Like many entrepreneurs on the fast track, Tom Cannon sought a crash course in strategic planning. The BungoBox franchisor got up to speed using the Rollins Business Accelerator.
With the tough economy locked tighter than a Vegas vault, it's no surprise that many small businesspeople are still proceeding carefully. Some, however, are doing quite the opposite. Like Tom Cannon. He launched his BungoBox franchise in May 2011 and went full steam ahead—without the operation falling apart.
In fact, his two-year-old company, which rents plastic reusable bins as an alternate to cardboard boxes for moving, has added at least 10 franchise locations in the past year alone (still counting). Plus, there are still hundreds of franchise applications to review. Even more, the company started making a profit after year one, a feat not easily accomplished, of course, in the boom-or-bust (mostly bust) world of entrepreneurship.
So, how has he kept up with all the growth? He’s gone back to school.
“You can take all the business classes in the world and still not be prepared for everything thrown at you when you become a business owner,” Cannon says. “By the time you have some years under your belt and start making money, well, it’s time to take some classes again.”
With that in mind, the 39-year-old recently completed a three-month program at Rollins College in Winter Park called the Rollins Business Accelerator. This new program is designed to help second-stage entrepreneurs evaluate strategy and develop a growth plan while maximizing cash flow for future profitability. It's surely not the only formal training available in Central Florida. With Orlando ranked as one of the “10 Best Cities to Start a Business,” according to Entrepreneur magazine, there is plenty of instruction to go around. In this instance, though, the Accelerator prompted Cannon to really think, well, outside the box.
“This class has given me the tools needed to harness the vision I have for my company,” adds Cannon. “The lessons learned from all involved have forever left a mark and will play an important role in our culture. I feel like we now have a distinct advantage when faced with any challenge or obstacle."
Classes, each accommodating up to 15 CEOs/presidents, are held at the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship, in the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins. One hundred percent of the faculty have started, bought or run a successful business.
“We identified a gap of preparation in the market,” comments Cari Coats, the center's executive director. “We often get CEOs and/or presidents of entrepreneurial ventures [enrolling] in one of our MBA programs. We’ve noticed an upswing in the demand for business preparation skills by entrepreneurs.”
Not every entrepreneur, however, is able to afford the cost or have the time to enroll in a two-year MBA program. The Rollins Business Accelerator fills this void in the market, with no long-term commitment or significant capital investment required, says Coats, who also is president of C2 Advisors, a management consulting firm specializing in strategy, operations, governance, marketing and business development services for corporations and other enterprises.
“Recent graduates over the past four years of our program have been able to elect a concentration in entrepreneurship with their MBA program,” she says. “Graduates (who received their degree) prior to a few years ago (and) who have entered into an entrepreneurial venture since graduating may feel they need a mini-MBA primer intensely focused on running [their] own venture.”
And, in case no one has noticed, entrepreneurship is to the economy as fuel is to an engine. It makes things move. Big picture: Who would debate that entrepreneurship (and innovation) will be crucial to the nation’s economic revival and competitiveness in a global marketplace?
At the Rollins Business Accelerator, students are assigned a professional coach, who has a successful entrepreneurial track record and helps them learn about relevant topics such as how to position their company for growth, how to lead their organization, how to obtain capital to fund growth and who to negotiate with. During the comprehensive three-month program, entrepreneurs work on their business and leave with a development and planning process they can use as a tool for ongoing growth.
“Ultimately, it’s a place that fosters support and inspiration,” Cannon says. “The ability to work on my business with the nationally ranked Crummer faculty, who have been there and done that, and with dynamic classmates was certainly a game changer.”
Cannon contends that he walked away with a good assessment of the current status of BungoBox, the competition and the market. Now, he believes, he's ready to make better decisions about the continued growth of his company.
“It definitely helped me hone in on my strategic thinking and get advice from people who’ve been in my situation and come out on top,” he concludes. “It’s is a must for any business owner.”