Ep 305: BONUS – Focus on the Who – 10k Small Businesses


GLP Chief Business Officer Rebecca Hutchins was accepted as a scholar to the 10,000 Small Businesses program through Goldman Sachs and Babson College. Rebecca noticed that Manuel Alexander, National Lead Faculty, facilitated in ways that felt very familiar to our learning-centered approach. In this episode, Manuel shares stories of entrepreneurship, including his own family’s legacy. These experiences taught him about respect for what learners bring to the table, practical engagement strategies that anyone can access, and how attention to detail can be the measure of success.  

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This show is produced by Global Learning Partners and Greg Tilton Jr.

Theme music: ‘Pretty Face’ by Una Walkenhorst.

 

Read transcripts for the episode below.


MEG

[INTRO MUSIC] Hello, and welcome to Shift the Power: A Learning-Centered Podcast, where we talk about the revolutionary power of a learning-centered approach. Through this podcast, we hope to inspire creative thinking and provide practical tools and techniques to deepen learning through dialogue.

 

REBECCA 

Welcome to this bonus episode of Shift the Power. I’m your host for today, Rebecca Hutchins, Co-Owner and Chief Business Officer of Global Learning Partners. We’re taking a break in Season Three for the summer, but we couldn’t wait to share an exciting opportunity that I had the privilege to be a part of. In May, I completed the 10,000 Small Businesses Program through Goldman Sachs Foundation. It was a multi-month virtual learning event that wrapped up with a capstone week at the Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York City. Today, I’m joined by Manuel Alexander, Founder and Partner of Seth and Alexander Advisors, and the national lead faculty for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses. So welcome, Manuel, I’m so happy to have you here today. And to start us off, I’d love to invite you to tell our listeners about the 10,000 Small Businesses Program and your role.

 

MANUEL 

Yeah, absolutely. So thank you, Rebecca, for having me on. And yeah, what can I tell you about Goldman Sachs and the 10,000 Small Businesses Program. So I have been part of this program, which is really focused on entrepreneurs and growing their business and entrepreneurs being businesses that are at a point where they’re ready to scale. But also, it’s comprised of a lot of adults that are looking for other ways to understand what they’re doing differently, how they can benefit from growing their businesses. So Goldman Sachs Foundation, about 10 years ago said, hey, we understand that small businesses are the cornerstone of the country. They are the largest employers, which far exceed corporate employers. And so there needed to be a focus on it. And Goldman Sachs said, we’re gonna put $500 million toward educating small businesses. Now the way they broke that up was they used $300 million, so that they could put it towards funding and making it to where through community development financial institutions, they had access to capital, right, because you can have a great plan, but you do need to have capital to go execute on your plan. And the other 200 million was going to get placed toward educating through a curriculum designed by Babson College in collaboration with Goldman Sachs Foundation to a program that would educate throughout the country, as well as in the UK.

And so fast forward, they’ve got to the 10,000 small businesses, which was the goal. And they said, hey, this is working with the data and the metrics that they were able to compile, they saw that about 80% of the businesses that went through the program, were able to hire more people than what they started with, within about the first 12 to 18 months of the program. They also learned that about again, 80 to 85%, were growing their revenues in the first 12 to 18 months of the program as well. So they saw that it was working. And they said, Well, hey, you know what, let’s do this again. So they anted back up, and they continued the program.

So now the program is in about 14 or 15,000 small businesses that have gone through Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, but they have far exceeded that. So right now, it looks like they’re gonna go maybe for 20,000. And so long as this continues to work, so long as it continues to make the ecosystem and entrepreneurship more stable, then you’re going to have small businesses that are going to be able to weather some of the challenges that entrepreneurs face. Case in point, everybody went through the pandemic. There are entrepreneurs who go through a part of the country that has wildfires, there are entrepreneurs that go through part of the country that has hurricanes, others that have droughts, others that have tornadoes, so all over the country, they’re faced with challenges. But when you go through a program like Goldman Sachs, it really does prepare you not just to face those challenges, but also how to find opportunities and where to be able to grow your business. So that is the Goldman Sachs. That is their purpose. And it’s worked and continues to work. And I’m happy to be able to say that I’m part of that.

