Tag Archives: Small Business Leadership Academy

Small Business Leadership Academy: Lauri Leadley

ASU and SRP Help Small Businesses

Small businesses play a key role in our economy, creating jobs and helping our community. The W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is offering a program to help small business owners and executives learn how to improve efficiency, streamline operations and raise profits. The seventh annual Small Business Leadership Academy is available to the leaders of small and diverse local businesses.

“Small businesses play a crucial role in our economy, and the W. P. Carey School of Business is very interested in helping local business owners to succeed through added education in subjects like strategy, branding and teamwork,” said Dean Amy Hillman of the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “We designed the Small Business Leadership Academy to fit into the busy schedules of executives from growing businesses.”

Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding co-sponsor, is offering a number of scholarships to its current suppliers and small business customers.

“The partnership we have with ASU, coupled with the sponsorship and scholarships we offer to the academy, is a natural fit for SRP in supporting economic development within our own community,” said Carrie Young, senior director of SRP Corporate Operations Services.

The eight-week academy and its graduation will run on Wednesday nights from Sept. 3 to Oct. 29. The curriculum will cover business strategy, branding, competing through services, negotiations, management and teamwork, among other areas. Program applications are due July 18.

Participants must:

> Have been in business for at least three years,
> Have annual revenues between $1 million and $10 million,
> Have fewer than 100 employees,
> Be the owner or principal of the business.

Applicants must be able to attend all scheduled classes and related activities. Those who complete the program will receive Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from Arizona State University. These units are widely used as a measure of participation in non-credit, professional development courses.

For more information about sponsoring a scholarship or applying to the program offered through the nationally ranked W. P. Carey School of Business, call (480) 965-7579, e-mail or visit http://wpcarey.asu.edu/executive-education/small-business-academy. Current SRP suppliers can also contact SRP’s Supplier Diversity Department for information about this year’s nominating process at SupplierDiversity@srpnet.com.

Small Business Leadership Academy

Small Business Leadership Academy: Blueprinting

In the final session of the 2012 Small Business Leadership Academy, attendees took an in-depth look at brainstorming. For a company with a limited number of employees, it’s more important than ever to get the best from each of them. Many small business owners see that they have high-potential individuals who can become leaders, but they don’t bring their ideas out.

“What the cybernetic effect of communication tells us is that if people commit to an idea too soon, they’ll be stuck on that idea,” said Ruth Barratt, clinical assistant professor of management at the W. P. Carey School of Business. It’s important when you’re facing the prospect of asking your employees how you can innovate, that it be presented in an open way. They should take time to think by themselves in a quiet space. Then once the group re-convenes, write all the ideas down on a board, as quickly as possible.

Then work through the ideas. Don’t allow the extroverts in the group, or the negative people in the group, to interfere with the idea creation process. So while you’re putting all the ideas on paper, there should be no criticism of ideas. This allows for ideas that might seem silly or ill-conceived at first glance to get their proper consideration. It also gives those people who worry about offering the “perfect” idea a safe space to be more open and creative.

Changing the way you share ideas can have a large impact on your business as your high-potential employees feel increasingly comfortable with these aspects of idea-generation and leadership.


Listen to the Podcast


The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U.S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

deal

ASU program helps leaders of small businesses

The fifth annual Small Business Leadership Academy at the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU helps small business owners and executives learn how to improve efficiency, streamline operations and raise profits.

“Classes are held just one night per week, so they fit right into busy executives’ schedules,” said Dawn Feldman, executive director of the W. P. Carey School of Business Center for Executive and Professional Development, which hosts the program. “Participants not only take away great business knowledge, but also a new support network of peers that will exist long after the program is over.”

Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding co-sponsor, offers a number of scholarships to its current suppliers and small business customers.

“The academy offers an outstanding opportunity for small business owners to gain knowledge from highly acclaimed professors and establish lasting relationships with other community small business owners,” said Carrie Young, senior director, corporate operations services for SRP. “The partnership we have with ASU, coupled with the sponsorship and scholarships we offer to the academy, is a natural fit for SRP in supporting economic development within our own community.”

As part of a larger partnership with ASU focused on small business support, JPMorgan Chase is also a top sponsor, providing 15 scholarships to the academy.

“As Arizona’s number one SBA lender, we know how important small businesses are to our economy,” said Joe Stewart, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase in Arizona.

Participants must come from companies that have been in business for at least three years; have annual revenues between $1 million and $10 million; and have fewer than 100 employees.

For more information, call (480) 965-7579, e-mail wpcarey.execed@asu.edu or visit wpcarey.asu.edu/sbla.

Small Business Leadership Academy

Small Business Leadership Academy: The Importance Of Team Dynamics

One rarely-recognized aspect of a small business that has a huge impact on the success of that business is team building. Knowing more about how teams function and what can be done to strengthen the team was the topic in this week’s Small Business Leadership Academy, led by Ruth Barratt, clinical assistant professor of management at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“One of the elements of building a high-performance team is spending the time outside of work on another project or social activity,” comments Barratt. While budgets have been cut for many company-funded outside activities, there are ways to get creative and still accomplish this important task. One of this year’s attendees spoke about how her and her co-workers volunteer at a food bank. “It didn’t really cost the company any money, but the employees are already very excited to do it again,” Barratt says.

Any team, regardless of its size, goes through the same five stages: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. With each stage, there are certain emotions that team members will feel while they “find their place.”

