By M.L. Dehm For HBJ
EVERETT — Travis Snider never planned for his Small Business Accelerator course at Everett Community College to be anything more than a one-time class.
But it’s proven so popular that it’s continued and expanded.
“We’re going into our fifth year and we have two parts to it now,” Snider explained. “We have the Small Business Accelerator — that’s our first year program. Then we have the CEO Roundtable. That’s for folks that wanted to stay together for the next year.”
The class is aimed at owners of small businesses that generate $500,000 to $15 million in sales and employ five or more.
Some of the participants have stayed together as a group and are going into their fifth year.
Many of those companies have shown significant growth since joining the program.
“There are Internet retailers that have gone from a million-and-a-half in sales to $6 million this year,” Snider said. “Two are looking at $8 million in sales.”
The Small Business Accelerator isn’t your typical college course with grades and lectures. Instead, the program offers tools and practical application for each participant’s existing business.
Snider, a former CPA and a successful business coach and consultant, is the lead instructor.
Marketing specialist Andrew Ballard, who is a contributing columnist for The Herald Business Journal, also teaches some of the classes. They call on a number of guest speakers who can bring relevant information to the group.
But some of the most valuable information comes from interacting with participants.
John Peeters is the owner of Penway Media in Arlington. He bought his company from his parents last year and quickly decided to follow up on a tip to try the course. He found working with peers to be most helpful.
“It lets you bounce ideas,” Peeters said. “A lot of times, when you’re the executive of a business, there aren’t a lot of people you can talk to.”
The business owners are also forced to do a few of the key things that they may have been putting off doing, such as sketching out some kind of business plan. That is something most business owners hate to do, Snider said.
They leave the program with 10 to 15 ideas to make or save money. In the last session, some were asked how much various ideas were worth to them. Some replied that they had cost savings of up to $6,000. One participant saved up to $20,000 in costs.
Peeters figures his company’s revenue is going to be up 30 percent over last year. He was also able to use the class to find something that many business owners value as much as profit — time.
“What we did with the accelerator course is to figure out the most economical way to use my time,” he explained. “My accounting process, that used to take me about 20 hours a month, now takes me about three hours a month. It’s phenomenal. “
Peeters was impressed with the way the course was tailored for each individual business owner regardless of their goals. He also liked the fact that the accelerator course and the CEO Roundtable aren’t simply theory. It’s practical application for day-to-day operations.
While the classes do include information for the long run, Snider knows that the part of the course that most appeals to participants are those ideas that can mean a difference to the pocket book in the short term.
Also important are the close ties formed with peers from other industries. Peeters enjoyed the atmosphere of being around other motivated business owners.
“It’s a really encouraging environment for people who want to work on their business to make that business better,” he said.
The Small Business Accelerator has begun recruiting for the next session. Snider hopes to have 12 to 15 new companies sign up.
He has already had some inquiries and will be visiting various business groups to make sure business owners know the new season is approaching.
A number of information sessions are also planned for the latter half of August and the first part of September.
But business owners don’t have to wait to find out more. Snider invites business owners to give him a call to find out if the course is something that would benefit them.
Peeters has been doing a little recruiting of his own. He has already recommended the course to a number of his peers.
“It’s a no-brainer in my mind,” Peeters said. “How can you best help yourself? This is it.”