Almost everyone has a great business idea, but Curt Clinkinbeard knows that not nearly everyone knows how to actually run a business.
"There are lots of people who can bake a good pie, but there are a lot fewer people who can build a good business around baking good pies," said Clinkinbeard, director of the KU Small Business Development Center.
In other words, running a business is a talent in itself. And it is not one that many people are naturally born with. That's why the KU Small Business Development Center and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce come together each year to offer the Pathway to Business Success Series.
The series offers classes such as tips on starting a business, lessons on strategic planning and even more technical issues such as tax preparation and Web site design.
About 300 people attended the series of classes in 2005. Clinkinbeard said he thought the classes gave people a good overview of all the different aspects of running a business.
"Sometimes we kind of overwhelm people, but in a way that is good because sometimes the process of owning a business is overwhelming," Clinkinbeard said. "That helps introduce them to it. We want people to start businesses, but what we really want is people to start businesses and be successful. This helps them go in with their eyes wide open."
The classes aren't just for new business owners. Brian Best, owner of the 6-year-old Lawrence computer business Best Macs, said he took the series' strategic-planning class.
"I felt like I got a lot out of it," Best said. "It was the first time I really had a chance to think back on 2005 and really evaluate it, and then look at what we need to do in 2006."
Clinkinbeard said one of the bigger benefits of the classes - held at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce offices - was that they get people away from their businesses for a few moments.
"It gets people out of the day-to-day hustle and bustle," Clinkinbeard said. "The phone isn't ringing; they're not having to put out fires. They can step back and really look at their businesses. That is so important."
Class fees range from $25 to $150. Most classes last a few hours or a day and a half at most. Class sizes can be anywhere from fewer than five people to about 20 people. Either a Small Business Development Center staff member or an outside expert teaches the class. But Clinkinbeard said the sessions were set up to allow business owners to learn from fellow class members.
The center also offers individual counseling to business owners. Best said that he visited with the center before deciding to open his business six years ago.
"It should be one of the places you go before you even get started," Best said. "There's more to running a business than the average person would realize.
"You really have to be a jack-of-all-trades. Unless you have enough cash from the get-go to hire out things like marketing and bookkeeping, you have to know how to do a little bit of all of them."
People who want to enroll in a class or schedule a counseling session can call the center at 843-8844 or stop its offices at 734 Vt. in the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce building.