 

REBECCA 

Great. Thank you for that. And I’d love to hear how you became the national lead faculty for this cohort.

 

MANUEL 

Yeah, yeah. So I started locally in Houston with Houston Community College. So the way the program works is Goldman Sachs, they will deploy the program through Houston Community Colleges, and they started with about 13 of them. Houston was the first or second one that they started with. So as got a lot of experience, and they’ve gone through right now they’re up to cohort number 33, and that’s with three quarters a year. And so I started off as a lead faculty, now I will disclose, before being lead faculty, I had zero experience teaching in a classroom. Absolutely. I never taught in front of anyone, but you know, not even kids. But I had businesses and I grew them. And I ran them, and I sold them. And I got to a point where I asked myself, What do I want to do with my time? Where do I find the most fulfillment? And I read a book that’s that was that’s called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. And it was a game changing book for me. And so with that book, they have a little exercise in there. And in that exercise, what you do is you fill out, you answer these questions, and it tells you where you should be spending your time and focusing your energy. And when I went through that, it was at a point where I was just really not sure about how I wanted to spend the rest of my time.

So what came out of that is that I needed to be in a position where I helped small businesses, where I had flexibility in my schedule, where it allowed me to travel and my experience, right, what was my background that I could leverage it, and it was in banking, and finance, lending and all of these small business components. And so I reached out to the community, I said, hey, I went out to anywhere in Houston that helps small businesses and I said, I need to be here, I need to be here. Sure enough, as when the stars are aligned, and because of I learned a lot of credit to being on track because of that exercise and Never Eat Alone.  But I came across somebody who was actually leaving a lead faculty position. So I got to talk to them. I said, Hey, I need to be here, you have to let me do this. I’ll do it for free if I have to. Because it was very fulfilling. And I knew that’s where I needed to be. And so yeah, fast forward, I was lead faculty for here locally, for about four and a half years.

And then so it’s kind of like you get called up to the big leagues when you go national. And they say, Hey, we get a lot of great feedback. People love your style. You’ve done a remarkable job. You’ve been here for a while you know this, but why don’t you do this, but on a national level. And it was a new experience for me because it was partly in person, partly hybrid. And everything locally was all in person prior to the pandemic. So sure. I said, Yeah, I said, Let’s do this. And so that’s how I became nationally faculty for the program.

 

REBECCA 

Awesome. And I’m very happy that I got to experience your style, because it was you kept everybody engaged and just seemed to do it so naturally, the way you facilitated all of the different classes and all the different sessions that we had virtually and also in person,

 

MANUEL 

Thank you. No, thank you so much. i Every day that I stepped into a session, whether it was virtual, or once we caught up in person, I always try to think about the those professors in college that were just you just struggled with. And I wanted to have a professor, that was a great time that kept your attention that kept you interested, that walked away really challenging you. And so I remember what I didn’t like. And so every time I walk into something, I remind myself of that so that I can provide a great experience a great learning experience for other entrepreneurs.

 

REBECCA 

Yeah, well, that’s what I experienced. So thanks. So let me talk about the learners for a minute. So at Global Learning Partners, we use something called the Eight Steps of Design as a framework for designing learning programs and other events with our clients. So one of the foundational steps in that framework has to do with the people or the who. So this program is designed for small business owners across the country. What do you see is unique opportunities and or challenges in designing for this particular group of adult learners?

 

MANUEL 

That absolutely, yeah, so in my experience, fast forward, now, it’s been like six and a half years with the program. And what I’ve seen and how I’ve seen it evolve, I like to think that challenges are actually opportunities to be able to address a concern, but therein lies the opportunity in that challenge. So as far as some of the opportunities are that a lot of times entrepreneurs or even just again, in adult learning, people feel that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right? So what are you going to teach me that I don’t already know, or I’m just too old to learn or, you know, I’m not in that mode anymore. My brain doesn’t work that way.

