Apex entrepreneur Paul Levering says he was a painful employee, explaining that he would always see a better way of doing things.
“I’ve been pretty much fired from any job I’ve ever had,” he said.
Levering has started several businesses including FeatureTel, a Voice over Internet Protocol telephone company, which he led for more than eight years. He sold that company in 2011, and it was eventually acquired by Spectrum. He is now a partner at Bluehat Mechanical, a Commercial HVAC & Refrigeration company, and a professional business coach, helping others launch new ventures.
When he was just starting out, Levering says he received valuable guidance from the Small Business and Technology Development Center at N.C. State University. Through the SBTDC, he enrolled in a course where he fine-tuned his business plan.
“I’m the kind of person who likes to get guidance and help. I kind of flail and reach out,” said Levering, who is the former chair of the Apex Chamber of Commerce.
Having benefited from good advice at the beginning of his journey, Levering coaches other budding business owners. One common mistake he sees is founders trying to control everything.
Launch My City — This effort through the Rotary Clubs offers training, access to capital and community sup-port for budding entrepreneurs. Launch Apex is in the planning stages, and Levering says anyone interested should contact the town’s office of economic development, the Apex Rotary Club or the Apex Sunrise Rotary Club. launchmycity.org, apexeconomicdevelopment.org, apexrotary.org, apexsunriserotaryclub.org
Paul Levering, Business Coaching and Professional EOS Implementation — levering.com
SBTDC — The Small Business and Technology Development Center offers confidential, in-depth business counseling to mid-sized company business owners and management staff. Many of the services are free. sbtdc.org/offices/ncsu
Wake Tech — The Center for Entrepreneurship has provided hundreds of entrepreneurs with training on how to start and grow a business, sales and social media. waketech.edu
Entrepreneurs’ Organization — Support and information for leaders of established small businesses. eonetwork.org/raleighdurham
Chambers of Commerce — Chambers offer networking opportunities and educational events on business topics.
“Founders think they have to run the business and do every-Paul Levering thing,” he said. Just because you’ve founded the business, doesn’t mean you need to be the CEO.”
After you start a business, he says it’s vital to figure out what your best role is.
“Maybe you just like starting businesses and getting them going. Maybe that’s the part that excites you,” he said.
The coaching and strategic side of the business gets Levering excited — whether it’s coaching his employees or mentoring other entrepreneurs in effective business practices.
Once a company is off the ground, Levering has found that entrepreneurs still need guidance and support. He gets some of that support through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
The group, founded in 1987, is a global network of more than 13,000 business owners with 170 chapters in 58 countries. Membership is by invitation only, and the applicant must be the founder, co-founder, owner or controlling shareholder of a company that grosses more than $1 million annually. Levering is on the board of the Raleigh-Durham chapter and has been a member since 2009.
He says the greatest benefit of the organization is the peer-to-peer learning. Within each chapter, smaller groups, called forums, are spun off. Each forum of six to nine peers becomes what Levering calls “a support group for entrepreneurs.”
“Being responsible for a business and other people’s lives, that’s unique. Being with other people who are in the same boat as you is very educational,” he said.
Deanna and Colin Crossman own The Mayton Inn in Cary and The King’s Daughters Inn in Durham.
Here are their tips:
DO: Know your market. Talk to your future neighbors, businesses and town officials before making any final decisions, and throughout the process. You need to bring a service that’s needed and wanted to the area.
DO: Be tied into the pulse of the community you’re about to join. It’s important that your business is the right fit for everyone. Plus, different perspectives bring out better ideas!
DON’T: Underestimate the importance of being present once your business is open. You, as the entrepreneur, are personally invested. You need to set the tone, personality and culture of the business, and you can’t do that if you’re not around.
— Deanna Crossman, The Mayton Inn
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