  • Forming: Excitement, anticipation, anxiety, optimism
  • Storming: Reality sets in, frustration, dissatisfaction, adjustment anxiety
  • Norming: Shared goals, team cohesion, coping, acceptance
  • Performing: Teamwork, cohesiveness, leadership, performance
  • Adjourning: Separation anxiety, crisis, dissatisfaction, negativity

“Once you reach the performing stage, there is still a requirement to keep nurturing the idea of goals and keep everyone on the same path,” Barratt says. “When something goes well, celebrate that fact. When something goes wrong, have confidence in the team to sit down and follow up on it.”

Nurturing the team as a whole will result in a more productive and ultimately more successful team. Next week, attendees will discuss brainstorming and how to help employees to reach their full potential.


Listen to the Podcast:
The Importance of Team Dynamics


The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U.S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

 

Small Business Leadership Academy

Small Business Leadership Academy: The Harvard Negotiation Project

The Harvard Negotiation Project has developed an effective and widely-used negotiating method that changes the game and often yields better results than old-style hard ball. Instead of focusing on winning the day for your position, the Harvard method enables you to operate on a deeper level where your true interests — and the interests of your customer/supplier — reside.

Alan Goldman, a management professor of practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business, is teaching the Harvard method in the negotiations class at the 2012 Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA). SBLA is presented by W. P. Carey School’s Center for Executive and Professional Development. Goldman is a disciple of the Harvard Negotiation Project and has taught university classes and coached corporate leaders on the method for years. This week, the small business owners in the SBLA class practiced some of what they have learned by role playing actual negotiating scenarios.

The exercise gave students an opportunity to try out one of the key components of the Harvard method: discovering options. This is the opposite of driving toward a position — the hallmark of old-school negotiating.

“Look at the bits and pieces; ask ‘what if this’ and ‘what if that,’ ” Goldman said. “This can be scary because it feels like you could lose control.” But at the end, exploring options can uncover a solution or deal that addresses the real, underlying interests of both sides.

The main principles of the Harvard Negotiation Project* include the following:

  • Separate the people from the problem (go easy on the people, hard on the facts)
  • Focus on interests, not positions
  • Invent multiple options looking for mutual gains before deciding what to do
  • Insist that the result be based on some objective standard

The next class in the Small Business Leadership Academy is “Building High Performance Teams,” taught by Ruth Barratt, clinical assistant professor of management at the W. P. Carey School.

*From “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In,” Penguin Books

The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U.S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

Small Business Leadership Academy

Small Business Leadership Academy: Understanding Strategic Procurement Practices

Strategic Procurement is a comprehensive, systematic business process to assure that an organization acquires the correct goods and services at the lowest total cost over the long-term of the business operation.

Small- and medium-sized companies can benefit from understanding how large companies approach their suppliers. Those smaller companies need to understand and be able to succinctly describe their value proposition in order to keep the business they have and win new business. In light of the continual push for the large company to lower their own costs, smaller companies may need to get creative to find ways to stay competitive.

“Today, the creation of value often requires careful coordination of activities across the boundaries between functions, business units and firms,” says Joseph Carter, the Avnet Professor of Supply Chain Management at the W. P. Carey School of Business, and leader of the Strategic Procurement section of the 2012 Small Business Leadership Academy.

Suppliers can get stuck concentrating on the day-to-day operations of their companies, ignoring or avoiding the important work of optimizing their existing relationships. It’s while nurturing those relationships that suppliers can discover ways to increase their value to the customer.

This means that just having the lowest price doesn’t always guarantee a contract. A lower price combined with a longer repayment period, plus a quicker fulfillment schedule, could push one company ahead of another. Determining what their value proposition is can be one of the most challenging parts of an RFP process for a small business owner.

Conversely, the large company has decisions to make as well. How many suppliers should they have for any one part? “Rationalize, rationalize, rationalize,” says Carter. “Rationalization doesn’t necessarily mean ‘fewer’; it just means being able to explain why you have the number of suppliers that you have, whether that ends up being more or less than what you have now.”

The supplier/client relationship is ever-evolving. Both parties are looking to lower costs and maximize profits while maintaining a strong and synergistic business relationship.


Listen to the podcast.


The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U.S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

Small Business Leadership Academy

Small Business Leadership Academy: Handling Dissatisfied Customers

If you are in business, you’ve had unhappy customers. No matter how excellent your services or products, at some point someone will have issues. Customers often experience buyer’s remorse — it’s a simple fact. And because nothing is perfect, even the best businesses make mistakes. So, how can business owners handle the inevitable?

Douglas Olsen, associate professor of marketing, says businesses often “abandon the customer after the sale” — that is, they don’t follow up. And because only four percent of dissatisfied customers speak up, chances are there are folks out there who interacted with your company and don’t feel warm and fuzzy about it.

Olsen, who is teaching the marketing class in the W. P. Carey School’s Small Business Leadership Academy, says there are practical steps that any company can take to respond to customers who are unhappy with their experiences. Research — much of it pioneered at the Center for Services Leadership at W. P. Carey — shows that dissatisfied customers can be turned into loyalists if the service breakdown is addressed wisely.

For starters, Olsen recommends developing a system for keeping in touch with customers. This can be as simple as a phone call or email. Second, make sure customers you’re your policy on dispute resolution, and where and how to complain.

