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SEATTLE BUS101 assignment 3

Assignment: Interview a local small business owner. Write up your interview, and include your assessment of theStrengths and Weaknesses of, Opportunities in, and Threats to this business. This type of analysis is also known as a SWOT analysis(read it”>here).

Nothing will give you a better idea of what small business is like than talking to an owner of one. This assignment is designed to force you out of the classroom and into the trenches for information. I want you to gain an understanding of why people start businesses, the opportunities and challenges, and how it is different than working for someone else.


I. Identify a business to study.

Look around you: Do you have a friend or family member who runs a small business? Where do you shop? What type of business would you like to own someday? Having some connection in this way will help make the initial contact. Failing that, you might contact a local association of business owners (Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, etc.) and see if one of their members would be willing to speak with you. Most business owners enjoy telling their story.

II. Contact the business, explain your project, and see if the owner will spend an hour or so with you talking about the business.

Don’t be afraid to cold call. Almost everyone is willing to help students with a class project. Be polite and respectful of the owner’s time. Most small business owners are extremely busy–you will need to meet at the owner’s convenience.

III. Prepare for the interview.

A. Read through the attached material on SWOT analysis. This is way more information than you will need to gather during your interview, but I include it here to try and give you a solid understanding of what a SWOT analysis is and what factors are used when analyzing a business.

B. Do as much homework as you can BEFORE the interview about the local/regional economy that would affect this business, the industry, etc. Have any articles been written about this company? Check the local papers—they all have online archives. Besides the Times and the P-I, try the Puget Sound Business Journal. Trade journals can provide information on the industry in general. What in the local or national business climate affects this business (e.g., if you’re talking to a machine shop that has Boeing as a client, Boeing’s fortunes affect this business). This will allow you to talk intelligently with the owner.

C. Some suggested questions:

· When did you start your business and why?

· Did you have any experience in the field?

· How has the business changed since you started it?

· What have been your biggest challenges?

· How do changes in the economy (e.g., recession, expansion) affect business?

· What do you enjoy most about your business?

· What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business?

IV. Have the interview with the owner.

· Again, most owners are very busy—be punctual and respectful of their time. They may only be able to spare you an hour or so.

· Know that you are a representative of this school and are making an impression for better or for worse–this person may be a valuable contact later. This includes conduct and appearance.

· You may find it useful to tape the interview—with the owner’s permission, of course.

· On the following pages you will find descriptions of a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. This information will form the core of your analysis of the business.

· AVOID QUESTIONS ABOUT FINANCE. Don’t ask the owner what sales are, what their personal income from the business is, or how they obtained their original financing to start the business. These may seem academic to you, but this information is very personal to an owner and is usually held in strict confidence. Nothing will offend the owner (or anyone!) faster than prying into the finances of the business. If the information is volunteered, fine.

· A brief thank-you note to the owner following the interview is entirely appropriate. It will set you apart and leave the door open should you need to contact the owner again for any clarification or follow-up questions.

V. Write up your findings. Two pages should be sufficient, but longer is OK.

· Your write-up should be in narrative form (i.e., not a checklist or question-and-answer format) of about 2 pages. Include an introductory paragraph, the body of the information, and a concluding sentence or paragraph.

· Pay attention to style, spelling and grammar.

VI. Thank the owner for their time. A hand-written thank you note makes a great impression and is skill every career-seeker should acquire.

Your paper should contain:
A brief history of the business (1 page or less).
Your SWOT assessment of the business (approx. 1 to 1 ½ pages). Help me grade your paper fairly–don’t make me hunt for the SWOT—it makes me cranky. Label each paragraph with a subheading: “Strengths”, “Weaknesses”, etc.
How this interview affected your ideas about starting your own business (one paragraph).

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