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Invaluable Advice From 18 of America's Top Small-Business Owners

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Invaluable Advice From 18 of America's Top Small-Business Owners

Every state in America picked one small business owner as its small business person of the year as part of National Small Business Week. Each one of them was up for the national award as well.

One of these, John Stonecipher, President and CEO of Guidance Aviation Inc has just won the award of Small Business Person Of The Year.

These people are doing amazing things, from contracting with the Department of Homeland Security to making silver-gallium nanoneedles.

Here are 18 of the winners, along with the one piece of advice they have for current and aspiring business owners.

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ARIZONA: John Stonecipher, President and CEO of Guidance Aviation Inc. and Small Business Person Of The Year Winner
ARIZONA: John Stonecipher, President and CEO of Guidance Aviation Inc. and Small Business Person Of The Year Winner
John Stonecipher
image credit: Guidance Aviation

Guidance Aviation is a high-altitude flight school and John Stonecipher just won Small Business Person Of The Year.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"Surround yourself around the best people you can and give them an opportunity to do what they love to do best. Each one of my staff and faculty are leaders themselves. I cannot succeed without them."
OREGON: Judith Huck, President Classique Floors Inc.
OREGON: Judith Huck, President Classique Floors Inc.
Judith Huck
image credit: Judith Huck

Raining Rose Inc. is a producer of customized lip balm and other natural body care products, founded in the late 1990s by a couple who started creating lip balms in the kitchen of their home as a hobby.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"Try to find a mentor if possible. I was incredibly fortunate to have had Art Christoffersen as my business partner ... He was a great sounding board and really never told me what to do, but he asked some great questions that led me to the answer."

IOWA: Charles Hammond, President and CEO, Raining Rose
IOWA: Charles Hammond, President and CEO, Raining Rose
Chuck Hammond
image credit: Chuck Hammond

Raining Rose Inc. is a producer of customized lip balm and other natural body care products, founded in the late 1990s by a couple who started creating lip balms in the kitchen of their home as a hobby.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"Try to find a mentor if possible. I was incredibly fortunate to have had Art Christoffersen as my business partner ... He was a great sounding board and really never told me what to do, but he asked some great questions that led me to the answer."

See also: 14 Of The Most Essential Lessons You Learn In Business School

KENTUCKY: Dr. Mehdi Yazdanpanah, CEO, Founder of NaugaNeedles
KENTUCKY: Dr. Mehdi Yazdanpanah, CEO, Founder of NaugaNeedles
Dr. Mehdi Yazdanpanah
image credit: NaugaNeedles

NaugaNeedles manufactures silver-gallium nanoneedles -- tiny rods approximately 1/1,000th of the thickness of a human hair -- which are used in biomedical applications, sensors, and tools for semiconductor manufacturers.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"I guess I would say don't be afraid. If they have a business idea but are afraid because of a lack of funding or experience and so on, I have to tell them don't worry, these are not going to be an issue in this country."

CONNECTICUT: Chris Runyan, President GameXChange
CONNECTICUT: Chris Runyan, President GameXChange
Chris Runyan
image credit: Jessica Zielonka

GameXChange is afranchised retail store that sells, purchases, and trades new and used electronic gaming hardware, software, and accessories.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"The advice I'd give is to make as many mistakes as you can, as fast as you can. Get them out of the way. No one hits home runs right away."

MAINE: Matt Qualey, President Granite & Stone Fabrication
MAINE: Matt Qualey, President Granite & Stone Fabrication
Matt Qualey
image credit: Qualey Granite

Qualey Granite & Stone Fabrication produces granite countertops for kitchens and baths, a full range of flooring tiles, and has wholesale contracts with Lowes and Home Depot.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"One of the things we were told is pretty simple -- do the best you can, and do it when you say you're going to. In my business, it makes a big difference.

"(Social responsibility) is incredibly lacking in business today, we don't wear it on our sleeve, it makes us feel good. It makes us get up in the morning. My role is to be a good role model, a much better steward for the community."

SOUTH CAROLINA: Noah Thomas Leask, President and CEO of ISHPI
SOUTH CAROLINA: Noah Thomas Leask, President and CEO of ISHPI
Noah Thomas Leask
image credit: ISHPI

Charleston-based ISHPI specializes in cybersecurity and defense-focused information technology. They have contracts with government agencies like the DOD and Department of Homeland Security.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"Do not underestimate the amount of effort, perseverance, and discipline that is required to be successful. I cannot stress that enough. There will be problems and you must be ready mentally, physically, and spiritually to deal with them. If you are starting a business to get rich and work less, then you are on the wrong path. One should be working on enjoying the journey not thinking about the destination. The riches-seekers never reach it."

ALABAMA: Ellen Didier, President Red Sage Communications
ALABAMA: Ellen Didier, President Red Sage Communications
Ellen Didier
image credit: Ellen Didier

Red Sage Communications focuses on strategic marketing, branding, graphic design, and website development.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"Be collaborative with your staff, your customers, and your vendors or suppliers. The more you trust the team knowledge and wisdom of those around you, the more quickly you can recognize and adapt to changes, provide better products or services, and the stronger your organization will be."

