Learning Opportunities Expand for Small Business Owners, Entrepreneursback

The benefits chronicled by graduates of training programs for entrepreneurs are many and varied. In its press release announcing that 1,000 entrepreneurs have now graduated from the Kauffman FastTrac program it sponsored, New York City lauded both the new levels of growth achieved by individual entrepreneurs and the benefits to the city’s economic recovery.

Indeed. I’d like to boldface those conclusions. Entrepreneurs, even those who are experienced and established, benefit from stepping back from the day-to-day, listening, sharing, and learning.

James Locke has a national business, The Nutbox. He’s been in business 5 years and employs 50 people. He plans to grow his business and double the number of employees. Yet, he signed up for the FastTrac program and is happy he did.

“I needed to step back and understand where I want to go,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I was going in the right direction. As a business owner, you think about operations but have no time to think about the big picture.”

It’s about he said. No matter the business they’re in, entrepreneurs have similar problems. You get great ideas when you listen to how other people handle challenges.

Kristopher Krajewski, head of Bond Music Group and another FastTrac graduate, said it a little differently. “In the music industry, everyone is using the same techniques. [In FastTrac] people come from all different industries. They struggle with the same issues but have different approaches. It is inspirational.”

Locke got some valuable and strategy-changing ideas from the formal learning in the class. He found that he might be able to grow without borrowing. He also heard about setting up an advisory board of people outside the company. He now has a 3-member panel that teleconferences once a month to discuss how to take his business to the next level.

Krajewski had considered going back for an MBA but decided it was an investment of time that wasn’t necessary in the music industry. FastTrac was a good substitute, wiith the added value of the insights gained from peers in the class. The biggest benefit was “being able to work on your business and not in your business,” that step-back-and-look-at-the-big-picture thing again.

The class helped him figure out to get the capital to grow and refined his business skills with formal training, he said.

Again, I concur. Resoundingly.

But I am also very mindful of the time and money limits of entrepreneurs. As Locke says, business owners wear many hats and the training side often gets pushed aside to accommodate other demands.

It shouldn’t. Training isn’t just about cost flow analysis; it’s about getting outside the day-to-day; it’s about jump-starting your growth so you can get to the next level. It’s important.

So I’m happy to tell you about another training/coaching/networking opportunity, an online FastTrac course taught by an experienced FastTrac facilitator.

Normally, I don’t hype classes or products or services in my blog.

I’m making an exception here. More entrepreneurs need access to the skills, coaching, and inspiration provided by good training combined by peer interaction.

12 Steps To Growing Your Business Now: Coaching and Training for Entrepreneurs is 12-week, 24-session online FastTrac seminar, taught by Danielle Douglas, President of Inspire Enterprise, Inc. It will give entrepreneurs personal coaching to overcome real-life business problems and take advantage of opportunities they may not yet see.

The focus of the classes will be the business challenges and opportunities of those attending. They’ll be mentored by a master and have access to an online network of peers from whom they’ll get revitalizing ideas and new connections.

While I highly value face-to-face discussions, I recognize two things: the time to get to a class is often difficult for an entrepreneur to carve out and technology has changed the world. What’s more, in-person classes may not be available nearby so online coaching and access to peers is essential.

The technology used in 12 Steps allows each person the opportunity to discuss a specific problem in his/her business that is related to the topic under discussion. “Discuss” in the real sense of questions with comments and answers from both the instructor and peers.

For instance, if Growth Opportunities is the topic, the group might discuss the options of a business owner in the class who is having trouble identifying new opportunities.

As an ardent supporter of training and of realistic solutions to business problems, I like this course. It opens up the opportunities for learning to more people in more places. Not everyone has a FastTrac program nearby but they still deserve the opportunity to learn and grow.

So committed am I to the idea that Ventureneer is hosting a free webinar, The Answers You Need to Achieve Your 2011 Goals by Douglas on Wednesday, March 2. In it, three small business owners will discuss their problems, hear answers from Douglas and from their peers. As a bonus, those enrolled can volunteer to be in the “hot seat” for a 15 minute free evaluation of their business.

Two opportunities for small business owners to recharge: You can only get better.

Would you benefit from training? From networking? Have you been able to focus on the big picture or are you stuck in daily administration?