Here are a few things to remember when the news isn’t good — and handling dissatisfied customers:

  • Other stresses in your customer’s life are probably affecting his feelings about your business.
  • Listen actively: What are their thoughts? What’s their rationale? Focus on solutions.
  • Step outside yourself and don’t make assumptions; try to see the situation through your customer’s eyes. Be empathetic. Show your customer that he/she has your full attention.
  • Restate the problem so that you can be sure you have understood correctly.
  • Make sure your customer knows what the next step is, and when he/she will hear from you again.

Training may be needed to assure that your employees know how to handle an unhappy, sometimes angry, customer. They should have some flexibility to offer resolution, and they should know who is responsible for implementation. Olsen says there is rarely a reason to be defensive — a stance that only aggravates the situation.

A customer who lets you know that something is amiss gives you the opportunity to improve your business — and ultimately increase the number of happy loyal customers.
Looked it that way, Olsen says, a complaint is a gift!


Listen to the podcast: “Why Complaints are Good for Business”


The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U.S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

Small Business Leadership Academy

2012 Small Business Leadership Academy: A Fresh Look At Marketing

Management guru Peter Drucker said, “the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.” Business owners in the 2012 Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) are taking a fresh look at marketing with guidance from Douglas Olsen, associate professor of marketing at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

The basis of marketing, he explained, is the knowledge of what customers want, need and will pay for. But many companies, Olsen added, start with a great idea and then expect the customers to find it. The problem is that many of the entrepreneurs never bothered to think about whether anyone needs their big idea. A product can be the best gizmo ever built, but if it doesn’t fulfill a customer’s desires or needs, it won’t succeed. In other cases, even if the product or service is great, the people so close to the product sometimes tend to talk too much about the features and the technical details — to a point where they do not truly convey to the customer the real benefits or identify needs being served.

Nonetheless, many successful companies have this figured out, Olsen said. Michelin famously used images of babies sitting in the middle of a tire as a way of saying that they were selling you safety for your family — not just a tire. Not a lot of jargon, just one very compelling message.

The Michelin ad demonstrates the effective use of segmentation. Once you understand your customers, Olsen said, you can use segmentation to target your marketing to them. Segmentation is the process of dividing the market into groups. Consumers may be grouped based on geography,  demographics, benefits, behaviors or psychographics.

Psychographics, for example, are personality characteristics. Olsen showed the group three ads for a certain style of watch. One featured a close-up of a physically imposing man. The second showed a man sitting alone, reading. The third was Pierce Bronson, leaning toward the camera in an impeccable jacket and tie. The ads exemplify psychographic marketing. The first ad with the macho figure appeals to a market segment of men who want to be physically strong; the second ad would appeal to the “self actualizer”; Pierce Bronson personifies the sophistication and daring that another group desires.

In next week’s class we’ll dive deeper into the competitive advantage that services may provide and students will share some of the blueprints that they developed to apply to their business.


Listen to the podcast on W.P. Carey’s website.


The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U.S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

Small Business Leadership Academy

Small Business Leadership Academy: Aligning Strategy With Corporate Resources

The 2012 Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) kicks off with two nights devoted to strategy, and more specifically, competitive advantage and how to achieve it. Emphasis is put on the importance of aligning a company’s activities to create an advantage over competitors.

The cornerstone of the strategy course is analysis. Any business owner can use analysis to determine what their organization offers to their industry as well as to their customers. Determining whether a business’s organizational strategy fits its resources is the first step towards maximizing competitive advantage.

“(Business owners) need to be honest with themselves about their organization, its resources, and whether their current strategy is in need of updating,” stresses Professor Trevis Certo. “A common strategic mistake that many small businesses make is not understanding how common their product or service is, and how easy it would be for another company to imitate.”

Many companies suffer from being a “jack of all trades, master of none” by trying to be all things to all customers. Once a strategy is decided on, not all customers should be pursued and current customers might even need to be “fired.”

Spend some time over the next week thinking about your company’s value proposition. Take the time to really analyze whether all aspects of your business are aligned with that value proposition. Are you pursuing the right clients? Are your compensation models aligned with your goals? Are there operations that you have undertaken that take up more resources than they are worth?

Next, make necessary changes. While this exercise may not currently be at the top of your priority list, it can mean the difference between growing your business and closing your business.

Next week, we’ll explore how to take what you see as your company’s competitive advantage and making sure it is not easily imitated by your competitors.

The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U.S. Bank.

Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

Small Business Leadership Academy

Ria Robles: Small Business Leadership Academy Past Participant

Ria Robles discusses how her participation in the Small Business Leadership Academy has benefited her and her business, B2B Delivery, LLC.


Small Business Leadership Academy Past Participant:

Ria Robles, B2B Delivery, LLCRia Robles
B2B Delivery, LLC

Tell us about your business: B2B Delivery specializes in same day, business-to-business deliveries throughout the state of Arizona and Las Vegas, NV. We provide expedited local deliveries, including time critical, hot shots, scheduled route work, mail runs, next-day deliveries, and less than truckload shipments.

Year of participation in SBLA: 2011

What was the most important thing you learned from SBLA? The most important thing I learned is that you should never stop learning!  It was invigorating to get back into the classroom and stimulate my brain again in a way I haven’t done since attending ASU in 1993.

How have you changed the way you do business based on what you learned during SBLA? It was great to learn from all of the other business owners in the class and get their views and opinions on different issues. I am much more open now as a result of the SBLA program and much more likely to seek others opinions and advice before making final decisions.

How has the SBLA alumni community been helpful to you since you went through the program? I still have occasional communication with some of my classmates. We have been able to network and do some business together.

