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An Interview With: Don Reimer
Oakland Business Review  March, 2008 (reprinted with permission)
By: Laura Blodgett


In this climate of cutbacks and layoffs, many workers are testing the entrepreneurial waters.

Donald Reimer has been named associate director of the Lear Entrepreneurial Center in the College of Engineering at Lawrence Technological University and is a certified management consultant who runs his own consulting firm, the Small Business Strategy Group of Southfield.

What are the growing entrepreneurial businesses?

With the use of technology, home-based businesses can compete in the global environment. Businesses that focus on the aging population, such as service-based home health care, are growing. People we see going into business today are more service oriented or relate to the light assembly or packaging of products.

Some are focused on providing a unique service where you read about them and think, "Why didn't I think of that?" With the use of the Internet and other technology, you find different business opportunities being communicated to populations especially in areas hurt by the economy - where people are actually being solicited by companies that offer franchises or licenses of business opportunities.

Is owning a franchise considered being an entrepreneur?

When somebody acquires a franchise, they are buying a proven business model and paying a franchise fee to use that brand. The McDonalds brothers were the true entrepreneurs. This is not a healthy environment for the pure entrepreneur who would want to change that process somehow.

What areas that will grow in the future?

In coming years, there will be opportunities with infrastructure such as roads and bridges as well as alternative energy - wind, alternative fuels and batteries. Commercial opportunities will continue to grow around the issue of the availability of clean water. Businesses having to do with processing agriculture and food also will be very strong.

Isn't it risky to be an entrepreneur?

It's perceived risk. When we think about risk in today's environment, the risk may be much greater in working for somebody else than working for yourself. When you work for someone, you usually own nothing. People often have too much faith in having a position and performing a function.

When you have your own business, you're building equity and value. The entrepreneur really takes more of what is considered calculated risk. It actually may not be as risky for someone who has honed his skills and knowledge to compete on his own.

Is there a saturation point for entrepreneurs?

For pure entrepreneurs, it becomes a never-ending journey based on a high degree of achievement and having a vision. Entrepreneurs have a passion for what they do. They strive for continuous improvement such as continually developing new products to stay competitive.

Entrepreneurs need to have a willingness to take a company and build infrastructure and then let go. To grow, they must empower others; they cannot do it alone.
It's not about money - if you are taking care of business and it takes care of you and you have built an empowered organization, the money will come. The tough part is to get people to share your vision.

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