By Sebastian Moraga
Seeing you succeed at your job is more than a job for Ron Nielsen.
“It’s a passion,” said Nielsen, an expert in small business development with more than 20 years of experience who leads the Wenatchee office of the Washington State University Small Business Development Center since June 10.
“Having been a small business owner myself,” said Nielsen, who has owned businesses in Skagit and Okanogan counties and taught in colleges in Arizona, “(I know) it takes a lot. It’s a lot of work and oftentimes we don’t have resources to get the advising we need.”
Jim Kuntz, executive director of the Port of Chelan County, praised both Nielsen and the SBDC.
“Small businesses create the majority of jobs in this country. The port, as the leading economic development agency for Chelan County, feels that providing free one-on-one counseling to small business is essential to helping this economy remain vital.”
Nielsen, Kuntz said, has a proven track record and a small-business background, and encouraged chamber members to be aware “of this great resource,” he said.
Nielsen replaces Cashmere mayor Jim Fletcher, who held the post for 16 years until 2018.
“He’s a great guy and he can do better than I did in many situations,” Fletcher said of Nielsen. “He’s been in the SBDC program in a variety of roles for a very long time.”
To succeed as a small business owner, it’s not enough to just work hard, Nielsen said. Nowadays, competition has grown stiffer in most fields, knowing your customers well and meeting their needs is essential in a dynamic market.
“Just because you will be able to offer the lowest price point, it doesn’t mean you will be successful,” Nielsen said. Adaptation to a dynamic market remains crucial, Nielsen said, mentioning the farmers who introduced Fuji apples to American households in the 1980s as a good example of adaptation and Sears as an example of what happens when a business does not adapt.
Starting out in business can be rewarding and exhausting at the same time, Nielsen said, “like having a baby.
“You start this new endeavor and you watch it grow and you become engrossed in the new endeavor,” he said, describing his role as helping people navigate through that, in good times and bad.
Nielsen says he is still assessing the business climate in his new hometown, but anticipated a close relationship with, among others, the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“The chamber plays such a vital role in any economy, that it’s a good place to find out information,” he said.
Fletcher started at the SBDC in Wenatchee in 2002 before retiring in 2018. He calls his experience a great ride, where he learned as much from their clients as they did “hopefully, from me.”
“Success has never been my success as an advisor,” he said. “It’s always been the business owner’s success. They did it. All we did was help them find the right information, so they could feel comfortable with the decision they had to make.”
Kuntz sounded comfortable with the decision he had to help make, hiring Nielsen. Asked what he would like to see within five years at the SBDC, he said, “a proven track record of helping new businesses get started in the region and many examples of businesses that went to the SBDC for help “and got outstanding counseling.”