Pennsylvania Treasurer Emphasizes Role of Universities like York College in Supporting Small Business
With decades of experience in entrepreneurship, Pennsylvania Treasurer Tim Reese is passionate about small business. After leaving corporate America in the early 1990s, he launched several tech companies before becoming a small business investor.
So it comes as no surprise that he’s made the Small Business Initiative — an event hosted at institutes of higher education, including York College of Pennsylvania — a major focus of his tenure in treasury.
“When you have a successful small business it will positively impact your family, your community, your region and ultimately the state,” Reese said.
But the growth of these businesses is dependent on their access to support and resources like those offered at the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship at York College, he added.
Entrepreneurs bring their unique set of strengths and weaknesses based on their education and professional background. For a business to be successful, it’s critical that entrepreneurs understand the areas where they need help to grow, Reese said.
He offered his story as an example.
Reese left his job at Honeywell in 1993 to start his first tech business – before the dot-com boom of the late 90s. With his electrical engineering background and years spent helping large industrial corporations use computers to run their plants, he was well versed in the technical end of his business.
But when it came to hiring people with complementing skill sets to help grow the business, he struggled. He might find someone with a background working in big business who brought some great ideas to the table, but he ultimately couldn’t move nimbly and was too risk-averse to grow a small business.
Trial and error
Furthermore, moving from Atlanta to Pennsylvania at the eve of the tech boom, he also faced a shortage of workers with the ability to perform the sort of niche technical work he needed.
Early on, there was a lot of trial and error in the hiring process, he said.
Reese admitted there were times on his journey as an entrepreneur he was an impediment to his own success – either because of ignorance or fear – and he sees these same internal obstacles in other entrepreneurs as well.
“I’ve encountered in my career so many business folks at a startup level or in an early stage that felt sharing their business would weaken their growth. But at some point you have to share it,” Reese said.
For business owners, one of the key components to growth and success is what Reese calls “super supporters.”
“That is someone who is a critical thinker who is there to challenge you and is decidedly for you and your personal growth and development,” he said.
These super supporters aren’t simply “yes” people. Rather, they’re the people who will tell you when a particular plan doesn’t make sense and will offer suggestions of people you can talk to or ways to solve problems.
The way to find these super supporters is to network – setting time aside on a weekly basis for your personal growth and development by attending entrepreneurial events at local universities, joining startup clubs and talking to people you’ve never met before.
Access to resources
Not taking a birds-eye-view of their business can be a significant roadblock to business owners.
Reese said he’s frequently come across business owners and CEOs of companies who downplay the roles of different departments within their organization merely because they don’t like dealing with it.
“It’s not that you have to be an expert, but you should be aware of how all parts of your business run,” Reese said.
That’s where access to resources like those available at J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship come in.
“There are many things that go into operating a business, and as a result, entrepreneurs who go into business expecting to only do what it is they’re best at are often surprised by the complexity,” stated Jeff Vermeulen. “They must gain diverse exposure to a number of different skill sets, and that’s where our programming can help.”
Growing a business isn’t a zero to 100 proposition, Reese said. There are plenty of questions to ask and answer:
- What am I going to do the first six to 12 months?
- How much money in financing do I need?
- How are my sales numbers measuring against my sales goals?
- What is the level of customer satisfaction?
- And on and on.
“Knowledge resources like those provided through programs the J.D. Brown Center sponsors can present you with that sort of cogent thinking in what it is that you should be doing at this stage of the game,” Reese said.
Being a catalyst
Ultimately, the Treasury Department understands that Pennsylvania’s economy is driven by small business.
Reese feels that if they can spotlight small businesses, work with leading academic institutions in different regions of the state and get successful corporations that have grown from small to large to share their expertise, it’s immediately impactful to small business owners.
“Treasury isn’t reinventing the wheel, we’re being a catalyst,” Reese said. “If small business is doing well, Treasury is doing well.”
A private college located in southcentral Pennsylvania, York College offers more than 50 baccalaureate majors in professional programs, the sciences and humanities to its 4,400 undergraduate students. The College also offers master's programs in business, education and nursing, and a doctorate in nursing practice. York College students enjoy a high-quality education that emphasizes practical application and a community invested in their success. The College provides a personal plan to help students focus their passions and attain their goals so they are prepared for a lifetime of meaningful careers – ready to meet the challenges of their profession and feeling confident and proud of their achievements.