Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
April 2005
Minority Business Development Program Helps Electrical Company "Renew Spark"

Entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs because they have unlimited ideas and dreams, and the passion and drive to see those ideas come to fruition. It's what sets them apart from the rest of the world.

Most are able to take those ideas and dreams and create a business around them - at least for a while. Then, the day arrives when the original idea needs more "fuel" or cash to keep it running (or to expand it), and a good plan to help define how to make that happen. Getting the bank, your staff and your customers to see your dream as you do requires a solid business plan - something that most early entrepreneurs don't have, at least on paper.

Fortunately, the Commerce Bureau of Minority Business Development Early Planning Grant (MEPG) program was designed specifically for these types of situations. The MEPG program offers assistance to established minority-owned businesses throughout Wisconsin, who desire the professional services necessary to evaluate the feasibility of a proposed business or expansion. Under the MEPG program, Commerce can provide a grant to help cover a portion of the costs associated with hiring a qualified, independent third party to develop a comprehensive business plan.

Electrical Systems and Services, Inc., (ESS) located in Sturtevant was one of those firms. In late 2004 the company received a grant from Commerce to define how to expand the firm's work. Jay Datt, company president, had a vision to set his company apart from the competition by focusing on becoming a "total electrical solutions" company and providing more than a typical electric service firm. Datt knew that with some extra guidance Electrical Systems and Services, Inc. could become the business he envisioned.

Using the MEPG, Datt hired Chamness Consulting, Inc., Milwaukee to assist him with this effort and they started by creating a strategic plan. Jay and his staff met and drafted a written vision statement defining the direction he wanted to go, created firm-wide goals to support the vision, and defined specific tactical steps on how to move forward and how the staff would be involved in the process.

Chamness Consulting began the project with a widespread survey process, interviewing both internal staff and external clients to get a clear view of the company's image in the greater community, along with its strengths and weaknesses. Later, a strategic planning session was held with upper management to outline three to five-year goals.
Finally, a tactical "action plan" was created to help keep the company on track and working towards timely goal accomplishment.

Commenting on the planning experience, Datt stated, "It made us think of different ways to address the same issue we intuitively knew existed but just had never done anything about." The information that Chamness Consulting gathered was the foundation of the Electrical Systems and Services' business plan, and clearly outlined the steps and goals that Datt and his employees would implement to take the business to greater levels.

Datt explained that the planning process and support really helped the company; "It invigorated us." The process helped bring focus back to the organization and profitable results have already been realized. "We went from the old method of waiting for the phone to ring to proactively targeting our customers," Datt stated. He expressed his enthusiasm about finally having a business plan and knowing that Electrical Systems and Services is on track to attain the long range goals laid out.

Further, due to help from the MEPG Program, ESS now has a comprehensive strategically focused business plan that will help the company attract additional capital financing necessary to implement major endeavors and remain successful.

- Mary Perich

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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