Chris Reilly of Unleashed Online Media recently began his term as the Chair of our Small Business Council, which works to foster a stronger environment for entrepreneurship, business growth and retention. We asked Chris a few questions about his small business, his goals for his term and what issue small businesses deal with on a day-to-day basis:
GSI: As the Small Business Council Chair, what are your goals for the upcoming year?
Chris Reilly: The Small Business Council represents an important voice in Greater Spokane Incorporated and the region at large. We help bring the issues and concerns that challenge small businesses from starting and expanding to the attention of local officials that can help create changes. We’ve seen great progress on creating a more business-friendly environment in Spokane as it relates to permitting and other issues in the past. This year I’m looking forward to investing some focus on how to make our Downtown core more viable for small businesses to thrive in. The council represents businesses from all over our region, but recognizes that the viability of our city center from a tourism and economic development standpoint is very influential to the health of our region overall. This work touches a variety of issues including transportation policy, parking challenges, public safety issues and building codes, and much more. We also want to be more of a sounding board for local officials to get feedback on legislation and policy changes they are proposing from a small business perspective.
GSI: What’s the most challenging aspect of running a small business?
CR: Finding, leading, and retaining great talent is a constant challenge for small businesses. The reality is that each person on the staff of a small company has a tremendous impact on the whole business. It takes a lot of work for a business to find a great person, but the city also needs to be a partner in making it easy and enjoyable for employees to live here too!
GSI: What’s the most rewarding aspect of running a small business?
CR: I love the satisfaction of being able to do the best thing we can for our clients. We’re not hindered by corporate policies and stock targets – we get to take care of our people as best as we are able!
GSI: When did you decide to start your own small business and why?
CR: When I moved back to Spokane there were not a lot of options for somebody with a web marketing background from a career standpoint, and I kept getting calls from people that knew me and needed help. As I’ve been in business for more than five years now, we’ve slowly formed a proactive vision to become a much larger business – but the core of it still is built on listening to what our customers want and need.
GSI: How do you deal with the risky/impactful decisions you must make as a small business owner?
CR: Poor sleep. Seriously, it’s often scary to realize how much impact one person has on the world around them. I take care to seek the counsel of as many people as I can when making large decisions, but then once you’ve made a decision it’s important to stick with it and plow forward. A few years into the business I waffled a lot, and that made for a very costly pattern of trying to reverse decisions. Often, you may be the only person that thinks you’re right at first. That isn’t easy, but when you do look back on a quality decision and see that you used courage to make it happen it ends up being incredibly gratifying.
GSI: What’s the biggest issue facing our small businesses today, and what needs to happen to overcome it?
CR: I feel like our region is on the cusp of very substantial growth. We have an exceptionally livable community with affordable housing, awesome outdoor activities and a growing cultural scene. I see many viable businesses not make it because there are just not enough potential customers and not enough disposable income to support them. This discourages investment and forces people to move to larger markets. I think we need to support the excellent leadership that is currently in place to have a comprehensive plan for improving safety, transportation and culture, while keeping the size of government in check and letting private enterprise drive growth. There have been a huge number of ideas put forth including encouraging small open-air kiosks in the downtown core, streamlining permitting for renovations on historic buildings, and creating more ways for middle income singles to live and work downtown.
GSI: Finally, if your small business was a band, what would its name be and why?
CR: I think we’d be The Pioneers. We’re a group of technology/marketing innovators that has staked a claim in a new part of downtown (we were one of the first businesses in Kendall Yards). Plus, we’re very ‘beard-friendly’ thanks to our good friend Eric Bandholz who’s company BeardBrand is taking the world by storm!