Ask the Experts at COCC


Q: I know my outdoor camping product has great potential.
I’ve obtained my LLC, am already making sales,
and I’m lining up distribution opportunities.
But I have zero idea of how to run a business. What can you suggest?

A: Well done! I applaud your progress in implementing your business idea! Engaging with your customers and consistently delivering value are crucial. Here are some next steps to maximize your success as a small business:

1) Empathize with your customer. For most of us, that means discovering insights by “getting out of the building” and interacting with customers in their natural habitat.

2) Create systems to ensure consistency. Put processes in place for ordering, selling, delivering the products to the customer, tracking inventory, scheduling your time and ensuring customer satisfaction. Record your activities and keep track of your expenses. Your systems don’t have to be complex, they just need to help you work efficiently.

3) Good businesses require great people to thrive. What if you’re the “only employee”? Take time to audit your strengths and weaknesses and daily tasks to determine when it’s time to outsource or hire.

4) Maintain a growth mindset. You may consider some local programs for entrepreneurs to help build your skills:

Central Oregon Community College (COCC) has a Small Business Development Center that offers free, confidential professional business advising and a variety of low-cost courses to help entrepreneurs through the business lifecycle:

The Small Business Management Program at COCC is another great option. This nine-month program is offered in a small cohort setting with class sessions and one-on-one coaching. Topics include market and financial analyses, growth planning, design thinking, and social innovation — among many others. The next cohort starts October 11. Visit to learn more.

About the Expert:
Keith Sherrill is a former U.S. Army Ranger, MEDEVAC helicopter pilot and 160th SOAR Night Stalker. He has filled a range of leadership roles during nine combat tours of duty in Iraq & Afghanistan. Upon separation from the U.S. Army, Sherrill chaired a municipal board in Washington State, cofounded a Seattle-based nonprofit, and built a beer brand from the ground up in the Deep South. With an advanced business degree and Stanford Graduate School of Business Ignite Program achievements, Sherrill is COCC’s Small Business Management Program coordinator.


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