By Heidi Zemach for SCN
When you’re as successful at business, and as outgoing as Tom Tougas is, less experienced entrepreneurs tend to listen, hoping for whatever advice they can get to use for their own business.
Plus, it’s the slow season now, so there’s more time to plan and reflect.
Tougas began offering a series of entrepreneur workshops in the new Seward Community Library Museum Monday night. Eighteen local business people had signed up to attend the workshops as of January 21st. The workshops will run through April 1st. Tougas is conducting the workshops in support of the ongoing efforts of the new group, Young Entrepreneurs of Seward, by offering his own experienced guidance and practical information that participants can use in making their own business more successful—or in starting a successful business.
Tougas owns Hertz Rentals and Major Marine Tours in Seward, but his primary business is running a tour bus company and passenger ferry boat services in southeast Alaska.
Interest in his workshop was so high that the class location was switched from the small conference room to the large community room on the building’s ground floor.
The students included restaurant and ale house owners, the owner of a bed and breakfast who runs a food booth at fairs across Alaska, a city council member who runs an inn and Laundromat coffee shop, and even the of general manager of Seward Providence Hospital. They sat attentively taking notes as Tougas suggested that they forget everything that has happened up to this time as it’s past and gone, and not useful to dwell on. He then asked each entrepreneur to select a certain date in the future meaningful to them. His own date is in the fall of next year when his final boat payment is made. They would then be asked to set a specific goal to accomplish by that date, and a plan of action steps to take leading up to it.
The class is quite different from the small business administration classes Tougas has taught at Resurrection Bay Community College, he said. That class was based around curriculum typical for BA 166 college classes, requiring tests, papers, and a grading system. But this one will be taught in an interactive question-answer format, designed to address 25 questions and challenges that its members will have to face, or have already faced.
Some other topic examples: What are your strengths and weaknesses? How do you recognize an opportunity that fits well with your personal mindset, capabilities and life goals? Is your business idea economically viable? Are you better to start a business from scratch or buy an existing business? How much do you need to spend on sales, marketing and location? When? What permits will you need?
Tougas hopes the workshop will help to increase the ratio of Seward businesses generally. “Seward has high percentage of business failures. I usually see them after the fact,” he said. “Usually when a business fails, the reason is very predictable– the owner did not write a good business plan, and think through all of the implications beforehand.” Seasonality is an important part of the equation in Seward, he said. Running a successful business is easy in the busy summer tourist season, but one has to put by enough to be able to survive through the slow, much lengthier winter season.