For nearly 20 years, business consultant Patricia Cameron has been working with clients in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. As a business consultant at the Hilton Head Area SBDC, Cameron sees around 70 clients each year. Her clients range from organic grocery stores to coastal diving companies to upscale art galleries and frame shops.
Cameron offers all types of consulting expertise for both startups and existing businesses. The emphasis of the consulting she provides is in the areas of marketing and financial projections.
“Once those two areas are complete, the business plan is more than half finished,” Cameron said. “I like getting my clients comfortable with the financial side of their business. So, during our first meeting, we start a spreadsheet from scratch that illustrates income and expenses and the flow of money in a business.”
Cameron says clients are often intimidated with the financial side of business and she finds that creating a spreadsheet from scratch is a good exercise to help the client get comfortable with numbers. She says all clients, from professionals like lawyers, doctors and physical therapists to those who own restaurants and retail stores can benefit from a more thorough understanding of financial projections and cash flow.
Cameron states that the first counseling session with a new client usually lasts two hours, sometimes longer if things are rolling along. Often, Cameron finds that clients are not ready to start a business. After their meeting, clients sometimes realize that financial concerns or their lack of experience may hinder their success.
“I try to never talk someone out of their dream, but at times a reality check is needed. Part of our job is to ask the right questions so the client will make the right decision,” Cameron said. “Sometimes that decision is not to move forward with starting a business.”
Cameron loves working for the SC Small Business Development Centers. After nearly 20 years and more than a thousand clients she still looks forward to coming to work.
“This has been a great part time job,” she said. “The economy is always changing and that means new opportunities and new challenges. Never a dull moment!”