Terry’s Story

Terry Cornelison

Picture of Terry Cornelison in blue vest

Terry here—the oldest and wisest member of the BizActually Team.  Well, my wife and son may disagree with me about being the wisest, but certainly I’m the oldest.  And being the oldest, I’m glad to have the honor of welcoming you to our Blog.

With this first post, I want to tell you a bit more about the purpose of BizActually and give you a better idea of my background. 

Table of Contents

Welcome to BizActually!

Our goal is to help startup entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners build, manage, and grow profitable businesses.

We’re setting out to accomplish this by creating an 8-week-long interactive online “Bootcamp” to help startup entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners successfully navigate the early stages of starting a business, from idea to launch. 

Snapshot of My Background

Now, I am not a guru, and I can’t offer you a secret formula to make a million dollars overnight.  So, why would you want to work with me?  What do I have to offer you?

Here are my credentials in a nutshell:

  • Built 15 startups, both on my own and with co-founders
  • Managed 5 companies through turnarounds (taking them from near bankruptcy to record-level profitability)
  • Advised 2,000+ businesses through startup, growth, and turnaround situations both in the U.S. and internationally
  • Led several multi-million-dollar country development and business consulting projects in Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation, and Central Asia
  • Taught entrepreneurship, international business, finance, marketing, and innovation in the MBA programs at Washington State University and the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management

In short, I have spent my entire career doing business, teaching business, and helping others to be successful in their own businesses.

Probably the most important thing that I’ve learned from my own experience as an entrepreneur and business owner is that it’s really, really, really hard to do it alone.  Even for me, with all my “wisdom and experience” 😉, just having someone to bounce ideas off of, discuss options with, and help think things through makes an incredible difference.

But so many startup founders and new business owners begin their journeys totally alone, without any support.  Even a small team of passionate (but inexperienced) entrepreneurs can begin to feel overwhelmed when they run into the regular challenges of starting a business from the ground up.

We created BizActually to help guide and support startup entrepreneurs and new business owners throughout their journeys building, managing, and growing successful businesses. 

You will be in charge, but you won’t be alone!

For the remainder of this post, I would like to tell you a little more about my personal adventures in business. 

We all understand that business can be unpredictable and complicated.  There is no one way to succeed in business, and in my own career I have had to find many ways to succeed in all sorts of situations (some of which felt totally hopeless).  Here’s my story (in brief) …

My First Real Business

I started my first real business while in high school—a medical clinic janitorial service—with the help of our family doctor.  Frankly, I started this business out of necessity—my stepmother had had a major accident, and my family was struggling to pay off the medical bills.  So, our doctor advanced me the money for equipment and cleaning supplies for the first month, awarded me the contract to clean his new 35-room clinic, and promised referrals to other clinics based on my performance.  I spent the first couple of months on my own, learning and doing everything, and then hired friends from school as needed.  This was an excellent experience that not only helped me pay off my family’s medical bills, but also ingrained in me an entrepreneurial spirit that has continued to inspire me throughout my life!

And Then I Was Drafted...

After graduating from high school, I decided to study business at university.  Then, in my junior year at Louisiana State University in New Orleans, I won the lottery 😉 and was drafted into the U.S. Army.  There, I became a helicopter pilot and served in Vietnam with the 7th/17th Air Cavalry from 1971-72.  At the time, I thought of my military experience as a deviation from my career path in business.  But in reality, what I learned during those years would prove invaluable to my professional career later on—lessons about teamwork, leadership, solving problems under severe time-constraints, operating under high stress with limited resources, making decisions in difficult situations, etc.

When I returned to civilian life, I completed my undergraduate degree in marketing before moving to Moscow, Idaho to pursue an MBA.  While at the University of Idaho, I worked for the Center for Business Development & Research where I consulted with dozens of businesses across the state from lumber mills to clothing manufacturers and led workshops for entrepreneurs and business owners in finance, accounting, marketing, management, and general business training. Between 1977 and ‘78, I spent a year working for the Nez Perce Tribe consolidating all of their business operations (agricultural, timber, real estate, retail stores, etc.) in order to help them manage these more efficiently, maximize profit, and protect their Tribal interests.

Three Turnarounds & National Affiliated Corporation

After five years in Idaho, I returned to Louisiana for family reasons and found myself working with three well-established businesses (one-after-the-other) in three separate industries.  Each business was struggling to survive during the troubled U.S. economy of the late 1970s and early ‘80s.  In all three cases, I was asked to come in from the outside and try to “turn around” the failing business.  Long story short, we were able to bring each of these businesses back to excellent health and profitability as dominant competitors through sound management along with a few creative ideas.

After completing the third turnaround, I joined the founders of National Affiliated Corporation to complete a Securities and Exchange Commission Initial Public Offering (IPO) and establish five subsidiary businesses: a legal reserve life insurance company, a leasing company, a real estate company, a pharmaceutical manufacturing company, and an investment firm.  All provided me with excellent startup and scaling experience. 

