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Six locals talk about owning a small business in Elkhart County

In honor of National Small Business Week, we asked six local business owners a few questions about the ins and outs of running their companies. Here’s what they had to say.

Posted on May 16, 2014 at 5:45 a.m.

Today marks the end of National Small Business Week. To celebrate, we got in contact with six small business owners around Elkhart County to ask them a few questions about what it’s like to run a small company and what advice they had for others thinking of joining their ranks.

Here’s what they had to say.

Paul Cataldo, owner of Antonio’s Italian Ristorante (Elkhart)

Q: What’s the most difficult part of running a small business?

A: “Employees. Workforce, workforce. Without a doubt, my biggest headache every day is workforce...Other business owners I know express the same thing. They all say the same thing – we cannot find qualified help, people who have work ethics, people who will show up, people who want to work.”

"Back in the 80s, we had no problem finding help. We could put up the help wanted sign for two days and fill every position we needed. Now, I could put it up for 30 days and not be able to find two ... It’s sad, because we have so much potential in Elkhart, and I’ve turned business away because I don’t have the staff to accommodate it. I struggle every week trying to make sure I have enough help.“

Q: What advice would you give to some one who is starting or wants to start a small business?

A: “Research, research, research. Know your customer and who’s going to be buying the product. Thirty-four years ago, no one told us that, but I think we got lucky. There was a need, and we knew that, so we filed that void where the need was. We were doing something that nobody else was. That advice wasn’t given to us, and we had to learn as we went. We started out small, and then grew and grew and grew. But we made a lot of mistakes along the way, but we were fortunate enough as a family to be able to absorb that.”

Q: Tell me about the moment you were most proud of your business.

A: “I guess when I hear customers that have been with me for 20-plus years and move away come back and tell me they couldn’t wait to come back so they could eat here ... when they tell you they can’t wait to come back and eat your food, and that it’s the first place they come when they get into town. There are a lot of moments like that that make us proud.”

 

Steve Martin, owner of Ignition Music Garage (Goshen)

Q: What’s the most difficult part of running a small business?

A: “Cutting through the massive amount of clutter and information that’s out there to not only become known, but to form relationships with customers. Too many people think it’s just about the business idea or the product. What you have to realize is that the most important ingredient to keep focused on is that the business will only succeed if you have the ability to attract and form relationships with customers.”

"Personal relationship networking still remains the number one tactic. Positive word of mouth ... advertising is less effective in the digital age. People have begun to filter information instead of seek information out, and so if you can’t represent yourself positively and properly in the digital world, no one is going to know about you.“

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is starting or wants to start a small business?

A: “No. 1, it’s going to take more capital than you can even conceive of. What I mean by that is when the business grows, you’re going to end up buying more ... Be prepared for some very long hours. The only way you can make up the gap at the beginning is with your own time.”

Q: Tell me about the moment you were most proud of your business.

A: “It was probably a community Christmas show that we did last year. We worked with GoShakes, a theatre group here in Goshen. ... The room was full. All of these local artists played. The joy that brought to both the artists and the audience – it was just great. That’s what we’re trying to do – we’re trying to build community through the sharing of the arts. And that was the moment I thought to myself, ‘This could work.’”

"The second part of that is when I get young people, teenagers, engaged and excited about music, and they realize it’s not a solo thing you do at the computer or with a pair of earbuds in your ears. You actually share it with other people."

 

Jon Weaver, owner of Martin’s Pet and Garden Center (Elkhart)

Q: What’s the most difficult part of running a small business?

A: "Long hours. Didn’t take long to think of that one. There’s another thing that makes it difficult, and that’s all of the rules and regulations today. There are so many – it’s absolutely never-ending the amount of fees, taxes and paperwork that you have to do to start a small business. It’s almost to the point where you almost can’t run one because of all of the time you have to spend doing things to satisfy the government."

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is starting or wants to start a small business?

A: "I’ve never started a small business – I work here and own it, but I haven’t started one. Starting one takes a lot of courage and a lot of hard work. The key to the success of a small business is good help and good customer service."

Q: Tell me about the moment you were most proud of your business.

A: "The most fun time in my business, and the time I enjoy the most, is springtime. ... It’s our busiest time of the year. The most fun time is when we’re selling the flowers and plants. It makes people happy, it makes me happy and they’re just fun to sell."

"It’s a proud moment to think that this business has been here for 92 years. For a small retail store, that’s pretty good. We have good employees and a good customer base."

 

Cheryl Carlton, D.D.S., co-owner of Goshen Family Dentistry (Goshen)

Q: What’s the most difficult part of running a small business?

A: "Well, for me, I would say dealing with interoffice conflict between employees. You want to make everybody happy, but from time to time you have to exhibit some tough love, which might not make everyone happy."

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is starting or wants to start a small business?

A: "I would have to say research. Research quite a bit before you open your business. Talk to other people in your field and learn from their knowledge – the things they’ve learned or have failed at. Gather your information from them."

Q: Tell me about the moment you were most proud of your business.

A: "I guess I would have to say a milestone for our practice that we were proud of was when we grew enough that we needed to expand our building. We ended up building a new office the way we wanted it to be. It made an easier workflow for us, but it also made a much nicer work environment for employees...Our practice was doing well enough that we could do that. It came much earlier in our careers than we thought it would, and so, you know, it makes you proud."

 

Wes Herschberger, CEO and founder of MapleTronics Computers (based in Goshen)

Q: What’s the most difficult part of running a small business?

A: ”There are always two sides of any business – that’s what you’re in business for, providing people with a service you love, and the business side, which is the operations and the HR and many other things that go into running a business. In my case, we love technology, but thank goodness I love the business side of the arena as well. So that’s the hardest part is knowing when to be in which side of the arena.”

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is starting or wants to start a small business?

A: “When you start a small business, make sure you surround yourself with people who are smarter than yourself. And what I mean by that is, with my business, I hire a lot of technology professionals who are incredibly smart in areas of our business, and I give them an outline of what we want to accomplish, and they do it. So that’s part of it, is surrounding yourself with incredible people.”

"It’s important you have the right amount of capital when you get started, and a good banker, a good lawyer – making sure you have those right relationships and integrating yourself in the community, and making sure you give back to the community. Communities make your business successful, and it’s important to give back to them.“

"Surround yourself with good mentors – people who have been in business a long time. There are so many who have helped me along the way.”

Q: Tell me about the moment you were most proud of your business.

A: “It happens regularly for us. When I see our people making the day of our clients – and what I mean by that is, one of the things we offer is data protection services...it’s those times when [our clients’] businesses could go down because of a loss of data and we are able to restore their data and keep their businesses running, saving them from major disruption. Those are the times I’m most proud – when our people and our processes fulfill the things we’re promising to our clients. It’s about the day-to-day of achieving the delivery of what we’re hired to do.”

 

Tom Reschly, President of Reschcor (Elkhart)

Q: What’s the most difficult part of running a small business?

A: “I would say it’s, once you have the strategy formed, it’s communicating that strategy effectively and getting everybody to be on the same page.”

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is starting or wants to start a small business?

A: “Well, my first thing would be probably that they surround themselves with the right people and focus on putting the right team together right from the beginning. Look for people who are capable in their positions, team players and collaborative. It’s about putting the right culture together.”

Q: Tell me about the moment you were most proud of your business.

A: “I’d say this last year. We were actually voted one of the top 10 best places to work in the plastics industry nationwide. That was important because it was based 75 percent on employee surveys. So to know how your employees feel about the company they work for – that means a lot.”


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