Grand Enterprise Initiative
Free & Confidential Business Coaching
Posted on February 12th, 2019

It’s just plain, flat-out counter intuitive.

The last three-and-a-half years of my work for the Grand Enterprise Initiative has put me in contact with 210 entrepreneurs in Grand County. These are people who have had dreams, ideas and existing businesses. Some wanted to start businesses. Others simply wanted to explore ideas. Many wanted to improve or expand their existing businesses.

And I did not “knock on the door” or “solicit” any of them. I did not stop them on the street and tell them I could help. I did not walk into their businesses and give them unsolicited advice. I did not call them up.

They called me.

This fact reflects an important element of the work I do for the Grand Enterprise Initiative, through which I provide free and confidential business coaching to anyone in Grand County. We believe strongly that we can only help people who want to be helped. I am forbidden, in fact, from approaching people and telling them that I can help them.

On my very first day on this job, Ernesto Sirolli, the founder of Enterprise Facilitation, told me in no uncertain terms that he would not tolerate it if he learned that I had initiated contact with any person or business.  (The Sirolli Institute has established hundreds of Enterprise Facilitation programs around the globe.)

“I will fire you,” he said firmly in his Italian accent. “We don’t call people. We call back them back.”

This was a difficult admonition to follow during those first three months when the program was just getting started and I was waiting for the phone to ring so I could prove my worth. Slowly but surely, however, the phone did start to ring and the e-mails flowed to my in box. This was not without the help of 1,005 personal introductions completed during my first year on the job by my team members. They simply introduced me to their friends, acquaintances and business associates. I explained my role and organically the word spread.

My team members are the Grand Enterprise Initiatives board of directors, which is composed of five prominent community members. They keep an eye on me and they help me. Then there’s a 22-member Resource Team, with which I meet once a month so that they can help me help our clients. We also work closely with DiAnn Butler in the county’s office of economic development.

Why is it so important that I don’t approach people and tell them they need my help?
First, since I offer a free (and confidential) service, being referred by friends is critical. That’s because most people, and I include myself in this group, just naturally believe that when they are offered a “free” service there must be some strings attached. I almost expect free services, at some point, are going to try and get me to subscribe to a service, buy a book or join a religion.
So being referred by friends is an important referral. People will trust such referrals.
And it is true that what I offer is free. I’m not selling anything and I don’t want my clients’ money. I will work with them as long as they want to work with me. It’s that simple. As a corollary, I don’t have money to grant or loan to my clients. What I provide is my background and access to resources who will help a client build a team so he or she can succeed.
Now, I can help them build a plan so that they can perhaps ask for a loan or a grant. But I’m not a bank. I’m not a foundation. I know of many banks and foundations, however, who will work with my clients. I can help make those connections.

We do not want to be patronizing. We do not want to be paternalistic. We don’t want to be like the classic governmental figure who knocks on your door and says: “Hello, I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” That’s not us.

For us it’s more like: “Hello, I’m glad you called. I’m here to help you form a team and connections so you have a good chance to succeed. I’m here to help you help yourself.”

Patrick Brower can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

Posted on February 5th, 2019

Perhaps the biggest misconception of entrepreneurs is that they can do it all.

In their minds they think that’s why they are entrepreneurs.  They won’t have to bother with dealing with other people. They won’t have to rely on employees or consultants. That’s why they don’t have a “job,” they own a business.

In fact, some people want to venture into their own businesses mainly because they don’t want to deal with others. They’ll just sit there in their garages or basements and make their products or provide their on-line services in cocoons, doing what they love without being bothered by mankind.

This is a fatal error that is, in fact, motivated by a well-intentioned value that many of us Americans have been taught. We’ve been taught to believe that we are self-sufficient individuals who have the capability — and the right, even — to do it all on our own. We all feel like we should be that self-reliant rugged individualist who reflects this hackneyed American ideal.

How many times have you heard people say: I’m going to fail or succeed all on my own? Many times, I suspect, and just as many times they’ve failed, all on their own.

The truth is, no one person can possibly do well all the things that are required to make a business succeed. I’ve written about the Trinity of Management and no one person can possibly do a good job at making a great product or service, selling it and marketing it and then managing all the finances that go with such an effort.

It’s not been done.

So, the bad news for all of us rugged individualists is that, in business, at least, we can’t do it all alone. I know this to be true from my days when I ran a business and tried to do it all, thinking I’d save money and that I was better at it that everybody else. Not only did I burn myself out, I also saw that I was doing some things terribly. Yes it got done, but it wasn’t done well.
So, entrepreneurs must recognize what they do well and concentrate on that. Then they must rely on others to do the things they don’t do well.

