Pictured above: Chuck Brys pays a visit to Jamie Veeser, owner of Machine Plus, LLC. Brys helped Veeser grow his one-man shop to a $1-million-plus facility with 10 employees.
After a first career of running businesses, Chuck Brys spent another decade helping others learn to run their own.
The new retiree is entitled to be a little giddy these days. Strong returns can do that to a person, and Brys can point to some impressive results from his tenure guiding business start-ups as a counselor for the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), part of UW-Green Bay’s Cofrin School of Business.
In 11 years, he’s forged relationships with more than 1,600 businesses, invested more than 11,000 hours, helped to launch 117 businesses, created 463 jobs and increased “capital infusion” (securing capital for growth and start-up expenses) for the companies he’s worked with by nearly $25 million.
“Chuck has experience managing at a level most people just don’t have,” notes Tara Carr, SBDC director. “He can evaluate the business’s financials, take a tour of the facility and have clients walk him through their processes, and he can see things from a different perspective that helps him find solutions. He’s able to evaluate the business not only from the micro-level, but the macro-level as well, which is key to helping businesses in many different facets.”
Carr said Brys’ special skill sets have made him invaluable to SBDC clients. Among those skills — his ability to be a straight shooter, his level of integrity, his trustworthiness, his financial expertise and his management experience.
Retiree? Not for long.
Brys retired at 55… the first time. Before long, he began working with an organization that allowed him to be a part-time CFO or CEO to many different companies. Later, he turned to the SBDC.
“Being at the SBDC allowed me to help build businesses for busines’s sake,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to help these businesses think through their business plans and issues.”
The job of the SBDC is to help small businesses in whatever way they need. Be it helping an entrepreneur start a new venture, to helping a business owner figure out where their business was going off the rails.
A listener who asks questions and lets clients arrive at their own conclusions, Brys coached clients through almost every type of business scenario imaginable. Sometimes, that coaching meant not starting a business at all. Other times, with his guidance, businesses grew from “one-man shops” to larger operations with multiple employees and million-dollar income streams.
Consider the young man who wanted to open his own machine shop. He had the skills he needed, but not the capital. Through Brys and the SBDC, he was able to acquire $50,000 to start his business, Machine Plus, LLC. That same client just completed construction on a $1-million-plus plant. Owner Jamie Veeser (pictured right) credits Brys for his success.
“Chuck honestly helped me to be a very stable businessman,” Veeser said. “Seven years ago, I was a scared guy trying to figure out whether or not I wanted to open a machine shop. Chuck told me what I needed to have, and I went out and got it. He walked me through it, every step of the way.”
That was in late 2011. Machine Plus opened in January 2012. In three months the business was profitable; in six months business profits paid for a second machine in cash, and today, Veeser has 10 employees. Veeser said he never imagined being a business owner, or getting off the plant floor.
“Now I go on the floor when I want to play with something. I have more appreciation for my family, for my time off. I appreciate now how volatile the economy can be as a small business owner.”
Hometown Trolley in Crandon, Wis., is another amazing success story. The company’s main competitor was dropping its pricing and driving down Hometown Trolley’s profit margin, impacting the bottom line.
“Owner Kristina Pence-Dunow used me as a sounding board,” Brys said. “After a while, I asked her ‘Why don’t you just buy them?’ So many times, small business owners are so busy doing the work that needs to be done that they don’t have the time to think about things like that.”
Brys helped the company grow from a $2 million business into a $20-million, award-winning company. And the impact to the local economy was profound.
Brys also helped to develop the SBDC into a larger, more productive and highly valued resource in Northeast Wisconsin. By working with local economic development offices and increasing the amount of funding the center was able to bring in, Brys transformed the organization from a group bringing in 90 clients a year to one that sees more than 300 a year, and one that now aids in securing $15 to $20 million annually in economic development funds to grow the local economy.
“His dedication to the SBDC and to UW-Green Bay is truly about what kind of a man he is,” Carr said. “He just really wanted to utilize his experience to help the community and make a difference.”
This story by Liz Carey originally appear in the Spring/Summer issue of Inside Magazine.