Inside Iowa State
Jan. 10, 1997
In other people's business
by Michelle Johnson
Steve Carter has been known to get into other people's business. Which is exactly where they want him. At the helm of ISU's Business Development Center, one of the most productive business development centers in the state, Carter has helped more than 350 new and existing companies achieve success.
Whether it's a company of 500 employees or a young entrepreneur with big plans and empty pockets, Carter and his staff provide help with strategic planning, finding financing and surviving the initial stages of business.
"It's a very good feeling helping people make their dreams become a reality," Carter said. "Not everyone gets the luxury of having this much fun on the job."
Carter describes the center to his clients as "the staff you don't have." Small businesses, for example, lack the marketing, finance and human resources departments of larger companies, but still need those services and other expertise from time to time.
"We help businesses identify resources for that expertise in order to bridge that gap," Carter said.
The center offers a number of programs targeted at business people with a wide range of needs. A weekly program, "Smart Start," helps the budding entrepreneur, while the quarterly "Family Business Forum" addresses the role of family dynamics in family business.
"We now are beginning to partner with specialized firms to address the more specific questions of our clients," Carter said. "We recently joined forces with an Internet homepage company to offer a class on the in's and out's of the Internet."
When clients get answers to their questions, specific or otherwise, Carter said he feels he has been successful.
By Microsoft Corporation's measures, Carter has been very successful. He was invited to participate in a multi-part informational television series for small business owners sponsored by Microsoft. Carter served on a panel for a segment that focused on the use of technology in small business.
He admits feeling a little awed lunching on croissant sandwiches in the dining room of one of the 42 multi-level buildings on the Microsoft campus. Ten years ago, the campus didn't exist.
"Large corporations like Microsoft have realized that small business is a terrific market for them," Carter said. "Centers like ours are the vehicle for them to deliver their message."
Carter has had no trouble identifying his role in Iowa, a state where 90 percent of the businesses are small, family- owned operations. Carter said he believes the high percentage of small business is the result of former farmers seeking to remain self-employed and middle managers of downsized companies investing in small businesses of their own. In addition, large companies are outsourcing, seeking small businesses to perform services faster and cheaper than could be done internally. The technology explosion also has spurred growth in small business.
Carter is no stranger to the small family-owned business. While growing up, he worked at Carter Press in Ames, a company started by his grandfather, then passed down to his father, who eventually sold the business.
Carter's experience with entrepreneurship and building small business made him a natural selection to head the new ISU Pappajohn Center for Business and Entrepreneurship. He will serve as interim director, finalizing details for the center's operation and offering assistance to its first clients.
His activities at the Pappajohn Center will differ slightly from those at the business development center, which he will continue to oversee.
The Pappajohn Center will be very technology-oriented. It will help entrepreneurs develop companies to market ISU technologies.
"There is definitely an academic component involved in this center," Carter said. "ISU faculty and students will play a key role as resources, entrepreneurs and developers of the technologies used to create new companies. Our charge at the Pappajohn Center is to create lots and lots of companies -- successful ones."
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