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Network, connection important for owners

June 15, 2014

We witnessed the power of networking and connections recently among existing business owners, especially those having a track record of solid sales and a commitment to grow. Some call this type of business a Stage 2 business. Stage 2 growth businesses have different needs than a Stage 1 startup business. One of those needs is to connect more with other business owners, the need to network and develop partnerships.

We ran a 10-week course at the Business Resource Center (BRC) for 10 local Stage 2 businesses who wished to explore ways to grow. The course, FastTrac Growth Venture, included a textbook that covered the major areas of knowledge businesses in this stage need to know to be successful.

Each week covered a different topic with a local guest entrepreneur providing insights. The course facilitator encouraged business owners in the class to share their experiences on the topic, how they overcame obstacles and the challenges they still face.

What surprised us was the open interaction between the noncompeting business owners on ways they solved their challenges and the suggestions they had for those still struggling. The interaction and connectedness among the business owners in the course lasted throughout the 10 weeks. It even continued after the course was over, as classmates decided to continue meeting to network, share ideas and discuss challenges they face as business owners. In all cases, they said the most value they received from the course was the connectedness and networking among each other and the business owners who acted as guest speakers.

This experience has reinforced our thoughts that existing businesses who wish to grow, those in Stage 2, want a group of mentors and advisers to connect with to think in different ways and to learn and apply creative solutions to their business challenges. To use a popular phrase in the small-business world, they need to work more “on” their business instead of just working “in” their business as they did in the Stage 1 startup phase.

To increase connections and networking among other local existing business owners, the ASU Small Business Development Center and the area FastTrac affiliate, the West Texas Innovation Network, will seek to start a local Mentor Forum, with the goal of getting existing business owners together to discuss challenges and opportunities. From this we hope to increase the connectedness and networking among business owners in a comfortable environment, as the forum will be open only to existing business owners.

The next FastTrac Growth Venture 10-week course will begin Sept. 18. Video testimonials from business owners who were part of the recent class can be viewed on Business owners who wish to be part of this experience can email me for more information.