In 1987, two young entrepreneurs set out to find feminine and quality driven luggage for women. When their search was unsuccessful, Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller decided to make their own. After stealing the show with neighborhood clothing displays, Baekgaard and Miller knew they needed to meet the growing demand and come up with a solid business plan. The two fashion forward women contacted SCORE in Ft. Wayne. They met with mentor George Cook who gave them the business advice they needed to grow their company into a fashion empire.
With help from SCORE, Vera Bradley Designs transformed from a neighborhood trend to a global brand. Miller says, “George never told us what to do or how to do it. He would ask questions that helped us find the solutions for ourselves. We were very lucky to connect with somebody whose business expertise complimented our creativity. I’m sure SCORE does that for everybody. They are a fantastic organization.”
Even as a global, multimillion dollar company, the two owners say they never hesitate to contact George for business advice.
Have you tried SCORE? Let us know how your mentor has helped you succeed.
The business world can learn a lot from gardeners. Gardeners are masters at nurturing growth. They know when to plant a seed to ensure the external environment is ripe for new opportunity. They know how to care for the emerging organism so it begins to grow and withstand challenging conditions. They know when to prune, often cutting out the strongest branches to enable sunlight in to foster more growth that better fits the environment. And they know that they must step back at times, assess their progress, and identify things that inhibit the organism from reaching its full growth potential.
CEOs also need to periodically take stock of their employees to ensure that growth is possible. Times of turbulence offer companies the opportunity to look at their talent pool and identify what the company needs to achieve its future goals. If your future goal is to become the leading supplier of the latest technology widgit, for example, ask yourself if your current employees have the right technical skills to achieve new innovations in widgitry? Does your management team have the strategic vision to both identify and pursue new widget markets as well as to help expand the current ones?
If the answer is yes, then the question you now need to ask is what can I do to help my employees continue to be their best? The reason that continued investment in your people is so critical is that the talent wars continue to survive and thrive. If you don’t invest in keeping your human assets and building upon their strengths, you can be sure your competitors will invest in recruiting them.
If your answer is no–you don’t have the right employees to help you grow into the future. Now is the time for you to make adjustments to your bench.
Even the strongest performers can’t help you achieve your company’s goals if their strengths are not in the areas your future organization needs. Often, this is a very difficult decision for leaders. Most emerging organizations tend to hire for the skills needed at this very moment. And many founders develop strong loyalties to those who were there “from the beginning.” When the organization moves forward or in a different direction, leaders may fail to make the needed talent changes. This can be detrimental to your organization. And it may be a disservice to those valued employees whose skills were right at one point in time, but who may not reach their full potential because they’re no longer a fit at your company.
If your strong performers can help drive the company into the future, be sure to invest in them. If they cannot, or their expertise lies in an area your future organization doesn’t need, take a cue from the gardeners. Prune systematically and fully with a vision of the future. Help your root-bound talent replant in an environment that will nurture their growth. And provide the necessary nutrients to foster the growth in your own organization to achieve its full growth potential.