Posted: Monday, November 4, 2013 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:32 am, Tue Nov 5, 2013.
By BRIAN WALKER/Staff writer | 1 comment

Mike Wells can’t promise companies that he’ll make them thrive, but he can coach them on the fundamentals or pitch ideas on what to tweak.
Wells, an entrepreneur coach for the Idaho Small Business Development Center, was recently honored at the American Small Business Development Center Conference in Orlando as the top consultant in the state of Idaho.

“I’m just good at asking questions,” Wells humbly said, referring to the key to his success.

Wells helped create 190 new jobs in North Idaho last year through the 25 companies he coaches and saved another 54 jobs that were in jeopardy. He helped clients increase sales by $8.5 million.
Sean Behm of North County Electric in Sandpoint said his company would not be in business if it wasn’t for Wells and the Idaho SBDC.
Behm was an electrician for 20 years before venturing out on his own five years ago – at the start of the recession.
“Knowing how to do electrical work and being a successful business owner are two different things,” Behm said. “Mike has been instrumental in sculpting that change in me and my wife. Mike has taught us the valuable barometer that your business financial reports are and how looking at these reports with knowledge will guide you in many decisions you make.
“He has given my wife and I many tools to make our dreams come true.”
When Laughing Dog Brewery in Sandpoint needed to switch gears four years ago, Wells made the recommendation to sell more 22-ounce bottles for retail than six-packs to cut back on packaging and bottling costs.
“That was the fundamental change we made to put them on the right path,” Wells said.
Brian Taylor of B. Taylor Painting, a company based in Dalton Gardens, said he has worked with Wells to develop a franchise to build to expand the business and draft job descriptions for middle management employees.
Wells’ services are free and his part-time position is funded through the Small Business Administration, the state’s Department of Education and locally through North Idaho College. His office is at NIC’s Workforce Training Center in Post Falls.
Wells, who also teaches financial workshops and trains new coaches, began working at the SBDC in 2008 at the start of the recession. He has noticed a swing in the clients he serves. He said about 35 percent of the businesses were startups when he started.
“We saw lots of people who became unemployed and they decided to start their own business,” he said.
Today, about 20 percent of his clients are startup businesses.
Bill Jhung, director of the Idaho SBDC, said area companies are fortunate to have the help of Wells.
“Mike’s easygoing, gracious and relates very well with people,” Jhung said. “People learn to trust him in a short time, which is key to helping average businesses become extraordinary.
“Because of his (accounting and financial management) experience he can quickly assess the condition of most businesses just by their financials.”
Wells retired after working in finance for more than 25 years in the hospitality industry. He said his coaching job has been a perfect fit as he was looking for something to help keep him busy.
“It’s rewarding to help business owners and their families,” he said. “I’ve learned from them as well.”

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