Big boost for small business

Mary Ann Faulkner, left, Shannon Bishop and Richard Gillis staff

It’s not uncommon for someone who hasn’t the first inkling of
how to run a business to walk into the Gavilan College Small
Business Development Center and find what they need.
It’s not uncommon for someone who hasn’t the first inkling of how to run a business to walk into the Gavilan College Small Business Development Center and find what they need.

Similarly, many seasoned small-business owners who find themselves needing some advice also can turn to the center and come away more confident.

“The most important thing we do is act as a support mechanism for people who are beginning to get into business or struggling with a business,” said Richard Gillis, the center’s director. “As a business owner, it’s good to know you can call someone and ask them to see things you might not be able to see because you’re so close to the business. Sometimes it’s good to just take a step back and look.”

Established almost 20 years ago, the center’s mission is to provide small-business owners and managers with information, training and expert individual consulting. Through a number of workshops and programs, aspiring and veteran business owners can find useful tips.

The center is aimed at small businesses in the Gavilan College district, including Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Benito and Monterey counties. An average of 450 to 500 clients are served each year.

Workshops are taught by one of 12 consultants who come from a range of small-business backgrounds and have at least 10 years of experience each.

The most fundamental workshop, appropriately titled Get Your Business Up and Running, focuses on how to obtain business licenses, develop business plans and marketing plans, prepare financial projections and analyze financial information.

The basics class also serves as a wake-up call for many aspiring small-business owners, Gillis said.

“People sometimes take the idea of going into a business as relaxing. It’s really just the opposite,” he said. “Once they get the basic information and make realistic goals, they’re able to decide if they want to take that next step.”

The next step is addressed in the second workshop, which hones in on the nitty-gritty details of business and marketing plans as well as the financial aspects of a small business.

The first two workshops, offered in English and Spanish, are the center’s most popular, Gillis said.

“Those workshops are very strong,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for folks to get a full, clear picture of what they need to do.”

Once the financial information is understood, the center offers help with keeping it all organized in a basic bookkeeping workshop.

But not all of the classes focus on behind-the-scenes work. Business owners also can learn about effective customer service through a workshop that teaches keys to high-quality service, ways to deal with challenging customers and the “top 10 deadly sins of customer service.”

Along with the basic workshops, the center continually develops new classes that dig a little deeper into detail. Recently introduced was a three-part course on QuickBooks 2004, an accounting and financial software program designed for small businesses.

The first part of workshop covers basic set up including organizing customer contact information and accounts receivable and payable. In the second workshop, business owners can learn how to customize the program, input payroll information and how to maintain balance sheets. The third workshop teaches about year-end reporting and how to merge QuickBooks information with other computer programs.

Another new class, starting in April, is called the International Trade Specialist. It focuses on the dynamics of international trade in a five-module course that spans four months. At the end, students take an exam for certification.

Among other topics, the course covers ethics in international trade and the different ways various countries view women doing business.

All of the center’s workshops are $20 except for QuickBooks and the International Trade Specialist, which are $90 and $240 respectively. Discounts are provided for members of the chambers of commerce in Gilroy and Morgan Hill.

Collectively, the workshops cover considerable ground. But if there’s a specific issue or question not addressed in the classes, the center also offers one-on-one consulting.

“The issues clients come to us with are all over the board,” Gillis said. “The majority of people are start-ups and don’t know what their first step is. But they know they need to get organized and understand some of the basics, and we help them through that.”

Learning to compete as a small business in an increasingly corporate world can be a challenge. But, Gillis said, there are resources available to help small-business owners succeed.

“It’s the support,” he said. “We’re here to act as a mechanism of support.”

The Gavilan College Small Business Development Center is located in Gilroy at 8351 Church St., building E. For more information or to register for workshops, call (800) 847-0373 or visit

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