Thank You Goldman-Sachs

File Under: Business Lessons Learned / How We Got Here

I am skeptical by nature.  Ask my friends and colleagues and they will not have a problem remembering a time I stood up to ask “the question” that no one else wanted to ask but needed answered.  I refer to myself proudly as a gadfly (look it up).

So it should not have been surprising on that day in January 2015 when I asked more than one “skeptical” question (some would later call them obnoxious) of a very patient man in the Goldman-Sachs 10,000 Small Business (10KSB) program I had just started.

“Is this program really free?”

“What does Goldman-Sachs get out of this?”

“Why can’t we use our computers to take notes?”

The answers – “Yes”, “Nothing”, and “Trust us – you’ll get more out of the program” were hard for me to believe.  But over the course of the next 12 weeks of the 10KSB program my tone had changed and my skepticism had evaporated.  The program was truly free. Goldman-Sachs was investing in the effort because they believed small business drives the economy which leads to other benefits for them. Most critically, I understood the value of turning off my computer so I could work “on” the business and not “in” it (more on this soon).

Executive MBA on Steroids

For the next three months, using curriculum based on Babson College’s entrepreneurship program I, and 32 other small business owners in my “cohort”, were given a firehose of information.  Think of it as an executive MBA on steroids.  The program has nine modules, from understanding financials, to managing people, to being a bankable business. You find yourself taking away critical information in each one, while compiling a “growth plan” for short and long term planning and strategy.  In addition, the program provided a business advisor who met with me and my team regularly to review our goals and ask us critical questions to keep us accountable and moving forward.  With the help of what I had learned, and the advisor, we made vast improvements in the business. These are decisions that would guide us forward for years to come.  During that time we:

  • Started using QuickBooks and cleaning up our financials.
  • Defined our company’s culture, values, and vision and evaluated our team for cultural fit.
  • Honed our marketing strategy and developed a new web site.
  • Connected with a local banker who provided us our first line of credit.
  • Completed our growth plan based upon a strategy of acquisitions.
  • Made a plan to be out of the business within 10 years.

And again, all of this was provided free with the only commitment being my time and effort.  The program also encourages networking with the other members of your cohort. I made some great friends with whom I could now share my small business successes and challenges.

I look back now 3 1/2 years later with gratitude to the 10ksb program that was the “spark” for our growth.  In that time we’ve made two acquisitions and have grown from a team of four to twenty.