The executives who lead minority- and women-owned businesses in the Kansas City area face plenty of challenges beyond discrimination.
One is that these entrepreneurs spend so much time trying to grow their ventures that they don’t have enough time to become great managers. This shortcoming hampers their companies’ growth. But a two-and-a-half-day program that starts Tuesday in Kansas City could dramatically upgrade the leadership skills of 30 owners or CEOs of local businesses.
The Tuck Kansas City Program is the first corporate collaboration in the country involving Tuck Executive Education at Dartmouth. Local entrepreneurs share business plans with Tuck’s faculty, which then offers advice on how to improve them through focused marketing, financing and other strategic moves.
Sponsors paying much of the program’s cost are Burns & McDonnell, DST, Hallmark, Sprint and Kansas City Power & Light, and the city of Kansas City.
Burns and McDonnell CEO Greg Graves said Monday he sees “lots of great entrepreneurs” east of Troost Avenue but added they often need assistance sharpening their managerial skills to run businesses for the long run. If that can happen, he says, the entire local business community will get stronger, helping larger firms like his.
Leonard Greenhalgh, professor of management at the Tuck School of Business, said Monday, “Entrepreneurs are desperate to make ends meet.” That can lead them to take on contracts incompatible with their companies’ strengths. These entrepreneurs also can be the first in their families to run businesses.
In a testimonial, Ajamu Webster, principal of Dubois Consultants in Kansas City, said after participating in a previous Tuck program he narrowed his firm’s scope of work, which increased sales and profitability. “We entered Tuck trying to be all things to all clients and exited Tuck with a strategic focus,” Webster said.
That kind of outcome for some or all of the 30 leaders taking part this week would be great to see. Fred McKinney, managing director of Minority Business Programs at Tuck, said this week’s effort could help create a “culture of success” in the minority community.
These businesses could become role models while hiring more minorities and women, all of which would benefit Kansas City’s urban neighborhoods.