What aspects of SBLA do you consider most valuable for other small business owners in Phoenix? The different topics of each session are truly relevant to us as business owners. The issues discussed are in direct correlation to what we are experiencing in our day-to-day lives running a business. To me, having information that is useful is the most valuable type!

For more information about the program, including admission requirements, please visit SBLA’s website.

Small Business Leadership Academy

Brandon Taylor: Small Business Leadership Academy Past Participant

Brandon Taylor discusses how his participation in the Small Business Leadership Academy has benefited him and his business, CPR Savers & First Aid Supply LLC.


Small Business Leadership Academy Past Participant:

Brandon Taylor, CPR Savers & First Aid Supply LLCBrandon Taylor
CPR Savers & First Aid Supply LLC

Tell us about your business: CPR Savers & First Aid Supply is a distributor/manufacturer of CPR, first aid, AED, survival and medical equipment. We offer nationwide CPR/AED/first-aid training to corporate clients. We provide disaster preparedness supplies to government agencies.

Year of participation in SBLA: 2011

What was the most important thing you learned from SBLA? The need to work on my business to grow it instead of spending all my time on the day-to-day operations just to keep my business going.

How have you changed the way you do business based on what you learned during SBLA? To some degree, yes. It is difficult to allocate the time necessary to work on my business, but I have implemented many of the ideas learned in the SBLA classes.

How has the SBLA alumni community been helpful to you since you went through the program? To some degree, we have been in contact with a few of our peers and have met occasionally. I need to find the time to participate in some of the activities that have been provided by the SBLA.

What aspects of SBLA do you consider most valuable for other small business owners in Phoenix? The information provided is very helpful for business owners to learn how to grow their business to the next level. It will help you generate new ideas and encourage you to learn more about the subjects that interest you most. One surprising benefit of the SBLA entrepreneurship class is to participate with like-minded peers who are in the same position and want to help one another and share their knowledge.

The next Small Business Leadership Academyprogram will begin Wednesday, August 29, 2012.

For more information about the program, including admission requirements, please visit SBLA’s website.

Small Business Leadership Academy

Alex Zuran: Small Business Leadership Academy Past Participant

Alex Zuran discusses how his participation in the Small Business Leadership Academy has benefited him and his business, Phoenix National Laboratories, Inc.


Small Business Leadership Academy Past Participant:

Alex Zuran, Phoenix National Laboratories, Inc.Alex Zuran
Phoenix National Laboratories, Inc.

Tell us about your business: We provide testing and inspection services to the construction, power generation and manufacturing industries.

Year of participation in SBLA: 2011

What was the most important thing you learned from SBLA? What is being taught to MBA students and (representatives of) corporations.

How have you changed the way you do business based on what you learned during SBLA? I have adjusted some of my thinking about how to assemble our team.

How has the SBLA alumni community been helpful to you since you went through the program? It is good to have options for future education.

What aspects of SBLA do you consider most valuable for other small business owners in Phoenix? Overall education about how some of the bigger businesses operate.

​Alex Zuran is the vice president and general manager of Phoenix National Laboratories, Inc.

The next Small Business Leadership Academy program will begin Wednesday, August 29, 2012.

For more information about the program, including admission requirements, please visit SBLA’s website.

Small Business Leadership Academy

Rebecca Koury: Small Business Leadership Academy Past Participant

Rebecca Koury discusses how her participation in the Small Business Leadership Academy has benefited her and her business, Prudential Cleanroom Services.


Small Business Leadership Academy Past Participant:

Rebecca Koury
Prudential Cleanroom Services

Tell us about your business: We are a cleanroom laundry providing uniforms for controlled environments.

Year of participation in SBLA: 2011

What was the most important thing you learned from SBLA? There is so much that I learned. People: How to apply autonomy in relationships and how to empower people. Marketing: How to identify your product to sell. Negotiations: Building good relationships with vendors and how to get the best fair price. Strategy: How to organize your business and processes step-by-step to understand strengths and weaknesses.

How have you changed the way you do business based on what you learned during SBLA? I’m more focused and motivated when I use the tools I learned.

How has the SBLA alumni community been helpful to you since you went through the program? I learned so much in a peer setting. I realized I was not on a island by myself. Although our businesses are different, we face many of the same challenges. We were able to brainstorm together and to help each other with ideas and solutions. Really a compliment to the program.

What aspects of SBLA do you consider most valuable for other small business owners in Phoenix? I like the support the small businesses are being given through this program. It helps small businesses to re-evaluate and look at how to become better at what we do. It allows us the opportunity to grow in the community and to create jobs locally.

The next Small Business Leadership Academy program will begin Wednesday, August 29, 2012.

For more information about the program, including admission requirements, please visit SBLA’s website.

small business training

W. P. Carey School & SRP Host Small Business Leadership Academy

Small businesses play a key role in our economic recovery, creating jobs to help get our community back on track. The W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is offering a program to help small business owners and executives learn how to improve efficiency, streamline operations and raise profits. The fifth annual Small Business Leadership Academy is available to the leaders of small and diverse local businesses.

“We’ve had phenomenal feedback from business owners who attended the academy over the past several years,” said Dawn Feldman, executive director of the W. P. Carey School of Business Center for Executive and Professional Development, which hosts the program. “Classes are held just one night per week, so they fit right into busy executives’ schedules, and they’re taught by top professors from the highly ranked W. P. Carey School. Participants not only take away great business knowledge, but also a new support network of peers that will exist long after the program is over.”

Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding co-sponsor, is offering a number of scholarships to its current suppliers and small business customers.

“The academy offers an outstanding opportunity for small business owners to gain knowledge from highly acclaimed professors and establish lasting relationships with other community small business owners, all in a well-structured academic, but practical environment,” said Carrie Young, senior director, corporate operations services for SRP. “The partnership we have with ASU, coupled with the sponsorship and scholarships we offer to the academy, is a natural fit for SRP in supporting economic development within our own community.”

As part of a larger partnership with ASU focused on small business support, JPMorgan Chase is also joining as a top sponsor, providing 15 scholarships to the academy.

“As Arizona’s number one SBA lender, we know how important small businesses are to our economy,” said Joe Stewart, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase in Arizona. “Entrepreneurs who participate in the Small Business Leadership Academy will get the best of ASU in a format that fits their busy schedules.”

The 10-week academy will run on Wednesday nights from Aug. 29 to Nov. 14. The curriculum will cover business strategy, team-building, negotiations, procurement and competition through service offerings. Program applications are due July 13.

Participants must come from companies that have:

  • Been in business for at least three years,
  • Annual revenues between $1 million and $10 million,
  • Fewer than 100 employees.

Applicants must be able to attend all scheduled classes and related activities. Those who complete the program will receive four Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from Arizona State University. These units are widely used as a measure of participation in non-credit, professional development courses.

Other sponsors of this year’s program include the Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, U.S. Bank and the Hahnco Companies. These firms are also sponsors of the school’s Spirit of Enterprise Awards, which recognize some of the state’s best businesses. The W. P. Carey School’s Spirit of Enterprise Center helps hundreds of small businesses each year.

For more information about sponsoring a scholarship or applying to the small business leadership program offered through the nationally ranked W. P. Carey School of Business, call (480) 965-7579, e-mail wpcarey.execed@asu.edu or visit www.wpcarey.asu.edu/sbla. Current SRP vendors can also contact Art Oros, SRP procurement services manager, for information about this year’s SRP scholarships at (602) 236-8773 or Art.Oros@srpnet.com.

Small Business Leadership Academy

Small Business Leadership Academy: Building High Performance Teams (Part II)

Small Business Leadership Academy: Building High Performance Teams (Part II)

Ria Robles, owner of B2B Delivery LLC, was spending the lion’s share of a couple days a week checking and re-checking the complex bills she sends to customers. She reached a point where she asked herself, “Why am I doing accounting?” So, Robles turned the job over to her accountant, but not until the two worked side-by-side, going through the pricing details and the way she scoured the invoices for mistakes.

The story is an important lesson about delegation, explained W. P. Carey clinical assistant professor Ruth Barratt, who taught two classes on how to build high performance teams in the Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) where Robles is a student.

SBLA, taught by W. P. Carey School of Business faculty, is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona.

If you want to build highly effective teams, you must know how to delegate tasks, according to Barratt.

Here are some concepts and pointers from last night’s class:

  • Think carefully about the task and who might shoulder it. Provide lots of background: paint a picture of a successful outcome if you can. Identify the key points of the project.
  • Encourage employees to give you regular progress reports. These are the junctures where the business owner or manager can provide feedback.
  • Be prepared to accept the fact that someone else probably will not do the job exactly the way you would. If you nitpick your employees will be reluctant to do the task again.

 

Robles followed the steps when she delegated the billing. Last night, she reported that the accountant does an even better job than she did, and it’s clear that the accountant enjoys ferreting out errors and saving the company money.

Alex Zuran, owner of Phoenix National Laboratories, Inc. described himself as “the guy who does it right.” A self-admitted perfectionist, Zuran performed many of the tasks at his company personally in the past; not any longer.

“Instead of being the guy who does it right, I’m the one who makes sure it’s done right,” he said. His employees can’t always perform the work as fast as he does, and that does affect profitability, but Zuran says employees do master the tasks, and “it’s pretty cool when it happens.”

Zuran said that delegating has “totally changed his role” at the firm, freeing him to build the business. Robles, smiling, said, “I got my Tuesdays and Wednesdays back!”

Last night’s class was the final session in the 10-week course of study. Students came to the W. P. Carey School every Wednesday for four hours of instruction. Next week they graduate.

Keep an eye on the Small Business Leadership Academy’s website for information on next year’s program.

[stextbox id=”info”]The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U. S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students. For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.[/stextbox]

 

SBLA: Building High Performance Teams

Small Business Leadership Academy: Building High Performance Teams (Part I)

Last night, students in the Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) formed two teams and competed to see which could navigate a “minefield” best. The exercise was designed to help students experience the dynamics of high performance teams as they move through all the stages of group development.

“Many of these owners are getting ready to launch their businesses into the next stage, and at some point they will need to form and lead teams,” said W. P. Carey clinical assistant professor Ruth Barratt, who is teaching two classes on how to build high performance teams. “Even the solo practitioner needs to understand team dynamics,” she added, “because they will be interacting with customers who work in teams.”

“One of the common mistakes managers make is to give teams too little time to do their work,” Barratt said. Managers must come in on time and under budget, and in a challenging economy, the pressure intensifies. But teams don’t achieve peak performance unless members have a chance to get to know each other – each person’s strengths, weaknesses, style – and the assignment.