See also: Here's Why Recruiters And CEOs Really Think About The Value Of An MBA

MARYLAND: Mike Sawyers, President 7Delta
MARYLAND: Mike Sawyers, President 7Delta
Mike Sawyers
image credit: 7Delta

7Delta is a service-disabled-veteran-owned small business which provides information technology services for the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"It's about long-term relationships and treating your customers right. Do what's right for them long-term. Once you win the business, that's when the hard work begins. ... It's all about relationships and reputation."

PENNSYLVANIA: Regina Broudy, President Clayton Kendall
PENNSYLVANIA: Regina Broudy, President Clayton Kendall
Clayton Kendall
image credit: Clayton Kendall

Clayton Kendall specializes in branded merchandise and decorated apparel.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"Look at every interaction as a networking opportunity. You never know when a business opportunity will present itself. A chance encounter could be a big break for your company.

"Our employees, honestly, they take such an interest, like its their company. We treat them like family, we give them great benefits. That's very important because if they're not really part of your team, it doesn't work. They're excited when good things happen. We started with nine people, now we have 65. There are so many little details that we can do for the customer to make things go well for them."

OHIO: Karri Bass, Founder and President Illumination Research
OHIO: Karri Bass, Founder and President Illumination Research
Karri Bass
image credit: YouTube

Illumination Research is a market research and strategy firm dedicated to helping businesses better understand their customers.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"We definitely have, well, actually have just defined our core values and crystallized what we think Illumination has been built on: a spirit of optimism and believing in ourselves. ... Don't be afraid to lean forward and take risks 13 dream big and then believe in yourself to make it happen."

RHODE ISLAND: Brenda Brock, founder, formulator and CEO of Farmaesthetics
RHODE ISLAND: Brenda Brock, founder, formulator and CEO of Farmaesthetics
Brenda Brock
image credit: Farmaesthetics

Farmaesthetics creates, designs, produces, and sells natural, herbal skincare products.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"Build your business around your life, not your life around your business. This will give you stamina to build a business with longevity."

VERMONT: Pete Johnson, President of Pete's Greens
VERMONT: Pete Johnson, President of Pete's Greens
Pete Johnson
image credit: Jordan Silverman

Pete's Greens is a certified organic four-season vegetable farm which utilizes moveable greenhouses.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"We've had this business-owners group where we get together at somebody's operation. ...We have a potluck, we have a topic, and usually it's something [the host company] is struggling with. ... We have an hour or so discussion about that topic. It's extremely powerful.I always encourage folks to start something like that in their area."

See also: Three Brothers Are Trying To Change The Way New Yorkers Drink Coffee At Work

WASHINGTON: Jill Blankenship, CEO Frontline Call Center
WASHINGTON: Jill Blankenship, CEO Frontline Call Center
Jill Blankenship
image credit: Frontline Call Center

Frontline Call Center provides call center support to customers via phone, online chat, or email response.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"Develop a daily P&L and ask yourself 'Are we making money today or losing money today?' This will allow for you to fix a problem quickly or continue to do the things that work."

VIRGINIA: Jason Cohen, President ILM Corporation
VIRGINIA: Jason Cohen, President ILM Corporation
Jason Cohen
image credit: ILM Corporation

ILM Corporation provides data entry, scanning, indexing, document management, and clerical services to large corporations, banks, universities and federal agencies.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"It comes from your mother. And she says when you tell somebody you're going to do something, do it. That's it. And it still rings true today ... I find in business today people tell you a lot of things and then they don't follow through with it whether it be employees, vendors, customers or prospects, whomever, it's very frustrating."

WYOMING: Aaron Rodolph, President Rodolph Brothers Inc.
WYOMING: Aaron Rodolph, President Rodolph Brothers Inc.
Aaron Rodolph
image credit: Rodolph Bros.

Rodolph Brothers Inc. is a full-service landscaping company specializing in mowing, irrigation, tree trimming, plant health care, lawn care, and snow removal.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"Hire an industry-specific consultant. Then hire a business systems consultant (like Emyth Benchmark). Then hire a marketing firm to help you market your business. Don't reinvent the wheel, buy some advice and let the marketing firm do what you will never have time to do. Then you can just focus on what you love -- running your business."

WISCONSIN: Tom Nieman, Owner Fromm Family Foods
WISCONSIN: Tom Nieman, Owner Fromm Family Foods
Tom Nieman
image credit: Fromm Family Foods

Fromm Family Foods is a manufacturer of pet food and treats that was started in 1904. The company's been family-owned-and-operated for five generations.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"First, you have to be passionate about your business because having your own business is not a job it is a way of life. Second, create (and articulate) your vision for the business and then be relentless in executing your go-to-market strategies and tactics. A solid plan is important; hard work and execution are critical."

WASHINGTON D.C.: Tom. J. Loftus, President, Founder and CEO LS Technologies LLC
WASHINGTON D.C.: Tom. J. Loftus, President, Founder and CEO LS Technologies LLC
Tom Loftus
image credit: Tom Loftus

LS Technologies LLC is a full-service program management and technical support services firm, that does work for the U.S. federal government and private commercial clients.

One piece of advice for small business owners:

"Growing a business is about taking risks in a competitive environment, while continuing to build and maintain a solid reputation that your company delivers the utmost customer service. And very importantly, any business owners should strive to surround themselves with trustworthy, reliable people who support their company's mission and values."

This story originally appeared on Business InsiderBusiness Insider

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