Keep­ing con­trol

Sup­port group gives wider aid to en­trepreneurs

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

IT’S ex­cit­ing and in­vig­o­rat­ing to be an en­tre­pre­neur in con­trol of one’s own destiny. How­ever, we all know it’s lonely at the top. Af­ter all, there are so few peo­ple, in­clud­ing fam­ily, who re­ally un­der­stand the broader as­pects of run­ning a busi­ness and who can pro­vide help­ful, con­fi­den­tial and in­sight­ful ad­vice.

And there are plenty of busi­ness and or­ga­ni­za­tional chal­lenges to deal with, in­clud­ing the pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives of a global mar­ket, growth, suc­ces­sion, fi­nanc­ing as well as those on­go­ing op­er­a­tional, tech­nol­ogy and hu­man re­source is­sues. So, where does an en­tre­pre­neur go for ad­vice and/or men­tor­ship to deal with these is­sues in an in­te­grated yet con­fi­den­tial man­ner?

While there are many pro­fes­sion­als pro­vid­ing spe­cial­ized ad­vice, this ad­vice of­ten fails to con­sider the in­te­gra­tion with other busi­ness re­quire­ments. Thank­fully, an in­ter­na­tional re­fer­ral-based sup­port group known as TEC is avail­able in Man­i­toba. This mem­ber-based group pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to be part of a con­fi­den­tial, col­le­gial group of like-minded, non-com­pet­i­tive, se­nior level en­trepreneurs and busi­ness pro­fes­sion­als. Highly ex­pe­ri­enced busi­ness pro­fes­sion­als act­ing as chair­per­son, fa­cil­i­ta­tor and ex­ec­u­tive coach also help to as­sess mem­ber re­fer­rals and build co­he­sive groups.

Monthly meet­ings help to re­duce the sense of iso­la­tion and en­able mem­bers to build a per­sonal and pro­fes­sional net­work of ad­vis­ers and to ben­e­fit from col­leagues who of­fer ad­vice from the per­spec­tive of “been there, done that.” Mem­bers also se­lect spe­cific learn­ing in­ter­ests from a full range of busi­ness and per­sonal de­vel­op­ment top­ics and well-known ex­perts are then in­vited to speak and share their ex­per­tise. Meet­ings thus fo­cus on per­sonal learn­ing and shar­ing as well as giv­ing and get­ting frank, un­fil­tered feed­back on cur­rent busi­ness chal­lenges.

One of the goals of the TEC (short for The Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee) or­ga­ni­za­tion is to en­hance the lives of its mem­bers and as such, TEC groups of­ten of­fer an an­nual fam­ily ori­ented mem­ber re­treat that helps to in­grain the im­por­tance of spousal sup­port and life/ work bal­ance. In ad­di­tion, mem­bers can at­tend na­tional and in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences where learn­ing and net­work­ing are key ac­tiv­i­ties. Fi­nally, TEC mem­bers also ben­e­fit from a sig­nif­i­cant reper­toire of on­line learn­ing ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing such items as case stud­ies on fi­nanc­ing al­ter­na­tives and/or a doc­u­ments iden­ti­fy­ing the key steps in suc­ces­sion plan­ning. Yet, the TEC group doesn’t stop there. Ded­i­cated to in­creas­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of its mem­bers, TEC also pro­vides per­sonal, one-to-one coach­ing from the group chair­per­son. Fi­nally, in times of cri­sis, TEC group mem­bers will quickly form a spe­cial “tiger team” to as­sist their col­league with their cur­rent chal­lenge.

But just who are the en­trepreneurs who would be at­tracted to a TEC group and would ben­e­fit from mem­ber­ship? In the view of the TEC chair­per­sons, po­ten­tial mem­bers need to be ready to learn how to work “on” their busi­ness in­stead of “in” their busi­ness. Lead­ers who, while be­ing suc­cess­ful, must have a con­tin­u­ing de­sire to learn and to be will­ing to share their own ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ence. Fur­ther­more, since a monthly fee is re­quired, po­ten­tial mem­bers must also rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of in­vest­ing in their own pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment as a sig­nif­i­cant key to con­tin­u­ing their busi­ness suc­cess.

If you speak with any TEC mem­ber, you’ll find that mem­ber­ship is not the same as tak­ing a three-day in­ten­sive course where you might in­deed learn some­thing new, but your train­ing binder con­tin­ues to sit on a shelf never to be read again. In­stead, TEC mem­bers hold each other ac­count­able and must be pre­pared to in­te­grate their learn­ing into ev­ery­day work and be fully en­gaged in prac­ti­cal hands-on learn­ing. This in­cludes pre­par­ing and pre­sent­ing their is­sues and par­tic­i­pat­ing in frank dis­cus­sions and be­ing ac­cept­ing of un­fil­tered feed­back.

The Man­i­toba TEC groups con­sist of male and fe­male en­tre­pre­neur­ial and busi­ness lead­ers rang­ing in age from 32-65 and who rep­re­sent con­struc­tion, in­sur­ance, man­u­fac­tur­ing, au­to­mo­tive, min­ing, re­tail, whole­sale, fi­nan­cial ser­vices and tourism busi­nesses. To date, these lo­cal TEC groups have suc­cess­fully helped their mem­bers deal with growth, suc­ces­sion, fi­nan­cial is­sues, life/work bal­ance, mar­ket­ing, merg­ers and di­vesti­tures. In ad­di­tion, TEC mem­bers re­port an in­crease in self­con­fi­dence and an im­proved per­spec­tive on the im­por­tance of per­sonal health and well­ness.

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