In 2007, Dennis Burnside decided to unite his experience in two fields--commercial real estate and economic development--to form a single business. He certainly possessed the expertise necessary to form his own company. From 1985 through the late 1990s, Burnside helped the Detroit office of Grubb & Ellis become a market leader. In 1998, he moved to Cleveland to help Colliers International reestablish its position as a preeminent commercial real estate firm in Northeast Ohio.

Six years later, Burnside switched gears, signing on as CEO of Whittaker Associates, an economic development consulting firm based in Holland, Michigan. At Whittaker Associates, Burnside consulted with counties, states and other entities looking to attract businesses.

Gradually, Burnside began to see a correlation between his two career paths. Both the commercial real estate and the economic development industries benefited from expert advice on business attraction and retention, prospect identification and economic forecasting. Why not offer his services to clients in both industries? “I decided to merge my two skill sets,” Burnside explained, and BurnsideAnalytics was born.

With nearly 30 years of professional experience under his belt, Burnside felt good about the next step in his career. Still, forming your own business is quite different from working for large, established companies. You’re setting the goals and the standards for the business, and it’s your name that’s on the line. It can be difficult—and often downright scary—walking into this unknown territory.

Just as Burnside was preparing to launch his business, a mutual friend encouraged him to call Andy Birol. “He said, ‘Andy specializes in helping people like you grow your business,’” Burnside recalled.

Burnside and Andy decided to meet, although Burnside expected to receive the standard advice on creating a business strategy. “I figured Andy would hand me a big binder [with my strategy] and say, ‘Here you go. Where’s my check?’” Burnside said. “But it went well beyond that.”

Andy could see that Burnside’s strong business sense and determination would serve him well as he formed his own company. “Dennis’ combination of industrial experience, entrepreneurial tenacity and self-mastery have all been vital ingredients in his success,” Andy noted. “His ability to think big from the beginning and create a world-class infrastructure—from P.R. to delivery to marketing, as well as to his website—were all signs that he’d do extremely well.”

To help him make the most of his personal and professional strengths, Andy encouraged Burnside to delve deep within himself and his experiences to create a “mental road map” of desired goals for his new company. This map would allow Burnside to chart his course for success as an entrepreneur.

The mental road map that Andy helped him develop took Burnside down avenues he hadn’t fully considered. Three of these avenues proved extremely beneficial to the development of BurnsideAnalytics:

  1. Creating a Tangible Product to Deliver to Clients
    “I always thought of what I did as sharing wisdom,” Burnside said. “I thought of it as a service, not a product.” But Andy asked him to think about specific products that the market would be receptive to and that would allow his business to make money.

    By determining his Best and Highest Use, Burnside determined several “business intelligence” products that BurnsideAnalytics could offer, including company profiles and economic forecasting, both of which enable clients to better understand their own customers.

    Burnside branded his services in such a way that they became tangible products his clients could clearly grasp and see as vital to the success of their own businesses.

  2. Determining Different Client Options
    Burnside knew that commercial real estate and economic development clients would appreciate what his company offered. Andy suggested looking beyond these two industries to widen his identifiable market. Thus, BurnsideAnalytics also reaches out to corporate clients seeking real estate advisory services, site selection assistance and tenant representation.

  3. Understanding the Challenges That Come With Being Your Own Boss
    “Andy prepared me for the hiccups and the zigzags of starting a small business,” Burnside said. For example, what do you do when you want feedback about a particular project or idea, but you’re the only one in the office? “I’d always worked for big companies, and there were always people to bounce ideas off of,” Burnside explained. “Now, if I wanted to have a meeting, it’s like I look in the mirror and say, ‘We need to talk.’”

    Andy encouraged his client to consult his peers when he needed advice or a discerning ear. “When I’m wondering if I’m thinking the right way, I pick up the phone and call someone whose opinions I respect,” Burnside said. “I can figure something out myself, but there’s a lot of value in reaching out to someone else.”

Two years after forming his own company, Dennis Burnside is a go-to expert for economic development executives, real estate developers and corporate executives. His clients rely on BurnsideAnalytics’ unique set of services, including business attraction and retention strategies, economic forecasting, industry segment studies, prospect identification and real estate site selection.

“It’s no surprise that Dennis’ love for Cleveland, his business acumen and his understanding of his craft are all combining to have him on a real fast track to economic success,” Andy said.

Armed with detailed strategies from Birol Consulting Group, Burnside has successfully guided his company through the early development stage. He said he would like to continue to work with BCG to make sure the next stage is equally successful.

BurnsideAnalytic’s story illustrates what business smarts, drive and a firm understanding of your unique offerings can do for small business owners, according to Andy. “When you have clarity around your Best and Highest Use…and you’re willing to make a full investment of money, time and expertise, success is extremely enhanced,” he said.

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