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Last Update: Thursday October 1, 2020

Key Idea: Join a Peer Group

As a cashed-out entrepreneur, Jim Schell started an organization to provide business owners with a place to go to give and receive advice.  Here are more insights from Jim:   Understand your financials,   On selling the business, and  Staying Power.

Key Question:


Find a group of trusted peers.  You can join a group that is already up and running or you can form your own.  It doesn't have to be formal but it helps if there is a managed discussion process. In addition, you can form a board of directors or advisors.

Q: What is the difference between a board of advisors and a board of directors?

A: A board of directors is required by a corporation and the members of the board of directors have financial responsibilities and liabilities attached to the duties. Also, the members of the board of directors are paid a retainer and required to attend meetings. A board of advisors could almost be viewed as a group of friends who get together to help the entrepreneur think through problems and offer suggestions. The advisors are usually not paid, but are given gifts and nice meals that are served before or after meetings. 

To form your own board of adviors:

1. Find between 10 and 12 people who are business owners who are interested in serving as a board of advisors for a group of peers. The ideal group size for a meeting is seven. So, if you have 10-12, you are more likely to have no fewer than seven at any one meeting.

2. Find a convenient location and meet at the same time every month. In Bend they meet on Thursday afternoon from 4-7.

3. Each month, one person's critical issue is discussed in length as you saw demonstrated. However, if anyone has an emergency problem, the group will address it.

4. Each meeting starts with a report from the person who got the advice last month. He or she is accountable to the group for action taken on the advice given.

5. Everything discussed in the meeting is confidential. The board of advisors works for a business owner because all businesses are generic in that every business owner deals with the product quality, people issues, and systems. When a group of small business owners are put together, they can and will solve each other's problems.

Think about it

Who do you talk to when you have a difficult business problem?  Is there an organized group of business owners you can join that meets close by?

Clip from: Opportunity Knocks

Bend, Oregon: Meet veteran entrepreneur, Jim Schell.  Jim says, "No small business owner should feel lonely."  But we do.

Jim advocates creating your own small business owners group.  He calls them OK Groups and he's glad to share his guidelines.  These groups typically meet once a month for three hours. Usually there is a group for business owners in retail, manufacturing, service and home-based business. The owners serve as an advisory board to one another.

In this episode of the show you meet participants and see how they work together to solve problems and grow their businesses.

Jim Schell says, "All business problems are generic. You've seen one, you've seen 'em all. Products may be different, services may be different, but they're all generic." He has seen with his own eyes that when he puts a group of small-business people together in the same room, someone else will have had the problem, or the opportunity, that another owner is struggling with now.

The key knowledge gained by every OK member is how to use their financial statements to run their business.  Jim wrote a book on the subject .  Using Your Financial Statements is an episode about the topic.  Let's visit Bend, Oregon and learn what it is that Jim teaches his OK members.   

Opportunity Knocks, LLC

The Staff of Opportunity Knocks,

PO Box 9073
70 SW Century Dr., Suite 100 - PMB 249
Bend, OR 97708
541 318 4650

Visit our web site:

Office: 541 318 4650

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1996

Join a Peer Group

HATTIE: Hi. I'm Hattie Bryant. We are here for you every week if you want to start, run or grow a business. Usually we introduce you to one small-business owner, but today, it's completely different.

You'll meet several owners because we want to show you the power of synergy. It takes an independent streak to start a business, but that independence could kill you.

The feeling of freedom from dealing with other people's opinions is part of the attraction of becoming self-employed. The problem is when you start and try to grow your business, you will face many complex issues. The good news is you don't have to deal with these problems alone.

You probably won't go to a CPA or an attorney and pay big fees to discuss problems, you might not want to talk with them to your spouse, and you certainly don't want to discuss personnel issues with your employees. So what do you do? In the past, we've suggested you join organizations like the Chamber of Commerce or your trade association, or something like Young Entrepreneurs Organization. Well, today, we have an entirely new opportunity to tell you about. In fact, it's called Opportunity Knocks.

In Bend, Oregon, you can stop in The Bend Guitar Shop to buy a guitar, take a lesson, or just hear Bill Hayes, the owner, play. Or you can grab a copy of Pamela Hulse Andrews' Cascade Business News. You could even buy some one-of-a-kind hand-painted tiles from Cristina Ocosta, the owner of Cristina Ocosta Designs. Or, even learn how to paint yourself, by doing what hundreds do every year, attend a class run by Dee Hanson's company, Art in the Mountains.

All of these small-business owners in Bend, Oregon, are growing their businesses, enjoying success and they are involved in a business networking program. Jim Schell, the organizer, tells us all about it.

JIM SCHELL (Founder, Opportunity Knocks): You've got to understand two premises: first, all business problems are generic. You've seen one, you've seen 'em all. Products may be different, services may be different, but they're all generic. Second, if you put a group of small-business people together in the same room, someone will have had the problem before, or the opportunity. So the object here is to take this generic bunch of people, put 'em together in the same room, tee 'em up to solve their problems or realize their opportunities, and then let 'em loose.

I was in a group like this before back in the late '80s. I know that my peers have the answers to my problems and I have the answers to theirs. And so all it is, is just a matter of getting us together at the same time and the same place.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Cristina Ocosta is an artist who is building a business around her talent.

CRISTINA OCOSTA (Owner, Cristina Ocosta Designs): I decided when I was 23 that I was going to be an artist. I just felt like I had this calling. I had gotten a real estate license and started in school with a business degree, but it just wasn't working for me. So I felt I had a calling to be an artist and I was going be one, whatever that meant. So I went back to school and felt like as long as I could do some kind of job that would relate to artwork, then I would be getting better. And a friend of mine showed me how to do window splashes.

HATTIE: What's a window splash?

CRISTINA: A window splash is when you take tempera paint, children's poster paint, and you paint on windows, usually for car dealerships and grocery stores and, you know, fairs, around fairs and different functions, Christmas oftentimes.

HATTIE: So what did you do? Did you walk in to the owner of a grocery store and say, `Can I paint your window?'

CRISTINA: I did. I set a goal for myself and I would only stop after 50 people told me no. And so, I would cold-call, and it was just--oh, first I painted--first I came up with some ideas...

HATTIE: So your goal was to make 50 calls, regardless. Even if you got 50 people who said, "No," you were going to make those 50 calls.

CRISTINA: Well, yeah. And how I started was, after the friend told me how to do it and what to do, I went home, and on my window, I would paint a window for a prospective customer. And I did five different windows, five different styles; and then I made a small portfolio and went around to different businesses (who said "Yes").

HATTIE: OK, so when you made your first call to get your first piece of business, you had already positioned yourself as if you had already had five customers.

CRISTINA: I just showed them the portfolio.

HATTIE: I think it's brilliant. Many, many artists are not willing to make even the first cold call, much less 50.

CRISTINA: Well, I really wanted to be one . . . it's just I had felt like I have a calling.

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