The best way to predict the future is to create it. ~Peter Drucker
The Seattle 2016 SBA Emerging Leaders Class graduated this week with 19 amazing entrepreneurs who created Strategic Growth Plans for each of their businesses that were inspirational and executable. They worked hard over the last 7 months to learn, grow and create something that will take their businesses to the next level. I have had the amazing privilege to be on this journey with them and help guide them to their businesses potential, but rather than me trying to convey the power of this group I thought I would share the words of one of the entrepreneurs – Meg Halverson, CEO of Bright Spring Strategy Consulting – who shared this at our graduation ceremony:
“We have spent 13 sessions over seven months together. On the surface, that seems like a relatively small amount of time. It’s equivalent to a college semester. What we learned, though, and the manner in which we did so, was a bit of a surprise to all of us.
If you had told us in the beginning that an electrician and a landscape architect would have the same issues in bidding work; that a lab design firm and a management consulting company would face the same challenges in managing contracts; that a tribally owned construction firm and a Montessori school would face the same challenges in hiring and capacity-building, we would have dismissed those ideas as not understanding us or our businesses. We were wrong.
In fact, the most surprising thing we learned – OK, aside from calculating an inventory turn and how much you have to increase sales volume to overcome a price discount, thanks, Mary – was how much we learned from each other. Every class, we learned more about our own businesses, and in the process, about each other’s. We learned about the intricacies of staffing a commercial kitchen and scoping out the best corners of the city for food truck business, of competing with union HVAC shops on bids, about expanding IT services into new geographies and massive, stress-inducing deadlines in the 401K administration business. We learned about each other. We learned what scares us, what excites us and what still, sometimes, dumbfounds us about our own success.
And I’ll say this because it is my biggest takeaway from these productive and enlightening seven months: how important it is to say you don’t know something. Because if you don’t know, you have at least defined what it is you or your staff needs to understand better. If you don’t know why sales are in a landslide, (or taking off like hotcakes), or why you can’t hire a good designer, or why your accountant just won’t give you what you need them to, you need to find out. There’s no one but you to figure it out. The success of our businesses and our future as job creators and entrepreneurs relies on our admitting what we don’t know in addition to our saying with confidence what we do.
What do we know, exactly, after this semester together? We know that hiring is part art and lots of science. We learned that describing your business to investors, clients, and even competitors is a challenge worth meeting in both elevator pitch and business plan form. We learned that Mary expects you to have done your homework. We learned that doing your homework is part of your job as an entrepreneur, and key to your success as a business owner.
We learned a great deal, and we are grateful both for the opportunity to have done so and for the opportunity to celebrate together. Thank you.”
Each and every one of these amazing entrepreneurs is an inspiration to all of us.
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. “ ~Henry Ford