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SBA training gives boost to Boston business owners

Martin Desmarais | 2/12/2014, 10:14 a.m.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is stepping up its efforts to connect with budding local Boston small business owners to ...
U.S. Small Business Administration New England Regional Administrator Seth Goodall talks to participants in last year’vs Emerging Leaders training program. The program is intended to help Boston small business owners expand their businesses with seven months of classes and workshops. SBA

The U.S. Small Business Administration is stepping up its efforts to connect with budding local Boston small business owners to help them get their young companies rolling.

The Boston office is now enrolling entrepreneurs for its local version of the national 2014 Emerging Leaders training program. The seven-month program includes about 100 hours of classroom time, workshops and connects small business owners with mentors, as well as helping them develop connections with other businesses, city leaders and possible investors in Boston.

“The program is intended to try and be a job creation program for Boston businesses and Boston inner-city business,” said Bob Nelson, director of the Boston office of the SBA. “At the end of the class, the small business has a three-year growth and action plan. It is a road map this business can use to try and grow.”

Nelson said the program is run with a small group of entrepreneurs to ensure they all get a hands-on, focused experience. This year the Boston office is looking to enroll 15 small business owners.

According to Nelson, the ideal business is one that has been running for several years, has employees and has several hundred thousand dollars in revenues. Most important, Nelson said, are entrepreneurs who are “really passionate about trying to grow their business.”

The program meets for class at night, for about three hours, every other week through the seven-months of the program. Topics that are examined include finances, marketing, government contracting, hiring and human resources — and many of these topics are examined with guest experts visiting the class to share their experiences.

Also included are workshops with established and successful executives from other Boston businesses.

“They really get to build a relationship with other CEOs,” said Nelson. “They get to meet a lot of people who get to help them in all the different facets of their business.”

Another important aspect of the class, Nelson said, is that it shows business owners the importance of stepping back from the day-to-day running of their businesses to examine the big picture of what can really help their businesses be successful in the long run. He explained that many small business owners — swamped with long hours and effort to keep their young business going — overlook the necessity of continuing to evolve as business leaders, expanding the knowledge that is necessary to truly make a successful company.

He claims that the program teachers, visiting experts and mentor CEOs can make it easy for the participants to consider business strategies that they may have previously shied away from because they were not familiar with.

The program is designed to lead the small businesses forward in exactly this way.

“We really get to know these 15 businesses really well so we can really hold their hands in a lot of ways,” Nelson said.

Nelson pointed out that the makeup of the class has always had a wide variety of types of businesses, including restaurants, beverage wholesalers, construction companies and product suppliers.