Dolores Stammer is the Regional Director of the NJSBDC of Northwest Jersey, which serves Sussex, Morris and Warren Counties. Having been with the NJSBDC since 2006, Dolores has developed a strong relationship with her clients and community.
Take a moment to learn more about Dolores and the NJSBDC of Northwest Jersey.
#1. In your own words, how would you describe your role to the business owners in your region?
First and foremost, we’re providers of information for a vast array of business questions, issues and topics. We answer questions and/or refer business owners to quality third-party resources. Secondly, we act as consultants, working together with clients to facilitate goal achievement. Thirdly, we “have their back” – in other words we are the independent voice of a trusted advisor that reviews upcoming strategies, plans and projects that are about to be undertaken to assure that the go vs. no-go decision is beneficial to the economic viability of the business. And, yes we’re trainers too.
#2. You didn’t start out educating others. At what point in your career, did you decide you wanted to take the responsibility of guiding fellow entrepreneurs? Can you describe how that came about?
My entire career has been spent in business. Throughout my career, I’ve always felt that the experiences (and knowledge) that I’ve been fortunate enough to acquire are resources that I can share with others. I feel these are my God-given gifts and my responsibility is to share these gifts.
As with most major turns of my life, joining the NJSBDC was serendipitous. I was in the right place at the right time. I started working with the Student-Powered-Projects program at Centenary College, at the Skylands SBDC. (Skylands SBDC is the previous name of the center while at Warren Community College.) Centenary College’s Management team decided that it made sense to integrate with the SBDC when Centenary acquired Warren Community College – so there it was. Instantaneously, I became part of the NJSBDC. I took the position of Regional Director when the prior Regional Director retired.
#3. In your opinion, what’s unique about the small business owners in your region?
Our region is unique in that the demographics of the 3 counties are very different. Morris County is one of the wealthiest counties in the country and has some of the largest companies in the country. It also has its share of small retailers, tradesmen and professional ‘consultants’. Warren County is largely agrarian while Sussex County has many more blue collar and tradesmen residents. There are very few “larger” small businesses in these counties. In fact, these counties are thought of as bedroom communities due to the fact that people live here, but work elsewhere. In many cases the inhabitants have made a lifestyle choice.
The challenge is the diversity and dispersion of the potential client base.
#4. What type of relationships have you developed with your clients through the years?
When we work intensely with clients, we almost become like partners within their business. We have no ownership but we view their successes and growth like partners or proud parents. Perhaps we have no right to feel this way, but we cheer at achievement and lament over any setbacks. We hope that there aren’t too many setbacks and that most are avoided due to our expert advice, but setbacks happen and we’re here for them when they do. This is personal for us; we put our hearts in it. We take pride in being their trusted advisor.
#5. Say someone comes to you and says they have a business idea; what is the first piece of advice do you give them? Where do you advise they start?
We ask if they realize what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Every NEW client to the Center is asked to complete an RAF/BEF (Readiness Assessment or Business Experience Form). This helps us assess their baseline knowledge and experience. We also have a set of webinars that they can subscribe to which explains the basics.
If they have just an idea and very little business experience, we ask them to complete the EQ Assessment (Entrepreneurial Quotient) which scores (from an experiential perspective) how well-suited they are for being “their own boss”. This sets their expectation at a realistic level so that we can move forward.
Every Start-up receives the Start-up Checklist which outlines all the tasks necessary to begin. We also may advise them to read a few articles from our on-line resource library. That’s our starting point.
#6. What are some of the most recent challenges small businesses in NJ are facing? Has your center had to alter its strategy when handling these challenges?
Let’s face it, NJ is not exactly small business friendly and some businesses are affected more by this situation than others. So whether it’s funding, minimum wage, employee benefits or local/ state taxes, we need to have a sufficient understanding of these issues and the informational resources to address them. A specific issue is the OSS of HUB Zones, which has required some businesses to move or prohibited moving to some under-served (depressed) areas. That being said, the NJSBDC of Northwest hasn’t had the need to alter its strategy, but we need the skills and knowledge to advise clients properly.
#7. What are some of the center’s accomplishments that you’d like to highlight? Or, what are some of the center’s most memorable accomplishments that you’re most proud of?
Well, we’re known for being really innovative in the way we conduct business. We’ve made significant productivity improvements for on-line scheduling and appointments and have partnered with and began working with volunteers and organizations to provide great information and resources to our clients. We also incorporated specialty consulting in the areas of pricing analysis and strategy formulation, competitive financial bench-marking, digital marketing, business valuation, loan impediment consulting, business modeling for virtualization or franchising and a comprehensive ‘B-GAP’ program.
#8. What do you believe drives a person to become a business owner and eventually succeeding?
Usually, it starts with a dream. Then it morphs into the challenge of success despite the odds. The dream has to be coupled with business acumen/ skills and an unshakeable “CAN-DO” attitude.
Then there’s the practical matter of having the necessary funding to succeed. Most companies fail because they’re under-capitalized OR lack the talent, knowledge and resources to succeed.
#9. How do you measure success for the business owners who come to your center for help?
Well, there’s the US Small Business Administration and our NJSBDC Network-wide criteria for success, which includes totals of new businesses, jobs created, capital received, long-term and high-growth clients.
However, the best qualitative measurement is when our clients tell us “Thank you for helping me realize my dream” or “I earn more now in one day then I did in two weeks prior to coming to you. I owe it all to you.”
Every client that overcomes an obstacle and stays in business, growing, and/or maintaining profitability is a success in my book. Even those we’ve helped exit their business is a success if we’ve helped them achieve their objective. We’re here to serve them, not us. It’s about the client, not the numbers.
#10. Are you seeing any current trends in NJ’s small business world?
Small businesses are relying more on technological resources to help them compete effectively.