Business 101

Help your new business make the grade by taking an entrepreneurship class.

When Ada Diaz Kirby started CommTech International Inc. in Denver in 1994, she thought her 24-year career at telephone company US West qualified her to operate a high-tech training firm. But within days of starting the business, Kirby, 48, was mired in myriad problems she had never imagined. For instance, after winning a $1 million training contract, she quickly had to hire more than 20 employees. Then she immediately had to secure financing for new computer workstations for those employees--workstations costing about $12,000 each.

"I thought I had figured it all out," Kirby recalls. "I had a mom-and-apple-pie business plan, but it wasn't realistic and wouldn't have worked."

With the business's demise likely, Kirby spent $100 to enroll in Premier Fast Trac's "Recognizing Opportunities and Defining a Venture" course. Between 6 and 10 every Monday night for six months, Kirby learned how to operate a business. The lessons she learned about hiring, contracting, marketing, franchising, financing and more saved her company, which now generates $1.2 million in annual revenues, employs 16 people and is expanding to provide international training.

Kirby and others like her are increasingly turning to the growing number of workshops, seminars and courses that target start-up entrepreneurs. Participating in such entrepreneurial training programs before start-up can greatly improve your chances of success, says Sandy Weinberg, a professor and chairman of the Institute of Entrepreneurship at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Institute's four-semester program teaches groups of 25 fledgling entrepreneurs how to start and succeed in their businesses.

"[Attending an educational] program forces people to think about what they want to do and how to go about it in clear detail," Weinberg explains. As a result, problems are worked out before money is spent and businesses are opened, rather than after it's too late.

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This article was originally published in the December 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Business 101.

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