Business owners learn to grow at Emerging Leaders

  • Photos courtesy SBA Illinois DistrictAdam Callery talks to Christell Ayers of A-list Limousine and Bus at the SBA's Emerging Leaders executive education series.

    Photos courtesy SBA Illinois DistrictAdam Callery talks to Christell Ayers of A-list Limousine and Bus at the SBA's Emerging Leaders executive education series.

  • Brad Jones of SafeScreener, center, discusses issues with other Emerging Leaders participants.

    Brad Jones of SafeScreener, center, discusses issues with other Emerging Leaders participants.

  • Jose Pareja of JP Architects.

    Jose Pareja of JP Architects.

  • The Small Business Association's Emerging Leaders Class of 2019 celebrate their completion of the program geared to help small businesses succeed.

    The Small Business Association's Emerging Leaders Class of 2019 celebrate their completion of the program geared to help small businesses succeed. Photo courtesy of Small Busines Administration

 
Submitted by the SBA Illinois District
Posted12/12/2019 1:00 AM

Emerging Leaders is the SBA's executive education series for business owners past the startup stage and poised for growth.

Over seven months, participants attend biweekly sessions in downtown Chicago on topics including goal setting, financial management, human resources, marketing, and more. Throughout the program, they network with peers, lenders, and small business experts while developing a three-year, strategic growth plan that applies the lessons from the course to the owners' specific small businesses. More than 2,500 small business owners around the country have completed the program. On Nov. 19, Illinois entrepreneurs graduated from the SBA Illinois District's 12th cohort. If you're interested in learning more or applying to be part of the 2020 class, please visit www.sba.gov/emergingleaders.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Jose Pareja

JP Architects

7250 W. College Drive, Suite 2NE, Palos Heights

(708) 907-3651

Website: https://jparchitectsltd.com/

Email address: jpareja@jparchitectsltd.com

Years in business: 4

Q; What motivated you to start this business?

A: I wanted to have control over how the company was growing. Also, with the amount of time I was spending, I wanted my family to benefit more. Before I started my business, I was working 60-80 hours a week, but I was doing it for someone else.

Q; What is the biggest challenge you face in growing the business?

A: Cash flow. This also tends to be the most "not fun" part of running a business. What I learned was, I need to systematize it. When I put a proper system in place, it was made so much easier.

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Q: How did the Emerging Leaders program help you meet that challenge?

A: It helped me focus and identify target markets. Before, I really didn't have any written system in place. But I learned if you write something down, it makes it real and actionable. Now I have a written marketing plan, written financial projections, and just hired a full-time marketing person.

Q: What is one tip you'd offer someone starting their own business?

A: Plan. Plan first. Our problem was, when we started the business, we got busy right away. Have a plan, and that way you can see if you are meeting expectations and or need to make adjustments.

Christell Ayers

A-list Limousine and Bus

2504 Washington St., Suite 303, Waukegan

(847) 343-1600

Website: https://www.alistlimoride.com/

Email address: cayers@alist-limos.com

Years in business: 10

Q: What motivated you to start this business?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A: I'm a veteran who served as an Army Captain, Transportation Company. I always wanted to run my own business, and I had an opportunity to take over an existing business from my uncle. That was 10 years ago, when he was 69.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you face in growing the business?

A: Capital. My situation is unique because when you have vehicles, they can't break down at the airport. They have to be new and look fresh, and then there are insurance costs. My lack of knowledge around finances has been a challenge. In the military, I only had to manage the budget -- the money came from somewhere else. But in my small business, I have to both create the money and manage it.

Q: How did the Emerging Leaders program help you meet that challenge?

A: It helped me know my numbers. A big part of the program is looking at your dashboards and doing forecasts and projections, so you make sound business decisions. That financial part is where I've had a lot of growth. I struggled in college in accounting. But I know now that for a business my size, I can't just hire someone to manage the finances, I have to be on top of it, as well.

Q: What is one tip you'd offer someone starting their own business?

A: Take the Emerging Leaders class as fast as you can! We all have a passion and bring a level of expertise to what we do -- we know that piece. But the business side is a whole different story. This class really helped me identify my weak areas in management and improve on them.

Brad Jones

SafeScreener

2775 Algonquin Road, Rolling Meadows

(312) 656-3406

Website: https://www.safescreener.com/

Email address: bjones@safescreener.com

Years in business: 15

Q: What motivated you to start this business?

A: I'd worked for another company for a couple of years out of college, and another person and I decided we could do things a little better, so we started our own business. That was in 1999, but the focus on background checks came a few years later in 2004.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you face in growing the business?

A: Having finances to hire new people. You have to have the work to hire people, but you have to have people to do the work. It can be a frustrating cycle.

Q: How did the Emerging Leaders program help you meet that challenge?

A: We're given the tools we need to go after financing, even if we don't necessarily need it now. It's been helpful to learn what each person needs to produce, how much revenue you should make per employee, based on what they're doing. It forms the basis for our growth plan.

Q: What is one tip you'd offer someone starting their own business?

A: Organization is key, from day one. Don't try to wing it, because then you just have to go back. It's something I wish I would have done. If you start out with a plan, then you can just build on it as you grow. But if you wait too long you have to go back and try to put the puzzle back together.

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