For example, I’ve yet to meet a good marketing and sales person who is also good at financial management. This entrepreneur might just love to talk up his service, create great ads, do interesting posts on Facebook and generate lots of sales. But this person struggles every week with keeping track of how much he or she sold and whether it was profitable. They think they can do it, even though they detest numbers and ledgers.

Or there’s the “numbers person” who can tell you down to the penny about expenses last month. But if a customer asks a legitimate question about a bill, they become grumpy and treat the customer (the very person who’s paying his or her salary) as if they are a bother. So, it’s not always a good idea to let bookkeepers engage in extensive customer service. These are also the people who, when asked about business expenses, will advise trimming the marketing budget when that’s the very area where a company would need to be spending more, not less.
I don’t mean to pick on bookkeepers or salespeople here. They are extremely valuable. But some people are cut out to be in sales and some are cut out to be on the financial side. Rarely are those people the same people.

My point here is simple. Entrepreneurs need to recognize their strengths and then build teams of people who will help them do well in all the aspects of managing a  business.

No man or woman is an island, especially in the business world.

Patrick Brower can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

Posted on January 29th, 2019

In my initial meetings with 235 entrepreneurs in Grand County I use a unique way to express the basic concepts of business management.

 I call it the Trinity of Management. This trinity, as it were, is a phrase coined and trademarked by Ernesto Sirolli, founder of the Sirolli Institute, where I was trained.

The Trinity of Management is a simplified concept of basic business management that makes it relatively easy to get across the basics of business. It creates a framework in which we can start the work of building a solid new business or expanding an existing business.

There are many ways that have been used throughout the years to get across these basic concepts. Some people teach that there are “quartets” of management or even “twenty basic tenets” of business. I’ve even seen complicated flow charts and diagrams explaining business concepts that would confuse even an organic chemist.

That’s why I like the trinity. It’s easy to understand.

The first leg of the trinity states merely that in order for a business to succeed it must have a superb product or service. These products or services must be at least as good as the entrepreneur can make them. But in the real world where there’s lots of competition, products and services must be the best of the best. Without a superb product or service, a business will not succeed.

The second leg of the trinity is sales and marketing. Perhaps it goes without saying that it doesn’t do an entrepreneur any good to have the best product in the world if nobody knows about it. But the truth is that there are people who in fact probably do have superior products or services to sell but because of poor sales and marketing, they aren’t succeeding. Many entrepreneurs at first dismiss the importance of this aspect of the trinity, saying they don’t need to spend much on advertising or promotion. They feel the products or services will sell themselves.

But believe me, it doesn’t work that way. There must be strong sales and marketing or an enterprise is likely to fail.

The third leg of the trinity is financial management. For many businesses, financial management consists of two aspects that are important — and yet they ignore the third critically important aspect of financial management.

First, bookkeeping must take place so that an entrepreneur can have clear and easy-to-understand profit and loss statements. Without these statements (assuming they reflect reality), a business manager is operating in the dark. They won’t know if they are making money or losing money. They won’t know how much they’ve grossed, how much they’ve lost, what’s selling well and what isn’t, and so on. I can’t overemphasize the importance of accurate and regular profit and loss statements.

Most businesses then also meet with a tax accountant, usually only once a year, to resolve the tax implications of the last year’s business. This is important too.

But the third aspect of financial management that gets overlooked is what I call the forward-looking or “projecting” aspect of the numbers. This can be nothing more than using the “budget” line on bookkeeping software or preparing a realistic cash-flow analysis. The point of these is that they involve looking forward, and planning forward, as well as keeping track of the past (bookkeeping). The truth is that it usually takes money for a business to grow and usually businesses need to plan how to spend that money. Forward budgeting or cash flow projections are the way that can take place in the financial realm.

There it is: The Trinity of Management. This is a great thing to understand, with one condition: No one person can do a good job of executing all those aspects of the trinity.
But that is a topic for another article in the near future.

Patrick Brower can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

Posted on January 27th, 2019

It’s been more than 11 years since I was the publisher and editor at the Grand County newspapers. And yet, people want to know: Brower, what is it that you’re doing these days?
When I say I’m an Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative I can see that I’ve really raised more questions than answers. Many times, the facial expression I see could be summarized by a large and emphatic question mark.

So I simplify it. I say I’m a business management coach. I provide free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. Yes . . . all of Grand County.

Free? Yes, it’s free because the truth is that many of the people who need and want help with their business idea or with their existing business simply don’t have the money to go out and hire a business consultant. Many of those consultants charge high fees.

