Higher Learning

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Entrepreneurs in search of a reality check need look no further. The Center for Creative Leadership's San Diego location offers an Entrepreneurial Leadership Program (ELP), a comprehensive assessment of management skills and a leadership training program packed into one three-day weekend.

"We do a full [business] assessment from a behavioral leadership standpoint," explains program manager Kim Leahy. "[For example, what] if you can write a great marketing plan but can't motivate your people and you've got a structure that's preventing them from performing? We teach entrepreneurs that these things are critical to their organization's success."

The $2,500 program is co-sponsored by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), an educational research institution in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation's Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Inc., a nonprofit educational institution in Kansas City, Missouri. The program is based on CCL's Entrepreneurial Performance Indicators, three intensive surveys designed by Leahy and program co-founder John Eggers after a national study of 112 successful entrepreneurs.

The course begins even before you arrive. Eight weeks earlier, the center collects specific information to assess your leadership and communication skills and determine your needs. No relevant stones are left unturned as not only you but members of your management team, other employees, and even "observers" such as board members and customers take part in the surveys.

Once on campus, you learn in one-on-one and small group sessions how your business was assessed. The results can be surprising, says Robert Faerber, CEO of transportation consulting firm Faerber Enterprises Inc. in Lake Zurich, Illinois, who attended ELP last year. Learning to trace where problems come from, says Faerber, is "like watching a child grow up--you don't see the small changes that may lead to problems because sometimes they happen slowly and subtly."

Tim Webster, president of American Italian Pasta Co. in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, agrees. "The [instructors] identified probable pitfalls for my profile," he says. Was he uncomfortable discussing the less successful aspects of his company with other entrepreneurs? To the contrary. "You're part of a group process, but your feedback is very personal and confidential," says Webster, "and to be with people who are also having their eyes opened, it's very positive."

For Allen Batts, CEO of Hello Direct Inc., a telecommunications products manufacturer in San Jose, California, the course was something of a barometer. Going into the course with a 40 percent growth rate that continues today, Batts didn't want to fix what was wrong but to try to stay ahead of the curve and make sure he can continue to grow the business.

In a world where knowledge is king, it can't be stressed enough: "Know thy company." A program such as ELP could be just the vehicle that helps puts your company in the know.

For more information, write to the Center for Creative Leadership, 8910 University Center Ln., 10th Fl., San Diego, CA 92122-1085 or call (619) 453-4774. --Elaine W. T

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This article was originally published in the August 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Higher Learning.

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