What started as a part-time passion for Scott Hanson became full time after he was downsized at his IT job in December 2017.
Hanson, the owner of Prime Start Capital, a veteran-owned independent loan brokerage, was suddenly faced with leaving his long-time job to step into the competitive world of closing loan deals. But more than a year after that fateful day, Hanson has worked to build his business and tell more potential customers about what he has to offer.
“I truly want to help them get the right solution, not just a solution that may come back to bite them later,” Hanson said.
Prime Start Capital helps broker various loans for its clients that range from federal government-backed Small Business Administration loans to equipment leasing deals. In return for his valuable services, Hanson receives a commission at the close of the deal, costing his clients nothing until the hard work of orchestrating the deal completes.
Hanson says unlike other loan brokers who push their clients hard to close a deal, he is looking to provide the best solution for each individual’s needs. That means being patient and seeking multiple options that don’t put clients in a difficult financial situation.
Prime Start Capital began in April 2017, when Hanson attended a training seminar in Albany, New York. Similar to a franchise agreement, Prime Start Capital began as a “business opportunity,” with Hanson taking all the profits on his work in return for a one-time payment for training and start up.
Between April and November of that year, Hanson completed one large deal that covered his initial fee, but was still looking for a push to turn his passion full time. Two things swung his decision. First, his wife told him to quit his full-time IT job, stepping out on his own. Second, Hanson was downsized a month later.
Both of those events helped push him toward pursuing his passion.
Now with multiple deals under his belt and more planned for 2019, Hanson admits there are things he would have done differently if he started again. First, he wished he had started full time at the outset, dedicating more time to networking and finding solid leads.
The hardest part of Hanson’s job, he says, is finding quality leads and referrals that can actually be closed. Hanson said he has had multiple potential clients walk on deals close to closing.
Another difficult task is reaching out to clients, some of whom have never heard of independent loan brokers but are still looking for help in dire straits.
What has helped Hanson in the interim is networking, both in person and online. Hanson has joined a number of small business groups in Facebook to help reach potential customers and see what his clients need.
In addition, Hanson has found gold in making personal connections to banks, lenders and anyone else in between. Hanson touts those connections as crucial to deals he has signed. A pending deal with a small business in Buffalo was the result of a connection he made at an impromptu networking meeting, he says.
Hanson said making those connections is increasingly difficult due to the number of competitors in his space. That’s why he is working to boost his online presence to attract more clients. Until recently, Prime Start Capital’s social media presence was solely controlled by a Marketing company. Recently, Hanson received access to his professional Facebook and LinkedIn accounts and hopes to start making connections potential clients.
But despite his pivot to the digital space, Hanson has had some hiccups in the last couple years. One of those problems was using online marketing tools like Google Adwords, which he said cost a fortune and returned few results.
As a small business owner in the earliest stages, Hanson said he is working to maximize his capital while attracting high-quality leads and referrals.
Looking ahead to 2019, Hanson said his goal is create a “pipeline” of referrals and leads that will enable him to close between two and three deals a month. While a steep task, Hanson said he plans to become more active in marketing himself and his business.
To do that, Hanson continues to scour the internet and local vendors for possible clients who are looking for an honest broker who has their best interests in mind.
“A lot of brokers are out there generating leads and closing deals, but are they really building any kind of relationship?” Hanson said. “I don’t want to be that guy. “
To learn more about Scott and the value he can bring to your business, check out his website: www.primestartcapital.com
Whether you’re starting a business or wanting to get your current business a bit more organized and effective in its capabilities, answering all the how-to-fix-it questions yourself as a business owner is demanding and often unrealistic. Seeking professional advice from those with years of experience is a sound investment that will have a positive impact on your business revenue, its employees and your customers.
In the general St. Louis area of Illinois, Lorie Nelson owns and operates Signature Virtual Assistance, Inc., a business that offers personalized business administrative consulting. Nelson has some 40 years of experience in the field, working for all levels of management for both profit and nonprofit businesses of nearly every size.
Nelson has two office locations: one in Bethalto and one in Overland, MO, though, she and her five independent contractors service clients from across the United States. Her clientele spans from small town businesses to multi-million-dollar companies that have been in need of administrative support.
