As small business owner and entrepreneur, I have to admit I was skeptical of the idea of “learning” how to run my business in a classroom. Sticking 30 small business owners suffering from entrepreneurial ADHD in a room for eight hours seemed to me like a potential recipe for disaster. However, the Goldman Sachs 10K program and Babson’s approach of using instruction, case studies and collaborative learning was highly effective.
My peers in the class, the excellent faculty facilitation and the tools and expert advice provided by the program gave me a fresh perspective and renewed confidence as a business owner. Here are the three key takeaways I learned as a scholar in the 10K program.
Know how your business is truly performing
A business owner should identify three to five key performance metrics. I knew I needed to measure performance, but struggled with first, what to measure and second, prioritizing the time to streamline the calculation of what to measure.
One of the key metrics I look at is revenue per hour. As a consulting firm, revenue generated per total hours is a quick way to see how we are performing. We have a target of what that number needs to be. If it is too low, we are not billing enough. If that number is too high, we are not investing enough time in marketing, sales, or product development, which could indicate issues in the future.
As a CEO, my time is valuable. Identifying the three to five metrics that point me to where I need to prioritize my time and having these metrics quickly available is vital.
Run your company like you want to sell it
My 10K class had businesses at different periods of maturity; from initial start-ups to well established, long-running businesses. As part of the initial orientation phase, we were asked to share our exit strategies. Nearly all of the scholars wanted to sell at some point down the road. We learned that running and growing a profitable business that can potentially be sold requires good financial reporting, a strong leadership team and well-defined and repeatable processes.
The program helped us gain valuable insight into how the daily tracking of financial information can directly communicate the financial health of the business. We also learned that delegating responsibilities, while often difficult for entrepreneurs, is vital if you want your business to grow. Having a leadership team that values the same things you value and follows the processes and procedures you have helped define is important. In any sale, the buyer will want to make sure others — aside from you — know how to run the business.
You are not alone
One of the most important lessons I learned from this experience is that I am not alone. Being a business owner can be lonely. As much as you rely on and trust advice and input from your spouse, your leadership team and your advisers, they never fully know all aspects of an issue or decision.
Through the collaborative-focused learning process, we realized that the issues and decisions we face as business owners, although specific to each of us, are actually not unique. During the course of the program, we became intimately knowledgeable of each other’s businesses and our common struggles. This has had the highly valuable benefit of creating an informal group of advisers.
If you are a small business owner, I highly recommend you look into this program. You will meet some great people and learn valuable lessons that will change you and your business for the better.
Michael Moores is the CEO and founder of Envalo Inc. He is an 18-year veteran of the eCommerce industry and his expertise includes eCommerce, WebSphere Commerce, Magento, Strategic and Fiscal Planning, Organization Management, Project Management, Business Analysis and Product Management.