West Plains Business Development Feature – Produced by Debbie Johnson
WEST PLAINS, Mo. – According to recent U.S. Small Business Administration studies, many military veterans have the background and inclination to pursue entrepreneurism. Veterans “are at least 45 percent more likely than those with no active-duty military experience to be self-employed,” reports the SBA. The organization, motivation and discipline veterans use to succeed in the military are similar to traits business owners need.
Floyd Henson of West Plains, Mo., is a good example. A U.S. Army veteran who served in Korea, Japan and Vietnam, Henson learned many things during his tours of duty that benefited him later when he became a business owner.
“My army experience taught me the value of honesty, integrity and discipline,” says Henson. “When I became a business owner I applied the management skills I developed as a helicopter crew chief. Planning and thorough preparation are key.”
His company—Henson Enterprises Inc.—focuses on manufacturing precision-machined industrial parts for such producers as Caterpillar, Regal-Beloit and DRS Technologies.
Much of the work Henson Enterprises performs is through contracts with government agencies. Henson decided to pursue his first government contract a couple years after starting the firm in 2003. To improve his chances of winning his first contract, he turned to an old friend he met years ago when the two worked for the same employer.
That old friend, Willis Mushrush, is a specialist with the University of Missouri Extension’s Business Development Program (BDP). Among his many areas of expertise, Mushrush helps businesses traverse the maze of government contracting rules through the BDP’s Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center.
“When Floyd wanted to apply for a government contract, I helped him follow government regulations and complete the elaborate paperwork he needed to pursue those contracts,” Mushrush says.
As business progressed, Henson eventually determined he needed to expand his company. He had the opportunity to buy sophisticated manufacturing equipment at a bargain price from his former employer DRS. To do that, he needed a loan.
Once again, Mushrush assisted by applying business development expertise derived from another BDP program, the Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers.
“We put together a detailed business plan, which Floyd used to secure business expansion money from four funding sources,” explains Mushrush.
The loans enabled Henson to expand his plant, buy additional manufacturing equipment and open up more jobs at his company. The 10-year-old firm has grown from 600 square feet to 25,000 square feet. Its original workforce of two employees has expanded to 18 skilled workers.
“These jobs have made a significant impact on the economy in West Plains,” says Mushrush. “They aren’t just minimum-wage jobs. They are highly paid manufacturing positions that demand specialized training and experience.”
Floyd Henson’s talent, perseverance and military background have taken him a long way down the road of entrepreneurial success. But in addition to his innate business savvy and army-derived discipline, Henson is quick to credit the guidance provided by MU Extension.
“Henson Enterprises wouldn’t be where it is today without the help from Willis Mushrush and MU Extension,” says Henson. “I know I could not have done this by myself.”
For more information about MU Extension’s Business Development Program, go to www.missouribusiness.net.