Chamber thinking big


By Jim Poole

The Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce is giving business a BIG hand.
That’s BIG as in Business Intervention Group, which the Chamber launched last year to advise businesses.
BIG’s counseling is free and confidential, and advisors can help on topics of finance, personnel, marketing––pretty much anything relating to business, according to Jodie Rutt, the Chamber’s executive director.
The Chamber didn’t start BIG because of the current economic conditions, but Ms. Rutt believes more businesses may take advantage of it now.
“We started BIG because people were looking for resources, and those resources were never in one place,” she said.
BIG came together last summer, after one of the Chamber’s economic summits. Local businessman T.L. Wright laid much of the foundation for the program.
“Timing couldn’t be better as many business are struggling in the down economy and will benefit from BIG services,” Mr. Wright said.
When a business person asks for help, BIG’s executive committee reviews the application and decides which of its members––or another expert––should do the counseling.
Besides Ms. Rutt and Mr. Wright, other members are Eric Stein, Vic Ragusa, Brian Kaiser, Wynn Kintz and Alicia Terry. All are volunteers.
Those directors were selected for expertise in management, information technology, finance, marketing, personnel, manufacturing and accounting.
Usually, Ms. Rutt, said the first session “is to talk about everything that’s going on” with the business.
“The counselor then analyzes and makes a recommendation,” she said. “It’s up to the company to implement that recommendation.
“We never told anyone ‘We’re going to make everything wonderful for you.’ We’re just here to help.”
Counseling isn’t time-intensive, Ms. Rutt said, though time depends on the issue.
BIG is intended for any business person, from someone thinking of starting up or a longtime business person who just needs advice.
“Part of it may be forming an exit strategy for someone, unfortunately,” Ms. Rutt said.
But she sees BIG as more of an ally to help businesses through a specific problem or tough times.
And some already are. Even though BIG has just started, one business is working with the program and three others are in the “assigning counselors” phase, Ms. Rutt said.
“We see this as a great opportunity to help businesses at all levels,” she said.
To request a meeting or for more information, call the Chamber at 295-6550 or contact