By the time you read this, I'll have a new title. Besides founder and CEO of a boutique public relations firm, I'll have also added to my signature proud graduate, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses. Better yet, my education was funded by Goldman Sachs; it's the company's investment to help entrepreneurs create jobs and opportunity.
Since May, I've attended classes with a critical objective: Growing my PR firm -- not learning theory, conducting studies or writing irrelevant papers. I've gained practical knowledge from the professors at GS10KSB. The entrepreneur curriculum, designed by top-ranked Babson College, gave me real-life, actionable modules and clinics about forecasting, finances, operations, hiring, accounting, lending, negotiating and many other topics I never learned in college. I was also assigned a business advisor and was inspired by like-minded business owners facing struggles very common to my own.
I started my public relations business because I love the news and enjoyed a successful broadcast career based on storytelling and journalism. When I launched my PR business, knowledge about profit and loss statements or operational efficiencies was not a concern.
But ten years later, I realized what I didn't know was hindering growth. If I wanted to grow, I would need to get out of my comfort zones and learn about the subjects I shunned in college -- accounting, operations, negotiations, human resources, risk management and more.
I'm among 30 entrepreneurs -- big dreamers who are now part of giant network -- a support system of Goldman Sachs "Scholars" in 30 U.S. markets.
On Day One, we all had the same assignment: Create a growth plan. This would become a voluminous living and breathing document that focuses on all aspects of your business and we'd spend the next several weeks answering hard and serious questions aimed to help us grow.
From May to late August, the Scholars of the 24th Chicago Cohort met regularly at Harold Washington College for full- and half-days, to work ON our business, not IN our business. (No business calls, texts and emails allowed during class hours).
We had access to attorneys to discuss employment law. We discussed financing options with lenders. We met with digital marketers, negotiators and most importantly, with alumni about their successes after graduation.
And we delivered! Not for our teachers, but for our businesses. Every class ended with tons of homework.
I won't sugarcoat it. If you want your big business dreams to come true, GS10KSB assigns at least eight hours of homework each week, for 15 weeks.
So while my friends and family spent summer biking or at the beach, I was at my laptop, researching my competition, justifying my pricing and identifying how to improve hiring, company culture, systems and profits through 2024.
Was it worth it? It was eye-opening and inspiring. I left each class eager to practice what I learned. And my fellow Scholars felt the same way.
Thomas Leavitt, chef owner, White Oak Gourmet in Long Grove said "The program helped me because it's forced me to look at every aspect of running a business. I didn't realize how much I needed to know."
Jordan Gaspard, President IKON Electric in Loves Park said it "definitely showed me how ignorant I was to business. Before taking this class, I was debating whether to shut down or continue my business."
Rosanne Anderson, Partner, Brookweiner, in downtown Chicago, said her 45-year old accounting firm committed her time to the GS10KSB program to continue the company's legacy. "I've learned that all we need is the energy to work on our business and the willingness to step out of our comfort zones," said Anderson.
To learn how entrepreneurs are eligible for this 15-week program, which is fully paid for by Goldman Sachs, visit https://www.10ksbapply.com/.
• Michelle Damico is CEO of MichelleDamico.com, a dynamic, 10-year old public relations agency with offices in Chicago and Lincolnshire. Her team helps organizations make news that builds credibility, attracts customers and spurs growth. Network or send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.