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5 CEOs advise, encourage entrepreneurs at Beaver Street Enterprises event

Five Jacksonville-area business leaders shared their insights on running a successful business to help approximately 70 beaverst2smallentrepreneurs and small business leaders and vendors at an Entrepreneurial Fair and Success Forum sponsored by the Beaver Street Enterprise Center. The 9 a.m.-noon event took place June 26.

Comprising the panel of CEOs were Mike Schneider of Loop Pizza and Grille; Jim Bleech of Parliament Steel Products; Toney Sleiman of Sleiman Enterprises; Carlton Jones of The Renaissance Group; and Stephen Joost, CFO of Firehouse Subs. (Joost is also councilman at large for district 3.) The panel was moderated by Paul Arrington, a certified business analyst at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of North Florida (UNF).

The five executives fielded questions on various aspects of running a successful business, especially in the first year:

Managing turnover

bsec-june-26-panel-and-audience-smallSchneider: Show employees they are truly valued. At Firehouse, we have a chaplaincy program in which we employ a chaplain in each of our restaurants. They work part-time and are there not only to work, but to listen to employees who have problems. This really helps with turnover.

Bleech: Take the mystery out of the company. Let employees know how the company is doing. And if an employee quits, ask yourself, “What is it that I am doing wrong?”

Jones: Develop transparency within the company. Have an open-door policy. It’s better to know you have a problem than to let it fester.

Staying positive in this economy
Put off fulfilling personal needs. Even if business is going great, save your money. Get a buffer so the economy cannot affect you.

Panelists Joost (l.) and Bleech pose with BSEC director Jackie Perry

Panelists Joost (l.) and Bleech pose with BSEC director Jackie Perry

Sleiman: Small business is the backbone of this country. Focus on your business 100^. Be the best at what you can do. Business is still there, but you have to go get it.
Bleech: Never quit!


Jones: I deal only with problems I have today and focus on something I can do to help someone else. That is therapeutic.

Schneider: Keep the lines of communication open with your bank, your landlord, vendors, employees, and your family. Nobody likes surprises. Know your economic model; study what is happening; adapt to make the situation better.

Advice to a first-year entrepreneur

Joost: Don’t be afraid to sacrifice. It will build character and will prepare you for the future. Don’t let people define you by material things.

Schneider: Approach your business like a newborn baby. That first year takes sacrifice and time. You need to nurture your business and put other things on hold. You will find that it overwhelms everything else in your life.

Jones: You have a vision, but no one else can see it. Put it on paper, develop a plan, and work the plan. Then sell it. Make your vision so clear that everyone else can see it, too.



Exhibitors make event possible

Events such as the Beaver Street Entrepreneurial Fair and Success Forum are possible because of exhibitors. Those who helped sponsor this event included:

• A. Harold & Associates, LLC;

• Annie Wilson Homecare, Inc.;

• Beaver Street Enterprise Center;

• Breaking Ground Contractors;

• Enofe & Associates, CPA;

• Employment Resources and Solutions;

• Florida Community State College;

• New England Financial;

• Perfect CNA Training Academy;

• Star Consultants;

• Small Business Center (Downtown and at University of North Florida);

• Total Office Solutions;

• Universal Understanding, LLC; • Women’s Business Center; and

• Xeye, Inc.

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