So you have a combination of mindset issues, you have a combination of learning, like just technology, some of them feel like technology has gotten just way too advanced for the way that a lot of the world is functioning now. And then again, some of them are just of the belief that I’m here, but I just have FOMO – a fear of missing out. I know everything I need to but I just want to see what this is about. And so you do have a lot of mindset challenges, technology challenges, but I think therein lies opportunities with a correctly structured program. If you’re going at these things alone, and if you’re doing like a self study, then and there’s really no support system, then those are going to be challenges for you. But when you have a group of people that each have different roles who rally themselves around you to lift you up and help you with those areas that you’re not strong in, therein lies the opportunity to have a successful experience, but also to have a successful program.

So for me, it seems that if you can surround yourself with those people who have their own strengths and things that you might not be strong in that will and this goes for anything, it’s just going to make you that much more successful. So to me, those are some of the challenges and opportunities that are available to people if they approach it the right way.

 

REBECCA 

Yeah, and there definitely was a lot of that in our section, people rallying around each other, meeting on the weekends or in the evenings to help each other out. And it was just great to see people connect, and then everybody’s be so excited to finally meet in person in New York City, and see and feel those connections strengthen.

 

MANUEL 

Yeah, no, absolutely. One of the things that when you’re designing something like this, and again, this was designed with Babson College, which is one of the top rated entrepreneurial colleges in the country. And credit goes to the team that built this people by the name of Mike Fetters, Ann Donnelly, Richard Bliss, are some of the top names that have built this program. And the thing about what I believe makes this program really special and designing it was that that was given to it is that it has to be very practical. Sometimes they just people approach design and curriculum in a way that just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t connect the dots. And there are some fundamental building blocks that needed to be addressed. And it when you do it in a practical way, and you do it in a peer to peer learning way, where people can learn from each other, which was another big part of this program. that creates a recipe for success. And it’s been proven right, the numbers show that people enjoy it, that it’s great for adult learning is great for entrepreneurs. And it’s, I think, a model that you continue to see now, a lot of people moving into.

 

REBECCA 

Yeah, absolutely. It definitely works. And when you hear people, before I even experienced it, I had a friend and colleague who met somebody at a church somewhere who they just started talking, and she had gone through the program. And my friend came back to me and she’s like, you will not believe what I heard. You have to do this program, you have to apply. And I talked to the woman, she connected me with her. And she just had so many amazing things to say and, and now I’ve completed it. So it definitely works. So going back to adult learning. In our work at GLP, we keep six core principles of adult learning, front and center in all that we do, including safety, respect and inclusion. So I’m wondering, how do you notice the principles of adult learning theory showing up in your facilitation style, and the overall learning approach that was used in this program?

 

MANUEL 

Absolutely. Yeah. So with us as it relates to in my facilitation style, every time that you get a group of people together, there quickly becomes this culture of how you’re going to have this experience. And by addressing it, this program addresses the culture component. And it is very important that when you come together that everybody come to an agreement and say, how do we move together to be the most successful, right? So you establish this commonality, shared attitudes and values of saying, ‘Okay, here’s how we want to work together.’ And once everybody has decided, and this isn’t the facilitator, or like, I don’t decide how you move forward, everybody else does. And once everybody else has a say in how things move forward, then collectively, you’re already starting on the right foot, you’re open, you’ve decided that discretion is important, you’ve decided that sharing is important. You’ve decided that accountability is important. And so all these things that are important, you begin this journey with them.

And I think that there are a lot of institutions and organizations and just relationships between people in groups that don’t start with that in mind. And when you don’t, it makes for a really rough experience, then those shared attitudes and values don’t line up. But when you rally around this core approach, then people are having a much better experience. There’s much more buy in. And at the end of it all relationships are built. You learned, you walked away feeling better, but also you walked away with some great relationships because you surrounded yourself around the shared attitudes, values and beliefs that you all decided were important. And so this is a huge impact. And if you’re not doing that, now, I’m speaking to the audience that if you’re not doing that now, really think about what does that look like for you? from a learning perspective when you’re going to just do personal learning or if you’re in a group setting for your organization or for your company, really think about culture and how you move forward so that you can right the wrongs but also have a great experience for everybody.

