Bootstraps boosts entrepreneurs

STEUBENVILLE – Sharing an air of confidence and a positive attitude, six local small businessmen discussed what it is like to be self-employed during the annual Project Bootstraps seminar held Thursday evening on the campus of the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

The annual event, sponsored by the university chapter of ENACTUS, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, the Herald-Star and the Ohio Small Business Development Center, is geared toward advising those who might be thinking about starting a small business, both in the community and among the university’s student body.

This year’s panel included John DiCarlo of JD DiCarlo Distributing, Jim Emmerling of EM-Media, Rich DeLuca of Axess Management, Jim McBane of McBane Insurance and Financial Services, Paul “Butch” Simon of Toronto Auto Parts and Lou DiGregory of DiGregory’s Greenhouse and Garden Center.

The group included a business entering its fourth generation in the same family – McBane Insurance – as well as three other family businesses (Toronto Auto Parts, DiGregory’s, JD DiCarlo Distributing) and two first-generation business owners (EM and Axess). The panel fielded questions from Thomas Kelly, faculty adviser to the ENACTUS group, including working with family and dealing with a changing economy.

All shared a mutual thought when asked if they’d ever thought of quitting when economic times got tough. None did. Rather, they all discussed how they adapted their businesses.

Asked if they’d have done anything differently, the six men gave various advice.

“The principles of business are the most important,” said DiCarlo. “It’s how you serve your customers and how you treat people. Everything else is kind of extraneous. You take what you’re given and you make the best of it.”

Emmerling said, “You all have abilities and you make the best of your abilities.”

He said many people say they’d have waited until they had more money to make the plunge into running their own business. He recalled he was 33 years old with a wife and three children when he left the television industry to found his own agency.

“It’s a heck of a motivator when you have responsibilities,” he said. He advised it also helps to choose a field that’s of personal interest.

DeLuca said while some would have said it’s hard to do business in the region, “there are opportunities everywhere. It’s what you make of them.”

DeLuca said he started in health care, and branched out on his own, filling niches in the business and health care fields. He has built seven businesses over his lifetime and sold five.

“What I would change is that I’d have spent less time making decisions with my heart and more time making decisions with my brain,” he said. He advised that “you do not partner with someone because they’re your best friend. You do not partner with someone because they’re your spouse. You do not partner with someone because they’re your father or uncle or brother but because they’re the best person to do the job.”

He said he relies on people to manage themselves and only made a “couple of mistakes” in personnel choices over the years.

DiGregory said while everyone wants to do the part of the business that’s the most fun for them, “you must also be the accountant and attorney and mediator.”

He said he’d have spent more time learning the business management skills in addition to horticulture while he was in school.

Simon said while he loves sales, “you can’t just concentrate on the things you love to do.” He said he’d have learned before learning on the job items like cost control and purchasing and inventory control.

McBane said he would like to “have been more proactive than reactive” in his business.

McBane also exemplified the positive attitude it takes, recalling that when Dr. Anthony Golas had been his basketball coach he advised, “When things don’t go the way you want them to go, you just try harder. So, when something is discouraging, we perk up and work a little harder.”

Emmerling said it doesn’t matter where one works geographically, either.

“I believe in my heart that we’re as good as anyone else in the world, whether they’re in New York or Los Angeles or Steubenville, Ohio,” he said.

(Giannamore can be contacted at pgiannamore@heraldstaronline.com)