Do you ever wish that you had the time to work ON your business rather than IN your business? Eight local entrepreneurs have been doing just that for the last several months, as the initial cohort in the Alexandria SBDC’s AMPLIFY program. The group met for six 90-minute sessions over a three month period that also involved some significant homework assignments. The “graduation certificates” were handed out last week, and all agreed that the program had been worth the time and effort.
AMPLIFY uses worksheet and other tools from Growth Wheel, a 360 degree strategic way of looking at a business that has been adopted by the Virginia SBDC Network. The Alexandria participants were all small businesses that had been around for a few years and were ready to grow. They started by revisiting their Mission statements and determining if they needed to be tweaked or updated since their business had started. In the second session participants reviewed their current brand and typical customer with thought to how both fit into their future vision for their company. In the third session they looked at the trends in their market and their place in their industry. They discussed different ways of following the trends for their industry and the various resources and tools that are available to assist. In the fourth session they worked on solidifying their ideas for growth and discovered the many different ways that a small business can grow. They brainstormed ideas for growth and considered how each of these ideas would affect the SWOT analysis that they had done for their business. At the fifth session each of the participants presented their plans for how they wanted to grow their business, and received feedback from their peers in the group as well as a few successful entrepreneurs who had been guest speakers at earlier sessions. At the sixth and final session participants worked on a timeline for their growth plan, determining what could be started now, and what steps they still need to take to prepare for future growth.
Participants had several comments at the conclusion of the program. All felt that one of the biggest benefits was in taking the time to actually step away from the daily operation of their business and look at the bigger picture. They expressed interest in the common challenges that they shared, even in very different industries. They enjoyed the Growth Wheel worksheets and tools used in the sessions and are interested in exploring more of them in other aspects of their business.
In all aspects, this first cohort was a success. The Alexandria SBDC credits much of the success to the commitment and dedication of the eight participants who enthusiastically dived in to the exercises and group discussion, cheered each other on, made suggestions and worked together to support all of the businesses in the group, not just their own. Particular thanks go to Amy Shields of Mull Consulting who worked up the structure of the program, chose the worksheets, and was the real catalyst to Alexandria SBDC’s taking on this project. We are glad that she did, and look forward to offering a second cohort in the spring!