Below is a transcript of an interview done with Anthony Bortz, president of Discount Glass & Mirror in San Diego. Anthony has been working with PCV for about two years with staff in the PCV San Diego office and two expert advisors. Anthony’s story is a great one, and one that might strike a chord with other small business owners. Thank you, Anthony, for your kind words!
How did you get into the Glass & Mirror industry?
I immigrated to the states from South Africa in ’99 and was looking for a business. This is the business that came up for sale.
How did you react to the bubble and then the recession?
We were pretty busy. The business took off and sales doubled the first year. We expanded – I bought the building we are in now. And then the economy stopped. We were busy and then it stopped like someone turned the tap off.
How’d you find PCV?
I met Chuck through the SBA. I had originally asked for deferment of payment on my building. It was a couple of years ago. We speak every now and again. Chuck is great. He knows what he’s doing. He knew what I needed. He matched me to Bill and Tristan.
Why did you approach PCV for business advice? What challenges were you facing?
I’d been going it on my own for a while – at least three years. I was literally doing whatever we had to do to stay in business. I used my house line of credit, my 401k, all savings I had to keep the business going. Last year I found myself in a deep dark hole. I told my wife I was going to go flip burgers! Times were tough and I was working 20 hours a day. Every month you think it’s going to get better. I reacted too slow and too late to the change.
When my accountant told me enough was enough, I went to the banks and everyone folded his or her arms. My financials were no good. I talked to Chuck a couple times and he introduced me to Bill and Tristan, my PCV advisors. We met for breakfast and Bill asked me about my budget and my cash flow. I’ve always been a one-man show and had been pretty successful – I never really thought I needed that. Bill said, “Let’s start again.” From that breakfast a great run of education started. I took a look at myself and had to be prepared to change. That’s critical. If you’re asking for help from anyone, you have to be able to change. I had to accept what was going on. It was tough. I even brought some of my employees into the meetings.
Listening to Bill, we never really understood what he was saying. He’d leave and we’d say to each other we don’t even know what he actually wants! We had to go back to kindergarten. He was very receptive, always encouraging us and saying, “If you don’t tell me I don’t know.”
Today, we’re getting out of the hole. We’re at break-even and possibly making money thanks to Bill’s interest and the employees’ efforts. Now I can see my business from a totally different point of view. We don’t have a whole plan in place, but we’re getting closer to it. The closer we get, the better we can see the future of the business.
How difficult was it to give up some control of your business?
I’ve always been an operator – I need to get stuff done. If I do it myself it gets done quickly. But when you get a business to a certain level, you can’t do everything. I was worried about why wasn’t the trash being taken out? Why didn’t someone change out the toilet roll? Why wasn’t there paper in the copier?
I was famously inconsistent. We’d set up plans, and then it would fizzle out because there was no consistency. Now when we come up with a plan it is agreed upon, and everyone is accountable for it. It is getting better. It was a lot of personal change.
What were the greatest outcomes from this experience?
Number one, to be able to look at myself and see that it was time for change, and to accept it. Bill and Tristan saved my company, literally. We’re growing, but we’re growing in a structured way. We look at the numbers on a regular basis to see where and how we can save money. Trust me, I’m looking after the pennies. You look after the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves.
What are your goals for the future?
To get it stabilized—to get controlled, sustained growth that we can afford. To be able to be consistent and build up a great company, a better company. We are a good company we give good service we’ve been around for awhile. Do we have targets or sales goals? Yes, we do. We want to get to a certain dollar amount eventually, but it doesn’t have to happen to tomorrow. We’re setting goals for 2013. Now we know if we’re going to be on track.
I want my employees to be happy. When I employ someone I tell him or her two things, to be happy and to be safe at work. When I wasn’t motivated, it was hard to motivate them.
Would you recommend PCV to other small business owners?
Absolutely I would recommend PCV. If another small business owner is in any form of trouble or they need advice, absolutely. But if you’re not prepared to listen, or not ready to accept the help, then no. Is everyone going to be ready to hear it? No. But when you have people of the caliber of Chuck, Bill, and Tristan, you would be stupid not to listen to them. There’s no way I could afford this advice. If you have an opportunity, grab it and be a sponge. Have I absorbed everything? No. I have books to read. But I’ve taken it with both hands and embraced it. I’m very, very grateful to PCV.
To learn more about PCV’s Business Advising program, or to sign up to meet with a PCV advisor, please visit www.pacificcommunityventures.org/advising.