JAY — Talk to people, collaborate and reach out to business resources to find out the best way to develop an effective, efficient business plan to start a business or move a business forward.

This advice came from keynote speaker Bob Berry, owner and president of Main-Land Development Consultants Inc. in Livermore Falls, and a panel of business experts at The Business Connection – Come Meet Your Business Resources – meeting Thursday night at St. Rose Parish Hall in Jay.

Among the organizers were representatives of the Franklin County and the Jay, Livermore, Livermore Falls Chambers of Commerce.

It was the first of what organizers hope will become a series of meetings to help businesses adapt to a changing economy.

And many of the business resources are free.

Berry, also president of the Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls Chamber of Commerce, gave insight to his own story of becoming a businessman.

He grew up poor in Embden on the family farm his ancestors settled decades ago, he said. He attended Carrabec High School. It was determined early on he had an aptitude for engineering and he graduated from the University of Maine in Orono. He worked for an architecture business in Lewiston for 10 years. In 2004, he went to work for his friend and mentor, Darryl Brown, who owned Main-Land at the time.

Berry bought the company in 2011 and has overseen its growth by 50 percent since then, he said. The company has outgrown its current space and will be moving into a larger space in the fall.

“We are doing quite well and proud of it,” he said.

“Some people have called me a successful businessman and entrepreneur. The jury is still out and will be until I sell the company and retire,” Berry said. “But I want to be successful.”

He discussed qualities of a businessperson that make them successful: smart, hard-charging, responsible and decision-makers. People in the audience pitched in dedicated, organized and passionate .

“These things make us good entrepreneurs,” he said. “We do it alone. We don’t need help. We make decisions alone. We solve problems.”

It is not the way it should be, he said.

“Will we succeed? Maybe, maybe not,” he said.

Qualities that would help more, he said, are being friendly, communicators, mentors, optimists, visionaries and collaborators.

His advice was to ask for help.

He advised people to get involved in organizations, including a chamber of commerce, learn contacts and network.

“Ask questions because someone in the room has been there,” Berry said.

Listen, learn, identify problems and implement what you learn in baby steps, he said.

Talk to people, he said. Get answers from people who have been there and want to help, he said.

“We’re all just people. People make mistakes … We do better with help,” he said.

Among the panelists was William Card, an economic development specialist representing the Small Business Administration Maine District Office.

SBA’s focus is on access to counseling, access to capital and access to contracting, he said.

“The whole reason we exist is to facilitate,” he said.

Often people will have a plan “ready, fire, aim,” he said. “We change the order to ready, aim, fire to make businesses more successful.”

The CareerCenter in Wilton has a lot of information to provide, Manager Patty Ladd said. It is a department that covers most of the Department of Labor programs, she said. She works on employment and training.

“There are a lot of free resources out there to help guide you,” she said.

They are here to help you, Berry said, of the programs offered by each panelist and resource option.

“We honestly want to see you succeed,” he said.

[email protected]

Contact information for The Business Connection panelists

Penny Merservier, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, 207-778-4215, franklincountymaine.org.

William Card, economic development specialist, Small Business Administration, [email protected];

Karleen Andrews, microenterprise specialist, New Ventures Maine, [email protected];

Ed Dox, loan officer, finance and lending,  Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, [email protected];

Larry Giroux, business counselor at Maine Small Business Development, Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, [email protected];

Robert Guerette, group sales manager, Community Health Options, [email protected];

Betty Gensel, director and certified business adviser, The Women’s Business Center at CEI: Rural Maine, [email protected];

Diane Jackson, governor’s account executive, Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, diane.[email protected];

Patty Ladd, general manager, Wilton CareerCenter, [email protected];

Zachary Maher, loan officer, Community Concepts Finance Corp., [email protected].

Resources

Androscoggin Bank, www.androscogginbank.com;

Franklin Savings Bank, www.franklinsavings.com;

Otis Federal Credit Union, otisfcu.coop;

Greater Franklin Development Council (Greater Franklin Development Corp.) www.greaterfranklin.com;

United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, www.uwtva.org.


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