When an entrepreneur uses that word to describe the assistance he has received from your organization and then goes on to say participation in one of your programs was “truly a life and business changing experience,” you take note. Especially when that entrepreneur is a practicing lawyer leading a highly successful law firm.
Geoff Hoatson, attorney, founder, and owner of the Family First Firm, a leading elder law firm, used exactly those words to describe the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (Florida SBDC at UCF) and its award-winning Advisory Board Council (ABC) program.
The Family First Firm is unique in many ways. First, it prides itself in being “Your Elder Law Expert,” specializing in all aspects of legal services for seniors including guardianship, probate, estate planning, Medicaid and more. It also charges flat fees for its work. None of that hourly billing that is the legal community’s industry standard. “I don’t like giving anyone a blank check,” says Hoatson. “Why would I ask that of our clients? We’re here to help them.”
Hoatson came to the FSBDC after working with a business coach specializing in law firms. “I felt like I’d outgrown what they could do for me,” he recalls. “The issues I was running into were more corporate and not typical of a small law firm. I had always wanted to focus on the firm as a business, but I just didn’t have the tools necessary to do it. So, I applied to the FSBDC’s Advisory Board Council program by contacting its program manager Jill Kaufman.”
An Advisory Board Council is a customized, no-cost board of experts providing advice and counsel to help businesses grow. The FSBDC acts as a matchmaker between established local businesses like the Family First Firm and area professionals who volunteer their expertise as members of an advisory board, with the volunteers selected to address the specific needs of the FSBDC client.
“My Advisory Board really helped me identify what I needed to be doing in order to take the next step in my business,” says Hoatson. “It was made up of experts from my industry, with experience in operations, marketing, and communications, and finance. With their guidance and help from my FSBDC consultant Pauline Davis, for the first time in the 10 years I’ve been in business, I’ve been able to look ahead and strategize about our growth and know-how we want to get where we want to go.”
“My Advisory Board Council really changed the way I looked at my business. It allowed me to transform what we’ve been doing into what we’re becoming,” Hoatson continued. “And our business results tell the tale. Over the 18 months, we worked with our ABC board, our revenues increased almost 190%; we more than doubled in size in terms of employees, and we have expanded beyond our original location to a second building and are now looking at a third.”
“I can’t think of a reason not to participate in the Advisory Board Council program,’ Hoatson concluded. “It’s all upside, no downside.”
About the FSBDC at UCF
Hosted by the University of Central Florida (UCF), and with its main office in the National Entrepreneur Center located at the Fashion Square Mall in Orlando, the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) is part of the UCF Office of Partnership & Innovation and the Florida SBDC Network.
The Florida SBDC at UCF provides aspiring and existing small businesses with no-cost consulting, low-cost training, and access to business data and research resources. In addition to its core service offering, the Florida SBDC at UCF also offers specialized services to qualifying companies, including capital access, market growth, government contracting, international trade, business continuation, cybersecurity, disaster planning and recovery, and more. The FSBDC at UCF serves an eight-county area that includes Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Sumter, and Volusia counties and maintains 10 service centers across Central Florida.
In 2018, the FSBDC at UCF served over 2,500 entrepreneurs in Central Florida with consulting services, resulting in more than 6,500 jobs created, retained or saved; $749 million in sales growth; $36.1 million in capital formation; $178.3 million in government contract awards; and 277 new businesses started.
About the Florida SBDC Network
For over forty years, the Florida SBDC Network, the state’s principal provider of business assistance [Fl. Stat. 288.001], has nourished a statewide partnership between higher education and economic development to provide existing and emerging small and medium-sized business owners with management and knowledge resources that enable overall growth, increased profitability, and economic prosperity for Florida’s economy.
In 2018, Florida SBDCs have provided professional business consulting to 11,500 client businesses, resulting in more than 38,400 jobs impacted; $4.4 billion in sales generated; $520 million in government contracts acquired; $201.8 million in capital accessed; and 665 new businesses started.
A statewide network of over 40 offices, the Florida SBDC is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Defense Logistics Agency, State of Florida and other private and public partners. The Florida SBDC Network, headquartered at the University of West Florida, is nationally accredited by the Association of SBDCs and is a 2016 recipient of the President’s E Award for Export Service. Florida SBDC services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. Language assistance services are available for individuals with limited English proficiency. For more information, please visit www.FloridaSBDC.org.