Thursday, October 29, 2009

Small-business developer: David Laverty

Last week, President Obama reminded banks who receive bailout funds that they should be lending to small businesses, because small businesses are among the taxpayers who helped bail them out.

Small firms, the president said in his weekly radio address, "must be at the forefront of our recovery."

Obama ought to recruit David Laverty to his cause.

Laverty is one of those entrepreneurs who believes the marketplace, no matter how distressed by slowdown or recession, still has room for him, and that his business-development skills can make a successful entrepreneur out of anyone with a good business idea.

Laverty is a business consultant. He advises prospective owners of small businesses on the basics of starting out: how to create a business plan that plots the way to bring a product to market; how to create a marketing plan that will sell the business; and how to design a website to help carry out a marketing plan.

He's learned over the last 24 months -- the months it has taken him to bring his own business to the stage where it can support him -- that a business consultant nowadays must also be ready to do the work required to back up his advice.

And so Laverty winds up writing much of the content for a new business's website, working with website-design specialists to produce a site worthy of his client-business's product or service, and actually writing the business plans and marketing plans the client has signed him up to devise.

That effectively is a redefinition of a business consultant. Often in the past, the consultant merely provided his or her expert advice to a new company, leaving the business owners to put the expert advice into play.

But the last 24 months haven't been easy for Laverty. He has been forced to use the tools he is urging on other small-business operators to create his own firm, which he calls Marketplace (the logo shown above).

Laverty says the economic downturn has had its impact on his own firm.

"Whenever there is kind of a national news story that casts doubt about the overall economy," he said, "I notice a tapering off in business-plan activity."

"I think the entrepreneurial dream is always there," he said. "It's just a lot harder to get money. It's almost impossible to get money through traditional lending unless you can back every red cent of it up with real-estate collateral."

Obama last week not only urged bailed-out banks to increase their lending to small businesses, but he announced a program to allow small, community banks to borrow TARP funds to lend to small-business customers, and he raised borrowing limits for U.S. Small Business Administration loans.

"Now it's time for our banks to stand by creditworthy small businesses and make the loans they need to open their doors, grow their operations and create new jobs," Obama said in his Saturday radio/Internet address Oct. 24.

Small businesses have often been cited as the nation's primary driver of job creation following an economic downturn. Downturns are also famous in Colorado for driving employees of down-sized companies into business for themselves.

Laverty hosts seminars for current and prospective business owners, gathering a mix of consultants together to share startup expertise with small audiences, almost creating one-on-one counseling. He earned his stripes for conducting such group sessions as a volunteer with the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce and as an employee of American Business Advisors, an established south Denver business consultancy.

Since then, he has taken on dozens of clients, many of whom are just starting out. Jess Tarin, for example, along with his partner Steve Niemczura, next week will officially launch, a website that matches service providers -- from home-repair contractors to lawyers -- with consumers who post projects for the vendors to make bids on.

Tarin said Laverty's help and advice was essential to the project. "He did good work for us," he said. The website firm is already registering vendors. Tarin said BidPuppy will go live signing up consumers' jobs on Wednesday.

For the first year Laverty worked on his own, he generated only about $30,000 in revenue and had to supplement his cost of living with other means, help from friends and family. In 2009, however, he is turning over about $70,000, which represents for him "a huge breakthrough. It means I'm viable," he said, "and paying my bills and paying my mortgage."

That's the way most entrepreneurs start out. With a dream and prayer. And often times, too, with a new product they can make or sell, or a service they are good at performing. But starting a business is much more complicated.

"The diversity of skills [required] to run your own business is huge," Laverty said. The entrepreneur's core strength is the making of their product or provision of their service, he says. "It's not a wise use of their time" to spend weeks and weeks on the minutia of business development. That's where the business consultant comes in.

Because of the Internet, Laverty works with both local and out-of-state clients. He recently wrote business plans for two separate customers in Kansas City, visiting each customer face-to-face over the past few weeks. He's also helping a Denver-area woman launch a dog-rehabilitation shelter, and he has written a business plan for presentation to an investor by another client who seeks funding to launch a smokeless, "nicotine-delivery" product.

And business has picked up with this fall, Laverty said. He still uses Craig's List and other free listing services to promote his firm, and recently took out an ad in Yellow Book -- marketing techniques he also advises clients to use.

That's what Marketplace is all about. Making a market and reaching a market for new businesses.

In his Saturday address, the president also repeated the assertion that small business has created nearly two-thirds of new jobs over the past 15 years. David Laverty's Marketplace is just trying to do its part.

1601 S. Carr St.
Lakewood, CO 80232
David Laverty, owner

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