Scott Kirchner was confident that his business was ready to take the next step for growth. As president and co-founder of Mad Macs Inc. in Pittsfield, he saw his Apple computer repair business turn into a broad-based technology company. Not only was Mad Macs the only authorized Apple sales and service center in Berkshire County, but they were also offering computer networking, small business IT services, professional audio/visual installations, and digital signage for business customers.
“Customers would say, hey, I need to buy a Mac for my business, but I also needed other services as well. Do you know of anyone who could do X, Y andZ ?” Scott said. “We would say, well, we could do those things as too.”
Customers often talked with him about Point-of-Sale (POS) systems. For a retailer or restaurant, a POS usually includes all the activities surrounding their computerized cash registers and can consist of inventory management and staffing. As Mad Macs were already selling computers to these clients, POS seemed like a natural expansion.
“I saw an opportunity for our business to grow, but we were limited,” Scott said. “I knew that I needed two positions to go after the POS opportunity, and I also needed the cash flow to support the positions.”
It can be difficult for a small business to have enough money to expand. Often, revenue is enough to cover operations and for the owners to make a decent living. However, bringing on new staff for an opportunity before it generates revenue can create significant financial strain.
“Cash flow is king. Your business lives and survives on your ability to maintain cash flow. You may have all the greatest ideas in the world on how you are going to succeed and grow that business. But, in many cases, if you don’t have the solid capital investment behind it, your business is going to struggle to succeed. You could be lucky, but it is most likely going to take a longer,” Scott said.
As he was considering options, Scott read an article in the Berkshire Eagle about Technical Assistance Grants from PERC, the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation.
“I thought technical assistance meant assistance with buying technology. After some investigation, I found out differently,” Scott said. “It meant technical assistance and advice from professionals such as a lawyer or an accountant.”
Scott also learned that there are other programs from PERC designed explicitly for existing businesses to help them expand.
“They invited small businesses to apply for assistance with growing their businesses. It was about helping established businesses needing to get to the next step. And, that is when I became very interested. I applied for that grant,” Scott said.
Scott worked closely with the Community Development Office for the City of Pittsfield. He developed a detailed business plan and showed how he would expand the business, including the opportunity for the POS market. He knew that he needed to add people to grow.