Business Boot Camp News Articles
Business boot camp
Such sessions are a trendy form of basic
training for small-business owners and managers
There are no uniforms, bellowing drill sergeants, pushups in puddles,
Move over, military.
This is business boot camp.
It started with the team-building trend, in
which office members participate in an outdoor retreat, working together
to complete a ropes course, for example.
More and more, the trend has switched to
workshop- or seminar-style boot camps, basic training for small-business
owners and managers.
"I think that's where the 'boot camp' idea
comes from," said Susan Ratliff of Exhibit Experts, the developer of the
Women's Small Business Boot Camp in Phoenix. "I tend to play that idea
to the hilt in marketing my event, but really the seminars I've gone to
over the years tried to focus on the basics of running a business, like
The boot camp idea has evolved from the
team-building retreats meant to build morale and cooperation.
It's intense, said Clint Parry of Action
International in Tucson, which provides the "Business Academy 101"
"It covers a lot of stuff in a very short
time frame, which relates these types of things to the military and a
'boot camp' concept," he said. "It's looked at as a training ground."
"These are usually four-day retreats to
create self-awareness, clarify values and gets people out of their
comfort zone," said Orlando Blake of the Blake Group, a business
consulting firm in Elgin.
"There are usually two schools of thought on
these - one is developmental, getting people working together and
learning to be more flexible; the other is remedial, looking to improve
dysfunction and learn how to work together better," he said.
Blake said, though, that those types of boot
camps have fallen out of favor because of a lack of long-term success.
"There was a study done about the
effectiveness of these things, and it was found that these types of
retreats only seem to be good for about six months," he said, citing an
March 2000 article in Review of Business. "That is a large investment
for six months, and businesses will seem to go back to old habits. And
if a businesses has to go back to these things every six months, that's
an indication of something fundamentally wrong."
"One downside to these is that once the
business owner leaves, he or she may have a tendency to slip back into
their old ways, so it's critical that they create some form of
accountability, such as a coach to help them implement what they've
Blake said studies show that training along with regular coaching
afterward - and officer, if you will, to keep the troops in order - can
be three times more effective in improving a business than a boot camp
Blake's alternative features a seminar over
two or three days, but it is followed by regular coaching and follow-up
"We do regular assessments and I work with
businesses for a year and we make contact about a couple times a month
and have a six-month retreat so we reinforce the training," he said.
Melanie Seacat, operations administrator for
the Pima County Department of Development Services, went through Blake's
"The program has been very impactful," she
said. "It really shined a spotlight on our organization and showed us
where we are and what we need to do to improve. It was a fantastic
experience in that it gave me concrete tools to use so that our mission
and our goals are aligned while working within a team-based
Caryn Langdon of Phoenix-area-based Coffee
News, went through Action International's "101" seminar, which Parry and
other AI coaches offered in Phoenix, and had coaching along the way.
"There is little doubt to me that the
coaching aspect really helps reinforce things so you can move forward,"
she said. "I have been working with a couple of different coaches, with
one of them suggesting I go through the Business Academy through Action
International, and having the coaching along with it has been fabulous."
Ratliff's women's business boot camp came
about from a lack of success in seminars she'd attended.
"I had attended a lot of these types of
seminars over the years, and I found that many of them had a lot of
fluff, theory and philosophy," she said. "I came out of these still
lacking some real tools or concepts that I could take right back to the
office and implement. This women's business boot camp really addresses
the meat and potatoes of running a business and really provides those
tools and concepts that are very practical and can be implemented
Ratliff said her idea is targeted toward
woman-owned businesses that have 10 or fewer employees, known as
microbusinesses. The event is held each January in Phoenix, and she
intends to eventually take the concept to the national level.
Dianne Trinque of Restor-to-Nu. a commercial
furniture restoration business in Tucson, has attended two of Ratliff's
"We had just bought the business, and not having owned abusiness before,
we thought it would be a good experience," Trinque said. "The
information was just invaluable. I definitely came back energized."
Trinque said she liked Ratliff's camp
because it is held on a Saturday, which made it less stressful than
taking time away from work to go. And she said the presenters shared
stories overcoming hardships that were inspiring for a new business
But the intense boot camp format has it's drawbacks.
"It's exhausting, there's no doubt," Trinque
said. "But it worked OK because they had an ongoing theme that carried
through. It's a good kind of exhaustion."
Trinque also said it can be hard to get to
know other participants.
"You run into someone and you really want to
talk to them, but you can't," she said. If you meet someone you might
think is a contact for your business, you exchange business cards, and
hope to contact them later, she said.
Action International's "101," Parry said,
can be another boot camp concept.
"This academy provides a functional
overview, covering the fundamentals of a business," Parry said. "It
addresses three major challenges in business - time, employee retention
and motivation, and money."
He said this idea is for those who need a
basic foundation about business operations and are "a little leery or
don't want to invest in coaching because it can be very expensive."
Parry is planning a boot camp for the fall
in Tucson, and is working on a way to get around people balking at the
"As a general rule, Phoenix is more
progressive," Parry said. "It's tough to find someone willing to pay
$1,000-$1,500 for a two-day camp."
For Trinque, traveling to Phoenix was not a
"In some ways, it's kind of nice to think of
Tucson and Phoenix as a region," she said. "I'd hate to have an overkill
of the same thing in too many places."
Parry said he is looking at two-for-one
deals or other ways to help make it more affordable.
"I'm toying with some different ways of
positioning it," he said.
Langdon, from Coffee News, praised the
"I have been through several of these
seminars, and I thought this one was excellent because of the way it was
set up," she said. "My business partner and I were just getting started
and this was a great education to get started. I thought it was very
complete. Some of the coaching we've had has covered a specific area of
business - sales, marketing, etc. But Action covered all areas of
business. This has helped us be more aware and more prepared for what's
ahead and to make good decisions."
Boot camps in general "can be very effective
if hands-on exercises are incorporated," Parry said. "While a business
owner cannot possibly learn everything there is to know about business
in two days, they can get great exposure to principles they've never
thought of or perhaps just needed a refresher course.
"The key is to give them enough to be
dangerous, but not so much that they hit overwhelm and paralysis."
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