Entrepreneurs Share Nuggets of Wisdom From FastTrac

At some point, budding entrepreneurs realize how much they need to learn. All the confidence and determination in the world won’t make up for a lack of knowledge.

Fortunately, there’s FastTrac.

The FastTrac curriculum combines educational content, interactive exercises and exposure to an impressive roster of subject-matter experts. Along with gaining the financial acumen and technical know-how to turn your entrepreneurial dream into a reality, you’ll tap a vast network of peers, mentors and guest speakers.

What you value most about FastTrac will vary based on your needs and your stage of business building. Some FastTrac graduates benefit most from the skills and tactics they develop, from writing a business plan to identifying a market niche to setting financial, production or sales goals. Others say the highlight is forging relationships that open their eyes to fresh perspectives.

For Rob Drummond, FastTrac’s value takes many forms. He graduated FastTrac in 2003 before launching a management advisory firm.

“Entrepreneurs often underestimate the funds they’ll need,” said Drummond, now a certified FastTrac facilitator in Morgantown, Pa. “You have to figure out how to model the business and avoid undercapitalization. FastTrac has a module on getting different types of funders and showing them how you’ll repay them under various scenarios.”

Aspiring entrepreneurs often formulate an idea for a business without detailing how it will take shape or what actions they should take to move ahead. They may need guidance to advance from concept to launch.

When Sarah Schumacher took FastTrac NewVenture in 2011, she had already spent two years freelancing as a graphic designer and print broker. What began as requests from friends for wedding invitations and business cards turned into a full-time business.

“I never thought about what I liked doing most,” said Schumacher, founder of Cyclone Press in Kansas City, Mo. “FastTrac helped me figure out my target market: branding and consulting to help small businesses grow. If you’re serious about starting a business, FastTrac NewVenture is the best way to begin.”

By 2017, the demands of her growing business led her back to FastTrac. Some of the best takeaways from that GrowthVenture program came from guest speakers.

An operational expert distributed case studies of how founders of early-stage companies improved their internal efficiency. Schumacher continues to review the handouts, which include a workflow diagram consisting of flow charts that help avoid bottlenecks.

Another speaker, a strategic planning specialist, provided tips to boost productivity. Schumacher has applied what she learned by prioritizing her time and differentiating between the urgent and the important.

“Both speakers were FastTrac graduates who gave me tools that I use with my clients,” she said.

In some cases, a comment made in FastTrac can have a lasting impact. Many FastTrac graduates cite advice such as, “Work on the business, not in the business” as an ongoing source of wisdom.

Mike Mikeworth, a certified FastTrac facilitator in Abilene, Tex., says a particularly valuable tool is the business model canvas, a visual aid that guides entrepreneurs to refine their business model.

“It’s a grid where you answer lots of questions based on different building blocks,” he said. “It’s free with online FastTrac and it’s a popular resource.”

Another element of FastTrac that resonates with participants involves the drafting of policies and procedures that accelerate a young company’s growth. Many entrepreneurs start by doing everything themselves, and they eventually hire their first employee to lighten their load. With written policies in place, newcomers can hit the ground running with clearly defined rules, protocols and processes.

Mikeworth recalls a FastTrac graduate—the founder of a meat processing company—who benefited from documenting workflow procedures and standardizing job roles and responsibilities. Having a comprehensive set of easy-to-understand policies has allowed the founder to step away from the day-to-day business operation to engage in long-term planning.

“Because FastTrac helped her refine her company’s policies and procedures, she can give thought to her exit strategy,” Mikeworth said. “Now that she has applied what she learned and has these policies in place, she knows that she can sell the business and it won’t die afterward.”