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Small Business Connection: Taking New Heights to New Levels
Photos and Story by James Hill
by Lee Van der Voo When business started picking up at New Heights Integrative Therapy, owner Kevin Poe was both excited and worried. Poe and his partners Kellie Barnes and Donna Gramont were spending all of their time with clients and little time thinking about the direction of their growing enterprise. New Heights had taken off quickly. Started in 1997, it offered physical therapy combined with other treatments to steer injured patients toward more than just a quick fix. Massage and on-site classes like tai chi and yoga helped build their total-health program, but a bustle of activity at New Heights was soon taking everyone’s focus. "It felt like we were on a real collision course if more attention wasn’t made to the business course," said Poe. By October 2003, Poe knew he had to take a leadership role and hired a manager to oversee activities at the site in southeast Portland. The move made it possible for Poe to steer the business direction, but it also took his attention from the elements that first made it successful. "Each time I add something, I’m getting further away from it, so I have to have a really solid structure in place," he said. That structure has come about with the help of the PCC’s Small Business Center, where Poe enrolled in the Small Business Management Program. "It jumped out at me because it wasn’t a class for just anybody, it was a class for small businesses who have been in business for a year or more," Poe said. "The class time provides good general information on how to get your business to a place where it’s a solid structure, it’s a solid entity." The one-year course also provides one-on-one time with instructor Jackie Babicky-Peterson. In both class time and one-on-one sessions, Babicky-Peterson helps Poe manage scheduling, billing, insurance code compliance, and other factors, through the use of internal reports "The way I can help (Poe) in his approach to management right now is to help him identify key indicators in his business and get regular reports of key indicators," she said. The time spent talking with Babicky-Peterson about his business is what Poe said has most helped him fine-tune the structure of New Heights. After only a few sessions, he has already made changes that bettered his business model and stabilized the first New Heights satellite, now in Vancouver. A second satellite is in the works. In the private sector, Poe said he paid $200 an hour for a consultant, but time with Babicky was free with the management program and, he said, equally productive. "I feel like I’m getting very much the same thing with Jackie," said Poe. "Every time I’ve talked with her I’ve gone back and implemented changes." That mentor relationship can continue in the Small Business Center, where students have the option to take a second-level management course or return for business counseling. Babicky-Peterson, an experienced consultant with an accounting background, is among the finest resources at the center and is helping businesses like New Heights stay secure.