Insights. SBDC tips for forward-thinking businesses
July 2016
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Value Innovation Workshop

The attached brochure announces a 2-day workshop at our campus scheduled for April 22/23 (Monday-Tuesday) to provide area business people and practitioners the ability to receive training on the Value Innovations model right here in Wisconsin. 

The same workshop in Denver has a cost of $2,500.  Dick Lee is bringing this training to Wisconsin and we are offering this for less than half price. 

This event is being cosponsored by Brady Corporation who is using the Value Innovations model within their organization to develop innovations to products and/or services.

We have used this model for several years; I received my training in Denver and we have worked with manufacturers as well as communities to deliver “Facilitated Innovation”. 

I would like to invite you and others to consider attending this workshop to see if it could add value to area businesses.

Driving Value Innovation in Wisconsin Workshop

PROBE: A new program at the SBDC

The Wisconsin SBDC Network has recently become an accredited PROBE facilitator.

PROBE is a global network resource survey instrument that is used in over 40 countries worldwide. It stands for PROmoting Business Excellence, and is a great tool for benchmarking and business assessment.

PROBE identifies a business’ strengths and weaknesses by evaluating its practices as well as its overall performance.  To evaluate a company’s practices, consultants will look at the policies and procedures. To evaluate the overall performance, consultants will look at how the company operates its business.

First, consultants will establish a baseline for a company that will allow future surveys to measure progress and compare the company’s performance to similar businesses based on their Standard Industrial Classification code. Consultants can then use their findings to evaluate the areas of the business that need work and help the client improve their enterprise.

All of this helps companies develop an effective strategic planning process which is vital to having a successful business.

The UW Whitewater SBDC has already been involved in several PROBE assessments that have led to the development of strategic plans, identified market sectors to attack, and indicated areas within the organization that need further improvement.

The PROBE survey assessment is currently provided at no cost, as are most services offered by the SBDC.

For more information on PROBE you can call or email the UW Whitewater Small Business Development Center at (262) 473-3217 or  You can also visit the PROBE website at:

UW-Whitewater SBDC says goodbye to program manager

Kristina “Kaia” Fowler

Today marks Kristina “Kaia” Fowler’s last day as program manager at the UW-Whitewater Small Business Development Center.

Fowler, who has worked for the SBDC part time in 2006-07 and full time since May 2009, accepted a job as program manager at the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center within the UW-Extension Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.

In her new position, Fowler will work with all small business development centers in the statewide network. Along with responding to internal communication needs, Fowler will also fulfill marketing and public relations roles, raising awareness of the Wisconsin SBDC Network and the impact it has on Wisconsin Business.

“I am looking forward to becoming better connected with directors, counselors and staff at all the regional service centers,” Fowler said.

At the UW-Whitewater SBDC, Fowler said she has enjoyed getting to know members of the business community as well as faculty and students in the College of Business and Economics. Coming into her position as program manager in 2009 with an expertise in business communication and marketing, Fowler said she gained much from her work here, including a better knowledge of business management and the many challenges entrepreneurs face.

“Entrepreneurs contribute greatly to their communities and the wider economy,” Fowler said. “Providing them with resources to help them succeed satisfies my need for meaningful work.”

Fowler said she was drawn to the UW-Whitewater SBDC due to the center’s mission and vision that fit her values as well as her interest in utilizing her love for writing and communication.

“Knowing that my work makes a difference helps me stay motivated and fulfilled,” Fowler said.

Bud Gayhart, director of the Center for Innovation and Business Development, has worked closely with Fowler over the past few years. Gayhart said Fowler has not only brought structure and organization to the SBDC’s operations, but has also created training manuals to improve and accelerate employee education.

“Kaia will bring all of these elements to the state office and allow all centers to benefit from her talents, skills and abilities,” Gayhart said.

Gayhart said although the staff will miss Fowler’s direct involvement in daily activity, she will be accessible by phone, email and through center visits in the future.

Although Fowler said she will miss the members of the SBDC staff and the outstanding people connected to the College of Business and Economics at UW-Whitewater, she said she is excited and ready for her new position at the Wisconsin state office SBDC.

“It’s with gratitude to everyone I work with here that I look ahead to the next stage of my career,” Fowler said.

Using social media to enhance your business

 Changes are continually being made to businesses’ strategic plans as Facebook and Twitter become more prevalent in business operations, public relations and marketing.

photo from

To help explain and explore these social media applications, the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce will present a session on “The Twitter and Facebook Factor for Business Owners” session as part of the 2012 Lunch and Learn Business Series.

This session will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at Madison College on the Fort Atkinson Campus. Presenting the session will be Kendall Bocher and Beth Harned, the website and social media managers at Bethesda Lutheran Communities

Lunch is provided at no cost to Chamber members, $5 for potential members. It is required to RSVP at either (608)563-3210 or

Sponsors of the lunch include the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce, Madison Area Technical College and the UW-Whitewater Small Business Development Center.

*The SBDC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

*Please contact (608)563-3210 or for reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. Accommodations will only be made if requested at least two weeks in advance.

Governor’s Conference on Minority Business Development

Marketplace 2012, the Governor’s Conference on Minority Business Development, will take place on October 15 and 16 at the Potawatomi Expo Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Marketplace is Wisconsin’s premier event for providing capacity building workshops and opportunities for minority, women-owned and veteran-owned business entrepreneurs to meet one-on-one with buyers and supplier diversity managers.

