Member Spotlight – Don Siler

Member Spotlight – Don Siler

Don Siler 

Co-founder of Bridge Light Consulting

We sat down with Don to talk about his interest in charity work, his partnership with the SF Chamber of Commerce, and the ways he’s helping small businesses during the pandemic. 

Don believes great risk comes with a greater need to think creatively. We dive deep into what that kind of thinking looks like and discuss tangible actions you can apply to your business.

Welcome to the Werqwise community, can you tell us more about Bridge Light?

At Bridge Light, we provide a number of services to our clients, but we’re mostly focused on product and program management for major corporations. Bridge Light Consulting was founded by me and a few former colleagues from Cisco. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great companies like Amazon, Splunk, Visa, Cisco, and Robert Half. However, more recently I have pivoted to focus on charity work by providing services to non-profits to help them achieve their goals.

"There are no wasted experiences"

What brought you into this line of work?
I draw upon my experience in the area of strategy and planning for major corporations, but I have a very eclectic background. I’ve been all over the place. I’ve worked on a crab fishing boat in Alaska, I’ve been an Arabic translator for military intelligence in the US Army, I make custom guitars, I have been writing and speaking about happiness and wellbeing, in addition to all the things I have done in corporate America. The reality is that no matter where we come from, our experiences come together to make us who we are. I took a long roundabout path to get to where I am now. There are no wasted experiences, it all informs how you think about the world.

"Small businesses are the engines that run the American economy."

Can you tell us about your partnership with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce?
At the beginning of the pandemic, a few of my colleagues and I were talking about the success we had supporting non-profits, and then we wondered if we could offer the same support to small businesses. Small businesses are the engines that run the American economy. We knew that when they start suffering, we as a nation will start suffering. There were other organizations that provide similar services, but we felt like there was still an unmet need.

When we started to put this together, we knew we would need allies. We wanted someone with clout, with visibility, and I was very fortunate to be introduced to Rodney Wong, the President of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. We have a shared vision of how we should take small businesses through this current environment, and we have been working together for a couple of months now.

“We have to be really creative in our thinking.”

How do you support small businesses right now?

We talk to businesses and try to understand their ability to weather this crisis. If they are talking to us, they probably need help. We guide them through the PPP loan process, but we also offer additional resources beyond that, there’s more opportunity to help them out.

In a scenario where a small business owner thinks they can make it through if they optimize, we look at where they can cut costs, starting with service providers. Those SPs would rather cut rates than lose costumers and go out of business. I recommend talking to them about what kind of deals they can make.

Another scenario to consider is a change in product. For example, a company we consult manufactures booths for conferences. They’re in some trouble right now because, let’s face it, we aren’t having conventions or conferences anytime soon. They pivoted to making furniture for home offices, and now they are doing great.

Worst case scenario, the company is at imminent risk, and they’re focused on survival. This is where we have to be really creative in our thinking. We think about ways those businesses can continue to make their product but deliver it in a different way. A lot of businesses in that position might have already explored this, but we don’t take anything for granted. I believe that no idea is a bad idea. We leave no rock uncovered. That’s where we’re at in this crisis.

"No idea is a bad idea."

What advice would you give to small business owners who want to pivot?

The key to this is the brainstorming process, but also the magic that comes from the conversation. I advise everyone to have at least three people in the room when brainstorming. Make sure there is a spread of experiences. Have someone who has been in business for a long time, they’ll have insights on how things can get done, but also someone who is new to the workforce, who has not had years of being told: “This is how we do things.” These younger people are more likely to see possibilities that an old dog like me might not see. Sometimes the youngest person in the room comes up with the coolest, most awesome idea. Be creative, open to possibilities, consider everything because no idea is a bad idea.

How can our members reach out to you and engage your services

The best way to reach me is through LinkedIn, I’m happy to help in any way possible.