Bonita Springs — Harry Looknanan, Jr., Certified Business Analyst for the Florida Gulf Coast University Small Business Development Center, worked with over 100 small businesses in Bonita Springs alone as part of his five-county responsibilities this year. What does “worked with” mean?
“The SBDC is a free and low cost service funded by the Small Business Administration to encourage small business start ups and to encourage the expansion of existing businesses,” answered Looknanan. “I bring my own corporate, trade association and small business experience to help with strategic planning.
“From corporations, three basic ideas benefit small businesses: have a plan; focus on execution of that plan and measure results.”
These three concepts are incorporated in the assistance Looknanan provides as a mentor and teacher for the development of business plans, marketing plans and production plans.
Looknanan has an impressive resume. A degree in Finance from the University of Texas was followed with participation in the passage of NAFTA while working with a Texas trade association as well as experience with corporate giants: Dell Computers, J. P. Morgan, Bank of America and Suntrust. He also worked with a Small Business Development Center in Texas. In Florida, he experienced the small business arena in commercial real estate.
“It takes more than experience to travel the small business landscape,” said Looknanan. “Politics plays a role in economic development — competition for limited resources.
“Sometimes, it’s my role as a counselor and mentor that makes the difference. New businesses may need encouragement to move through difficult times. Because we plan with infinite detail; the success is built in. They just need to follow their plans,” adds Looknanan.
Another common difficulty for both new and expanding businesses is access to capital. Finding the way through this “game changing world” to seek financing is part of Looknanan’s expertise.
Recently, a ribbon cutting ceremony marked the opening of Cottage Number One at Riverside Park where Looknanan will offer his assistance on the first and third Wednesdays each month. Looknanan is bi-lingual, an asset in helping local Spanish speaking business owners. In addition to personal business counseling, the SBDC offers classes locally that are free or very small fees on specific business needs: Quickbooks, financial statements, legal issues, marketing plans and more. In the future, these classes will also be available in Spanish in Bonita Springs.
The second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, Looknanan is found at the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce.
“The cooperation among the various organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Bonita Springs helps me provide the best service for the community,” said Looknanan. “The City Council and Mayor of Bonita Springs issued a proclamation in support of the SBDC for National Small Business Week, May 21. Business nominees from Bonita Springs are eligible for the SBDC Entrepreneur of the Year Awards during National Small Business Week.”
There’s no better proof of a service’s success than a successful client. Pat Vavrek’s experience has many elements that fit today’s economic scene. Vavrek lost her position from the downturn in the economy, and searching for a new one as an older, experienced worker was disappointing. She lost her position because her accounting position was “outsourced.” Herein lies the irony: Vavrek decided to open her own accounting business and be on the receiving end of “outsourcing.”
“The feasibility studies, business plan and marketing plan that were painfully developed in detail with timelines and goals under Looknanan’s guidance are the reason for my success today,” said Vavrek. “Each time I ran into difficulties, he directed me back to my plan where I discovered my concerns had answers.
“I once considered being in business for myself; Looknanan helped it become a reality. I thoroughly enjoy the flexibility I gained and the choices I have for my own quality life.”
Vavrek attends the free and low cost SBDC seminars and networking meetings and has begun lending her expertise to the participants. “It All Adds Up, Inc.” is a reflection of her progress in starting a business, a name suggested by her daughter. She continues to add services and looks forward to each day, sometimes lost in the sheer enjoyment of her work. Looknanan is making a difference among small business owners in Bonita Springs.