Last night marked the second session for Prepare to Launch, an entrepreneurial workshop series, that takes place on Tuesday evenings in our Corridor office. I had a chance to meet with Tina Sherrill-Range (of our office) today, who is taking the series for herself.
Tina joined our staff in July after working 30 years in an educational setting. She recently opened her own business in Arnolds Park, the Okoboji Mercantile (native Iowa wines & antiques), and also works for us part-time. As if running The Merc, as she calls it, and working for the Corridor isn’t enough, Tina decided to participate in Prepare to Launch in order to learn how to better her business.
“I’m one year into my business; I thought I knew exactly what I was doing in terms of knowing my product, the customer I’m serving and the area,” Tina chuckled. “Little did I know there was SO much more to it that I had really no idea about.”
Brian Dalziel, the Senior VP here, facilitates each session with the help of guest speakers. Tina explained that both Brian and the presenters are phenomenal. Not only do they tell their story, taking the participants through the steps, but they also share what they were feeling at that exact moment throughout the journey: sad, mad, happy, etc.
“It’s just so ‘human,’” said Tina. “I wasn’t expecting such a high degree of normalcy, I guess. The process is definitely very organized, but it’s not a recipe. I think that’s what is so important for me to remember as I continue to grow my business.”
A large part of each session is spent talking and bouncing ideas off others in the workshop. The cool part about that is not everyone has to be in the same business or point in their startup in order to relate. Everyone has a chance to learn from one another, whether they’re 2 years in or don’t even have a product yet.
“It’s a huge asset to be able to talk to one another. We all have different approaches to how we’re conducting business, and we’re all learning so much from each other,” Tina added. “The diversity of the group is what makes this so beneficial. Different ages, stages of our businesses, our skill sets, you name it.”
During our meeting together this morning, Tina had a bit of an “aha” moment. She explained that she never really thought about her leadership team prior to Prepare to Launch. Brian talks about leadership teams frequently throughout the sessions and who should be a apart of them.
“Of course I have people on my team, but I never gave them a title. I also don’t have them working collaboratively. I can’t believe I’ve never thought of that before these sessions…duh!”
Tina explained how these people on her team don’t even need to all be sitting in the same room to have input.
“I can totally visit my accountant and ask him about “x” to see what he thinks and how he feels. In fact, I think I’ll do that the next time I meet with him,” exclaimed Tina. “I guess I never really thought about all the members of my team until Brian had us sit down and think about the people we go to for advice. This has all been so incredibly helpful.”
She also explained to me that her father plays a large part in her business.
“He’s my buyer. I never thought of him as being on my advisory team. Why? I have no idea. He knows what the “hot” items are and what they went for at the auction. Why we don’t talk about that on a regular basis is crazy to me. We will definitely start that!”
I have been helping Brian put together the workbooks. I have also had the pleasure of proof reading each chapter (the participants are only given one chapter at a time), so I know that these sessions are not easy; they’re full of work…lots of work.
“I kinda thought I was just going to sit back and lurk,” smiled Tina. “But Brian was sure to snap me right out of that type of thinking. ‘Uh, no you’re not! This is hard work,’ he would tell me. He was right; it is hard.”
In conjunction with attending each session, the Prepare to Launch members are given homework. There are action steps assigned each week: creating a list of your leadership team, considering your niche market, etc. One of those assignments is to read two different books, “Who” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, and “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. These provide additional explanation and guidance throughout the journey.
“Those books are a big plus. I have really enjoyed reading those thus far. I realized I’m not using everyone to their full potential.”
Brian is challenging each and every one of the participants to better themselves and their businesses.
“He invites you to dream about other possibilities. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up switching gears at The Merc by the end of this. I’m definitely open to changes now.”
I asked Tina what has been the biggest takeaway so far.
“He reminds us constantly that the success or failure of our business is not tied to our personal wealth. That’s so important to hear. It reassures us that just because something good or bad happens, doesn’t mean that we are any less or more of a person.”
Prepare to Launch takes place on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-9:30 p.m. for a 10 week period. If you are interested in next year’s workshops, please contact Brian Dalziel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 712.264.3474.
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- Alexa Guessford