Every business owner aspires to become a better leader. Under the direction of area director Bernie Meineke, the SBDC housed at Georgia State University in Atlanta has helped scores of entrepreneurs to hone their skills as managers and as strategic thinkers.
As an affiliate of the Kauffman Foundation's FastTrac GrowthVenture program, Georgia State's SBDC provides the CEOs of young companies with 40 hours of training designed to help them develop effective business growth strategies. Hundreds of area entrepreneurs have taken part in the program since the center began to offer it in 1998.
Among the graduates is Prince Niyyar, the founder and CEO of Commdex, No. 474 on the 2010 Inc. 5000 list. Revenue at the telecom company, which is based in suburban Norcross, has increased by more than 600 percent between 2006 and 2009.
"What the FastTrac program did was really allow me to think like a businessman," says Niyyar, who has seen his initial investment of $2,500 blossom into a company with $16.5 million in sales. "I had more of a worker mentality before and my SBDC training made me think about overall vision, how to think about sales and marketing, about financial analysis, and about how to be a good leader. I learned the importance of realizing my limitations, bringing on qualified employees and listening to good advice."
The program has been so successful that it has won awards and attracted support, including financial sponsorship, from some of Atlanta's major corporations. And as a result of the center's success, the Georgia SBDC Network has adopted the FastTrac GrowthVenture program as a statewide initiative.
The Georgia SBDC Network is among the strongest in the country. According to an impact survey completed in April 2010, businesses in the Peach State that worked with a local SBDC increased their sales by an average of 3.5 percent, even as the average business based in Georgia experienced a 1.5 percent decline in sales.
"Working with small but existing and growing businesses is at the core of what we do," says Meineke. "And to me, it's making business owners really good leaders that differentiates us."