Knowing yourself is the first step to understanding others, so before last night’s class the students completed the Myers-Briggs personality inventory. “It’s a valuable tool for understanding what their stressors are and how that affects the way they interact with other people,” Barratt said. Before class she had already heard from a handful of students: “the extraverts,” she laughed.

The class delved into the stages of team development and management, how to build a culture that leads to achievement, and what it takes to lead a team. “Story-telling is an effective way to build culture,” Barratt said, “so for next week’s class the assignment is to get ready to tell your business story.” In preparation, students heard about Miller Brewing Company’s Norman Adami, and how he used culture to turn around a sluggish company. And for an example of a well-told tale, she showed them Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech.

Next week’s class will be the final instructional module of the 2011 SBLA program.

The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U. S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy and building high performance teams and team development, please visit SBLA’s website.

 

Small Business Leadership Academy

Small Business Leadership Academy: Negotiating Skills Build Relationships (Part II)

This week’s Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) negotiating module continued where last week’s left off, with participants using the tenets of the Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP).

HNP combines both theory and practice to develop ideas that are useful and successful in everyday application. These standards of practice involve focusing on interests rather than positions. Using independent standards of fairness, all parties involved can come to mutually beneficial agreements (win-win) rather than cannibalizing the relationship for the sake of more favorable terms for one party (win-lose).

W. P. Carey professor Dr. Alan Goldman guided the Small Business Leadership Academy participants through the use of HNP tenets to establish a framework for a current negotiation within their organizations. One of the small business leaders determined that, despite reservations about a deal she had been offered, she was truly getting a fair deal and should consider accepting it because she had undervalued one particular aspect of the offered deal. For another, the tactic to move forward was to try to rebuild a broken relationship. The main difference between the two negotiations was that for the former person, once she accepts her deal, the relationship would be over; there was no need to protect an on-going relationship. The latter, on the other hand, has a long-term contract with the other entity and needed to protect his interests.

Another exercise the class participated in was a brainstorming session. No suggestions were too far outside the box. More than one participant saw an immediate application for that exercise.

“The brainstorming that we did in today’s session was great,” said Alex Zuran, president and CEO of Phoenix National Laboratories. “The whole process of learning how to brainstorm I can see taking straight into my business.”

A term that came up often in the evening’s discussion was “BATNA” or “best alternative to a negotiated agreement.” When determining whether the deal that is on the table is worth accepting, knowing your fall-back plan enables you to make a more educated decision. Is your BATNA better than the deal that is being negotiated? Then it’s time to walk away.

As one of the HNP videos elaborated: “Preparation, know your walk-away alternative.” Another important step is estimating what the other parties BATNA is. Is it a strong option for them or a weak one? Thinking about these aspects ahead of time prepares you for many of the twists and turns that the negotiation can take.

The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U. S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit the Small Business Leadership Academy’s website.

 

Small Business Leadership Academy

Small Business Leadership Academy: Negotiating Skills Build Relationships (Part I)

Small Business Leadership Academy: Negotiating Skills Build Long-Lasting Relationships (Part I)

With everything that goes on in the day-to-day life of a small business, learning how to better negotiate everything from employee salaries to vendor contracts might not be top-of-mind for the leaders of the organization. “It is tremendously important for small business leaders to learn negotiating skills,” says W. P. Carey Professor, Dr. Alan Goldman.

In this week’s Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) session, participants were exposed to the tenets of the Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP). HNP was created in 1979 and combines both theory and practice to develop ideas that are useful and successful in everyday application. These standards of practice involve focusing on interests rather than positions. Using independent standards of fairness, all parties involved can come to mutually beneficial agreements (win-win) rather than cannibalizing the relationship for the sake of more favorable terms for one party (win-lose).

There are both hard (adversarial) and soft (people-oriented) negotiating skills. Which skill is most effective “depends on the type of business that you’re in and what type of clients you have,” commented Dr. Goldman. “Your negotiating approach has to be customized.”

Participants watched videos of both successful negotiations and those in which one or both parties left the table dissatisfied. Through these examples, it was stressed that determining the interests of each party is of utmost importance. They also should determine whether they are in a position with their clients where they are supposed to know best or where their clients are more involved in the decision-making. That is the difference between a specialist model and more of a partnership. For their application exercise, participants will put themselves in the middle of a negotiation and determine the best course of action.

“This is a way that I can perfect my negotiations skills,” shared Jeff Campbell of Western Truck Equipment Company.  “I never went to college so everything I’ve learned has been from my father and other managers I’ve worked with.  This session is showing me a more astute, a more polished way of negotiating.”

The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U. S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

Small Business Leadership Academy, Brandon Taylor - AZ Business Magazine November-December 2011

Small Business Leadership Academy Helps Boost Knowledge Base For Executives

Small Business Leadership Academy Helps Boost Knowledge Base For Executives

Like most small business owners, Brandon Taylor is always looking for ways to boost business.

“I wanted to learn how to be a better manager and entrepreneur,” says Taylor, president and co-founder of Scottsdale-based Small Business Leadership Academy - AZ Business Magazine November/December 2011. “I eventually want to get an MBA and I thought the Small Business Leadership Academy program was a great step in that direction.”

Jointly developed by the W.P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business insight, skills and knowledge of small business executives. The 10-week program is now in its fourth year.

“The curriculum is based primarily on courses taught in our MBA programs,” says Trevis Certo, an associate professor at Arizona State University who taught an SBLA module called Strategy for Competitive Advantage. “At the same time, we focus our discussions on  concepts and topics that are most relevant to small companies.”

