Better training of entrepreneurs for small towns

Could a simple behind-the-scenes tour be better to support startups than a full 14-week course? Photo of the Bonnieheath Estate Lavender & Winery Bees Tour, Ontario, by Becky McCray.

Because I am an entrepreneur since middle school, I have been asked to help with all kinds of support over the decades. I taught entrepreneur courses, participated in events for day-long entrepreneurs, facilitated workshops, and mentored informally and formally. And I've been thinking recently about what works and what does not work as well for people in small towns.

Not everyone learns best with the usual type of formal training in a classroom with a lecture given by an expert.

And it is not easy for potential entrepreneurs to go to class because of timing, conflict and they are busy.

And the topics we had to deal with in the trainings I attended were often focused on things that were not necessarily helpful to entrepreneurs. Or it was not what they needed most to know.

In fact, I have just received an email from an educational institution stating that he is taking a six-week entrepreneurial training. When I looked at their list of topics, I was struck by what was wrong with our traditional entrepreneur training:

It focuses on writing business plans and forming legal entities. Even the broad lines are filled with jargon like "equity" and "calculating income at breakeven point".

I am convinced that the training program is not the best way to ensure that more entrepreneurs do business in a small town.

In small towns we have a lot of potential entrepreneurs. They simply do not fit the "traditional start-up" model that Old Way courses assume. Think of all the people in your city who might be non-traditional entrepreneurs.

  • People who are already making noise
  • Students making objects in classes or organizations
  • People with talents they do not use in their work
  • People who want to get into business one day
  • People who have a business started but need help
  • People who have been in the business before but want to try a different company
  • People who are considering starting a retirement business

Traditional Old Way entrepreneur training takes all these types of people and assumes that they all need the same 14 lessons. They assume everything will be written and perfectly planned before going into business. It is this "traditional start" model that was adopted a long time ago.

In this Old Way model, start-ups must have all their ducks in a row to get into business. Everyone must have good credit, deep pockets, good relationships, be clean and sober, have strong business skills and a strong support network. Think of your city, there are not so many people who have all these qualifications.

There is an alternative Idea Friendly, which offers practical steps for your entrepreneurs to train one another independently:

Learn more in our latest video at SaveYour.Town.

About Becky McCray

Becky launched Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share stories and ideas of building businesses and rural communities with other small businessmen. She and her husband have a small ranch and are long-time entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on topics related to small business and the rural world.

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