Last October, I received an invitation to apply for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program. They describe the program as “an investment to help entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing greater access to education, capital and business support services.”
Having no prior exposure to the program, I reviewed the curriculum and was initially unsure if I’d find value in the coursework. I felt many of the topics they covered were under control within our company and I was concerned that the content presented might be a bit more basic than I’d find useful.
After some thought, I decided to take a leap and apply with the hopes that even if the content covered things we were already accomplishing as an organization, I might gain some knowledge over the course of the entire program.
As it turns out, the program was one of the greatest learning experiences I’ve had as a business owner.
"As it turns out, the program was one of the greatest learning experiences I’ve had as a business owner."
At the end of January, my fellow classmates of Cohort 14 and I began a 14 week journey through 11 full-day modules and 5 evening workshops. Very early in the orientation module, the faculty shared that the design of the program was to facilitate peer learning and that often students discover the greatest value in what they learn from their classmates.
I found the program to be designed to establish the environment in which this peer learning can flourish, with activities during the orientation module specifically designed to break down barriers, establish relationships, and to provide bonding experiences. It was in the context of this peer learning over the course of the program that I found incredible value and insight.
The final project of the program is a growth plan, with the entire curriculum designed to build the knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to execute the growth plan, section by section. As my assigned business advisor Steve shared with me, the core intended takeaway from the program is not the growth plan developed over the course of the 14 weeks, but the knowledge and process learned which can be applied to each new growth opportunity as they are identified.
Over the course of the program I was able to enhance and deepen my knowledge across a myriad of topics that I had always felt I had a good understanding of before. I also gained a deep perspective on the many areas of the business which require additional focus to support company growth - either in our core business, or through the implementation of our growth plan.
It became evident that many processes I believed to be in place weren’t actually processes, but checklists to remind me of how I “normally” did things. I also identified a number of other areas in which I had no process at all, simply addressing each instance as needed. Neither of these solutions were consistently repeatable, nor able to be delegated.
The ability to take part in this program gave me invaluable knowledge that can be used toward the betterment of our company structure and processes. This will, in turn, make us a better company, capable of doing more good for our customers and their businesses. In a sense, the program is a practice in the concept of “pay it forward,” and I’m looking very much forward to the road ahead and the good that can be done as the result of my decision to take the leap.