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University of Missouri

Developing Dreams

MU Extension small business program helps entrepreneurs pursue their dreams.

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When the recession hit in 2007, the construction industry took the hardest blow. Floyd Simms, BS CiE ’91, thought it might knock him out.

Simms had started his general contracting firm, Simms Building Group, in 2003. He’d been laid off the previous year when the firm he was working for told him on a Tuesday they were folding that Friday. He never wanted to be in that situation again.

As a former project manager, he was used to being the boss, but he was also used to having an IT department to solve computer problems and a sales manager to line up the next job.

Finding that next job became difficult during the recession. Competition for projects was so fierce that winning a public bid meant losing money on the work. So Simms focused only on jobs he was invited to bid on, that weren’t open to everyone, and he trimmed expenses. “We got as lean as possible,” he says. “A bare-bones operation.”

But it wasn’t enough.

Enter former classmate Kevin Wilson, BFA ’89, MPA ’92. Wilson directs MU Extension’s Small Business and Technology Development Center in St. Louis. The center, one of 33 across the state, gives free business consulting and market analysis and offers training seminars to small business owners. Wilson helped Simms with some financial analysis and strategic planning and answered his nagging question: Do I own a failed business or a good business caught in a bad economy?

“Floyd had a lot of great things going on already,” Wilson says. “He just needed fine-tuning.”

With help getting $100,000 in bank financing in 2010 to see him through lean times, Simms was able to keep his doors open. By 2012, while other firms closed, he increased his staff from 11 to 15.

“Just because the economy goes south, it shouldn’t end someone’s hopes and dreams,” Simms says. “We had many families depending on this company.”