When Debi Tapert, CEO of Healthcare Preparatory Institute, received an email about the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders program launching in Las Vegas, she decided to go for it.
“I’m always looking for new ways to help my students succeed,” she said. “I thought that if I become a better leader, I could help my students become better too and in turn create a better community.”
The Emerging Leaders program, which seeks to give CEOs the tools to help grow their businesses, launched in April in Las Vegas and the 14 participants met bi-weekly for 26 weeks.
Eligible small business participants must be a CEO, COO or CFO, have been in business for at least three years, employ at least one worker besides the business owner and generate between $400,000 and $10 million in annual gross revenues.
Participants work with experienced mentors in fields such as accounting, finance and government contracting. The classes are taught over five modules in classroom-based sessions, which include live case presentations, in addition to meeting outside of class with their CEO mentoring groups.
Tapert said that though each meeting was held in the same format, the content that was discussed changed every time.
“We learned about topics that were pertinent to the growth of business and it related to each of us in a different but very relevant way,” she said. “Basic concepts that I somehow missed along the way and new, innovative ideas were presented, dissected and their uses and potential were demonstrated.”
Tapert added that many of the modules such as human resources, finance and marketing, included a group of experts in the field who shared their knowledge with participants.
“They were there to help us better understand how their particular field could help each of us grow,” she said.
Michele Bedwell, CEO of Diversity Marketing, LLC, said she was in search of ways to develop public outreach for government projects for her firm, which oversees all aspects of print, broadcast media and communications campaigns.
“What I was expecting was a simple connect the dots,” Bedwell said of the program. “What I got was an intensive training course that completely changed the way I am handling my business now. I am working on my business instead of only in my business. I’m more effective as a CEO and feel stronger and more confident in every communication I have with staff internally and clients externally.”
In order to graduate, participants had to complete a three-year Strategic Growth Action Plan and present it to a panel of experts.
Ginnie Salazar, executive director of Logistical Solutions, a company that owns and operates heavy equipment, said putting together the action plan helped her plot the future of her business.
“I made sure that the growth of the business was achievable in the current economic market and that the goals that we set were looked at and evaluated by others and as well as ourselves,” she said of the action plan. “Our business was growing and we were hiring new employees but we got to a point where the business had grown and there was no plan to manage the growth.”
Salazar said that managing her time and being open to new ideas were some of the biggest challenges she faced as an Emerging Leaders participant.
“As a business owner you sometimes feel the way you are doing something is the only correct way and being able to hear how others have done or are doing the same things gives you confidence that there are many ways to complete tasks and that someone might have a better solution,” she said. “The program opened many lines of communication that have helped me communicate better with my team and also with my customers.”
On Dec. 10, the 14 Emerging Leaders program participants will attend a graduation ceremony at North Las Vegas City Hall.
“The graduation ceremony offers a platform to underscore the importance of investing in and sustaining quality programming for people who are willing to invest in themselves,” instructor Shelley Lynn said.
She added that the course is designed to track the growth and outcomes of each Emerging Leaders participant over a three-year period through a survey and interview.
“This helps us know the effect the course is having on these businesses and their effect in our local economy,” she said. “The Emerging Leader’s Program provides an inclusive and comprehensive approach to strategic growth and leadership; it’s the kind of thing Nevada’s business community needs.”
Tapert said the Emerging Leaders program has benefited her business by making her a more confident and knowledgeable leader who has a new perspective on business and its future.
“You learn so much about yourself, your business and the business world that you could never even fathom before,” she said. “It is absolutely worth every minute you spend in it.”