Gaining a better understanding of those concepts that can impact a small business owner’s bottom line is what benefits participants the most.

“The SBLA program touches on strategy, marketing, procurement, negotiation,” Taylor says. “I have learned some important principles like Porter’s Five Forces (a framework for industry analysis and business strategy development formed by Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School), services blueprinting, and procurement techniques that have helped me think about ways to improve our business efficiency and day-to-day operations.”

Certo says increasing a business owner’s knowledge base is particularly important in a turbulent economic environment.

“Business owners are always looking for new ideas, and these searches are amplified during economic downturns,“ Certo says. “Several participants have discussed how competitors have ‘disappeared’ during the downturn. These disappearances provide opportunities for those who remain in the marketplace.”

Taylor is one small business owner who sees education as a way to grow his business and make it stronger

“The more I learn, the better businessman, leader and manager I become,” Taylor says. “Everyone gets caught up in day-to-day operations and your business becomes a job.  Taking the SBLA program has forced me to spend time improving the business operations and growing the company.”

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Learn more about the Small Business Leadership Academy

What it is: Small Business Leadership Academy
Who does it: W.P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor.
What it entails: A mandatory orientation followed by five modules – each consisting of two class periods — taught over a 10-week period. Classes consist of lectures, case discussions, group exercises and simulations, all geared to provide participants with key takeaways to strengthen and grow their businesses.
Requirements: To qualify, you must have a minimum business tenure of three years; have annual revenues between $1 million and $10 million; have fewer than 100 employees; be able and willing to attend all scheduled classes and related activities.
Tuition: $4,000, which includes all instruction, books and materials, parking, and graduation. A limited number of scholarships will be made available.
Web: wpcarey.asu.edu

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Arizona Business Magazine November/December 2011

 

 

Small Business Leadership Academy: Understanding Corporate Procurement Practices (Part II)

Small Business Leadership Academy: Understanding Corp Procurement Practices (Part II)

Small Business Leadership Academy: Understanding Corporate Procurement Practices (Part II)

One company’s purchasing is another company’s marketing.

If small and mid-sized businesses can keep that in mind, they will have discovered one of the secrets of success for a supplier, according to Joseph Carter, the Avnet Professor of Supply Chain Management at the W. P. Carey School of Business and instructor for the procurement classes in the 2011 Small Business Leadership Academy. Carter, a leading academic in the supply chain field, is also a Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) and Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM), designations granted by the National Association of Purchasing Management.

“The eye-opener for these business owners is self-awareness,” Carter said. “They are beginning to understand the role they play in their customers’ supply base.”

And that’s when procurement meets marketing.

“The owners of small businesses are so wrapped up in surviving that they don’t have the time – or the personnel – to specialize,” Carter said. “As a result many feel that their companies are under-appreciated by their customers.”

A company like SRP wants value from all of its customers, but a purchasing manager may be managing hundreds of suppliers. “A company, because it’s a large company, is not going to understand the supplier’s business and the supplier’s potential for adding value as well as the supplier does,” Carter said. Understanding the buying process and how the purchasing groups at large companies think enables suppliers to figure out what and when to communicate.

Suppliers must show how they add value to their customers’ enterprises. Sometimes that means understanding who the customer is. “The procurement officer is not your final customer,” Carter says. “Your customer is the user.” So small business owners cannot just try to compete on price. When dealing with procurement officers, they must elaborate on the total value that their company brings to the table, including “what’s in it for the procurement officer.” Elaborating on why working with their company will be worth the additional work of changing vendors, adding a new vendor, and the inherent risk of working with a new vendor, will enable that procurement officer to make that difficult choice with confidence.

The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U. S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

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For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

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Small Business Leadership Academy

Small Business Leadership Academy: Understanding Corp Procurement Practices (Part I)

Small Business Leadership Academy: Understanding Corporate Procurement Practices (Part I)

If you are the owner of a small or medium-size business interacting with a big corporation, you need to know how that company thinks about procurement. That’s what students in the 2011 Small Business Leadership Academy are learning from Joseph Carter, the Avnet Professor of Supply Chain Management at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Typically, suppliers concentrate on the internal operations of their companies, Carter says, but if that’s their predominant focus, they will miss out on the advantages of optimizing their relationships with the companies that are their customers. Jeffrey Campbell of Western Truck Equipment Company, Inc. had the right idea when he asked, “What can I learn to better service the companies that we work with?”

“Today, the creation of value often requires careful coordination of activities across the boundaries between functions, business units and firms,” Carter explains. “In short, organizations that learn how to leverage procurement collaboration can obtain speed, innovation, dependability, flexibility, cost and/or quality benefits that go far beyond those potentially realized from solely optimizing a single firm’s internal operations.”

Carter is one of the top scholars worldwide in the field of supply management. He has published 60 articles about sourcing and supply management issues, and he has shared his expertise with firms all over the world.

Students are learning to understand strategic sourcing and their role as suppliers. To begin, they need to understand the importance of developing a collaborative relationship with a customer and how to manage it efficiently. Carter is taking the students “inside” their client companies by explaining the various roles and functions of a procurement department.

“Business owners need to understand the primary importance of sourcing when developing their strategy,” Carter says. “We’ll be talking about what they need to know in order to drive success for the buyer’s company as well as their own.”

Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

[stextbox id=”grey”]The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U. S. Bank. [/stextbox]

Small Business Leadership Academy, W.P. Carey School of Business, ASU

Small Business Leadership Academy: Competing Through Services (Part II)

Small Business Leadership Academy: Competing Through Services (Part II)

Last week, Small Business Leadership Academy students learned how to blueprint processes within their organization that affect customer satisfaction. Their application assignment was to pick an aspect of their organization to blueprint. By detailing the process, including both what happens behind the scenes and in plain sight of the customers, students were able to identify areas that are ripe for innovation and improvement.

Several students identified the phenomenon about how readily positive information gets passed up through the organization, while it is harder to get honest information about what is going wrong. Blueprinting your service can find pain points where the customer is not receiving optimal service or when the backroom systems aren’t running optimally.

“By going through this process, we were able to identify double handling inefficiencies,” says Rebecca Koury from Prudential Cleanroom Services. “Now I have a blueprint that I can use to write thorough work instructions. I think that will definitely benefit the customer, us, and our employees. Employees will be able to provide better service to the customer because they’ll now know where our inefficiencies are, and we can do a better job of keeping the customer happy.”

One of the factors mentioned in multiple students’ presentations was how a customer’s expectations of the service can have an influence on how they view the service. If front-line employees don’t communicate with their managers about the quality of their interactions with customers, or if there are too many layers between front-line employees and those managers that can affect change, then there will continue to be a gap between the customer’s expectations of the service and their actual experience with it.

“Another factor that can affect a customer’s perception of a service is how the front-line employee is evaluated,” says Professor Doug Olsen. If a customer wants fast service, but the employee is rated on whether they get the proper approvals, there will be a disconnect. If a customer wants resolution for their problem, but the employee is rated on how quickly they get the customer off the phone, there will be a disconnect. The desires of the customer need to be aligned with the evaluation system for the front-line employee to maximize service satisfaction.

By making those sometimes incremental improvements to their service offerings, small business owners can ensure that a customer will not walk away due to disappointment with a customer service interaction with their organization.

The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U. S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit the Small Business Leadership Academy’s website.

 

SBLA: Building High Performance Teams

Small Business Leadership Academy: Competing Through Services (Part I)

The second module in the 2011 Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) includes an examination of factors necessary for innovation and competitive success. One of the key mechanisms for companies to distinguish themselves in the marketplace, retain loyal customers and grow profits is through the design and execution of service.

Many small business leaders fall into the trap of saying “yes” to any and all potential customers.

“It is easy for small business leaders to get myopic,” says Douglas Olsen, associate professor at the W. P. Carey School of Business. Many owners try to be all things to all potential customers, and in the process, do not satisfy any of them. “Business owners should step back and ask what do people want, how am I segmenting the market, and how can I target segments differently?”

Instead of focusing on features, the focus should be put on benefits. This will help a potential customer determine whether your product/service can satisfy a need for them. Segmenting the marketplace and serving a specific target segment can lead to a clearer expression of your organization’s value proposition. Then, recognize that maximizing the service experience that these customers receive may provide a very strong competitive advantage. Learn how to diagram the process so that improvements may be identified.

Over the course of the next week, SBLA students will pick an aspect of their organization to blueprint. By detailing the process, both behind the scenes and in plain sight of the customers, students will be able to identify areas that are ripe for innovation and improvement.

“A lot of our business is customer service, asking questions about the product, placing orders,” commented Brandon Taylor, president of CPR Savers. “I haven’t really thought about the process from start to finish, of how many times a customer has interacted with our staff. This will be a good assignment for us to apply to our business and learn where we can improve on some aspects.”

The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U. S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

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Missed any parts of this series?

Read Small Business Leadership Academy: Strategy for Competitive Advantage (Part I)

Read Small Business Leadership Academy: Strategy for Competitive Advantage (Part II)

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Small Business Leadership Academy series

Small Business Leadership Academy: Strategy for Competitive Advantage (Part II)

Small Business Leadership Academy: Strategy for Competitive Advantage (Part II)

Students spent time over the last week determining their company’s value proposition. Each student presented their value proposition to the class and fielded questions about it. For a small business owner, taking the time to occasionally review their organization’s strategy — and making necessary changes — can be the difference between staying in business and closing their doors.

As Professor Trevis Certo mentioned last week, “A common strategic mistake that many small businesses make is not understanding how common their product or service is and how easy it would be for another company to imitate.” With that in mind, several students put their value proposition in terms of what was rare about their businesses.

For Robert Lassner, project manager for Photovoltaic Systems Manufacturing, the value proposition isn’t always a product. “One of the rare things we have is experience and knowledge,” he says. “That is our most valuable asset.”

Ria Robles, vice president of B2B Delivery, also detailed the valuable aspects of their same-day courier service, commenting, “None of our competitors have all of these aspects, which is what helps keep us so successful.”

This exercise allowed these company leaders to take a high-level look at their day-to-day activities. What plans are pushed aside to keep the business moving forward? Steve Taverna, president and owner of TAVCO Sales & Service Company, has new accounting software just waiting to be implemented. “As we get bigger, we’re hoping to have more people that will be willing to take the lead on implementation of new technology.”

Going through this exercise created a strong foundation for the students as they move into next week’s topic, competing through services. With a better handle on the value proposition of their organization, these business leaders will no doubt refine their business practices over the next eight weeks.

The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U. S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

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Missed the first part of this series?

Read Small Business Leadership Academy: Strategy for Competitive Advantage (Part I).

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