Thomas Jones had five degrees (including a doctorate) and had been teaching business at Clackamas Community College for more than a decade.
By any reasonable standard he was an 'expert' in his field.
But there was just one thing.
'When I thought about the great business-starting plans I had come up with, the answer was zero.
'So I started a real process of learning. Then I got smart.'
A little humility went a long way.
'I see him as being the most knowledgeable small business guru in Oregon,' said Merrill Watts, chairman of the business program at Marylhurst University. 'Or even the whole Northwest.'
Today, Jones has some very good business plans, indeed. Since 1994 he has worked with thousands of small businesses, and now he plans to share his expertise with the Marylhurst University community with 'From Business as Usual To Business as Never Before.'
The presentation will be held on Saturday, May 12, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Along the way, Jones plans to deflate some myths about small business, tell some success stories, and most of all show small businesspeople, or people aspiring to be small businesspeople, how they can help their small business fulfill their potential. Because, after all, the market is huge.
Jones supplied some impressive statistics about small businesses: Fifty-two percent of them are home-based; there are 77,000 small business enterprises in Oregon and 90 percent of them have fewer than five employees; 48 percent of Oregonians work in a small business.
Watts says that Jones' seminar will especially be beneficial for residents of West Linn, since that city possesses so many home-based businesses in such areas as consultations, insurance, marketing, public relations and health and safety.
Still, Jones says, there are major misconceptions about small business.
'There is a great myth that small business has a high failure rate,' Jones said. 'That is simply not true. It's a lie. It's not even close to the truth. But you read it everywhere.
'Eighty-three percent of small businesses that started in 1999 were still in business in 2004, and even the other 17 percent had not been failures. They were like any other job. They move on to something else or else retire.'
However, it is true that the vast majority of small businesses underperform; in many cases grinding away just to exist.
'That is the real challenge,' Jones said. 'Small businesses earn about 67 cents on the dollar compared to big businesses.'
Jones said he did not know that when he was a 'freshly minted MSM' out of Marylhurst 23 years ago. However, he eventually developed a model that has worked with some 2,500 business owners.
One key suggestion: Don't be a lone wolf businessman.
'You need to create alliances,' Jones said, 'so every morning you get up and do what you love the most. There are five elements that are needed to establish a successful small business. Most of the time a person is lucky to have two of them, and a business is only as strong as its weakest link.
'The real magic comes when we do what we love, when we're at our best. That is when our work is more powerful and more meaningful. You need to ask, 'What do I love?' then take it from there.'
Besides underperformance, Jones says that loneliness is the other main problem for small businesspeople. Alliances solve that, too.
'You will increase revenues, profits and joy,' he said. 'We are social creatures.'
A couple of stories illustrate what Jones means. One case involved Big Guy Design (a pseudonym).
'He was working 70 hours a week and barely managing to pay his bills,' Jones said. 'No vacation, no benefits. It was a classic small business story.'
With some 'real magic' provided by Jones, 'Big Guy' now makes $20,000 a month and is able to outsource much of his workload.
Another case involves a woman who is an outstanding artist. She started out with nothing and became a millionaire in two years. However, she soon had to devote too much time to the organization she created and 'moved completely out of her comfort zone.' Her income began to shrink rapidly.
Jones was able to help the woman network in order to attain a situation where 'she had one thing to do - create.' Today she is a multi-millionaire and works just 25 hours week.
Jones doesn't mind if you think these stories are a little too good to be true. He is confident a few hundred other success stories will be convincing.
'You would have to work awfully hard not to have a positive change from this model,' Jones promised. 'I would estimate 5 to 10 percent of the businesses I work with are unchanged. Twenty percent of them experience transformational change.'
This is the fourth such business seminar given at Marylhurst, and Watts expects it to be similarly successful in the community.
'We have such a mix of students here (average age of 38),' Watts said, 'and I know many of them would like to start a small business.
'This will be a forum in which we can bring together alumni, students and the community to strengthen networks and create opportunity, so people can live their dreams.'
How to register
Registration is now in progress for attending Thomas Jones' May 12 seminar at Marylhurst University.
The presentation will be held in Flavia Salon from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
To register online, go to www.marylhurst.edu/business/seminar/ or else call Marylhurst events coordinator Aaron Patelzick at 503-534-4059.
Registration deadline is May 9 in order to ensure meal availability.
Options are: $25 for keynote (breakfast included); $90 for keynote and seminar (breakfast and lunch included); $45 for Marylhurst students, alumni and guests (no credit; breakfast and lunch included); $162 undergraduate and $198 graduate for keynote and seminar for Marylhurst credit (breakfast and lunch included).
The schedule is:
* 8 a.m. Networking and coffee.
* 8:45 a.m. Breakfast; keynote by Thomas Jones.
* 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Seminar - 'Small Business Success: What's Love Got To Do With It?'