On to the SBDC

Family eventually prevailed again, and I returned to the idyllic Palouse Region in the Northwest U.S. and joined the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) as a business advisor in Pullman, Washington. While at the SBDC, I advised over 500 startup entrepreneurs and business owners in all industries from manufacturing to retail to hospitality, each with their own unique set of challenges.  During this time, I worked with the widest range of small businesses imaginable from processors of dehydrated beans to tech startups developing some of the earliest virtual reality technology.  And again, as with the Nez Perce Tribe previously, I spent a year consolidating all business operations for the Colville Tribe in Eastern Washington. 

 

Then in 1991, something happened that would redefine my career for the next 20 years. 

 

I had the unique opportunity to travel to Eastern Europe and help revitalize the private business sector after the fall of communism. 

Eastern Europe in the 90's

During the early ‘90s, the U.S. government along with many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) launched projects throughout Eastern Europe to help restore and modernize local and national economies.  The Washington SBDC was among the first U.S. organizations to form a partnership with the Romanian government.  We created a sister SBDC at the Polytechnic University in Bucharest to help rebuild the country’s private business sector.  I spent my first year in-country training and working with Romanian business consultants for the SBDC, the Romanian National Agency for Privatization, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.  I developed workshops and seminars on all business topics from management to marketing and finance and presented to university faculty, government officials, and business owners across the country.  Together, we worked with hundreds of new entrepreneurs throughout Romania helping them prepare and launch their new businesses.

In 1993, I moved to Chisinau, Moldova, as the Regional Director for a USAID project. I established a regional office for the Newly Independent States (NIS) of Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine to create and support joint ventures between the U.S. and local businesses in the agriculture sector of these countries.

After a couple of years in the Former Soviet Union, I was invited to return to Romania and help rebuild Romania’s private dairy industry.  Over the next four years, I provided technical assistance and business advice to privatizing State dairy companies as well as hundreds of small and medium-sized dairy producers and processors throughout the country in all areas of their businesses:

  • Production
  • Processing
  • Product development
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Import/export trade
  • Distribution management
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Information systems
  • Etc.

 

Then, in 2002 I had the opportunity to move with my family to one of the most remote, fascinating, and intriguing countries on the planet—Mongolia.  

Mongolia & Central Asia

For the next three years, I managed several multimillion-dollar projects for several major NGOs training, consulting, and working with herders and small-to-medium size businesses across the country.  I also collaborated closely with the Mongolian government to create an environment conducive to business and entrepreneurial activity.

In 2005, I moved to Central Asia to manage projects for Save The Children (another NGO) in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan with 300+ staff working throughout the region in multiple sectors, including food security and support of entrepreneurs and business owners.  We worked with the governments of each of these countries to create polices and environments supportive of small business and rural agricultural development, while training and advising entrepreneurs and small business owners across Central Asia.

Back to the SBDC & Washington State University

In 2008, I returned to the U.S. with my family and resumed my role as a Certified Business Advisor for the Washington SBDC until 2014.  Over this period, I advised and assisted over 500 startup entrepreneurs, founders, and business owners through feasibility analysis, business plan development, financial analysis, marketing, and growth management.  I also taught senior-level business courses on campus for Washington State University (WSU) and instructed Capstone courses for WSU’s Executive MBA and Online MBA programs.  I also worked with the WSU Commercialization Office to bring patented products of faculty and staff to market.

In 2010, while still at the WSBDC, I developed and delivered a series of entrepreneurship and business management lectures for the Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyarsk, Russia—delivered in the dead of winter (it was -47 degrees Fahrenheit when I got off the plane).

Then, in 2013, I completed a short-term consultancy in Kazakhstan for Deloitte Consulting LLP, which involved formally assessing the national Entrepreneurship Training Program and delivering training workshops to university department chairs and lecturers responsible for the program’s success.  You may want to “Google” Astana, Kazakhstan to see photos of what many consider be one of the most surreal and beautiful cities in the world.

North Macedonia & Minnesota

At the end of 2014, I left the SBDC to embark on another adventure with my family, this time in Skopje, North Macedonia.  From 2015-16, I continued teaching the Executive MBA and Online MBA programs for WSU remotely while traveling throughout Eastern and Central Europe.  During this time, I began talking with some of my colleagues about creating our own online platform to reach more business owners struggling with the daily challenges of starting, managing, and growing a business.  Basically, it would be the same as what we all were doing day in and day out, one-on-one with our clients, but through a more scalable service.  We all agreed that the idea was great, and even though it never got past the talking stage, the concept stuck with me.

Finally, in 2017, I returned to the U.S. with my family (this time to Minnesota where my son, Mircea was attending college).  From 2017-18 I taught a couple of International Business courses as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management.  (Learned what they mean by “Minnesota Cold”—reminiscent of winters in Mongolia and Siberia 😉)

In 2018, my son graduated from college and went off to Los Angeles to build a tech business from the ground up with one of his close friends.  After several months of developing their idea, conducting research, and interviewing potential customers and industry experts, they decided not to move forward with launching the company.  Early in 2019, Mircea and I had a conversation about the frustrations and challenges he experienced during the early stages of his startup project, and the need for something like BizActually became even more apparent to me.  Eventually, we committed to partnering and began building BizActually together.

Fast forward to 2021, my wife, Monica, has joined the team and we’re finally ready to launch BizActually to the world!

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