As I’ve posted previously, I had the honor of being selected to participate in a “continuing education” program recently. The program was the Small Business Executive Program, sponsored by the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship of the Florida State University College of Business. The program was 9 full program days over 3 months and it covered a wide variety of business topics. The class consisted of about 20 business owners from a wide variety of business types; mine included an insurance broker, a pest control service owner, a dentist, a contractor, a plant nursery owner, an auto body shop owner, and more. There were, on the surface, few similarities in most of the business types. By design, or by accident, the group was diverse in terms of gender, race, age, and, as noted, business type. Nonetheless, one “big picture” item that stood out from the beginning is that there were several things everyone shared in common and perhaps, things all business owners have in common. Among these are a desire to succeed in the chosen business, to provide excellent service, and to satisfy the needs of the clients and customers. But, in doing so, it was obvious that many of us face similar challenges. Whether selling office furniture, software, or, in my case, trial consulting services, we face marketing challenges, and “operational” challenges such as human resources and legal/structural issues. It is on these common bases that a program like this can exist, but what emerges from discussions on these points is that one can change the product or service, but many other business variables remain the same. From an owner’s perspective, it often feels like we operate on an island, all alone, to deal with these challenges. For the entire time we’ve operated Magnus, I have maintained a network with a few small business owners with whom I could share some of our successes and tribulations – and that has always helped. But, this program, among other things for me, reinforced the need to do so. When you are the boss, you need to be able to share with other bosses to be able to put things in perspective. Further, programs like this (and other similar programs exist for those who are interested) teach those who never had the opportunity to learn about the business of business and remind those of us fortunate enough to have a business background and education what it takes to continue to succeed in an ever changing world. Business ownership and operation are difficult, and one factor that makes it particularly challenging for small businesses is that so many responsibilities fall on the owners entirely, or largely, because we are small. Knowing that you are not alone and can call on other resources can be very helpful – it is better than thinking you have to go it alone!
In David’s role as the business person in our company, he attends numerous networking functions, meetings with prospective clients, and programs such as the recent Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship. David has learned many things about operating our business, Magnus, from the people with whom he has interacted while attending these meetings. I am unsure whether any of them have “paid off,” in terms of contributing to our revenue, however, the value they have brought to David is immeasurable. Although I do not attend any of these types of functions, David shares his knowledge with me and together, we implement some of what he has learned in our business. On the rare occasions when I spend time with other small business owners, I am pleased to find out that many of my frustrations as a business owner are shared by people in other types of businesses. David and I have the pleasure of being friends for over 20 years with our former office neighbors, who, until they retired, owned a high end spa consulting business that is nothing like our trial consulting business. Despite the many differences in the services our two companies provide, our businesses have much in common: (1) we, as the owners, are committed to excellence in all we do on behalf of our clients; (2) there is a wide range of employees who have worked for our businesses, from excellent to terrible, with most falling somewhere in between; (3) there are some clients not worth keeping; (4) despite our best efforts, something usually goes wrong and it is up to us to correct whatever happened, as quickly and unobtrusively as possible; and (5) despite all of our frustrations, such as fluctuating cash flow, it is far better to be the boss than to not be the boss. I am very glad David is such a great business person; his diligence and hard work allow me to do what I do on behalf of our clients.