How to Hit Refresh on Your Small Business
If anyone understands the power of one-on-one coaching, of getting an expert to help you raise your entrepreneurial game, it’s Patrice Manuel.
Her management consulting firm, P/Strada, will celebrate its 15th anniversary next month. Manuel has helped everyone from small businesses to federal agencies increase their effectiveness and successfully complete major projects.
“We try to help people be more effective,” she said, “but what we also have the ability to do is take a technical problem, understand the technical problem, investigate and help create the solutions.”
Her work has garnered her a sterling reputation: Name a local civic group or business association, and she’s either won an award from them or served on their board.
But a few months ago, Manuel decided, for a few hours each week, to take off her coaching hat and become a student again.
She was selected for ScaleUP! Kansas City, an elite program that helps local small-business owners to “get over the hump” and generate more than $1 million in annual revenue.
Participating entrepreneurs are offered training, one-on-one coaching, roundtable sessions and other resources, The University of Missouri-Kansas City Innovation Center administers the program, which is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Manuel has been leading Kauffman FastTrac classes for more than a decade, helping other entrepreneurs start and grow successful companies. Her own revenues, though, aren’t where she wants them to be. So she applied for ScaleUP! Kansas City.
Even with entrepreneurs who’ve been up and running for years, Manuel said, “you need to reach back sometimes and reinvent yourself.”
Do you need to refresh your business? Here are three pieces of advice from Manuel.
FIND A SOUNDING BOARD
Manuel loves the roundtable sessions that ScaleUP! Kansas City organizes for its participants.
These meetings are an opportunity for entrepreneurs to talk about their challenges with people who have probably faced similar problems in their own lives. They might have a solution that would work for you.
“It gave me an opportunity to reach out and be around innovative, younger people,” Manuel said, “because entrepreneurship is kind of lonely.”
Small-business owners always have tight schedules, but making time to talk about your company could ultimately make you more effective.
BE WILLING TO CHANGE
It’s not enough to talk with other folks about your business. You have to be ready to listen to what they’re saying. This is something that Manuel knows firsthand from her consulting work.
“It’s harder because you think you already know the answers and you don’t,” she said. “So you have to move you out of the way, so you can get that fresh perspective.”
ScaleUP! Kansas City has helped Manuel take another look at what she does better than anyone else, so she can devote more of her energy to growing that part of the business.
“It made me realize I need to narrow the scope of where I want the business to go in the next cycle,” she said.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO MOVE TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Thanks to her work with ScaleUP! Kansas City, Manuel has identified a few new, potentially transformative opportunities for her business, capitalizing on societal trends that she hadn’t really considered before.
When you’re running a company, it can be very, very easy to focus on the day-to-day problems. Maybe it even feels easier and safer to focus on those problems instead of undertaking something completely new.
Luckily, Manuel is no stranger to reinvention. She started P/Strada after she retired from a 20-year career in the U.S. Army, where she was a biological, chemical and nuclear officer. She moved back to Kansas City, her hometown, but it had been 30 years since she’d lived here.
“It was like starting a brand new business in a brand new city,” she said.
She did what all good entrepreneurs instinctively do: She took action. She researched government agencies, applied for certification programs and made as many connections as possible.
It’s not always easy to tackle something new. But the frontiers are where fortunes are made.
“If you can get your head up enough to work on the business, then you can transition into what you’re really looking for,” she said. “Now you’re not looking at the 20-foot level. You’re looking at the 1,000-foot level.”