Dana Freund was a public-school teacher in Northeast Ohio for two decades. Education was her life. But there came a point where she wanted to add a new element to her life to go along with education, and that’s where Pinnacle Gymnastics, of which she is the owner, comes in. After starting the new company, however, it became clear where some of her weaknesses were.
“From a business standpoint,” she says, “I had never taken a business class.”
This is where the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program was especially helpful for Freund. She knew there were business skills she needed to sharpen for her business to grow, including negotiation and communicating her business’ culture to her employees. Both of these crucial business skills, however, were included among the curriculum in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.
“For me, this was an opportunity to get a business education without enrolling into a MBA program,” Freund says of the free program. “I didn’t have time for a MBA.”
Freund says after taking the 16-week program, she was successfully able to address both of those knowledge gap areas. Here’s how.
Negotiation is not a strong suit for Freund. In her world, for instance, she sets a price at her gymnastics business and that’s what the customer pays, so it’s not something she’s had a lot of experience with—until she went through the Goldman Sachs program.
“My partner on that session whose entire life was built around negotiating contracts,” she recalls. “We were supposed to role play like we were negotiating, so I threw out a number, he threw one back, and I said, ‘OK.’
“He said, ‘No, that’s not how it works!’ Spending the day with him, it helped me learn how to do it and now I look at the negotiation process a lot differently.”
Playing off the strengths of the other students in the course was one of the program’s best features, Freund remembers. “It’s a huge, diverse room of people. Everybody in there does something different.”
The courses aren’t all about dollars and sense and business strategy, however. There were human resources lessons to be learned as well, including how Freund could best communicate with her staff.
Freund says another of her key takeaways from the program was how to effectively communicate with her staff. “I go to my staff a lot more now,” she says. “I have given my staff a lot more ownership in the choices made in the office every day.”
For example, one idea Freund took from the Goldman Sachs program was to go back to her office and set up a dry erase board with a question about the business Freund is seeking input from her staff on. These questions have ranged from, “What could a direct competitor do to put us out of business?” to “If you were to define Pinnacle Gymnastics in one word, what would that word be?” Employees write their responses to the questions on the board, and Freund takes a picture of the question and answers so they can be recorded.
Surveying the staff on questions such as these has been a valuable exercise in getting everyone on the same page, Freund says.
“You might think the answer is one thing,” she says, “but does everyone share that?”
Lean on me
At the end of the day, Freund says the key to the program’s success lies with her fellow classmates who were also enrolled.
“The peer relationships I took out of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program were monumental,” she says. “Everyone in there is stressing about the same thing.”