By Joel Hall
The Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network recently named Kyle Hensel, area director of the SBDC at Clayton State University, it's 2009 Consultant of the Year.
From a pool of consultants representing 17 SBDC offices around the state, Hensel was recognized last month as having made the biggest individual impact on small businesses in the past year.
Started in 1976 by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Georgia SBDC Network provides consulting and continuing education to small business owners and entrepreneurs through several regional offices.
Georgia SBDC Network Assistant State Director Beth Melnik said several programs Hensel has spearheaded -- particularly the "Maximum Impact Series" business seminar -- have been utilized around the state and copied by SBDC centers in other states.
"It's [the award is] peer-nominated," Melnik said. "Usually, it's someone who has made a real difference, and their impact is seen beyond their immediate office. That [the Maximum Impact Series] has been a really big, impactful program, as far as [having] the ability to help a lot of people at once. It's moving beyond the fundamentals, and it's really helping the businesses step up their game ... They are not just trying to survive, they are actually trying to grow."
According to Melnik, the "Maximum Impact Series" was created by Hensel, with the help of two other state SBDC consultants. She said the program includes classes on developing contacts, marketing your business, and creating cash flow.
"Recently, we had a national accreditation team come in and review us, and they have been very impressed with it," Melnik said. "In fact, the North Carolina program has asked if they can pilot the program up there."
In addition to the Maximum Impact Series, Hensel has made efforts to help people start their own businesses and use social media to increase their earnings. He said he currently stars in a 49-minute "webinar" on the state's SBDC web site, entitled "Starting a Business," and has given seminars, showing businesses how to use web sites such as Facebook and Twitter to their advantage.
"A lot about using social media is not so much marketing, but listening," he said. "You can gain competitive intelligence about the competition, and you can see what other people are doing. You can also get more ideas [on] how to market to other people as well."
Melnik said Hensel, who has directed Clayton State's SBDC office since May 2008, has a "good pulse on the current needs of businesses. He's a great instructor and he really likes an audience. He's very contemporary. He is good at showing how a lot of the social media tools aren't just for big corporations ... small businesses can make good use of them, too."
According to Hensel, the Clayton State SBDC office administers advice to businesses in Clayton, Henry, Fayette, and Spalding counties. While the recession has been tough on certain business sectors, he said small businesses can thrive with the right amount of preparation.
"The most important thing to do, if you want to start a business, is to do your research well in advance," he said. "Make sure the business you want to start is needed in the area and that you know all of your competitors going in. You also want to have six months of working capital, minimum. If businesses can weather through this storm right now, they are probably going to be stronger in the long run."