Owners Get Useful Ideas In Peer Discussions
It was like being dropped into somebody's rec room, where good friends were enjoying nachos and beer and discussing the football game - except we had bagels and muffins; there was coffee rather than beer; and the people seated around the table at Thunder Press Inc. in Batavia were discussing the businesses they owned and managed.
I was at a PRO (President's Resource Organization) meeting. Founded in 1993 by entrepreneur Ray Silverstein, PRO functions as a sounding board where business owners can get helpful advice from peers in similar, but noncompeting, businesses.
There are seven PRO groups in the Chicago area, with new ones being formed in Lake and McHenry counties, and Northwest Cook County. After an initial presentation on relationship selling, led by Silverstein, conversation at the meeting I attended honed in on nuts-and-bolts issues:
Paul Steger, president of Accurate Custom Cabinets Inc., Addi-son, brought drawings of proposed changes to his production floor to accommodate a piece of new equipment. His question: Which plan would work best?
The group leaned toward one of the workflow patterns, but the an-swer wasn't definitive. Nonetheless, Steger was satisfied. "I got two good things from that discussion," Steger says. "One was not to focus so much on (production floor layout) right now, but focus on how we'll be operating in six months when (the new equipment) will make two or three existing machines obsolete." The other was "the possibility that proper placement would allow one operator to run two machines."
Banks took some hits. The dialog began well, with Steger asking for, and getting, input on loan options from his bank. Then others veered the conversation into ways of dealing with banks that are big on talking about relationships but, apparently, not so big on delivering. (The general advice: Shop for your next bank. When you do, talk to the bank president - so you have a friend at the top who knows your company.)
Scott Garwood, Dude's Performance Shop, Streamwood, sought impressions of a new salesman who had attended the initial portion of the PRO meeting and put his business development approach out for analysis.
Members commiserated with Jeff Adesko, president of Thunder Press, which specializes in miniature folded printing, about his loss of an account to a low-ball competitor. More importantly, the group suggested creative tactics that might help him win the account back. Other topics were discussed, but you get the idea. PRO seeks to provide participating small businesses with a forum where the often fundamental challenges of running a business can be discussed among friends. At least in Batavia, the concept worked.