Small business focus essential in Washington County

Friday, April 14, 2023

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The Washington County Community Development Agency is the ultimate resource for small business support in the east Minneapolis - Saint Paul metropolitan area. Its What’s Next CEO initiative is the go-to site for business owners and leaders seeking an outlet to learn and network with other figures in similar situations. The primary business advisor with What's Next CEO is Lee Hall, the CEO of NextStage, a Minnesota nonprofit business advising organization focused on small businesses and entrepreneurs. 

Hall recognizes Washington County as a unique community that fosters entrepreneurship and small businesses. Its proximity to the Twin Cities metropolitan area allows for close access to suppliers, vendors and many customers but without the density or overdevelopment that leads to the communities losing their unique feel or small-town identity.   

“Washington County has big business and major employers, but there’s a healthy and diverse community of independent businesses, which gives the community its unique character,” said Hall. “The overall business community is quite engaged, evident in many encouraging examples, like the great turnout at the county’s various chambers.”   

Business advising

The Whats Next CEO program offers a format for entrepreneurs to share and learn from other small business owners who may be in entirely unrelated fields. An exclusive owner-only group, What’s Next CEO Peer-to-Peer Round Table, allows leaders to exchange ideas and learn from others facing similar scenarios. Peer roundtables give every entrepreneur at the table a group of ‘partners’ to bounce their ideas off of and ask for support. 

“Friends and family are great for emotional support, but they rarely have the context or industry experience to offer real advice, while employees can’t and shouldn’t be included in every discussion,” said Hall. “Each owner-entrepreneur brings experiences from the challenges of running a business, sharing insights to managing and retaining employees, attracting customers and frankly just dealing with the stress, anxiety, loneliness and responsibility of being a business owner.”       

Common needs

Hall says persistent concerns he hears from businesses is finding, hiring and retaining high-quality staff, along with finding new customers and opportunities. Today’s economic environment presents small businesses with many challenges. Managing capitalization is a major part of running a successful business, from ensuring the presence of working growth capital to managing appropriate debt levels and deriving sufficient return on invested capital. Hall expects the interest rate environment to have a tangible impact on many small- and mid-sized businesses as borrowing costs cut significantly into margins.

“These costs can be harder to pass on in price increases as they may not affect all competitors equally the way supplier shortages or labor markets do,” he said. “More heavily leveraged or debt-reliant businesses may find themselves squeezed.”    

Contact the Washington County CDA today!

Hall recommended interested business leaders check out What's Next CEO to register for a second Peer Roundtable currently set to launch mid-year. The CDA is committed to the well-being of small businesses in Washington County. It offers numerous resources beyond Waht’s Next CEO, covering all scopes of project support, from assisting with site selection for new businesses to helping existing companies to grow and thrive. We can help you understand how numerous incentives may apply to your company. Contact us to learn more about our services!

Category: News