Confidential? Sometimes it’s difficult for some people to reach out for help. They worry doing so could be seen as a sign of weakness or vulnerability. So, I don’t divulge that I’m working with a person until they give me permission to do so. Many times, people are protective about their ideas or plans. For competitive reasons, they might not want the world to know what they are thinking about, so I keep it to myself. Even more critical, if someone has shared an idea with me and I go blabbing about it, and they decide not to pursue it, then they might look like a failure before they’ve even started! So, I keep my mouth shut.

The business management coaching I offer is guided by a methodology I learned through the Sirolli Institute. In other words, I’ve had training and I went through a year-long mentorship in the Sirolli method of Enterprise Facilitation. If you are curious about the approach I take, go to Sirolli.com and the first thing that pops up is a TedX talk given by Ernesto Sirolli, the founder of this methodology. By the way, there are enterprise facilitation programs in place around the world, including places such as Kansas, Missouri, Oregon, Australia, New Zealand and Scotland.

But if what I offer is free, then how do I get paid? The towns of Grand County, Grand County, Freeport-McMoran and the Grand Foundation all have funded the program for the last three years. Marise Cipriani, owner of Granby Ranch, and the town of Granby were the initial funders of the program in its first year. This is a non-profit, community-based effort. I am overseen by a volunteer, five-member board that includes elected and appointed town and county officials. I also work with a volunteer resource board that helps me meet the needs of clients.

I work with local chambers of commerce, DiAnn Butler, the Economic Development Coordinator for Grand County, and many local businesses.

Behind this effort is a belief that by helping businesses start and succeed we can build stronger communities in Grand County. While some people might call this economic development, I like to think of our work as a hybrid of economic development and community development. Through this work we are helping to grow and sustain businesses. But there’s more to it than that.

The truth is, strong communities are built by having people who can support themselves doing what they want to do while living where they want to live. Our motto is: Building strong communities, one entrepreneur at a time.

Patrick Brower can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

Posted on December 22nd, 2018

In my work with aspiring entrepreneurs and existing businesses throughout Grand County I’ve learned that dreams and expectations are extremely important.

Entrepreneurial dreams are like those Christmas presents wrapped so neatly and idealistically under the tree. Looking at them inspires hope, wishful thinking and wonderment for a future yet to be realized.

But as we all know, sometimes those Christmas presents aren’t exactly what we had hoped they would be. Once unwrapped they may be something completely different than what we had expected. They could be more than what we wanted, exactly what we wanted or something else completely.

That’s what entrepreneurial dreams are like. These dreams, in fact, are frequently what drive people to be entrepreneurs. But it’s important to balance these dreams with realistic expectations that take into honest consideration lifestyle and financial circumstances.

Basically, the driving expectation of an entrepreneur is the hope that a person will be able to do something that they love to make a living. What a better place to be than to love skiing and then to make a good living while skiing, for example. This sort of expectation, or hope, if you will, is the motivating factor behind many people’s decisions to start new businesses.

This expectation and hope can be well understood when considering Maslow’s hierarchy of needs simplified to the desires of most entrepreneurs. I’ll keep it at three levels. The lowest level of happiness for most of us would be existing in a state of slavery where we are held against our will doing work we detest for no personal gain. (Although slavery has been outlawed in most of the world, some people even in the United States may feel they are in this boat.)

In the middle of my simplified hierarchy would be state of most people: They work at a job doing tasks they don’t enjoy for barely enough — or perhaps not enough — to make a living. This could describe the lives of many Americans who endure the drudgery of work just to get a paycheck without seeing any true meaning in their work.

At the top of my hierarchy is the successful entrepreneur: She or he works at doing something he or she loves while making an adequate or very good living. And to move that state of happiness up a notch, they do so while owning or controlling the enterprise that allows this state of being.

Most entrepreneurs expect to be at that third and highest state of happiness. That’s the dream they pursue. Why else would they endure the trials and tribulations of trying to own and operate a business?

While many people — some of them right here in Grand County — reach that third level of happiness, the truth is that there are usually compromises and tempered expectations that must be accepted. For example, if I truly enjoyed making dinner plates out of beetle-kill wood, and that was my life’s dream and aspiration, I could indeed pursue that as a business. But in reality, I’d have to realize that at first I probably couldn’t make enough money at that to support a family, pay a mortgage and buy health insurance. I’d probably have to keep my day job, at least initially.

This is the sort of realistic tempering of expectations that entrepreneurs must go through as they pursue their dreams. The idea itself — the dream, in fact — isn’t the problem here. I don’t judge dreams or ideas. The market can do that.
The realities of the market and how a business will grow — those are the tempering factors for the expectations of this dream.

A true gift for entrepreneurs in Grand County is the wisdom of realistic expectations inspired by the dream to reach that third level of happiness to which many of us aspire.

Merry Entrepreneurial Christmas!

Patrick Brower can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.