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Sharpening Business Skills at Metro Saw Repair

Photos and Story by

by Donna Schmidt

Recent graduate in saw repair shop.Photo: Metro Saw Repair owner Terressa Cramer, a recent graduate of PCC’s small business management program.

Terressa Cramer knew she had what it takes to run a small business. She is independent and disciplined. She owned and operated her own house cleaning service for 10 years. She works well on her own

So why did the wife of Metro Saw Repair owner Don Cramer enroll in a two-year course at the Small Business Development Center at Portland Community College? Because those qualities weren’t enough, even after four years on the job working with her husband.

Terressa Cramer took a hard look at the place – on paper. She didn’t like what she saw. Basically, the couple was pocketing about one month’s income per year. The other 11 months of revenue went into bills, inventory, taxes and other expenses.

"I said to myself, ‘There’s something wrong with this picture.’ That’s why I got involved in classes," she said. "I wanted to get the business looking better."

Cramer enrolled in the Small Business Development Center in 1997 and graduated in May from the two-year program."I needed to learn newer, updated things. Like how to become a limited liability company – something that’s just recently available for small business. That’s something I would have never known without the classes," Cramer said.

Metro Saw Repair, founded 35 years ago on Southeast Oak Street in Hillsboro, offers a diverse range of services and products. From small-engine repair to sharpening chain saws, circular blades, knives and scissors.

"We can sharpen everything but the customer’s sense of humor," quipped Don Cramer. A small showroom offers the latest models in "weed eaters" and other garden tools. Accessories line shelves and fill a small front counter.

Even though Terressa Cramer had worked in the shop for four years prior to taking her first business class, there was a lot she didn’t know. Oh, she knew plenty about small engines and about saws – the tools of the trade for Metro Saw’s customers and she could pluck a used part from the "wrecking yard" in an upstairs storage room in no time flat or find a new one fast if needed. But she didn’t have much in the "tool box" she needed to head up a small business.

"I could handle the customers and the phones. I didn’t have computer skills. I didn’t know legal things. I had to learn payroll. And I had to learn some leadership," she said.

In a two-year span, Cramer has learned those things and more. She came to relish her weekly night class and her monthly one-on-one sessions with SBDC counselors Galen Sarvinski and Jean Drew. They visited the shop. They gave her ideas. But most of all, they shared enthusiasm and encouragement.

"That was a big, big help. I could get advice, ask questions and they even helped with research," she said.

Armed with knowledge gained at the Small Business Development Center, Cramer says she’s ready for the future. A bright, profitable one. Come Jan. 1, she will take sole ownership of Metro Saw Repair. Don Cramer plans to retire after running the place for 20 years, turning the keys and the leadership over to his wife.

She’s eager to take that next step. "There’s still so much to learn," she said. "But I’m a quick learner."

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »


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