Spice company entrepreneur builds momentum with SBDC advising

Ron Harris, spice trader and owner of Valley Harvest Products

Ron Harris, spice trader and owner of Valley Harvest Products

Written by Hope Tinney

TUKWILA, Wash.—It’s Newton’s First Law of Motion: an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion, unless circumstances change.

For spice trader Ron Harris, owner of Valley Harvest Products, circumstances changed when he started meeting with Asbury Lockett, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center.

It’s not that he’d been resting, far from it, but he hadn’t been moving ahead either. So many daily tasks demanded his attention that he just never seemed to accomplish—or even make progress on—his long-term goals.

For the past year, Harris and Lockett have been meeting about every six weeks to go over financial statements and discuss business strategy, marketing, new markets and anything else that might help Harris grow or strengthen his business.

Once he started meeting with Lockett and creating priority lists and self-imposed deadlines, Harris said, he was able to move forward on goals that are helping his business grow.

“You eat an elephant one bite at a time,” he said. “Asbury helps me do that.”

One of more than 20 offices statewide, the SBDC in Des Moines is located at Highline Community College.

In addition to his SBDC certification, Lockett is a certified executive coach and has a law degree and an MBA. That combination of technical expertise and people skills enables him to meet clients where they are and help them move forward, whether they are first-time business owners or seasoned entrepreneurs who have created and sold several companies.

In Harris’ case, Lockett helped him break down his goals into manageable steps and stay focused on the big picture, even while setting up systems to make sure the daily details were taken care of.

Revenues are up and he’s excited about the goals he’s set for 2014, Harris said. Though he prefers to keep his specific goals confidential, he was happy to share some of the lessons he’s learned, or re-learned, as he’s worked to move his company forward.

“It isn’t always new things you need to learn,” Harris said, “sometimes you need to be reminded of things you already know.”

Harris said he appreciated the fact that SBDC advisors have experience with a broad range of businesses and are part of a network of advisors with deep expertise in diverse areas. They can bring their different experiences to bear on challenges, he said, and sometimes have a new way of looking at things.

Another advantage, he said, is that SBDC advisors aren’t paid by the client so they have no reason to tell the client what he or she wants to hear. “I like that Asbury’s advice is objective or neutral,” he said.

“He has helped me get the ball rolling so I can make bigger plans down the road.”