Open For Business
by Mindy Von Elling
A familiar phenomenon that has been sweeping across Kansas is finally being recognized by those seeking to combat the corporate struggle. On a daily basis, small business owners and farmers across the Midwest deal with family, weather and poor business planning issues that cause profits to dwindle. Principle investigators Susan Schlichting and Holly Dickman of the Ellis County Research and Extension office launched a DVD project two and a half years ago to teach successful business planning to small business owners and farmers.
"The DVD consists of several segments with various speakers talking about various aspects to consider with business succession planning," Dickman said.
The goal of the DVD is to provide a private, secure lesson for small business owners in rural areas to implement when planning for successful business ventures. Susan Schlichting, 4-H Youth Development agent at the Ellis County Extension office explained what aspects could hinder a small business and what the DVD highlights.
"Looking at various scenarios that could happen, whether it be a tornado that comes along and wipes things out or there's a divorce in the family," Schlichting said. "How does a business cope with those kinds of things as it's trying to make decisions for its future?"
The DVD was just released January of 2010 and so far, there has not been much feedback. However, Dickman and Schlichting said they believe this format is more beneficial than conducting seminars within the communities because it provides business owners with a sense of privacy in conjunction with a personal topic.
"Because this is a very personal topic, a lot of people don't want to be seen in the community as thinking about retiring," Schlichting said. "Businesses tend to be sort of private about those things. We felt doing it via DVD where they could sit in their own living room was probably a more appropriate approach than asking people to come into a meeting that maybe nobody will attend."
Before the release of this product, there was a significant amount of collaboration that went into the development. The Ellis County Extension office partnered with groups like the agricultural communication department at Kansas State University, specialists at Ft. Hays State and the local high school's radio and TV program. Although these groups working together provided a solid partnership, it also raised some obstacles.
"We just had to work around each other's schedules," Dickman said. "That was difficult at times. That probably led to some delays as far as getting the project out, but in the end it was great to collaborate with them because they did that for us as a favor."
Despite the difficulty of conflicting schedules, the DVD production became a success and has been in circulation to be used by multiple small business owners and farmers in Western Kansas. This key public is getting new information that is not necessarily readily or widely available, and the principle investigators on this project have given business succession planning a voice.
"When we started down this path, we had a lot of learning to do," Schlichting said. "The thing that brought us down the path to do this in the first place was that there was not a lot of information out there about business succession planning."
Let the learning begin.