Johnson County Community College: Entrepreneurs Get Their GAME On

Elisa Waldman
Member Spotlight

GAME (Growth through Action, Measurement and Engagement) is a workshop series developed by Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) at Johnson County Community College (JCCC), providing owners of growing businesses the opportunity to work on a strategic plan in a continual, focused, tactical way with the assistance of industry experts, business peers, and Small Business Development Center advisors. The GAME program is open to businesses that have been in operation for more than three years with annual sales in excess of $250,000; the average annual revenue of those enrolled is $700,000.

GAME has grown into a supportive cohort of businesses poised for growth—similar to a CEO roundtable, but containing more content and action-oriented accountability than the typical roundtable. This cohort model provides professional development and networking in an open and supportive environment to the business owner with limited time and resources. GAME students meet formally every other week from 7:30-10:00 a.m.; they often meet on alternate weeks as well, to hold a study hall in which they further apply the lessons learned from the previous week to their business models.

A long-term goal of the GAME program is to produce higher economic impact in businesses in the surrounding community. This is measured through the number of jobs created, capital infusion into the businesses, and increased sales. This innovative program builds a strong client base for the SBDC to work with to grow small business. The participating companies increase their local economic impact, which provides funding to JCCC. Feedback from GAME students has been very positive, with 71 percent enrolling in multiple GAME series.

GAME students have been outspoken about the benefit of the program. Jason Wright of Jason Wright Electric explains:

In the last couple months, I have taken the GAME program. [Y]ou need to know this is an amazing program. I have had a chance to reflect about the really great things that came out of these classes. I think about some of the changes I have made in my own organization in the last couple months and they will pay dividends for years. . . . With the help of the staff and guest speakers at the Small Business Development Center at JCCC, I feel like there is nothing in my business which I cannot improve and implement.

The SBDC has developed strong community partnerships through offering GAME sponsorships to area banks and financial firms. A local bank typically sponsors five sessions of GAME, allowing the bank access over the five sessions to approximately 25 growing businesses, as well as familiarizing the bank with the resources of JCCC and the SBDC. These sponsorships generate revenue to allow for reduced tuition fees for the students. The GAME program is attracting second-stage businesses who may not otherwise reach out to the SBDC program or JCCC. These business owners leave understanding the ongoing value of developing a long-term relationship with the SBDC and JCCC.

This program is the result of responding to an ongoing need of small business owners in the community. The GAME program requires strong facilitators, committed industry experts within the community, partnerships for funding, and resources to support the program. The program was designed to address the four common challenges SBDC staff were addressing with their clients: help gaining focus, setting a growth agenda, making decisions, and taking action. The student is supported with one-on-one advising by the SBDC, peer support, and advice from industry experts who understand the challenges of being a small business owner, as well as worksheets and other materials which can be accessed online to reinforce learning between workshops.

The program was implemented in February 2016. In the first seven months, the SBDC offered four GAME series with a total of 42 businesses participating. Out of the 42 businesses, eighteen were new to the SBDC and JCCC; 24 of the participants were existing clients.

Click here for more information about the GAME program, including upcoming sessions and industry expert profiles.

Elisa Waldman is the KSBDC Regional Director at Johnson County Community College.

Opinions expressed in Member Spotlight are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.