By Melissa Erickson, The Daily Times
A membership-based company that provides cost savings and risk reduction services to small businesses and nonprofits is settling in to the former Social Security Administration building on Keller Lane.
The SSA closed its Blount County office, located at 222 Keller Lane, between the Maryville Post Office and Foothills Bank and Trust off Foothills Mall Drive, in March 2014. The building sat empty until the Business Owner Benefits Association moved in during July.
BOBA was founded by John Ballinger in Chattanooga in 2007, and earlier this year Maryville-based Vanquish Worldwide owner Eric Barton bought into the company for part ownership. BOBA has now set up its new headquarters in Maryville, and also has offices in Chattanooga and Nashville.
Barton began using BOBA services for Vanquish Worldwide and some of his other businesses in 2014, and saw large growth potential for the company, said Dawn White, BOBA marketing manager.
White said Vanquish Worldwide saw “substantial” operating cost reductions through BOBA, so Barton had more of his companies become members. (White said Barton now owns 28 different entities, including BOBA and a recently acquired short-haul trucking company in Middle Tennessee that has been renamed Vanquish Express.)
“It has saved so much money and that’s just one case, so now we’ve gotten a lot of the other businesses set up,” she said.
BOBA’s services are centered around cost savings, risk reduction, human resources and compliances issues, White said.
Some of the services it helps small businesses with are credit card processing, energy savings, insurance solutions, payroll and human resource compliance, fleet services, legal services, parcel delivery oversight, fuel program and small business funding.
The biggest area where companies are seeing cost savings are with credit card processing, according to White. The company also focuses on risk reduction by helping small businesses with compliance issues and doing a full business evaluation of new members to find any “pain points” in the business.
She gave two examples of local businesses they’ve helped recently. One business that signed up had an inventory warehouse that was not covered under their insurance policy, and another business had a loan that wasn’t under its insurance policy.
“We flag those areas and help get those covered,” White said.
The membership fees are based on the number of employees. BOBA also has a nonprofit division called Community Benefits Advisors, or CBA, where nonprofit members get a 10 percent reduction on fees.
White said BOBA currently has more than 100 member businesses in the Blount County area.
“I am excited to work alongside Ballinger and the BOBA team to tackle critical issues facing small businesses and nonprofits in the U.S.,” said Barton in a press release announcing the company’s new headquarters. “Small businesses make up the backbone of the U.S. economy; it’s time we joined together for the same buying power that large corporations benefit from on a regular basis.”
Ballinger, the BOBA founder, said the association “enables sustainable growth for business owners.”
“BOBA’s cost-savings and risk mitigation have exceeded even the association’s initial expectations. Now with the launch of our expanded member services and infrastructure, we are confident the success stories will continue to increase and fuel membership growth which allows us to continue lowering costs on our services,” Ballinger said.
White said the company did a complete remodel of the former SSA building, including adding offices, replacing carpeting and paint, and putting in new windows and doors.
BOBA is holding a holiday open house from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday. Many of the association’s service providers will be on hand to talk with small business owners and nonprofit leaders.