Jerry Schalow, CEO and president of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the last time the chamber had hosted a free “Grow Your Business Expo” was back in February 2020, less than a month before the pandemic changed everyone’s lives.

At the March 1 expo in the Rio Rancho Events Center, Schalow said he anticipated fewer than the 800-1,000 who visited pre-pandemic.

Nonetheless, there was plenty of information and countless resources for those who spent time there, whether they were looking for a job or someone to hire, plus firms loaning money to businesses, and a number of other business-related resources.

So, Schalow was asked, what should a business owner look for when wondering if it’s time to “grow” it?

“You know it’s time to grow your business, on a daily basis, when your business is open,” Schalow said, the RRRCC head since Aug. 31, 2016. “You’re looking to grow and expand your revenue; every day, business owners take a look at that.

“And if they are stagnant, and if they leave everything as is, year after year after year, then they’re not going to grow,” he said. “You have to take a step back and what I call it is ‘working on the business.’

“In the business, you’re working every day on the selling of your product, making sure the store runs,” he continued. “Working on the business means you’re looking for opportunities to grow: Should I be carrying this product? Should I add another employee? When you’re looking at (adding) another employee, can you afford the employee today, or can you take advantage of a program like Workforce Connections of Central New Mexico still has, where you can hire an employee for 50% of the cost, until you can ramp up the revenue.”

It wasn’t just a coincidence that New Mexico Workforce Connection was “in the house,” along with other chamber partners, like WESST, SBDC – “we have a number of partners that help businesses succeed in doing this,” Schalow said.

With the economy booming now, he said, “It’s a great time to own and start a business because you’ve got the opportunity to expand and grow. People are buying certain things locally and it’s a great opportunity.”

Naturally, a business plan is a must.

“A number of businesses, depending on where they are at, have depth in their plan and everything associated with that,” he said. “A plan as a plan – you have to see if you can alter it.

“The market changes. We had a pandemic; did your market plan call for that? Probably not, so you have to adapt and change.”

One mistake potential business owners make, Schalow said, “is from someone who is passionate about it. (For example), a chef in a restaurant – passionate about cooking, passionate about starting a restaurant. But that doesn’t make them ready to open the doors … (they) have to take a deeper step back and say, ‘What’s my plan? How am I going to make rent every month? How many employees am I going to hire? What makes sense? How big of a space am I going to need? And then where am I going to get the equipment?’”

Several areas around the City of Vision are expanding, providing places for new business – from Enchanted Hills, “a booming area,” Schalow said, to refurbished Hilltop Plaza, and west to the Unser Gateway.

What do people in Rio Rancho want?

“They want more businesses to hang out after work; they want more gathering places,” Schawlow said. “So The Block coming in right now is an ideal opportunity. That’s why our breweries do so well – they’re gathering places. If you have a restaurant or a location that can be a gathering place, where folks can gather together, that’s a great opportunity.”
And questions like those are what Schalow and his staff hope to provide answers for at these types of events.

There was even a short seminar presented by Dr. Stacey Goldstein-Dwyer of GD Psych Services in Rio Rancho that everyone (more than likely) could use: dealing with stress.

Those listening could hear Goldstein-Dwyer report that “83% of us suffer from work-related stress,” as well as effects of job burnout. She offered several ways to relieve stress on the job – such as having an organized, comfortable workspace; breaking up tasks by taking breaks; taking a walk on a break or lunch hour; even playing games on your phone during breaks.

Also important to relieve job-related stress, she said, is to set work and life boundaries, have a healthy diet and get enough sleep.

Among Wednesday’s participants: Fast Signs; Wander with Wendy; Alertness Mobile Restrooms; Albuquerque Plumbing; Chalmers Ford; Colonial Life Insurance; Fusion Concepts; Urban Balloons; Loving Thunder; McDonald’s; Paul Davis; Wings for Life; Yellowstone Landscape; Turbo Threads; The Entrepreneur’s Source; Chavez Family Clinic; Insight Lighting; Haider Consulting Cybersecurity and IT; Farmers Insurance; Del Norte Credit Union; Rio Rancho Rotary Club; Artivo Academy; Medical & Commercial Community; Jetsons Floor Care Solutions; Aging Life Care Association; 30 by 30 Financial Literacy; FUNDaxi; Kansas City National Security Campus/NM Operations; Truly Nolan; KDSK and KMINE radio stations; State Employees Credit Union; 3D Security Training; and Bank of the West, plus New Mexico Workforce Connection and  WESST.