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Last Update: Tuesday August 20, 2019

Key Idea: Ask Peers for Help

Cristiana Ocosta is the founder of Ocosta Designs.  As a member of Opportunity Knocks she feels she gets real-time advice from people who have often learned lessons the hard way.  More...

Key Question:

A: 

Ask for help and a group of peers will better help solve problems than will attorneys, CPAs or other types of paid professionals.

Q: Why is peer advice better than that given by the people who get paid to give advice?

A: The group you see from Bend is made up of business owners who are in retail or service companies. Take the case of employee issues. Law firms don't hire entry-level minimum wage workers as do many retail stores. How could your attorney guide you when it comes to the question of keeping the store staffed when the law office isn't even open on the week-ends? The attorney can't possibly know how to hire and staff a retail operation. If you find peers who have been running a business for more than five years, they have already lived through what you are now experiencing.

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.

Q: How did Christina Acosta's group help her?

A: Christina had a great idea for a product which she could place in retail stores to increase her sales. The product is a display box which shows the customer how to use hand painted tiles in their decorating. The group thought Christina's idea was so good that she was going to be stuck painting the same tiles over and over. Because of her group's suggestion, she now has a company manufacturing her tiles rather than painting each one individually herself.

Think about it

Do you have plenty of small business owners who are friends that you can call on for help?  Are you active in your trade association?

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: www.opp-knocks.org

Office: 541 318 4650

Business Classification:
Education

Year Founded: 1996

Ask Peers for Help

HATTIE: You live in Bend, Oregon.  

CRISTINA: Yes.   [ Editor's Note: Founder, Ocosta Designs]

HATTIE: And you're a part of something called OK Groups. Tell me why you went to the first meeting and what benefits you're getting from that as a small-business owner.

CRISTINA: Well, I was recruited by a friend of mine who insisted that I would love this group -- she's also a member. I called up the people that are facilitating the group and they came and they consulted with me, and I was so impressed by their knowledge that I just signed up right away. It was just like, how fast could I give them my $99? I know this is going to work.

HATTIE: You have to pay? You have to pay to be in the group? Oh, I didn't know that.

CRISTINA: Yes, you do, $99. I think it's worth it to pay, because it makes it more valuable that you need to have a little invested.

And so I did that, went to my first meeting, and brought one of my products. Jim and Mary Schell had helped; Jim asked me how I was doing with it and he said, `You need to take this to your first meeting and present it.'

(Voiceover) The general public hasn't seen tile as art, at least the way I see tile as art.

I look at this as an art pack --concept boards -- kind of like buying a nice print for your house. I'd take my developed designs and and come up with a program that would reference installation. This box had to reference installation so someone will pick this box up and say, `Oh!' They know right off it's not meant for coasters. I have nine different designs right now. Each one has a color story that's unique and a design theme.

HATTIE: OK, so the invention here is this display box.

CRISTINA: Yes, and they (the OK Group) all told me that they thought it was a wonderful idea, but how was I going to produce it? And I told them my plan, and one of them said, `You mean you want to sit there and paint 2000 fish, 2000 suns, 2000 stars and 2000 flowers and birds, on each tile?''

HATTIE: And you said?

CRISTINA: The reality of it just struck me that I didn't want to be painting the same 2000 fish over and over again. Designing the fish was great, and painting it in custom variations was great. That is what I've been doing. I am a custom artist who does it one by one. But now, with this new product, I do need to find a manufacturer. And so that's what I've been working on for the past six months.

HATTIE: So they suggested to you that you stick to the design and not get into manufacturing.

CRISTINA: Right.

HATTIE: So they just caused you to stop dead cold and change.

CRISTINA: Yeah . . . actually what happened is, no one ever said `You should.' It's just people raised questions that were so thought-provoking. The questions from one of the men in the group who had been involved in catalog sales and various programs, were, `Really, picture how you want your life to end up. What do you want to be doing a year from now? Do you want to be painting all these tiles? Do you want to tell your family that you can't go somewhere because you've got to paint 1000 fish or whatever? Do you not want to be able to do any personal work because you're so busy doing this or overseeing all these production people?' And when I really thought about how I want to picture my life, that didn't fit. It gave me indigestion.

HATTIE: They told you something was wrong with this idea, or something was right with the idea.

CRISTINA: They thought the box was great.

HATTIE: The box is great.

CRISTINA: They think the box is gonna be ripped off right away.

HATTIE: They're right.

CRISTINA: You can't patent the box design. So they were telling me that, number one, `Do you want to be making all these tiles yourself, Cristina?' And when I thought about painting these, I said, `No.' And then, I do need to hit the market in a particular way to make sure that I can at least establish myself before I'm copied.

HATTIE: OK, so because of their advice, you have decided to continue with this idea, however, you're going to have these pieces mass-produced based on your designs.

CRISTINA: Right.

HATTIE: That came out of their suggestion.

CRISTINA: That came directly out of their suggestion. And that is gonna change my life.

HATTIE: For the better.

CRISTINA: The business climate is not always very open. You know, people are not always willing to tell you exactly how they succeeded if they perceive that you're competing with them. And this type of group is very open and very supportive and gives me that. It gives me feedback and I'm able to give to them. So it's very wonderful.

For more about Cristina's work, go to here website, Ocosta Designs, or email her!

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