In the 4th quarter of 2014 I had the pleasure of going through the Goldman Sachs 10KSB program. I was in Cohort 9 of the program at Delgado in New Orleans. I didn’t really know what to expect going into it but was pleasantly surprised with the knowledge shared and the attention from my business advisor.
Below are a few things that were takeaways for me from the program:
Business is Business
Before going through 10KSB I often wondered how they were going to teach me how to better run my business while at the same time teaching the other 31 people in the room how to run their business, when our businesses were not even close to being related to each other. Surely a marketing company and a kitchen remodeling company have needs so different that you would need completely different curriculum, right?
It was very eye opening for me to realize that while our businesses are very different, the concepts of monitoring key performance indicators, hiring, measuring profitability, maintaining ethical business practices, and most other aspects of the “business end” of things don’t change much from business to business. It became ver apparent when we would get together with other businesses and start troubleshooting issues, just how similar we are.
Small Changes can Produce Big results
As we worked together to make our businesses better, a common theme was that making small changes can produce big results. I thought that we were all going to come into 10KSB and have these huge aha moments where we made major changes in our businesses that would in turn make major changes to our bottom lines. In fact, a few of us did decide on some pretty major changes, but the majority decided on small changes. For me, changing the prices of some of our services made a big change in profitability. For another, adding a CRM in place of post-it notes has completely changed the way she does business. One of the businesses, a restaurant, made slight tweaks to their menu that made their kitchen much more efficient.
Sure, there was the guy who opened another location of his business, the guy who completely uprooted his business, moved it to another town, and actually downsized to increase profitability, and me who decide to open another business altogether. But it doesn’t always need to be a drastic change to have an impact.
You Have to Get Out of the Business to Grow the Business
One of the most valuable things that 10KSB did for us was to force us to leave our businesses and come sit in that classroom each day. Before 10KSB I would so often come into work with a plan of everything I was going to get done that day only to have my plans derailed by emails, phone calls, fires I needed to put out, and generally other people whose problems and needs trumped my own (or so they thought). It was so bad that I (and most of my other classmates) had no idea how we were going to make the time to attend class. Then when we got there and learned that our phones needed to be off, oh my!
But an interesting thing happened: Nothing.
Not once during the program did I miss a call or an email that caused anyone any problems. Not once did any of my clients get upset because I did’t call them back until the next day. Not once did my employees have an emergency because I wasn’t there…… in fact, they almost always figured out how to do whatever they needed me to do on their own!
Then another interesting thing happened:
I was able to clearly see growth opportunities in the business because I wasn’t running around with my hair on fire trying to fix everyone else’s problems. I was able to look at financials that I had never looked at before because I just didn’t have the time. I found an area of my business where we were losing money and was able to adjust prices accordingly. I came up with an idea for a new business model that we are actively working on right now.
In closing, my time in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program was time well spent. I met some great people, learned some things that have changed my business for the better, and have developed a growth plan that is going to change our financial future. If you have the opportunity to go through the program, don’t miss it!