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Advising During A Pandemic. Adviser Spotlight on Leslie Hildula

Posted by PCC Small Business Development Center on January 27, 2020


LHPhoto_8x10_Rev2018Leslie Hildula has been around entrepreneurs all of her life, but nothing she has experienced could have fully prepared her for what's happening with small businesses during this time of global pandemic. Leslie and her team are working diligently to help Portland restaurant owners weather the storm of Covid-19 and the Oregon Governor's "Stay Home, Save Lives" orders.

Restaurant Virtual Meetup -- Leslie and her team are hosting virtual meetups for restaurant owners every other Tuesday. Learn more and sign up HERE.

Why do you teach & advise? This is a creative process for me.  Working with someone else to create a business is satisfying on many levels. To watch others become excited about possibilities and then see the satisfaction and pride when they realize their potential.  I like being a catalyst for change. Together we’re making the world a better place, one small business at a time!

What is your real world experience? As a consultant I’ve worked with businesses in four states and ten countries. My very first project was working with Apple dealerships in Latin America and Asia, but my roots in small business started with my family in Oregon. Both my  parents and grandparents were entrepreneurs. I grew up having lunch with their employees in the kitchen. I worked trade shows selling boats and took trips with my dad to pick up supplies and deliver customer orders. Now my husband and I have a family business and I enjoy the balance of working with clients on their businesses as well as working on my own.

What is your favorite part about being an instructor/Adviser? Asking just the right question that sparks the answer my client is seeking. I like facilitating a group conversation that brings people together and draws upon all the expertise in the room. I love that moment when I’ve led a class to see something new and realize its significance.

What is happening in the Portland restaurant world during the Covid-19 crisis? We’ve come undone and our expectations about the future have been blown to the wind. Each person is scrambling to determine what the impact of the shelter in place order is going to have on their business this month and for the rest of the year. We’re seeking information about options, available resources, and not finding solid data with which to make decisions. To make it worse, it’s a life threatening situation over which we have little control. What we can do is be open to new ideas, communicate with each other, be flexible, and treat each other with kindness and patience as we struggle with uncertainty and having to learn something new every damn day.

Given those challenges, how are you able to help restaurants these days?  My goal is to be a conduit of useful information. I scan the media, the community and the SBDC/PCC network for anything that can help our clients with their decision making during this uncertain time. I also want to listen, to empathize, to reassure people that they are not alone. Things will get better and new opportunities will arise.

What skills are needed in order for someone to achieve success in small business during the Covid-19 pandemic? Flexibility.  Adapting as quickly as possible to take advantage of what possibilities and opportunities still exist or may come your way.

What do you think clients struggle the most with at this time of uncertainty? Finding the cash to get through this thing. Nearly everyone is experiencing such a huge drop in income and it was totally unexpected.

How do you help them with this? I encourage them to communicate with their landlords about rent abatements, to apply for financial assistance from any reasonable source, to modify their business to create sales in the short run and to plan for a revised version of their business as the community opens up again - however slowly.

If you could give one piece of advice to all your future clients, what would it be? Create an email list of your customers and be active online. Your customers want you to survive and prosper and will help; but you need to be able to reach them to let them know how to do so.

How do you keep yourself knowledgeable and up to date on trends and industry standards in order to deliver the best quality of education? I read the New York Times, The Oregonian, and listen to National Public Radio. I pay attention to SBDC and PCC sources of information. I listen to podcasts on the local and national economy and on the restaurant industry. I talk with my clients, students, and colleagues who teach me new things nearly every day.

What do you do for fun? These days I hike up and down the ravines in Forest Park with my dog and any member of my family or close friend who’s available. I’m planting seeds in my garden and cheering every sprout that pops up. I’m exploring new shows on Netflix and re-watching old favorites like West Wing and Grey’s Anatomy, basically any series that shows smart people making things better for themselves and other people, with a good dose of humor mixed in. I love a happy ending!

Topics: Small Business, Retail, Restaurants, Retail Small Business Management, Covid-19

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