The Small Business Leadership Academy hosted by the W. P. Carey School of Business and sponsored by Salt River Project will begin its seventh year helping small business owners improve their companies.
The academy was started in 2008 as SRP looked to provide additional resources to the local businesses around the Phoenix area, said Patti Pyle, manager of supplier diversity for SRP.
“We wanted to establish a program for small business owners to have better business acumen to grow and evolve their businesses,” Pyle said.
The program takes place during the fall and lasts eight weeks, concluding with a graduation ceremony.
Business that participate must be in business for at least three years and have annual revenues between $1 million and $10 million.
Additionally the business must consist of fewer than 100 employees.
Classes are taught by W. P. Carey MBA professors who provide practical lessons on running a small business, said Dawn Feldman, executive director of executive education at W. P. Carey.
“The faculty used in the programs are focused on the practical applications of the lessons,” Feldman said. “They provide useful frameworks and tools that can be used the next day in their business.”
Feldman said that the program also allows business owners to take their minds off the day-to-day and focus on the future of their companies.
“Most people don’t take the time away from the tactical day-to-day stuff to think strategically on where their business is going,” she said, adding that the academy allows them the chance to look ahead and plan for the future.
Donna Stewart participated in the program during its first year and is still passionate about it.
“I’m pretty passionate about it and still to this day I still feel as strongly about it as I was the day I was asked to participate,” Stewart said.
Stewart, who is the CEO and owner of her company Stewart Electric & Communications, said that in addition to the curriculum, the opportunity to meet and bond with peers was extremely beneficial to her.
“Equally helpful was the interaction with my classmates,” Stewart said. “Some were contractors, some were not even in the same industry.”
Stewart says that she still stays in touch with some of the business owners and executives with whom she went through the class.
Ricardo Carlo, president of the Associated Minority Contractors of America, went through the academy in 2010. He said meeting with other business leaders in the community helped.
“I interact with a lot of people who have gone through the program, and I get to see them all the time,” Carlo said. “We try to get together once a quarter as alumni and see how things are going.”
Pyle agreed that the chance to forge peer groups within the class is one of the academy’s major benefits.
“They’ve connected because some of them had the same issues and were helping each other solve those issues, giving personal advice to each other,” Pyle said.
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