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Consortium, newsletter offer helpful ideas
By Jim Kendall | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 7/8/2010 12:01 AM

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If you're willing to accept that most business consultants pop up behind a podium or share their expertise in seminars because they're looking for new business - a perfectly legitimate business development strategy, by the way - then Tim Lavin's Executive World Resource might be worth a look.

Formalized at the beginning of the year and still finding its way, EWR is insurance executive Lavin's response to what he hears when he closes a sales call by asking, "What else should we discuss?" There have been so many what-elses that Lavin, president of The Lavin Insurance Agency, Inc., Schaumburg, put together a fledgling consortium of consultants who seek to help small businesses solve their problems.

The responses "got me to thinking," Lavin says. "Many of them were out of my expertise - like the restaurant owner who wanted to talk about changing the menu or perhaps bringing in a live jazz band - but I wanted to have something at hand, some way to give back."

Lavin's solution, Executive World Resource, "tries to do more than just give someone a contact name and phone number," Lavin says. "We're trying to help business owners run their businesses more efficiently. We want them to come to our seminars, listen and share ideas."

Lavin seems genuine when he says he wants to help. Consequently, EWR may be worth checking out, especially since its seminars are free. So far, the eight-consultant consortium has sponsored one seminar and has another, on cost and performance, scheduled later this month.

You can find EWR at

If you're looking for an easier way to find ideas, take a look at the current Small Business Connections newsletter from the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Waubonsee Community College, Aurora. SBDC Director Harriet Parker summarizes these 20 keys to success from a Batavia Chamber of Commerce panel:

• Start small and leverage success. Experiment, because it's OK to make mistakes. Use your employees; they're valuable. Take time off, because the best ideas come when you're away from your business. Find mentors, champions and an advisory board.

• Take classes; it's never too late to learn. Have a strategic plan. Stay current with technology. Treat every customer as your best friend. Make the tough decisions, including cutting losses when necessary.

• Give away low-margin business to competitors. Continually reinvent yourself. No single customer should make up more than five percent of your business. Invest in your business. Review financial data frequently.

• Surround yourself with good people. Take risks. Be honest. Be on time. Have fun.

The ideas came from Batavia chamber members Robert Hansen, Funway Entertainment Center; Marcia Boyce, Boyce Body Werks; Janice Christiansen, the FlagSource; and Roger Harris, Producers Chemical Co.

• Questions, comments to Jim Kendall,

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