Panola county small business roundtable focuses on available resources | News

    A open forum to assist Panola County small business owners and residents who would like to be entrepreneurs was hosted by the Panola County Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 17 with plans for future sessions being developed.

    Keri Perot-Vance, executive director of the chamber, said the small business roundtable was in response to feedback the chamber, its staff and board member have heard from small business operators.

    “One of the things we were hearing from business owners in our community was how to network,” Perot-Vance said.

    “We want to get together to talk about the good, bad and ugly in our community and we thought there was no one better way than to bring than our partners at the Small Business Development Center,” she said.

    “They can help you avoid those pitfalls, they can help you judge whether your business is worthy to continue with, or how to develop and get grants or funding to further that business,” Perot-Vance said. Attending were four women business owners and chamber board members.

    Day Shelmire, director of the North Texas, said the sign of a healthy business community is when events like the Nov. 17 roundtable are held. He said part of the purpose of the session was to let business owners know what resources are available to them.

    “Studies show that small business owners who seek advice, whether from the SBDC, from lawyers or another entrepreneur are more likely to succeed in their business,” he said. The SBDC provides free advice to individuals considering going into business, for business owners considering expanding and for business operators who may be struggling to survive.

    “Treat us like you business advisor,” he told attendees. While SBDC offices are located in Longview and Marshall, one of the six counties the entity covers is Panola County.

    “The role we play in the rural environment is being a resource for small businesses,” Shelmire said. The SBDC does not make loans, but it has resources for capital in the region to help businesses expand.

    For struggling businesses, he suggested the sooner the better for seeking advice can make a difference. Some clients may only need advice on a one-shot basis, while others may seek SBDC advice on an on-going basis.

    Brandy Flanagan serves as business advisor for the SBDC and has entrepreneurship experience as a successful gym owner in Gladewater. She said while individuals may have a good idea for a business, they may not have the traits needed for bookkeeping, marketing, developing a business plan or managing employees to help sustain their idea to make their business thrive.

    “Lenders very much want to help small business owners,” Flanagan said.


    “They truly want to be able to do the deal and will work with you through lining up what needs to be,” she said. “You really need to look at them as a partner in your business because you want to start building those relationships early on.”

    For entrepreneurs struggling with financials, many loaning institutions have staffers available to help explain what the numbers mean.

    “Definitely, don’t fear your lenders,” Flanagan said. She said having the SBDC, chambers of commerce and lenders to use as resources are valuable.

    She said women owned, minority owned and veteran owned business often have an advantage in the world of working with lenders who are required to serve those business owners.

    “We all know that we should put our stuff in QuickBooks and run our profit and losses, and balance sheets but we file them away,” Flanagan said. “We run those reports but we don’t know how to read those reports.”

    That is another area in which and SBDC can provide important advice, she said. One area which many small business owners neglect is in looking what their long term goal is.

    “One of the key strategies for setting a business up for success is having an exit strategy,” Flanagan said. “What is the long term goal of this business? Is it to build it up and sell it? Do you want to build it up and turn it over to a child? Do you want to turn it over to employees?”

    One of the points which small business owners often need reminding about is that they are in business to make money.

    “It’s great to do what you’re passionate about, but if your passion isn’t making you money, it isn’t supporting your kids or providing jobs for other people or is not providing a benefit for community, then why?” Flanagan said.

    She strongly urged those attending to prepare a business plan if they do not already have one. But, she said, owners need to remember a business plan is a fluid and flexible tool which can and should be reviewed and updated as the environment changes.

    “A business plan can help you bring clarity in chaos,” Flanagan said. “You’re in business not just to say open, but to succeed and be sustainable.”

    To utilize the free resources of the North Texas SBDC, call (903) 757-5857; visit; or email Shelmire at [email protected].

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