Rachel Bridgers, NC SBTDCRachel Bridgers (pictured right) is a business counselor at the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) located at East Carolina University. Rachel helps business owners and entrepreneurs succeed using a combination of real-life business experience, industry expertise, education, and advanced training.

At the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center (NC SBTDC), we enjoy working with businesses in a wide variety of industries, helping them grow and thrive. Vertical IQ’s Industry Intelligence helps augment our knowledge as counselors and provides valuable up-to-date industry information.

We first got access to Vertical IQ in 2020, and I have been using it ever since in my role as an NC SBTDC business counselor. Vertical IQ gives me and my fellow counselors the insights we need about how an industry operates, things to look out for within a particular niche, and much more.

>> Related: A Conversation with N.C. Small Business & Technology Development Center’s Deanna Day

A lot to love about Vertical IQ

There are so many things to like about Vertical IQ! First and foremost, I appreciate how user-friendly the Vertical IQ platform is. The information I need is easy to find and digest. It has two versions of the Industry Profile reports: one for me and one specifically made for the client. I can hand that version to them and use it for our discussion.

I also like that Vertical IQ provides Local Economies information, drilling down to that micro level. Vertical IQ’s metropolitan statistical area (MSA) data can be extremely useful to my clients who are considering launching a new business or growing an existing one.

I love how frequently the information on Vertical IQ is updated. The Quarterly Insights and Coronavirus Updates have been especially helpful during COVID-19, explaining the latest information on how companies are being impacted. It’s very helpful to have those up-to-date facts to share with my clients on a regular basis.

Vertical IQ makes me feel really prepared when going into meetings with clients. The Call Prep Questions cover topics that I may not have considered and prompt questions that I may otherwise not have thought to ask.

Industry News is helpful on two fronts: offering access to media I can connect with and learn from, as well as relevant articles I can share with my clients. I recently had a client who was starting a very niche business. I was able to find an incredibly relevant article to re-engage our conversation. It’s also nice to use the news articles to reach out to clients on a regular basis, let them know you are thinking of them, and share relevant information.

I use the Web Links when someone is new to their industry regardless of whether they are new to business ownership. I recommend people join industry trade groups and associations, and those Web Links do a good job of providing links to those relevant organizations.

The key to credit underwriting success

SBTDC small business

One of my favorite and most-used chapters of the Vertical IQ Industry Profile is the Credit Underwriting and Risks. This information has been crucial to my work, particularly during the height of COVID-19 when banks were being more conservative in their lending. I closely review that chapter and make sure those are the areas we highlight in the client’s loan documentation.

Being able to focus on some of the items included in that particular chapter saves time for the lender. They don’t have to go back to my client to say, “You didn’t include details on this potential risk” because we are able to anticipate some of those concerns in advance when reviewing their business plan or loan application.

Just as important, for entrepreneurs and small business owners, time is money and time is limited, and Vertical IQ saves my clients’ time too. They don’t have to keep responding to the lender’s requests for more details and amending their loan application again and again.

I worked with a client who had previously submitted a business plan to a lender, which was returned by the credit underwriter with certain issues noted. My client was hoping to open a restaurant, and this was during the height of COVID precautions, so there were a lot of issues the lender wanted the business owner to consider before applying for this loan.

The business landscape is ever-changing, so it is crucial to have the latest information. When this client reached out to us, we were able to use the Credit Underwriting and Risks chapter of Vertical IQ, as well as the Quarterly Insights and Industry Trends, to better support their restaurant’s business plan The lender told us that they had never seen a business plan that well-written and well-cited. The Vertical IQ Industry Profile and data were crucial in bringing this all together.

The comprehensive Industry Intelligence you need

I’ve been a business counselor for three years now, and in that time, I’ve used a number of research tools. Vertical IQ provides thorough and highly relevant industry-specific content in a digestible way. It saves time when preparing to meet with a client or gathering information to share with them.

Vertical IQ, in my opinion, is exceptional because of all its special features, like the local data, news articles, and credit underwriting and industry risks information. Further, Vertical IQ’s information sources are very apparent. I have clients who will ask, “Where did you get this data?” so I like that Vertical IQ takes the time to outline their specific reference points.

An invaluable research and meeting prep tool

As a counselor, I find Vertical IQ is a crucial tool, and I know the entire team enjoys using it.

Let’s be honest: Each of us is only as good as our knowledge and resources. Vertical IQ has been an exceptional asset for me and my fellow business counselors. Industry Intelligence support and resources we use with our clients, add value to the services we provide at no cost to them. They get the information they need to be successful.

 >> Learn more about the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC).

>> Free ebook: 8 Ways SBDCs Use Industry Intelligence to Help Small Businesses

Photo credit: Artem Beliaikin via Pexels

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