After having grown tired of working for others and wanting more control over her time, Nelson had the idea of starting her own business 10 years ago. Currently, Signature Virtual Assistance has been in business for seven years and has grown considerably in the last three years.
Nelson targets small business owners as she feels that they would benefit the most from administrative consulting. “Most people go into business with a great idea that they can make successful, but they don’t realize all the other things that need to happen along the way,” she said.
Nelson begins her work by developing a trusting relationship with potential clients through in person and video call face-to-face conversations. She helps clients organize their needs, prioritize them to fit the company’s specific needs, establish networks and offers LinkedIn campaigns.
According to Nelson, businesses typically need calendar, email and database management. With her clients, she can offer expert advice on what an executive assistant’s duties should include.
Nelson shared that her strong skill is administrative support and began business administrative consulting this year. She speaks with her clientele regarding the backend office operations, categorizing what’s working and what’s not and finding a plan that will work efficiently while saving her clients money. Nelson is also responsible for implementing that plan to take away extra work for business owners, something she shared is well received.
When Nelson began her business in August of 2012, she first focused on administrative support, bookkeeping and social media support. After a couple of years, social media management was dropped as she found it to be too demanding.
In the past year, bookkeeping was dropped so that Nelson could focus more on administrative consulting. Signature Virtual Assistance can offer referrals to bookkeepers and social media experts if Nelson finds that her clients would benefit from their services. “I think it’s smart to do what you’re good at and that’s what I tell my clients to do,” Nelson shared.
One struggle Nelson faced upon the opening of her business was having to educate on what a virtual assistant is. Later, she realized that she should not have had such great expectations that others would quickly grasp concepts that she understands well.
She started with two clients: one local and one in Maryland. The benefits of working from home and owning her business helped bring in clients excited about her work schedule running on weekends. With the help of a business coach, Nelson feels she is more equipped in providing a better level of support and trains her contractors to better know what to expect and how to provide a client’s expectations.
She noted that Signature Virtual Assistance is in “growth mode”.
Nelson appreciates the perks of owning her own business, such as flexibility and being less expensive than going out into the workforce where transportation maintenance, clothing allowance, parking fees and daycare can all take away from income. “It just is a great way to combine your personal life with your business life all into one. It’s perfect,” Nelson added.
Also, Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs, can give business owners the specifics of certain tax benefits from working from home.
In 2019, Nelson expects competition will be huge in the workforce, which she believes is a good thing as it promotes motivation for contractors to have something that sets themselves apart from everyone else in their field. She believes that her business stands out to clients because not many in her field can bring 40 years of experience to the table.
Signature Virtual Assistance brings in most of its clientele from word-of-mouth, LinkedIn campaigns and their website. In previous years, Nelson spent her time attending networking events, only to find that they were not beneficial to her. Being an introvert, Nelson prefers attending some luncheons and speaking directly with smaller groups that are not in a convention-like setting.
While she believes networking is vital to business growth, she recommends doing it in a manner that works best for the owners, the industry and the owner’s personality.
As far as technology goes, Nelson removed Signature Virtual Assistance’s Facebook page as it was not the platform where her clientele could be found. Using Zoom Video Communications with clients and her independent contractors has boosted productivity, communications and has lessened the need for travel where time and resources are wasted. “We’re both still sitting at our desk, drinking our own coffee and looking at each other having a conversation. We don’t have to go to Starbucks or Panera to do that,” Nelson laughed.
She spoke on the stigma around her business name containing the word “virtual”, sharing that she recommends on and off site persons for jobs if it is in the best interest of her client. “I’m not stuck on people working virtually. I’m stuck on getting you what you really need,” Nelson stated.
Within the next year, Nelson hopes to have an assistant of her own so she can focus her attention on marketing and meeting one-on-one with potential clients, as she feels her place in the company is promoting her own vision and that no one can do that better than her.
To learn more about Lorie Nelson and Signature Virtual Assistance, you can connect with Lorie on her website: https://www.signaturevirtualassistance.com