What I Wish I Knew Before I Started

     “If you’re honest, if you work hard, and provide a good service, you’ll make it. Will it happen overnight? No. Great things take a lot of time, otherwise everyone else would be doing it.” –Allan Bense
     During November’s Enlightened Entrepreneur, former Speaker of the House and current CEO of Bense Enterprises, Allan Bense, shared many trials and triumphs during his life to business students and local entrepreneurs at Gulf Coast State College. Building a strong reputation, working hard, and having a PLAN is part of his formula for success.
     Allan Bense made it clear that your reputation is most important to your business. It takes years to establish your reputation, and “one stupid thing could ruin it instantly.” Allan did not start out as a successful businessman, rather he worked his way through as a janitor, waiter, mechanic, salesman, and more after his parents died at the age of 45. He spoke of these experiences as setting the stage for his business success. Bense established his reputation by always trying to get ahead of his opponents. At the age of 30, he wanted to own a bank, but had no money and didn’t know the first thing about running a bank, so he took it upon himself to work for someone else and learn the ropes every day in any way that he could until he knew more than his fellow employees. His advice is that “you always want to try to be in a position where you have more knowledge of an issue – no matter what it is – than your competitor.” Bense did finally buy a bank when he was thirty years old, grew the business until it turned a profit, and then sold it 5 years later.
     Allan has highlighted his success, as well as many admitted failures during his political career. After Allan was elected into the Florida House of Representatives, he then looked to become the Speaker of the House. He admired the position, and was motivated to one day have that power himself. After losing four elections in running for the Florida House, he finally won and soon after became Speaker of the House. Bense attributes his success simply to the fact that he outworked his opponents; he hit the road early and traveled 325,000 miles by car just to call on members for their votes. Even though it took him many years to achieve his goals, he always reminds himself that it is okay to fail. “Don’t ever be afraid to fail” is the one thing he always tells others, especially those starting up a new business. Furthermore, he says, “believe in yourself, and don’t always try to hit a home run. Singles and doubles can add up quickly.”
     Finally, he closes with some advice he learned from successful businessman Robert Pittman. Allan asked Robert, “How do you make a billion dollars?” Robert simply replied, “You PLAN.” Allan elaborated on what this means for us: “The first letter stands for making your plan; write your business plan and map out your finances. The L stands for learn; have some education background like being a lawyer, CPA or have some type of trade. The A stands for attitude; if you don’t think you’re going to be successful, then you’re not going to be successful. People will always tell you that you can’t and that you will fail, but always remain positive. Lastly, the N stands for being nice. Being nice can open up many opportunities in your business and will build many lasting relationships between those above and below you.”

Celebrating SBA’s Veteran Small Business Week

Veterans Small Business Roundup with Congressman Neal Dunn

     On October 30th, Representative for Florida’s 2nd District, Congressman Neal Dunn, visited with potential and current veteran business owners at Gulf Coast State College. He set the tone and provided the opening remarks for the Veterans Small Business Round Table for a crowd of some fifty attendees. Neal Dunn has represented Florida’s 2nd District since 2016 and has since passed many beneficial bills for service members to include the Retired Pay Restoration Act, the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, and the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, which was signed by the President on August 28th of this year.  
​     Following his comments, a panel of four veteran-owned business leaders spoke about the challenges faced by each of their respective businesses. The group gave suggestions on how to avoid making similar mistakes when they first started their business. They each acknowledge that being a veteran has significantly helped their companies and has opened up many opportunities to improve and grow their business.
     John Miller, Veterans Business Outreach Center, Certified Business Consultant facilitated the event and offered insight into the offerings of being a veteran-owned business. The benefits include opportunities such as contract-bidding advantages with state and federal governments, tax relief, improved access to capital, counseling, and support for start-ups and small companies poised for high growth and innovation. Veterans should register a small business with the Veterans Administration as a Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) or Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) through VA’s Veterans First Verification Program. 
     Hank Picken, the owner of Beaumont Products, Inc., offered a valuable tip that many future business owners should keep in mind. He attributes the success of his company to the time spent working for someone else, saying “I know full well if I had done this the day I walked out of the military, I would have failed and failed miserably. The 25 years of experience of working with other people and learning from them made it possible to know what I was doing and how the trade functioned, how marketing worked, and how the sales department worked.”
     Tomas Santos-Alejandro, President of Advent Services, added that finding and using resources can help a business needing advice. You can always use the free sources we have access to, such as researching the internet and going to the library. He then closed by saying you can learn from the people that you meet, such as clients and other business owners that will have valuable information and experiences that may help your business become successful.

     Other panelists included John Shepard, President of Carpet One Floor & Home, and Rob Moran, President of Mine Survival.