Shelly Koehler – Advisor Insight
From her office in Waterbury, CTSBDC Business Advisor Shelly Koehler strives to make a difference in the lives of all the entrepreneurs that meet with her, and she definitely has the experience to back her up. Shelly has owned two of her own businesses over the span of 12 years, and has advised clients as part of the CTSBDC’s team of professional advisors since 2012.
In these extensive years navigating through the ins and outs of the world of business, Shelly has come to learn that success comes with being aware of all the choices that are open to you.
“When I first meet with a client, I ask them to tell me what they need, and while I listen I try to read between the lines and identify what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and what they need to fix,” Shelly recounts. “When all is said and done, clients usually have a choice that they have to make about their business, and since there’s no cookie cutter approach to business, every situation is going to be different. That’s where I come in.”
Not every tool may be useful for every client, and Shelly knows this. Instead of following a formulaic approach for every entrepreneur that steps into her office, she instead treats them all like a unique conundrum, each with unique plan of action.
Backed by CTSBDC software resources, Shelly helps her clients identify their options using her own vast experience and a suite of tools. Of particular help to Shelly and her clients is GrowthWheel ®.
“I use GrowthWheel to help small businesses grow from startup to expansion by analyzing the areas where the business needs to grow, and by doing this identify the right choice for my clients to make,” Shelly explains. “Of course, thanks to the CTSBDC, I have a lot more powerful tools at my fingertips, like BottomLine ™ which is invaluable for taking a closer look at financials, and IbisWorld to get a picture of an industry and where its pitfalls and advantages may be.”
However, with every client, Shelly always prides herself on helping them succeed and exceed expectations by educating and guiding them.
“There’s nothing more profitable than an education in good business practices, because when an entrepreneur has knowledge, they use it to make better decisions,” says Shelly. “If my clients feel confident and empowered enough to go forward and make the right decisions, then I’ve done my job.”
In fact, Shelly promotes education in more arenas than business advising. In August of 2015, Shelly traveled to Waterbury as part of a CTSBDC initiative to reintegrate ex-offenders into society by facilitating an Ice House Entrepreneurship Program session, which is made to engage participants in the fundamental aspects of an entrepreneurial mindset, in order to provide unlimited opportunities in the future. According the Shelly, only a few months later one of the participants is already about to open his own business. “I would say it was a huge success,” Shelly admits.
Needless to say, Shelly doesn’t do her work alone. In addition to support from the CTSBDC, Shelly partners herself with local Chambers of Commerce, in order to spread the word about the CTSBDC and its no-cost, professional advising services. She also meets with local banks and loan officers, in order to educate them about her services and to let them know that they can refer any client to her if they are in need of someone that can help their business grow and flourish.
Client reactions to Shelly’s services are always positive. Some of them are in disbelief that a helpful, no-cost organization like the CTSBDC exists; some just can’t believe that they didn’t call her sooner. By the time her clients are close to achieving their goals, they’re incredibly thankful that she helped them so much, and they find a newfound sense of freedom as they continue running their business.
When asked about her number one piece of advice for small businesses, Shelly suggested, “Stay focused and do one thing at a time. You’re going to fail at something, and the best thing to do about it is the fail fast, learn from your mistakes, and move on in order to have the least amount of negative impact, both financially and emotionally.”
Today, Shelly continues to help clients from the Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce, taking pride in her work and in her community. In her own words, “I’m here to make a difference in the lives of business owners. I know that in dealing with their businesses, I’m dealing with their entire lives, so I want to let them know that we are a federal organization dedicated to small business, and we’re here to help, for no cost.”