In 1989, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, along with many other New England states, experienced a deep economic recession. Many hard-working people were laid off, or “dislocated”, as businesses struggled to deal with offshore competition, outsourcing, and the general economic climate. Recognizing that the factors that created the situation were not going to lessen in the near future, Massachusetts gave a quasi-public state agency, Commonwealth Corporation, the charter to develop and implement a robust business training program to enable dislocated workers the opportunity to learn how to successfully launch and run their own small businesses. In response, the Entrepreneurial Training Program (ETP) was established.
In the twenty three years since initial launch, over 3,000 entrepreneurs have completed the program which has historically been delivered in several locations throughout the Commonwealth. The success rate of the new businesses has been extraordinarily high. The program was brought to the Merrimack Valley area in 2003 in response to changing market conditions for some large employers. Since that time, over 34 ETP sessions have been delivered through the partnership of Jermain & Company and Northern Essex Community College with participants coming from the Boston, MetroWest , North Shore, and Merrimack Valley areas, along with Southern New Hampshire and Maine.
The Entrepreneurial Training Program, typically delivered three times annually, spans twenty weeks. The first eleven weeks are held in a group setting and the following nine weeks involve one-to-one consulting during the business start-up stage.
While in the group setting, three days weekly, participants are exposed daily to new information and business perspectives. They learn how to address key areas of business from market analysis to pricing to marketing; first from a conceptual perspective and then from a nuts and bolts level. Sample financials such as balance sheets, sales forecasts, and cash flow and income statements, provide the basis for start-up entrepreneurs to create statements for their own individual companies. Careful thinking, in a multitude of areas, positions participants to capture their ideas in comprehensive business plans that become effective foundations for the launch of their new businesses.
Who Can Benefit
Many different types of people have found benefit in the Merrimack Valley-based ETP in recent years. Some had never been deeply involved with many important aspects of starting and running a business and desired to become “educated”. Other participants had started part-time businesses and wished to grow them into larger, usually full-time, enterprises. Still other people had started businesses which had failed and were excited about learning to do it the right way. And, finally, some program enrollees had started successful businesses, but were unclear what led to their initial good fortunes and desired to increase their odds of realizing success again, in a more conscious manner, moving forward.
Programs related to entrepreneurial training, business planning and business start-up activities, in contrast to sporadic one-to-one small business counseling assistance, can, and should, offer three valuable qualities: structure, accountability, and support.
Structure, e.g. having to show up at the same place and time and follow certain guidelines is very valuable to most people. Educational systems around the world are based on this concept. Accountability, or having to follow through on commitments, is another key factor to getting things done, as anyone that has worked in an organization focused on results can attest to. And finally, support, where there are people in an environment that understand the issues at hand and who are ready, willing, and able to help one another is critical to success, as any small or large business owner will confirm.
All programs should provide value in these three areas, but the key issue is the amount delivered. The Merrimack Valley-based ETP program has developed a well-deserved reputation for delivering extraordinary value along these lines, a fact validated by hundreds of appreciative, and successful, participants.
Other common training program differences relate to the levels of program content quality and integration; instructor and guest speaker expertise; and program group diversity.
The Merrimack Valley-based ETP is based on a unique approach of blending constantly updated narrative business plan sections on topics such as market size, competition and product/service portfolios with sales and cash flow projections and other financials. Non-integrated programs or seminar series fail to position the entrepreneur to create a strong, clear plan.
The Merrimack Valley-based ETP is a challenging business planning and start-up program. It requires an investment of funds, time, and effort; but the rewards are worth it. Similar to a prudent financial investment, the program enables participants to invest in themselves at one point and realize better results, namely, faster, stronger business growth at another, future, point. It addresses the common citation “I didn’t even know, what I didn’t know.” The ETP experience makes participants significantly more knowledgeable and confident.
From a quantitative perspective, the effectiveness of the Entrepreneurial Training Program has been measured numerous times with positive results. The program was measured by Commonwealth Corporation several years ago, and their findings were that of the 70% of participants that decided to enter into business after completing the program, 70% were still in business after 2 years. By comparison, the normally quoted statistic for small businesses is that 70% are out of business after two years. Net, the program reverses the statistics and helps ensure a vastly greater chance of positive business results.
If you, or someone you know, is seriously interested about starting a business, purchasing a business, or growing an existing business, please contact us for additional information at the address below.