Which End is Up, Again?

elbow-ass 0520My dad was not always kind when speaking about his college students. I doubt very much he said it to any of them directly, although there might have been one or two that at least tempted him, but at home we were very familiar with the expression, “He doesn’t know his ass from his elbow.”

I have now located my own pool of people I would like to add to his collection, and they all emanate from the same government agencies out of Montrose.

The county business task force keeps trying, I have to give them that, but why they haven’t figured out yet that the Region 10 office and everything affiliated with it is a crock and total sham I don’t know.

Region 10, which exists to help that inexplicable combination of businesses and seniors, is based 60 miles west of Gunnison, and off-hand I couldn’t tell you how wide their service area extends, other than it’s probably extensive, which makes this even more worrisome.

You would think by now I would have figured out there are no such thing as “experts” out there when it comes to Pandemia, and that I would quit wasting my time on the likes of Region 10, who posit themselves as such. But no: I keep wading into the shallow end of the gene pool, where it irritates me no end that self-proclaimed “experts” keep leading people astray.

After I made a couple of informal, off-hand complaints about the Region 10 director, a woman who not only didn’t address the questions I asked during one of these earlier Zoom meetings but laughed proudly at her ignorance, I had someone reach out to me to express her own on-going concerns about the Region 10 office and its director. Not that it solved any problems, but it was nice to learn I wasn’t alone in my thinking.

Early in the federal business assistance process, and let us use this term “assistance” extremely loosely, I had also reached out to the Small Business Development Center, operating in this area under the Region 10 umbrella, for help determining which selections from the alphabet soup (PPP, ERC, EIDL, FFCRA) would best benefit my business. What I determined instead was that the SBDC was going to be a completely useless resource as well.

The onus, then, is on me, for foolishly thinking I might learn something by attending an extra meeting yesterday featuring some “expert” from the SBDC. I even cut my blog short to waste my time.

At least a week’s notice that this meeting would be taking place, and this is what the presenter said: “I just threw this together” and “I didn’t really plan anything.” Do you know how incredibly disrespectful, not to mention unhelpful, that is?

Her entire presentation consisted of taking a cash flow sheet that someone else had put together (apparently she reworked it some) and saying to people, “You can play with the various percentages your income might be down. Are there any questions?”

My first question was, why would I go to all the trouble to enter that information when it is all contained on the profit and loss and balance sheets Quickbooks can produce for me in seconds, but it occurred to me that not everyone does their own books. But if they don’t do their own books, throwing a sheet on the screen and saying, “You can play around with it” is spectacularly unhelpful.

And of course no one would have questions after a “presentation” like that. How would you even know what to ask?

But the awfulness didn’t stop there. Since no one had any questions about her questionable presentation, someone then asked how they were supposed to use both PPP and EIDL funds. This “expert,” whose credentials I missed (probably while I was letting Marrakesh through a doorway somewhere), blithely assured the questioner that he could use his EIDL money for all sorts of things while reserving the PPP for payroll.

Fortunately one of the attendees was Karen Hoskin, owner of a rum distillery in Crested Butte. She seems to be very sharp, and has clearly educated herself on these programs far beyond any “expert” I have run across. Without calling the presenter and her many missteps out, Ms. Hoskin calmly corrected every assertion the woman had made. What if someone who knew what she was talking about hadn’t been in the meeting?

This whole interaction has now made me wonder what I’m getting into with my future consult with an accountant through the SBDC. They offered her as being able to advise me on the program I opted for, the ERC, and I figured extra input couldn’t hurt.

But the more I see our SBDC in action (inaction), the more I wonder if this isn’t just going to be another colossal waste of my time. This was particularly pointed out when the Gunnison chamber director, who clearly gave up on getting useful information out of yesterday’s “I didn’t really plan anything,” posted a link to a webinar offered by the Boulder County SBDC with a three-point list of a detailed discussion that obviously was prepared in advance, if nothing else. And maybe even helpful.

This whole episode should have embarrassed our area SBDC, but I’m going to guess it didn’t. Even at the afternoon meeting, which wasn’t particularly productive either, but at least it was short (the item I thought would be up for discussion appeared to have already been concluded without further business-owner input), the morning presentation was touted as helpful when it most assuredly was not.

I recognize that all of us are “winging it” and there’s no playbook other than the one that’s a century old, or maybe, if we lifted our myopic eyes a touch more globally, a month or two ahead of us, but when you’re going to hold yourself as a champion of business and proclaim knowledge to buttress that, then maybe you shouldn’t come across as cavalier as a D- college freshman. “I threw this together. I didn’t really plan anything.”

While you’d think I’d learn (who’s the dummy now?), I imagine I’ll keep wading in. Next week the restaurant meeting is offering another panel, this one on pivoting in the time of corona. But I’m already feeling better about this one, because all three presenters are local business owners, and one of them is Ms. Hoskin.

I already know she’s going to be prepared in advance, and so far, every time I’ve heard her speak she has useful things to say. Which is to say, at least she knows her ass from her elbow, which is more than can be said of the folks at Region 10 and the underlying SBDC.


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