Five suburbs to launch business accelerator program Monday

Ray Benedetto aims to help suburban businesses grow with guidance from a new accelerator, called Next Level Northwest.

The organization will launch Monday during a special event, where about 80 state and local government officials, chamber and business executives are expected at 9 a.m. at the Hanover Park police department's community room, 2011 Lake St.

"We're going to help businesses that need specific assistance and training to help them get to that next level," said Benedetto, principal of Guide Star Inc., a business consulting firm in Batavia. He is acting as project director of Next Level Northwest until a regular executive director is in place.

Next Level Northwest is a public-private initiative formed by government officials in Elk Grove Village, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Rolling Meadows and Hanover Park. The towns are contributing a total of $250,000 over the next three years to fund the initiative, which will provide mentoring, coaching and other services to businesses in those towns.

The group applied for not-for-profit status, which could be approved in October, Benedetto said.

Unlike chambers or other business organizations, Next Level Northwest will take a close look at a business, which is at least 3 years old. It will evaluate the business' needs and work closely with the owners to design a plan that includes coaching and training. For example, if a retailer sees sales are falling, it could apply for help to determine the problems and possible corrective action it needs to take.

Once the business owner goes through the program, they can give back to the business community by offering coaching or mentoring to others.

The group expects to help about 25 businesses in the host towns during 2018. That could increase to about 50 businesses in 2019 and up to 100 businesses in 2020, Benedetto said.

But to achieve some level of success, business owners need to listen to their coaches and mentors, Benedetto said.

"We assess the leaders readiness for change and their coachability to make that commitment to make those changes," he said.

Benedetto himself has been flexible, while the Next Level Northwest office is being finished on the second floor of the Hoffman Estates Community Bank. He holds meetings virtually or on location wherever he's needed.

"People don't come to us in one location. They come to us through locations within each of the communities we serve. Our office is a central 'nerve' center through which we coordinate services, meet periodically to collaborate in serving and building businesses," he said.

Eight suburbs consider working together for business accelerator program

Logo of Next Level Northwest, a new business accelerator in the Northwest suburbs.
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