WisBusiness: Small businesses urged to reach out for help

By Gregg Hoffmann

MILWAUKEE – A large group of entrepreneurs went to “boot camp” at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Conference Tuesday.

A panel of entrepreneurs, bankers, attorneys and others who provide support for business startups gave the participants tips on starting and maintaining a business.

“You have to be a leader, not a boss,” said Ken Wanek, founder of Datatrac, a market research company specializing in the banking industry.

“You have to remember what made you an entrepreneur to begin with – your passion. You have to communicate that to your employees, your network, your customers.”

Wanek said an entrepreneur also has to learn what he or she can do best, and find other people who have skills in areas they don’t.

Terry Grosenheider of U.S. Bank said networking can be very important. “Something might be happening that is new to you, but believe me it has happened before,” he said.

“If you network with bankers, attorneys, accountants and others, they can find somebody who has had a similar experience. You are not out there alone.”

Several panelists mentioned the importance of making sure who owns intellectual property for software and other elements of any business.

Attorney Greg Meier said, “In the technology business, IP can be critical. You must make sure you own what is developed. It’s very important to make sure you have it ‘buttoned down’. If you are looking to see, it can be a deal killer if you can’t show you own the product.”

The importance of solid management, hiring good people and developing a clear, and not cumbersome business plan also were emphasized by panelists.

Tom Still of the Wisconsin Technology Council moderated the discussion.