Be Strategic: Grow Your Business Q&A with Sheet Metal Solutions

Entrepreneur Fund

February 28, 2021

Mark and Becky LaTour, owners of Sheet Metal Solutions in Duluth, Minnesota

Work on your business and not just in your business.

The Be Strategic program consists of six, three-hour classes held once per week in the evenings facilitated by Entrepreneur Fund Business Advisors. Eight local non-competing businesses work alongside each other to create a strategic business plan, network and work on their business within a supportive group setting.

The Entrepreneur Fund is actively recruiting businesses to participate in Be Strategic courses beginning March 2020. If you're interested, please complete the brief application form to get connected with your local business advisor. There is no cost to participate.

Still on the fence? Hear about the program from Be Strategic graduates Mark and Becky LaTour, owners of Sheet Metal Solutions.

Why did you decide to enroll in the Be Strategic Course?
It was presented to us by one of the course educators (at that time) and although we really weren’t sure if we could commit the time necessary to complete the course, we felt it sounded like a course that our business would benefit from.

What was unique about the Be Strategic program?
We’ve been in other class type programs where there are other small business owners also taking the class, but we really enjoyed the way Be Strategic utilized the setting to allow the businesses to engage with one another and not just with the person teaching the class.

What did you find most beneficial about class cohort experience?
We appreciated the opportunity to interact with several other small businesses on a personal level. By getting to know more about each one through the different activities we all worked on, it allowed us to analyze our own business operations and make the changes we felt were needed based on all of the information we had learned.

How has participating in the Be Strategic program impacted you and your business?
We set goals (1, 3 and 10 year) and since then have been really focused on meeting and/or exceeding those goals. We set a target to increase our sales by $250,000 that first year, look at starting a new division and look into purchasing new equipment. What we ended up doing was increasing our sales by $200,000, we didn’t look into the purchase, we MADE the purchase and we didn’t look into the start of the division, we started the new division and we still had a profit.

By the 3-year goal, we’d hoped to reach $2.2 million in sales, and we reached $2.6! Overall, we’ve seen yearly sales growth increases as low as 18% and as high as 133%, with profit every one of those years with the exception of 2020 due to Covid-19. Our staff went from as low as 5-6 employees up to 16 at our peak pre-Covid.

Throughout this time, Mike and Becky also worked closely with our friends at Northland Small Business Development Center

What would you say to a small business owner who is looking to grow their business?
We’ve recommended Be Strategic to other business owners we know in the past and they too have seen the benefits of the course. We highly recommend anyone that’s looking to gain some insight into how they can improve their business’ profitability.

In summary, we just really enjoyed the program and feel it’s worth the time and effort. You will definitely get out of it what you put into it!! 

Take the next step to grow your business. Apply Now. 

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