Small Business Leadership Academy: Introductory Course

The introductory course for the 2011 Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) focuses on concepts of strategy and competitive advantage and how to achieve them. Through readings and discussion, students focus on the subtleties of strategy and organizational effectiveness. Also, they’ll learn the importance of fit among a company’s activities to realizing an advantage over rivals.

The cornerstone of the strategy course is analysis. Students learned frameworks to analyze not only their industry but their organization’s value proposition. Students will need to determine whether their current organizational strategy is a good fit with their resources. To bring these concepts to life, students engaged in an interactive case discussion regarding an entrepreneurial venture trying to grow to the next level.

Professor Trevis Certo stresses the need for students to be honest about their organization, its resources, and whether their current strategy is in need of updating. “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,” Certo says.

Many companies try to be all things to all clients, rather than focusing on their core competitive advantage. Some students in the class had personal experience with the lesson of the evening.

Alex Zuran, president and CEO of Phoenix National Laboratories, says “We didn’t start (seeing an improvement) until we started cutting certain programs. We were trying to do too much.”

Students will spend the next week determining their company’s value proposition. Each student will present their value proposition to the class, and field questions about it. For a small business owner, taking the time to occasionally review their organization’s strategy, and make necessary changes, can be the difference between staying in business and closing their doors.

The framework of this first course on strategy and competitive advantage sets the foundation for the remaining courses. Participants should be able to see how each component fits back into the organization’s strategy.

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.