Register to attend “Demystifying the State Bidding Process.”  This presentation will teach you the “hows” and “whys” of Wisconsin’s competitive bidding (procurement) process. Helen McCain, Administrator of the Division of Enterprise Operations and former Director of the State’s Bureau of Procurement will share important tips on how to respond to a bid, what your response must include, and pitfalls to avoid.

The conference program also includes spotlight seminars, one-on-one meetings with buyers, a resource expo, the Governor’s Awards luncheon, and more.  Click here for more details.

SBA launches program to help veterans become entrepreneurs

photo of military service membersSBA Launches Program to Help Transitioning Service Members and Veterans Become Entrepreneurs

Operation Boots to Business: From Service to Startup

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has joined with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) to launch a training program for transitioning service members and veterans to help them become entrepreneurs and create jobs. Operation Boots to Business: From Service to Startup is a national initiative that will be piloted with the U.S. Marine Corps. The announcement was made today by U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen Mills and U.S. Marine Corps representatives at Quantico, VA.

“Our service men and women have made incalculable contributions and sacrifices for our country, and supporting them as they pursue their dreams to start or grow their own business is one of our highest priorities,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said. “Through this partnership, we stand ready with support, entrepreneurial training, and resources that are critical tools to help them start businesses, drive economic growth and create jobs for themselves and their communities.” (more…)

SBDC client business wins award

Lean Machine Design Queen Leaps to next level of sales

Sue Straley, Lean Machine Design Queen

In 2012, Susan Straley’s business—Rentapen Inc., a machine design company—was named one of Waukesha County’s  “Top 10 Businesses of the Year,” but  in 2011, when she took over ownership and operations, it was experiencing weak growth.

As the new owner, Straley wanted to push the growth to a faster, stronger pace. “We needed to diversify our customer base,” Straley said. “It was very, very slow getting requests for quotes. We would only get about two requests for quotes from new customers a year. Trying to build up sales and find other big customers, and figure out who to contact at those big companies was kind of overwhelming.”

Having a degree in marketing but no experience running a business, Straley turned to the Waukesha County Business Alliance for advice. They referred her to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Straley considers the SBDC assistance crucial to her company’s 48 percent increase in sales during the past year.  She said, “The counselor walked us through the thought process to help us figure out what we’re really good at and what we need to be focusing on. Instead of doing everything that we can possibly do, we want to focus on what we’re really good at and get even better at it.  That provides more value to our customers.” (more…)

Grant helps Wisconsin manufacturers diversify


Small and mid-size businesses in Jefferson, Sauk and Columbia counties are being offered expert advice from business outreach centers at UW-Whitewater and their counterpart in Madison.

A federal grant for $79,557 was awarded to Ronald “Bud” Gayhart and his colleagues at the Small Business Development Center and the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center, which are business outreach centers at UW-Whitewater.

In collaboration with the Small Business Development Center at UW-Madison, they will help manufacturing businesses in the three counties increase sales revenue, find new customers and add or retain jobs by expanding their markets.

“We can find ways to diversify companies into new market sectors,” Gayhart said.

The business centers will use market research by the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center, which identifies areas in which businesses can expand their operations and diversify their customer base.

It’s an important strategy even for businesses that are successful, Gayhart said.

“The time to look for a lifeboat is not when you’re in the water,” he said. “The time to look for diversification is when things are going well.”

The one-year grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration allows the centers to provide the research to businesses for $750 instead of the usual $3,000.

Market studies begin with a detailed look at each client’s products and markets before a customized report is produced. “Each of the studies is uniquely focused on that client and that client only,” Gayhart said. “It’s not a cookie-cutter approach.”

Businesses in the three-county area are diverse, he said, including manufacturers of  medical devices, agricultural equipment, defense items, automotive supplies and mining materials. The centers focus on businesses that sell to other companies rather than to individual consumers.

The grant was awarded to Gayhart; Kristina Fowler, program manager at the Small Business Development Center; and Sandra Beccue, research manager at the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center.

Jefferson County businesses will work with the Small Business Development Center at UW-Whitewater, 262-472-3217.

Columbia and Sauk county businesses will be served through the Small Business Development Center at UW-Madison, 608-263-7680.

Wisconsin Innovation Champion Award winners announced

The Wisconsin Innovation Service Center (WISC) named four Innovation Champions on April 20 at the Ideas to Profits Conference. The Innovation Champion Awards, given annually since 2005, recognize individuals who have provided significant support for business innovation and entrepreneurship in Wisconsin.

“Innovation Champions represent the gold standard of small business advocacy, epitomize resource excellence and are certified dot-connectors facilitating the accelerated growth of businesses.  Innovation Champions are Wisconsin’s example of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and similar innovators,” said Ronald Gayhart, director of WISC.

2012 Innovation Champions: (more…)

Avoid These Startup Traps

Entrepreneur Every day I receive countless articles in my inbox stressing good business practices. Most I gloss over, but this one caught my attention. For entrepreneurs who have started a business within the past year and those considering starting a business, reading this article and heeding its advice could help ensure success. “Ten Common Arrogance Traps for Startups to Avoid” by Marty Zwilling has a title that could be difficult to relate to, but even entrepreneurs who are not the least bit arrogant could make these mistakes.

This is one of my favorites from the article: “‘If we build it, they will come.’ The hot term these days is ‘viral marketing’, meaning we won’t do any marketing, but our product is so great that everyone will know about us anyway by word of mouth and through Internet social networks. In most cases, viral marketing only begins to work after you prime the pump with several million in real marketing over a couple of years.”

While smaller businesses won’t need to spend “several million” in marketing, heeding the advice about priming the pump of viral marketing by giving people something to get excited about is critical.

Take a look at all ten traps to avoid at this link:

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