Owner of Williston business receives volunteer recognition

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Photo courtesy of the SBA - Bob Berman was named Financial Services Champion for Vermont by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Bob Berman makes his living as president of Williston-based Instrumart, selling industrial automation, control and measuring equipment. But Berman also spends a good amount of his free time as vice chairman of Champlain Valley SCORE, which offers free business advice to startup and existing companies. And for that, Berman will receive an award as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2010 Financial Services Champion in Vermont.

“I was elated of course,” Berman, a South Burlington resident, said of the recognition.

Berman will collect his award on June 17, at the 2010 Vermont Small Business Person of the Year Awards Celebration at Shelburne Farms. Three other Vermont business owners will also be recognized at the event, hosted by Vermont Business Magazine.

U.S. Small Business Administration doles out awards nationally. The Financial Services Champion award, according to SBA guidelines, goes to “an individual who assists small businesses through advocacy efforts to increase the usefulness and availability of accounting or financial services for small businesses.”

Berman has run Instrumart since founding the company 22 years ago.

“Pretty much the skills that you need to run this business are transferable between a lot of different businesses,” Berman said.

As a volunteer with the local chapter of SCORE, Berman said he counsels people with business advice based on their particular situations. Assistance can range from helping an aspiring entrepreneur fill out a template for a business plan to making sure businesses have enough capital to get started. Work can take place through email, over the phone or face to face. Some people Berman has worked with have gone on to run successful businesses; in other instances, Berman said, he’s talked people out of starting a business.

“The counseling is free. It goes on as long as the applicant wants it,” Berman said.

Berman was nominated for Financial Services Champion of the Year by Jerry Johnson, chairman of Champlain Valley SCORE.

Johnson said Berman fit the criteria for the award, and he made the nomination following a discussion with the SBA.

“(Berman) is unique in that he’s … a very … successful business leader today,” Johnson said. “Some (SCORE) volunteers have had those positions in past, but Bob is currently the president of his company. It takes a lot of time and energy and drive to achieve that in a company.”

In an article about Berman for Vermont Business Magazine, Kate Herrington of the SBA wrote, “Berman was chosen for the award based on his volunteer services to provide comprehensive business planning assistance, including financial guidance, to small business entrepreneurs.”

Though Berman may still offer advice to people in Williston, Instrumart’s time in the town is limited. Berman said the company recently purchased a new building in South Burlington, and will move there around Labor Day.