If you know me, you know I enjoy talking about things I am passionate about like music, art, vintage finds, kittens and especially … business!
Over six months ago I received a call out of the blue asking me if I would be interested in being part of a business program called 10,000 Small Businesses for CEO’s to help grow business in the USA. I followed through with the somewhat daunting paperwork process (a good prep for the soon to come homework process). The requirements were you had to be the owner of the company, be in business over 2 years, have at least 4 employees, and have to meet their gross revenue, etc. I hit all the right things and then went through the interview process. I made it in, but apparently there were over 100 people who applied and only 22 were chosen, so my fellow classmates and I felt pretty good about being selected. The course was funded by Goldman and Sachs and is hosted at many community college campuses throughout the US.
It was an intensive 4-month course that was that has been equated to an MBA on fast track (however, I don’t get to use those 3 letters next to my name). The main goal of the sponsors is to grow business in the USA and to add jobs to our economy. To do this they needed to make sure we as business owners had all of our business best practices in order – from our employees, to our financials, to our company processes, to marketing, to being bankable and to having an exit strategy even if you have no current plans of exiting. They are all of the things business owners should already know, but we all know we don’t excel at everything. We talked a lot about the difference of working “on” your business vs. working “in” your business. We all get caught up in the day to day of working, but it’s so important to step back and look at how you are doing things and to critique yourself and be open to change. You really have to ask yourself where you want to be and how you will get there. If you are focused on only what is in front of you in the day to day, you can’t see the bigger picture for growth.
I’m a big fan of education and feel one should always be learning. My focus in college was photography, jewelry and art history. A couple years after starting Classic Hardware I took a business course somewhat similar to the 10,000 small business course, but it was focused on start up companies. That was in 1997 and it really helped me learn a lot about running a small business. The group is called Women’s Initiative in San Francisco and they are fantastic! In fact they just celebrated their 25-year anniversary and I was one of the honorees of the evening! It was a big fundraiser up in San Francisco and a wonderful event honoring many women and their small businesses. 25 of us were all ambassadors for the evening … or as I enjoyed saying … “badassador!” Here is a video they asked me to do for their social media.
So now that I finished with my recent business program, I have a growth plan I am putting into play and that includes adding more t-shirts as well as small bags to the Classic Hardware brand. I will also be bringing in new artists to the mix. I’m very excited to continue growing and expanding my line and my designs and still having all of our products made in the USA!
As a last note, I also just finished reading a very inspiring book on customer service and company couture. It’s called “Delivering Happiness – a path to Profits, Purpose and Passion” by Tony Hseih who was the CEO of Zappos that sold it to Amazon for over a billion dollars. For those of us with small businesses, we know how important customer service is. In fact, for those of us who ever deal with customer service people in our lives (all of us), we know how important great customer service makes us feel. It feels good to make people happy and feeling satisfied and taken care of. We can all use a bit more of it in our lives!