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The first thing that struck a business consultant visiting Los Alamos recently was that the town has “huge potential.”
“I already knew that this is a community with many professional people and many highly educated people with strong incomes,” said Jon Schallert of The Schallert Group in Colorado. “I think the biggest challenge is that the business people here aren’t hungry like most of the rest of the country. I found many of the businesses doing ok — not thriving but not starving — so many are complacent and not doing the cutting edge kinds of marketing technologies that most of the country is doing.”
Schallert spent 10 years at Hallmark Cards, where his marketing strategies were publicized throughout the company as “the Schallert Method.” Hallmark used Schallert’s expertise on a nationwide multi-million dollar new product rollout, and tapped his experience for a national reinvention of their card shop channel into “destination” stores.
Building on that experience, Schallert designed his “Destination Business” strategy to pull in a greater number of consumers, from a greater geographic distance, to a business, causing increases in sales and profits, while improving the marketplace where the business resides.
In June, a small group of local business owners attended Schallert’s two-and-a-half day “Destination Business BootCamp” in Longmont, Colo.
The Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation and Los Alamos National Bank were primary sponsors for the trip.
“We sponsored the program because we feel it’s always healthy to get others’ opinions about how local owners might improve their business,” said CEO Bill Enloe of LANB. “Service businesses have changed substantially over the last few years and we’re not always exposed to the latest innovations out there. We feel that this type of program can not only benefit our small businesses but our community as a whole.”
Six local owners received more than 20 hours of instruction on the principles of becoming a destination business. They returned to Los Alamos and began implementing what they learned about their businesses and are helping other local business owners as well.
“The community is going to recognize our going through the business boot camp by the changes they see in our businesses,” said owner Denise Lane of The Hill Diner.
Since returning from boot camp, Lane, Don Taylor of Don Taylor’s Photography, Melanie Bennett of UPEX and Bennett’s Jewelry, Kent Pegg of Los Alamos Fitness Center, Steve Watts of Los Alamos Cooperative Market and Brad Burk of Hot Rocks Java Café meet regularly to review ongoing homework assignments.
For six months following the BootCamp, these businesses will receive ongoing consulting assistance including in-depth instruction, strategies and specific tactics on how to turn their operations into dominant destination businesses. The six owners returned from the workshop armed with concrete “to-dos” to immediately implement in their businesses to drive more customer traffic in spite of today’s challenging economy.
Schallert conducted a visit to Los Alamos Aug. 10-11. He presented a condensed version of his BootCamp , which was attended by more than 60 business and community members. While in town, Schallert also conducted a 45-minute on-site consultation with each business owner who attended the BootCamp.
The program assists owners whether their goal is to make a business stronger and more profitable, or make it more desirable to sell when it comes time to retire. The next goal, said Small Business Development Center Director Don Wright, is to organize another BootCamp contingent.
The final BootCamp of the year is set for Sept. 20-22 in Longmont. The next BootCamp for Los Alamos business owners will likely occur in March, Wright said.