Recently our President Megan Duckett and General Manager Lynda Vaughn had the distinct honor of being invited to attend the Dell Small Business Think Tank here in Southern California. It was an interactive dialogue on how local small businesses and entrepreneurs plan to grow and succeed this coming year, and what they need most from the organizations that support them so that they aren’t always being overshadowed by national issues. It was a fascinating workshop for those who attended in person and live online (via twitter and Storify), and I was able to get a first-hand account of the experience from Megan herself which I know our readers will also find very interesting. Thanks for sharing your day with us, Megan!

What kind of companies were represented, and how many attended? Were there any familiar faces/companies/vendors in attendance?

This was a really targeted group of local small businesses, with an attendance of around 35 people. Everyone was from the Los Angeles area and were mostly long-time established family owned and operated businesses. What made this group of particular interest to me was that there were actually other local manufacturers in attendance. Local manufacturing seems to be at an all-time low – with so much going off shore for production. Worse yet in a small business environment the owners usually are involved in running the day to day – making it hard to get away and attend this type of event. It was great to see such a good turnout. A local canvas boat cover manufacturer who is right down the road from us in Long Beach was there – it was great to meet and share “best practice” stories with one another, especially since our fields are very similar.

What did you end discussing at this meeting?

The style of the meeting was a “think tank” conversation – where there is a moderator and then the group all participates actively. It’s a really great way to get everyone involved. It only works well when the group is small and targeted – and the subject has to strike a chord with everyone on the panel. It was great – we were all there because we had something to bring AND something to learn!

What were everyone’s biggest concerns/issues with being a successful small business owner?

Some of the biggest concerns that continue to haunt small businesses despite a “vision of a better economy on the horizon,” included HR tasks and tactics. How to hire, how to retain good talent, how to position your business so that it is attractive to new employees — those are all of utmost concern to everyone nowadays. What makes a place “great” to work at, and how to structure pay scales and pay raises in uncertain economic times, is also of great concern and consideration for all business owners in today’s economy.

Any other points of interest that you would like to mention?

Dell Computers did a great job of bringing an all-around open discussion to the group – it was particularly great as they had plenty of technology advice available to us as needed – but it was not specifically about technology. In small business our needs are so much rounder than just IT. Let’s face it – the IT is no good if you don’t have the resources to purchase or implement it. Let alone keep it up to date and running! I’m really looking forward to the next event that they present locally here in LA. I am also a member of DWEN (Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network) and a supporter of their Entrepreneur In Residence Program, which are both really wonderful organizations to belong to, encouraging business owners – especially women business owners — to be as successful as they possibly can be!