 

REBECCA 

Great, great advice. Well, what’s a story that you could share with the audience about the impact that you’ve seen from using this approach?

 

MANUEL 

So at this point, I’ve gone through a lot of people and a lot of conversations. And so there’s so many stories, and they’re all different and unique in their own ways. There is one that stands out that there was somebody who there was two of the same types of businesses in a cohort. And that person comes up to me and says, hey, I was assigned to sit at this table with this person who’s my competitor. But I don’t want to talk about all those things that have made me successful and how awesome and amazing I am. And I sat back, and I let them finish talking. And I said, Look, you’re always going to get honesty from me. And I’m going to always be very straightforward. I have very little tact, you can fill it in the thimble. And I said, there’s nothing special about your business, which was shock and awe to him that somebody would tell them that. And then there was I said, the second point is my as far as your secret sauce, there is no secret sauce. There’s other people that are doing the exact same thing that you are, what makes you different is your level of execution, the attention to detail, your processes, your operations, therein lies your multiplier, therein lies your success, not because of what you think your formula is, because everybody else is out there. There’s hundreds, if not 1000s of other businesses just like yours, doing the exact same thing, right. And so when I said this is a really wake up moment for him.

And so the example that I use is if you ever go to a restaurant, and you taste a dish that they have, and they’re also selling a recipe book, and you buy that recipe book, because you want to make that exact same thing. Well, you take it and you follow it to a tee. And when you sit down to eat it, you realize that it tastes nothing like it did in the restaurant. Here is how it works for people that believe they have a secret sauce. So what the recipe doesn’t tell you is what kind of salt, there’s 1000s of different salts, what kind of pepper. What kind of cheeses is feta cheese? Well, there’s 550 different kinds of feta cheese, right, so, so good luck trying to figure out that. Like you have better odds trying playing the lotto than you do, trying to combine the exact same ingredients that they created and that they have all the way down to it says water. Well, is it distilled water? Is it alkaline water? Is it water from a certain region? Is it well water like, what? There’s just so many different outcomes.

So it’s the same way in business after that moment that you realize that the reality was, he was executing on a very high level, not because it was special, but because that was their work ethic and attention that they gave the business. After that they started sharing, and they started opening up to the point that other people were feeling comfortable. And then they began to share. And there was an open book, even with his competitor, even with his competitor. And that was a game changing moment, because now he was no longer living in this shadow of uncertainty of I don’t want anybody to steal my secret ingredient, when the truth was his work ethic. And so that was an impactful moment, in my opinion of something that really affected the way this person moves forward in their life. Pretty much you know, what about everything.

 

REBECCA 

it must have been really amazing to witness that moment of impact. And I’m sure you have hundreds of other stories that you could share with all of us. But well, one thing that I noticed right off the bat when I started this program, and throughout the whole program very consistently, that you’re very enthusiastic and encouraging every time that you met with our section. Global Learning Partners, we have an axiom that says affirmation is like oxygen, we all need it to survive. So it makes me wonder what drives your enthusiasm and energy? And how do you see affirmation being critical in a learning program for small business owners?

 

MANUEL 

Yeah, absolutely. So you know, that’s a great question. I’m thinking about that. I really believe that a lot of my enthusiasm and encouragement comes from so my mother is an entrepreneur. She has had a private school bus service for 42 years. Wow. Now 42 years ago, if you think about the timeline, there wasn’t a school bus service. And so she said, hey, I’m new to this country. I know how to drive a car. I know that there’s this need. So she started with a van and started letting people know hey, I’ll take your kids to school. It was her and then it was my older sister, myself, and my younger brother. And so single mom, she said, let me start this business. Now because of all the money I think I can make. But if it simply puts a roof over my family’s head and food on the table, then that’s a win for us. And so she has done that for 42 years now. Now I do preface this with she is the only person that I can’t give business advice to on this entire planet. Because I’ve tried that. And the recipe and the food does not taste the same when you’re sitting around a meal. And you’re trying to tell your mom how she should run her business.

