By Daniel Coats, California Business Journal
When Marla Noel sees a business struggling, she yearns to come to the rescue with her business acumen and expert knowledge of what helps make entrepreneurships thrive.
“It hurts me to see an owner suffering with their business and not enjoying it,” she says. “I’m good at business, I figured it out, and I can help others have fun with their business again.”
With more than four decades of experience as a CEO, CPA and board chair, Noel’s Irvine-based consulting firm, OC Growth Advisors, assists local small- to medium-sized enterprises get on the path to success and help established companies develop the best practices needed to thrive for a lifetime.
She works with a select number of clients annually and assists others with actionable professional advice through her blog. Noel believes Orange County is a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, yet many business owners are unprepared for the realities of getting or keeping their concept thriving.
OC Growth Advisors begins its relationship with businesses by helping them develop a simple business plan, which may be as short as a single-page document. “Every business needs to start with an understanding of what they want to be and what they want to look like in the long-term,” Noel says. “From a simple business plan, I know where the owner wants to be in one year, five years and 10 years. Then we can work on the strategic planning process, such as market share, income, marketing and organizational design.”
Business coaches and peer advising are just a few of the avenues available to Orange County entrepreneurs. OC Growth Advisors integrates these resources into a single platform that provides the accountability and support that today’s business owners require – and need.
Noel, who has assisted clients in both the sales and services sectors, recognizes that while each case is unique, certain common threads run through the challenges that entrepreneurs and business owners face.
“Every owner is affected by the whirlwind. They end up working in the business rather than working on the business,” she says. “We get them working on the business on a regular basis and ensure that they and their team have the accountability they need.”
A conflict between sales and operations is also a common challenge that OC Growth Advisors encounters. “The sales staff believes that operations should do more, while operations feels that sales should stop promising customers the moon,” Noel says.
These and other hurdles can be overcome through what Noel terms culture evolution – a process to create a mutually beneficial organizational culture that earns positive dividends for employees, clients and the community. She works with business owners to identify one to three areas in need of improvement and then revisits these areas monthly or quarterly to create a multiyear or even lifetime commitment to fostering and maintaining an optimal workplace culture.
“I strongly believe that anyone who runs a business is responsible for creating an environment that promotes employee happiness,” Noel says. “If people who work together have a positive environment in which conflict is minimized, it can greatly impact the lives of workers. We work with people who want to develop a culture in which people have a passion for what they are doing, share that passion, and make a difference for each other and for the business.”
Running a business is serious business, yet Noel encourages owners to judiciously use humor and a light touch to create a vibrant, dynamic and exciting culture. She often takes an unorthodox approach herself when mentoring clients, such as when she held a strategic planning meeting at Disneyland for a creativity-based company.
In recent decades, the corporate world has come to recognize the necessity of social responsibility. Noel, who is a member of the boards of Advisors in Philanthropy and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast, encourages the clients she works with to give back. “I am a strong believer in philanthropy and the responsibility a business has to help those in the community thrive. I am also huge believer in the power and value of higher education,” she says.
As Irvine develops into a Southland version of Silicon Valley, OC Growth Advisors also assists tech startups in getting on a firm foundation. There are also plans to expand into the Inland Empire, which Noel believes has great entrepreneurial potential, but often suffers from a lack of business acumen.
“Businesses need to understand their resources. Whenever there was a challenge in running one of my businesses, I would always look to my resources. If you’re in the middle of a crisis, you panic and start doing things incorrectly. If you don’t panic, but stop and think about your resources, challenges can be handled much more easily,” Noel says. “I can be like a partner without the partnership agreement. I can take some of the pressure off the entrepreneur so that they can enjoy their business again.”
OC Growth Advisors
15615 Alton, Suite 450, Irvine, CA 92618