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.
“We had a roadmap to our future not only with those particular positions but what we were going to do as a company. We had a 2-3 year outlook of what we imagined that would look like and how these two people were going to help get us there,” Scott said.
The detailed proposal developed by Mad Macs included offering the LightSpeed cloud-based POS system.
“Lightspeed requires us to have trained and certified people on staff. These funds would help us to get our people ready to sell, deploy, and support this wonderful POS system. Additionally, we required two employees to fill roles as Apple Certified Technicians; this can have a long runway with regards to training. It’s one thing to teach people a skill, but only time gives them experience,” Scott added.
PERC approved his detailed plan. For the first three years, the money would be in the form of a loan. If Mad Macs created at least two new positions within a given amount of time and if these positions were still in place at the end of three years, the remainder of the loan would be forgiven and turned into a grant.
“The City of Pittsfield gave me the ability to grow my business with the resources I needed to capitalize on my plan,” Scott said.
He could bring on staff, train them and give them experience as the business grew without taking money away from his day-to-day operations.
“People should know that there are many resources available in Pittsfield to all,” Scott said. “Pittsfield is the population center of the county. We have a lot of resources and support services here. There is infrastructure. It’s a great place to grow your business.”
Mad Macs have grown well since they expanded with the help of the City. They now have clients from across Berkshire County and as far away as Albany, New York.
“There are a lot of resources available to grow in Pittsfield, and many of them are free. The City is willing to work with you,” he concludes.
– by Roger Matus