This Wednesday, the small business committee of the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce will honor four businesses at its annual “Small Business of the Year” luncheon selecting one to receive this year’s coveted award. The four nominees are Coldwell Banker/Tanner Realty, Olive Branch Design & Landscape, the franchisee of the Statesboro Sonic Drive-In Restaurant, and the Statesboro School of Dance. Below is a description of each nominee in conjunction with a brief interview.
Coldwell Banker-Tanner Realty
Coldwell Banker-Tanner Realty is owned by local real estate broker Jack Conner. Conner's agency was recognized by Coldwell Banker for selling more "units" in 2006 than any other agency of its size - 11 to 20 agents - in the entire country. Conner's agency bested 629 other Coldwell Banker agencies scattered throughout the United States.
Conner bought the agency from Robert Tanner in 2004. He is the current president of the Statesboro Board of Realtors, and has 20 real estate agents associated with his firm. The following questions were answered by Conner.
- What advice would you give to someone who would like to open their own business?
- Ideas are wonderful, but not necessarily feasible. You really have to look at what you want to do in the context of a business plan, and see if it can make money, not just pay the bills. Secondly, you have to take your personal life into consideration. You have to make certain that you understand the impact that being a small business owner will have on your family. I don’t think that most people realize the commitment that it takes. Finally, you need to research greatly what you want to do; research the overhead involved and the bottom line to make it.
- What do you think of Statesboro's business climate?
- I honestly believe that all you have to do to succeed in Statesboro is to work hard. You might have some lean years, but with hard work, it will come back to you. It really doesn't matter what your business is, you can be very successful here. From that standpoint we are very blessed.
- With what do you attribute your success?
- We have had the opportunity to build off of Robert Tanner's reputation. Without that, I don't think that we would have been able to have the success that we have had. I am very proud to carry Robert's name, and that, in conjunction with a goal-oriented, hard working staff and group of agents, has resulted in a lot of success for all of us.
Olive Branch Design & Landscape
Olive Branch Design & Landscape is owned my Mike Williams, David Lawson, and Jim Branch. Originally founded by Williams, Lawson merged his landscape company into Olive Branch Design & Landscape in 2004. Since that time, the two have added Jim Branch as a partner.
The highly successful landscape installation and maintenance company has 15 employees and a significant book of clients. The following questions were answered by Lawson.
- What makes your company special?
- I believe that in addition to the quality of work that we provide, we also give great customer service. You have to give great customer service; it is the lifeline of your business. If one of our clients has a problem or a question, they know that we will get back to them very quickly, and that is extremely important. A good reputation is hard to come by, but quick to lose.
- What do you think was the most important factor underlying your company's growth?
- I have two other partners, and having three of us has really made a difference. We have been able to focus on different aspects of the business and play to our strengths. Mike and I had separate landscape maintenance and installation businesses, and we had gotten as big as we could be on our own, but together, and now with Jim, we are much bigger than we ever thought we could be.
- As a native of Virginia, what brought you to Statesboro, and why did you decide that Statesboro was a good place to start your own business?
- I came to Georgia Southern in the early 1990's and fell in love with Statesboro. I have heard that if you are looking to get out of Atlanta, this is one of the top four or five places to go in the state. It just has a great business climate and the opportunity is there. You just have to go out and do it.
Sonic Drive-In Restaurant
Russell Rosengart, owner of the two Sonic Drive-In Restaurants in Statesboro and ten others in south Georgia, has turned his passion for business into a notable success in the ultra competitive restaurant industry. Renowned for being a tireless worker and "hands on" business owner, Rosengart knew he wanted to have his own business when he graduated with a business degree from Mercer University in Macon in 1988. Rosengart owns Sonics in Albany, Swainsboro, Vidalia, Valdosta. The following questions were answered by Rosengart.
- What do you love most about your business?
- All of the different hats that I get to wear. Not only is there the interaction with the customers, but I get to work with commercial real estate and finance in addition to management. It's not just about making food, it is so much more. For instance, I get to be involved with a fair amount of charities, and that in addition to my other responsibilities is very satisfying.
- Would it be hard to duplicate what you have done in today's business climate?
- You know, I think it really would be. The trend in the franchise restaurant business, or any franchise business for that matter, is to go away from the single unit operator, and that is what I started out as. Multi-unit operators are preferred. The trend is to only deal with people that want to develop three or more units. I started out with one, I don't if I would be able to do that today.
- What advice would you give to someone who wants to open their own business?
- Don't do it. Stay in school and live at home with your parents. Just kidding. The foundation would be a college education and then training in the field that you would like to work in. Put in the time to learn your trade and then research the field and industry very well. Finally, surround yourself with good advisors - banker, accountant, and lawyer.
Statesboro School of Dance
Georgia Southern University graduate Shay Morgan began her ballet training at age three. An accomplished performer, Morgan's love of dance culminated with the opening of her Statesboro School of Dance in 2003. Morgan's school was immediately successful, and she has recently moved to a larger location on Zetterower Avenue.
Instructors at the Statesboro School of Dance teach 20 dance classes per week to more than 175 students. It is one of the larger dance schools in the area. The following questions were answered by Morgan.
- Your dance studio has been very successful since its opening. What are you most proud of?
- I have been very blessed, and a lot of wonderful things have happened, however, I am extremely proud of the service project that we conduct in conjunction with the local Boys and Girls Club. Our older students go to the Boys and Girls Club each Wednesday and teach dance to about 30 students. They love it and the students love it. We call it Faith in Motion, and we raise money for tights and ballet slippers for those students through a benefit performance. That is extremely gratifying for all of us.
- What is the most difficult part of running your business?
- Without a doubt, the paperwork. I would rather just teach and enjoy the children, but the paperwork, payroll, all of that stuff has to be done, so I just do it, but I don't love it like the instruction side.
- What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?
- Always try to do your best and believe in yourself, and most importantly, pick something that you love to do, and it won't seem like work. I work hard, and I try to do the best that I know how to do. But, in addition to that, you need to find people that believe in you and encourage you, because it is important to have that support around you.