Matt Cookson continues building a growth plan through the 10kSB program, which has been completed by more than 8,500 business owners.

Matt Cookson gets schooled, Vol. 5

Last month, 37 small business owners from New Hampshire, including myself, came together to practice, finalize and pitch growth strategies to each other.

We spent four intensive days focusing on this culmination of our work through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program (10kSB). The entire 12-week program and all of the work that we did – writing a detailed growth plan, working through presentations, webinars, spreadsheets, research and hundreds of conversations with colleagues and staff – had to be condensed into a three-minute presentation consisting of just three slides.

Small business diversity: pretzels in Portsmouth to data security in Peterborough

The 10kSB program has been going on across the country and has been completed by more than 8,500 business owners.

Our cohort of 37 individuals was the first from New Hampshire. We are a very diverse group: from geographic location to the products and services we offer, we were all over the map. Our products ranged from pretzels and beer to t-shirts and maps, while services included wedding events, interior design, and tokenizing data. When combined, these products and services are used by thousands of people each day and help drive our state’s economy.

Building a network of peers and advisors

The program was fast-moving, challenging and rewarding. It’s curriculum fostered bonding and collaboration of individuals from vastly different businesses. The honest, relevant feedback provided throughout the course of the program was highly informative and the final four days that we spent together demonstrated just how well this model works.

Over the four-day retreat, we dove into human resources, operations, negotiations, advocacy, exit-planning, networking and honing the growth plan and pitch.

To back up a step, the growth plans we all developed included sections based on 14 core modules of the 10kSB program. This resulted in plans ranging from 20-50 pages that needed to be reduced to three slides including our company background, key growth plan points, critical success factors, and key next steps. These three slides then needed to be presented in just three minutes. This was a huge challenge.

Three minutes to capture the next three to five years

Our smaller growth groups of six people and the business advisors assigned to each growth group helped us refine these presentations. As a result, they improved dramatically when presented to the full group. They were powerful and included a lot of personal testimony that demonstrated the participants’ passion for growth – be it to solve a societal problem, enhance a family business, or demonstrate entrepreneurship by launching a new product or service. Each pitch was followed by three more minutes of Q&A that provided invaluable feedback to each presenter.

The honesty of the participants was impressive, and the support people received from others was powerful. Some final comments highlighted the camaraderie of the participants that is hard to find and nurture. Another comment noted that there was a strong sense of kinship and belief in one another. One participant said she went into the program thinking she was ready to lock the door and walk away from her business, but now she wants to grow it. And the final word from one participant was that “this was the best thing I have done in my life and in the life of my business.”

We started with 37 participants and ended with 37. This is us:

  • Adam Carey, the NLS Group
  • Kasia Lojko, All Real Meals
  • Dylan Cruess, TF Moran
  • Peter Stoddard, S&H Land Services
  • Bobbi Lambert-Lynds, North Country Medical Courier Services
  • Dagan Migirdith, Liars Bench Beer Co.
  • Daniel Guide, Freedom Tire
  • Pamela Provencher, Granite State Escape
  • Theresa DeChiaro, TSD Interiors
  • Katy Ward, Aries Engineering
  • Steve Jackson, Country Cupboard Candies
  • Nick Brattan, New England Document Systems
  • Josh Velasquez, Nuttin Ordinary
  • Mary Kling, Wendi’s Cleaning Service
  • Toutou Marsden, Dell-Lea Weddings & Events
  • Lisa Flynn, ChildLight Yoga
  • Chris Brown, Rescon Basement Solutions
  • Rae Andrews, Squam Lake Marketplace
  • Kathy Meader, Green Acres
  • Holly Daigle, Holly’s Kona Ice
  • Suzanne Foley, Port City Pretzels
  • Matt Cookson, Cookson Communication
  • Valerie Piedmont, Green Energy Options
  • Jamie Pauley, Simply Sunflowers
  • Janette Desmond, Sunrise Sweets/Kilwins
  • Sean Kline, Turbotek
  • Balaji Radakrishnan, DeeBeCon
  • Elizabeth Alpaugh-Cote, Auric Systems International
  • Tina Smrkovski, Reed Optical
  • Katie Fitzpatrick, Dance Innovation Dance Center
  • David West, Liebl Printing
  • Tim Pipp, Beez Tees Screen Printing
  • Rose Padfield, Paul’s Executive Car Care
  • North Sturtevant, JSA Inc. Architects

We are all leaving the program as 10kSB alumni with new peers that have deep knowledge of our business and plans for the future. We’ve established a rich network that will undoubtedly be tapped on a regular basis.

We got out of our businesses to get into them and met new friends and colleagues in the process who want to help us through the next chapter of small business ownership. It was invaluable.

Read Vol. 4 of this series here.

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