a top salesperson, Melissa often found herself frustrated when some of her clients were unhappy with the services they received from the firm. Initially, she took the layoff as an opportunity to go back to school, but then decided to take a job with another firm in the same industry. When the new company tried to shortchange her on her commission, she decided with her husband to start their own business.

At first the Nichols tried to land a small business grant, but were unsuccessful. Instead, they received something that perhaps proved to be more valuable in the long run: a referral to their local SBTDC. Advisors there helped them create a business plan, navigate small business financing options, and even provided sales leads. The SBTDC gave the Nichols answers to “all types of business questions,” says Shane, and “it was all free!”  (more…)

Understanding the Crisis of Disengagement

By Andrew J. Sherman
Seyfarth Shaw LLP

The Crisis of DisengagementMy latest book, The Crisis of Disengagement, discusses the multifaceted workplace dilemma — disengagement. It examines how apathy and complacency effects leadership and governance, company culture, fellow peers and team members, and lastly, the individual itself.  Layer by layer, I uncover the impact disengagement has on innovation, creativity, productivity, and profitability within an organization and in our communities.

At the America’s SBDC Annual Meeting in Orlando in the Fall of 2016, I gave a “Small Talk” sponsored by American Express where I discussed the impact of our nation’s current levels of disengagement on small business, innovation and entrepreneurship.  Small companies are struggling to compete for recruitment and retention of a qualified and motivated workforce and cannot withstand the financial and productivity consequence of a small group of workers who are not engaged. They also face the challenges of the “gig economy” and “the free agent nation” where nearly a third of all U.S. workers are independent or self-employed, with no loyalty on engagement towards a particular company, creating a modified set of expectations, relationships, and workplace norms.

Statistical data on levels of disengagement are still being gathered based on various demographics such as age, industry type, macro/micro level economic conditions and situational analysis. There are several evolving notions on the crisis of disengagement topic and direct and indirect costs of disengagement are still being understood and analyzed.  However, the effects of disengagement are the same throughout each organization or business. It is a disease affecting the central nervous system of our economy — and it is destroying creativity, innovation productivity and profitability.  (more…)

Preparing to Buy a Business: Part 2 of 2

In our previous installment, we touched on the benefits of buying an existing business, determining client readiness to buy, and organization. With such a small percentage of business searchers completing the purchase, it’s important to get clear on criteria and what is going to be the best fit for your client’s lifestyle and abilities.

Choosing the Right Type of Business

Many times, buyers will spend too much time looking for what they think is the “perfect” business, and end the search prematurely after realizing it doesn’t exist. Helping your client establish the right type of business to target will not only get them closer to a purchase, but it will open up options that fit within their ideal without having to hit every checkbox.

Key things to consider:

• Location

• Industry

– Fit with experience
– Match to interests

• Purchase price  (more…)

Preparing to Buy a Business: Part 1 of 2

Business ownership is a multi-part path of challenges and seeking the right support at appropriate times. But what about the complexity of the business buying process? Knowing if your clients are prepared to take on the task of running a business is one part of the equation, but there are many nuances of the business acquisition process that, if adequately prepared for, may help your clients set realistic expectations for what’s ahead.

These steps will detail questions to ask, and client characteristics to be aware of, as you help facilitate the preparation to buy a business.

Why Buy an Existing Business?

Buying an established business is a paved path to entrepreneurship, which provides a track record and a set of operations to follow or improve. With so many for sale in the market at any given time, finding one that meets the buyer’s professional goals should be within reach.

Namely, buying a business versus starting one will allow for further refinement and evolution of the operation. Here is a quick recap to show the benefits and characteristics that accompany the purchase of an existing business.  (more…)

Help Employees Save with myRA®

It’s National Save for Retirement Week – Help Employees Save with myRA®

October 18 – 23 is National Save for Retirement Week and it’s a perfect time to help employees establish their retirement goals and take the first step toward meeting them. If you have employees who don’t have access to a retirement savings plan – including part-time, temporary, and contracted workers – you can help them start saving with myRA (my Retirement Account). 

What is myRA?

myRA is a new retirement savings account developed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to make saving for retirement easy for the millions of people who don’t have access to a retirement savings plan at work or lack other options to save. It costs nothing to open a myRA account and there are no fees. Employees can choose to save an amount that fits their budget1, and the account carries no risk of losing money. In addition, savers can transfer or roll over their savings to a private-sector Roth IRA at any time.

Getting started is easy and there’s no cost to you

It’s easy to help your employees start saving with myRA. You do not administer the accounts, contribute to them, or match workers’ contributions. You simply share myRA information with your employees and facilitate a payroll deduction for employees who open accounts.

Help your employees start saving today

Visit today to learn how you can help make saving a reality for your employees with myRA.


1Annual and lifetime contribution limits and annual earned income limits apply, as do conditions for tax-free withdrawal of earnings. To learn about key features of a Roth IRA and for other requirements and details, visit