And so to this day, I’ve always gravitated towards entrepreneurs, and I understand the highs and the lows, I’ve lived it, I’ve eaten it, I’ve breathed it. And you know, they say you’re not an entrepreneur until you throw it over payroll. And so I feel that I’ve been through those things. I know the challenges. My enthusiasm comes from sharing all of my personal successes, but also my failures. If I can help prevent other businesses failing or misstepping with a nugget of information, a tagline, a slogan, a sit down conversation over coffee, then to me that’s an effect that will not just help the entrepreneur. But it helps those families that the entrepreneur hires, that helps the communities that those families live in, and everybody wins. And so to me, it’s a trickle effect that comes back full circle. Because when I see these positive things happening, and I see this progress, it continues to recharge my batteries, it continues to fulfill me, which wakes me up in the morning and want to do it all over again. And so that’s where it comes from. That’s where it’s going. And that’s where I think anybody that approaches anything, when you do it from the right place, and your why is there, then you will love what you do, it will never be work, and you will always have a great time at it.

 

REBECCA 

Yes, absolutely. And I love that story that you shared about your mom’s business. And I can completely relate. That’s why I do what I do to have the flexibility. I have a lot of kids and I don’t want to miss out on their activities. And I also want them to see that you can have a career and a family. And you can do both.

 

MANUEL 

100%.

 

REBECCA 

Well, we’re getting close to closing out. But I have one more question. What is one practical tip or wisdom that you would like to share for the small business owners in our audience today?

 

MANUEL 

Yeah, absolutely. So I always share this at the end of every cohort, I think you’ll remember I shared it with you that, you know, there’s just three words that I want people to remember whether you are an individual working for a company, this applies to everybody. And I firmly believe that if you implement these three words every day in an aspect of your life, that you will see the progress. And that will continue to motivate you to continue making more progress. And those three words are audacity, tenacity and grit, audacity, tenacity and grit. And so you should have the audacity to go out there and ask for help. Because when you try to go at things alone, you don’t help yourself, and you’re not helping your cause and the change that you want to make. So have the audacity to ask for help, but also have the audacity to take bold risks. You don’t want to ever have any regrets about woulda coulda shoulda.

But take those risks that could be game changers, not just for yourself, but also for those around you. Tenacity is you have to have the tenacity to run the race. But at your own pace. We live in a world where you see on social media, and you see all these things of people living these lives, and you feel like you can never catch up with them. The truth is you need to just do it at your own pace, so that you’re happy while you’re doing this. And it doesn’t become tedious or a job, but you’re running the race at your pace. And that’s a good place to be. Finally, grit, you need to have the grit, because you will face adversity. It’s not a matter of if but when. And those that that have grit are able to overcome that adversity by surrounding themselves with people by remembering their audacity and their tenacity. And they will overcome those challenges. So audacity, tenacity and grit. I’d love to leave you with that. And keep those words in mind. Live them, eat and breathe them. And I promise you that you will have a much different perspective on things that happen in life, and that you’ll see the progress that you’ll be making.

 

REBECCA 

That is what you shared with us in New York City. And what I have written on a piece of paper hanging on the wall in my office to keep it front and center.

 

MANUEL 

I love that.

 

REBECCA 

Yeah. Thank you so much. I’m just so thankful that I had the opportunity to be a part of this program. I learned so much and met so many amazing people. And just really appreciate your willingness to be here today to talk about your experience in the program and working with adult learners and business owners. So thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

 

MANUEL 

That’s right. Never stop learning.

 

REBECCA 

Right. Yeah. Thanks, Manuel.

 

MANUEL 

Oh, absolutely anytime.

 

MEG

[OUTRO MUSIC] Thank you for tuning into another episode of Shift the Power: A Learning-Centered Podcast. This podcast is produced by Global Learning Partners and Greg Tilton with music by Una Walkenhorst. To find out more about Global Learning Partners, whether it be our course offerings, consulting services, free resources or blogs, go to www.globallearningpartners.com. We invite you to sign up for our mailing list, subscribe to our podcast and find us on social media to continue the dialogue. If you enjoy the show, please consider leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or your preferred podcast player. [OUTRO MUSIC FADES]

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