Raising Businesses in the Village

Marla Michel, director of The Business Growth Center, on mentoring and growing businesses

You’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, the same can be said about raising a business.

Business owners don’t know everything, but society seems to expect they should. Instead, they need society, this “village” – their families, friends, community members and even strangers – to help them succeed.

People start a business because they excel at something or have a passion for a product or service, and they dream of being their own boss. Then, they learn quickly that they need more than passion and energy. They need to know record keeping, insurance management, inventory oversight, marketing and, maybe one of the hardest areas to master, human resources rules and regulations.

Western Mass business owners need to be leaders, managers, salespeople and the overseers of countless details. Fortunately, The Business Growth Center offers them many resources so they can learn the skills that will truly allow them to grow their businesses.

One such resource we provide is mentoring services.

Mentoring has been at the core of the offerings of The Business Growth Center since the creation of its Springfield Business Incubator in 1999. Although the program is now known as the Growth Advisory Program, its essence is the same.

I meet with business owners one-on-one, review their business models, and talk with them about their challenges and goals. I then assemble a team of three to five advisors to meet every six to eight weeks with them to review financials, status and what keeps them up at night. Notes are taken to ensure continuity from one meeting to the next. We do this for a minimum of a year, but it can be longer, depending upon where the company is at and how rapidly its goals are being met.

Mentoring, Business-Growth-Center-style, is different than that of the current accelerators and is based on best practices from the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA).  Unlike accelerators, we don’t require that businesses relocate to our space or limit how long a company can work with us to just a few months.  While that model may work best for businesses that are still pre-revenue, we’ve actually found that our sustained mentoring works best for established businesses; existing business owners often have to learn to take time to work on their businesses and can’t pick up and move their team to new office space for the accelerator experience.

At The Business Growth Center, we are part of the village. Our roster of mentors and proven service providers helps raise regional businesses. It’s rewarding for everyone involved, but most importantly for the business owners.

For more information about our Growth Advisory Program, visit www.businessgrowthcenter.org. And, for qualified companies, we have grant funds available to supplement their membership in this program for up to 18 months courtesy of the U.S. EDA.

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