Small Business Lessons From My Goldman Sachs Cohort

| 4 min read

Small Business Lessons From My Goldman Sachs Cohort

Small Business LessonsI've written a lot about it lately but in case you missed it I was a scholar of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.  I completed the program almost six weeks ago but still think about my experience often.  I have been spending quite a bit of time out of the office lately first on a long overdue honeymoon in Kauai and then on a seven day 100 mile river float on the middle fork of the Salmon River.  However, small businesses and entrepreneurs are always on my mind no matter what I am doing so I have been busy taking notes and brainstorming for this post.  I think I finally have my thoughts together so here are my five big takeaways from my experience in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.

Know The Numbers

I think most of my fellow scholars were blown away by how important it is to understand the financial reporting for your small business.  Another big surprise was how few of the small business owners actually knew or cared about the financial reports of their business.  I know that you are probably thinking that I am only saying this because I am a numbers guy, but I assure you I am not.  In fact after we finished the program many of my fellow scholars agreed that the financial module was the most helpful and eye opening part of the program.  

I think that many business owners shy away from the financial aspect of their business for one of two reasons.  They either don't like the financial aspect of the business or they are intimidated so they just ignore it.  I can relate as I tend to stay away from tasks that are difficult or ones that I don't understand.  However, I'm smart enough to know that I need professional help.  When something breaks at my house or on my car that I know I don't have the skillset to fix then I hire a professional to do the work for me.  Having a basic understanding of your financials is really important in helping you make business decisions.  Without solid financial reports you are literally running your business blind.

Working On The Business

There is a huge difference between working on your business and working in your business.  Successful business owners know the difference and they definitely make the time for working on the business.  There are a few challenges that keep people from working on their business.  First, is a lack of time which is a pretty poor excuse.  Most people that use lack of time as an excuse just lack the skill of time management.  One thing is for certain and that is when it comes to time we are all on a level playing field.  Some people are just better at managing and making time for important tasks than other people.  People let the operations of their business get in the way of working on their business.  One piece of advice is to block off time on your calendar each week and set it up as a recurring event.  Don't answer your phone or email, this should be time that you dedicate to your business.

Another reason that people fail to work on their business is that they don't enjoy some of the tasks.  Not many people get up and say to themselves, "Man I'm real psyched to work on my budgeting and forecasting today.  Ooohh and that employee handbook and procedures manual, can't wait to sink my teeth into that."  The fact is that not every task that needs to get done is that attractive.  When you find yourself out of your comfort zone hire an expert to help. 

Owners Face Similar Challenges

Small Business ChallengesThe Goldman Sachs 10k program was very heavy on participation.  It wasn't jammed packed with case studies and lectures, but rather real life scenarios that we were all facing.  The scholar that we chose to represent our class at graduation had a great quote in an email he wrote to us that I want to share.  He said, "This is quite the honor. To be honest I’ve been a little lost lately without the structure of class and all your relevant questions and experience shares."  That really spoke to me.  Much of the class involved various colleagues sharing a challenge that they faced in the past or were currently facing.  Then as a class we offered up our advice on how to solve their problem.  The lesson here is that we as small business owner all face similar challenges.  When you find yourself in a tough situation consider calling on your close business network to help you solve the problem.   

Write It Down

Have you ever noticed how powerful it can be to write things down? It could be an idea for a blog post, a new product or something you have been meaning to do in your business.  I was always pretty good with writing things down, but when I started to write out my opportunity in great detail I remembered how many good ideas I had in my head.  Thanks to Evernote I have got even better at writing things down like blog post idea or things I need to discuss with a co-worker or client. 

Important business tasks and plans need to be written down in great detail.  This could be an opportunity statement, a vision, a business plan, an operations manual or even a detail of your business processes.  When things get written down they get done.  I could easily give you my two minute pitch without any hesitation on where I want to take the business, but I could also hand you a 50 page report.  Writing things down has made them so clear in my head that I have a vision which is so solid that I have no hesitation in executing my plan.  


Execution is a very strong word.  The ability to execute is the difference between success and failure.  Think about it; who succeeds in business? Is it as simple as those that have the ability to execute? Lots of people have great ideas but they fail to execute on them.  How many times have you heard a friend see a new product or service come out and they say, "Hey that was my idea.  I knew I should have done that."  It is not the idea phase that most people get stuck on, it is the execution phase.  Why is that? Simple, it is very hard to execute properly on a business idea.  

I would be interested to know of the 29 people that I graduated with who has executed on their idea.  I know that I have not.  Why? Because I'm not listening to myself about working on the business; I'm stuck in the operations.  I have the idea and I have the plan detailed out but I have failed to execute.  It's ok though because we are still on track.  I gave us six months to put our plan into play and I am just ironing out the details.  However, the takeaway is that without execution your great idea is nothing but an idea.  

What challenges are you facing in your small business? I would love to give you my free advice.

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