A Growth and Startup Program that Really Rocks
A few years after launching the Charleston Cookie Company in 2003, Judith Moore, CEO, enrolled in a little known but highly effective program called FastTrac (www.fasttrac.org) that helps both startups and existing owners grow their businesses.
“It’s a boot camp for entrepreneurs,” says Moore. “Intense and eye-opening. Much of what I learned validated my gut intuition and grounded it in practical information.” For example, Moore thought she might not be paying enough attention to financials. After taking FastTrac she started tracking results monthly and examining the short-term performance of her cookie business.
“Looking at the numbers monthly made it clear to me that we were overly dependent on two big wholesale accounts,” she says. “So I decided to hire a sales manager and seek new accounts.” After advertising unsuccessfully in print media, she learned how to deploy her limited marketing dollars more selectively.
Soon after, Moore’s biggest challenge became managing the rapid growth her Charleston, SC-based company began to experience. “Growth must keep pace with cash flow,” she says. “That’s another lesson I took from FastTrac.”
Advising Entrepreneurs Nationwide
The FastTrac program operates nationwide, offering business owners and entrepreneurs locally-based training and networking opportunities for a new or expanding business. It’s run by the Kauffman Foundation (www.kauffman.org), a non-profit that has long been one of the biggest supporters of entrepreneurship in America.
FastTrac offers hands-on training that helps entrepreneurs and business owners hone the skills needed to create, manage and grow a successful enterprise. At FastTrac you don’t just learn about business, you work on your own business throughout the course. The program is offered through a wide range of affiliates such as Chambers of Commerce, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, universities, colleges and individual consultants nationwide.
Since about 1993, FastTrac has helped nearly 350,000 business owners and entrepreneurs hone their business skills. It has evolved into one of America’s top learning programs for entrepreneurs.
One reason it’s done so well is that courses are written by entrepreneurs, facilitated by entrepreneurs and for entrepreneurs. The program combines facilitator-led sessions, small group exercises, guest subject matter experts and idea sharing with peers, plus business coaching and mentoring.
This is the kind of experiential, hands-on business development that produces results. Entrepreneurs who complete the FastTrac program are far more equipped to take charge and get their businesses on a growth track.
Three Basic Program Flavors
FastTrac is offered in three basic flavors:
- NewVenture is for people who have a business idea or concept but need a plan and a framework for successfully launching a company.
- GrowthVenture is for current business owners seeking proven strategies and processes to help spur healthy growth.
- TechVenture is for people who need help navigating the steps that go into starting a technology or science-based business, such as acquiring funding and protecting intellectual property.
FastTrac also has courses and resources specially geared to baby boomers who are turning to entrepreneurship.
Tom Bowles says he had basically been “winging it” for many years at his pond and waterfall construction business before discovering FastTrac. Financials were his biggest frustration at Aquatics Environments, Inc. “I thought it was good if there was a plus at the end of your P&L statement,” he says. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making money.”
But FastTrac gave him a complete understanding of financials – from forecasting to breakeven analysis. Shortly thereafter, revenues started to soar, overhead dropped and margins more than doubled. Bowles also discovered a new focus on profits over simple sales. He stopped selling low-end items and added higher ticket products.
“We realized we couldn’t be all things to all people, so we looked back to the core of the business and focused on what generated the most profits,” he says. “Instead of being led by feelings, we’re now led by facts. Taking FastTrac was a life-changing experience. I feel much more confident and in control than ever before.”
To find a FastTrac program near you or learn more, visit www.fasttrac.org.
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