Carol Horner built a small business over the past two decades with support from the community, including the Iowa Western Community College Small Business Development Center.
The owner of Council Bluffs-based Synchronicity Inc., a consultancy that helps organizations “be in synch” and improve their day-to-day operations, recently celebrated her firm’s 20th anniversary with an open house and reception at Tish’s Restaurant.
Horner’s company has built up businesses and nonprofits around the region by emphasizing the important roles that people play in achieving outcomes. Horner said anyone can buy the same technology or use the same process as someone else, but employee performance makes the difference.
“Synchronicity exists to help organizations to be in synch,” Horner said. “What I mean by that is for their people to work well together, for their leaders to be effective, for teams to be cohesive – that whole human side of work to go smoothly and effectively. Organizations spend a lot of time on their processes and their technology, but it is still people who run processes and use technology; and if your people aren’t in synch, it doesn’t matter how great your technology or your processes are.”
Consultants can help organizations improve on areas outside their expertise, which is also how Horner got her business off the ground when she returned to Council Bluffs in 1999 as an entrepreneur.
At first, Horner said she lacked connections and the knowledge of how to run her own business. In particular, she wanted to figure out health insurance. She was referred to Ron Helms, then the director of the Iowa Western SBDC. She’s remained a regular SBDC client ever since.
“Ron helped me really set up my health insurance,” Horner said. “A huge part of being a small business owners was whether I could provide for my staff, which at that point is me and, frankly, is still me and only me, but it allowed for me to do that.”
Horner met Sue Pitts, the current SBDC director, in 2004. Horner said Pitts helped her launch a website and begin to more effectively market her business.
“I’ve been in business for 20 years, and I’m still learning how to run a business,” Horner said. “The moment you think you have it, you’re in trouble. You need to keep growing and keep learning and keep expanding what you’re doing.”
Horner said she attends SBDC’s lunch and learn sessions, and she plans to use SBDC as a resource as she begins marketing a book describing her own model for organizational productivity. She also bounces ideas off of Pitts and assistant regional director Michael Mitilier on a regular basis.
“What I love about the Small Business Development Center is they stay on top of that stuff for me and then just teach me,” Horner said. “I haven’t spent hardly any money on business development because they have provided everything for me.”
SBDC provides free services to small business owners in Southwest Iowa, including technical assistance for starting a business, growing its reach and staying on top of trends. SBDC also helps both new and established business cope with challenges such as flooding and other unexpected disasters.
Pitts said she appreciates the enthusiastic support that Horner has shown for SBDC, including how she has helped refer other entrepreneurs to receive assistance getting their business off the ground.
“She’s like the best client ever. She constantly refers people to us,” Pitts said of Horner. “She’s very active in the community, so she knows everybody. She has been equally helpful for us.”
Horner is equally appreciative of Iowa Western.
“It’s about partnerships, and it’s about mutual respect,” Horner said. “I enjoy representing the college because I think it is an incredible jewel, it is an asset to our community, and I also value small manufacturing and the unique situations that they’re in.”
Horner said she works to facilitate learning and insight into how organizations can be more in synch using a variety of tools and models, including PXT Select, Everything DiSC and Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. She said that Synchronicity delivers leadership and teambuilding content around trust, conflict and accountability to clients so people in their organizations can be effective together.
“We do not work alone anymore,” Horner said. “All of our accountabilities are shared, and that’s not easy. You need purposeful effort to help ease that, and that’s what I do. My job is to work myself out of a job.”
By breaking down barriers, Horner strives to bring organizations to an optimal state, which she describes as reflecting the synchronized jumping of dolphins.
“Coordinating timing, effort and execution, dolphins exemplify the high performance organization,” Horner writes on her website. “They are in synch. Synchronicity helps organizations create the productive connections between their people to achieve this high-speed unison.”
Acting in synch, with the support of others, drives success. Horner said she relies on the backing of the Iowa Western SBDC when she is doing work outside her expertise, and she knows that she can always turn to them for support and to have the confidence that she’s going in the right direction.
“I don’t know how you run a small business and not utilize their services,” Horner said. “It doesn’t make sense to me to try to do that on your own.”
— Scott Stewart is a freelance journalist and communications consultant. This article was prepared on behalf of Iowa Western Community College’s Division of Economic and Workforce Development. You can find more about Synchronicity at beinsynch.com and follow Horner on Twitter at @beinsynch.