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GrowSmart program to help business owners

Mark Lupo, facilitator of a SBDC program similar to GrowSmart in 2011, suggested 
business owners take some time to invest in strategic planning and to form long-term 
pictures and goals.

Mark Lupo, facilitator of a SBDC program similar to GrowSmart in 2011, suggested business owners take some time to invest in strategic planning and to form long-term pictures and goals.

ALBANY -- Beginning March 29, area business owners and senior managers will have a opportunity to attend GrowSmart, a program of the University of Georgia's Small Business Development Center.

According to Debbie Finney, area director of the SBDC, GrowSmart is designed help provide strategies for growth -- planning for the future success of their companies.

Finney said the 30-hour program, conducted over a seven week period, will address techniques and strategies to allow key company personnel to work "on" their businesses rather than "in" them and is designed for leaders of companies with at least two years of successful operation.

According to Finney, a similar SBDC program offered last year graduated 20 business owners from seven separate counties. The companies included AAA Concrete, Roto Rooter of Albany, and Central Monitoring. This is the first year the GrowSmart program is offered, Finney said, and will feature an "improved" and "up to date" curriculum.

Acting as facilitator for the program will be Beth Hagan, of Fort Myers, Fla., who, according to Finney, was instrumental in preparing the curriculum for the GrowSmart program. Hagan holds the title of Master Facilitator from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which describes itself as "the world's largest foundation devoted to entrepreneurship."

Hagan said that although she authored some of the course material, most of was created by the SBDC. Her biggest contribution was in taking existing material, much of which was in "paragraph form" and converting it to something more meaningful and appropriate for adult business people."

"Facilitator is a proper title," Hagan said, "because I'm not a teacher and this is not an academic lecture course. This is all about a practical approach for helping owners of small businesses reach the next level of growth and profitability."

Hagan said that rather than "teach by definition," the class of business people would be encouraged to interact with the curriculum and with one another.

"Participants in this course will learn as much or more from each other as they will from the course material,"

Hagan said that people in Georgia were fortunate to have the business programs provided by the University of Georgia SBDC, which she referred to as "the best she'd seen of the states she'd worked with."

According to SBDC sources, the GrowSmart program will began with discussions on Planning for Growth, examining factors such as operating environment, company vision and assessment. In subsequent meetings the subject of marketing and planning will be addressed. Finally, aspects of Leadership and Management, Financial Analysis and Operations, and Plan Implementation will be explored.

Hagan said the program will culminate with the creation of a single page business plan created by each attendee and intended to be of distinct value to his or her business.

Acceptance to the GrowSmart program is by application and will be conducted at the Riverfront Resource Center, 125 Pine Avenue. For information, call the University of Georgia SBDC area office at (229) 420-1144.