Park City entrepreneurs learn a lesson from Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs course prepares Parkites to succeed
November 25, 2016
Brian Sather had a newborn baby at home, but the instructors weren't interested in excuses.
Sather, the CEO of Blacksmith International, one of two entrepreneurs with Park City ties that recently completed an in-depth business course put on by Goldman Sachs. The 16-week program, part of the finance giant's effort to create economic opportunity, aims to equip entrepreneurs with all the tools they need to achieve long-term success.
The course is free. But in return, the instructors demanded total participation — even if you just had a child.
"They don't give you any outs," Sather said. "They were like, 'This is here to change your life and your business. So we're not going to accept your excuses for not doing it.' The curriculum is tough, they're tough about making sure that you get it, you absorb it, that you can pitch it."
It was worth it in the end. Sather, a Park City resident, and Tomi Smith, who owns the Park City-based SES Group, said the course, which is similar in design to an MBA program, changed how they approach running their businesses. It opened their eyes to new ways to think about their companies and their roles as entrepreneurs.
The course covered a number of topics covering all aspects of business, including how to manage long-term financials, marketing and social media, leadership and creating a company culture. Sather and Smith said the lessons they learned have them ready to take their companies to the next level.
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"I can say from my standpoint — and I feel like I was fairly well-prepared to succeed before — that I feel way more prepared now," said Sather, whose businesses helps companies manufacture products around the world. "I feel like the decisions I make are based on something. Like, I have a fully-baked five-year plan. I would have never done that on my own."
Smith said interacting with other small businesses was one of the most useful aspects of the program. She said the culture in America has led people to believe that becoming a wildly successful entrepreneur can be easy — so it was encouraging to see companies of various sizes and success levels grappling with the same issues she faces.
"They're all facing these exact challenges," she said. "So you hear input you've never heard before, and you've never thought of, and it comes at you from all angles."
Another part of the course was pitching their businesses to Goldman Sachs officials, like a CEO might to investors. It forced the entrepreneurs to learn how clearly and concisely convey exactly what it their businesses do and why they're valuable. That was particularly useful for Smith, whose company is a contractor that focuses on energy efficiency.
"I'm bringing something brand new to the construction world," she said. "So people are having a hard time grasping it, and I'm learning how to rebrand and remarket so people can grasp the idea of what we're trying to do. People are like, 'Are you an electrician, a framer or a builder?' This helped me realize that I wasn't articulating it very well."
Having grown so much as entrepreneurs in the last few months, Smith and Sather have one piece of advice for other business owners in Park City: Sign up for the course. Goldman Sachs has pledged to put 10,000 small businesses through the program nationwide, and they've nearly hit that mark, meaning time to participate is drawing thin.
"It was a great experience," Sather said. "At a time when (building businesses) is so important to Park City, this resource would be great for so many others."
For more information on the program, visit goldmansachs.com.