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Workshop aims to help entrepreneurs succeed

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | January 7, 2024 1:00 AM

They have great ideas capable of transforming the world — or at least their corner of it.

Unfortunately, that great idea may not be enough. Roughly 40% of businesses fail in the first year, and 90% fail in their first five years, Brent Baker, executive director of Pend Oreille Economic Partnership, said.

"Most people who go into business do not have an MBA and have not extensively studied the world of business," Baker said. "What they have is a passion for something, a skill, and a desire for independence, so they go into business for themselves."

What they often don't have is the skills and knowledge that set them and their business up for success. Through PEP's upcoming "Entrepreneurship Bootcamp," Baker hopes to change that by teaching them the fundamentals for business success.

The latest outgrowth of those efforts is the economic development organization's bootcamp Tuesday, an all-day event that offers business tips, strategies, and fundamentals, from creating business plans and models to defining marketing and sales practices to identifying their desired business culture and leadership style, or how to best achieve them.

The workshop, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be held at the Community Resource Envision Center in the conference room. The workshop is sponsored and being offered free to existing businesses, start-ups, and aspiring entrepreneurs.

It is the first of what Baker hopes will be an ongoing series of entrepreneurship and leadership workshops hosted by the economic development organization. The free all-day event — Fundamentals for Enduring Success — includes lunch and a private follow-up session for those attendees who would like one. Seating is limited, and advance registration is required. 

"From what I've learned [over my career] and what I distill through these programs, there is a certain set of things," Baker said. "If you can do these, if you know these eight or nine things and can incorporate and understand what they are and why they are important, you shift your chances [toward success]."

Instead of a success rate of 10-20%, Baker said he's found that businesses that know and employ those strategies see survival rates of 50-80%. Baker said the strategies help entrepreneurs make the most of their ideas and investments while minimizing frustration and lost time.

"There is no guarantee, but you tilt the odds enormously," he added.

The strategies are well-known and employed by many, from those who run successful businesses to those who work for big corporations. What he wants to do is take the information known by mega-businesses and taught in MBA programs and share it with local businesses and entrepreneurs.

"If you don't have a purpose, you don't have a strategy, you don't understand your books, and you don't know how you differentiate from your competition, you are shackled," Baker said. "You could succeed with all of that happening, but the odds are you will not."

Baker's career includes everything from owning and operating his own construction company to coaching businesses on a national level. It also includes stints in real estate, resort management, ranching, forestry, and investment.

Baker, who has lived in Bonner County since 1977, semi-retired in 2016 to what he calls a "swan-song" career of business consulting, coaching, and education. That led to his launching of Elevate Now Consulting in 2020 and his certification as a master executive coach.

Now PEP's executive director, Baker said that after he semi-retired, he offered to hold workshops so that local businesses could have those same opportunities.

It was then that he learned the board had been without an executive director for more than two years. It was the start of a conversation that led to Baker taking on the position.

After taking the position, Baker began looking for ways to share his vast business knowledge as well as ways to get the information he'd developed over the years with local businesses.

The ideas he shares are secret, and Baker didn't invent any of them. However, throughout his business career, he's been in positions where he's been able to learn from and absorb that information. He's worked with industry experts, picked their brains, and absorbed coaching strategies.

"I've had some really good mentors in my life who helped show me the way, and I also realized I was one of those self-willed people with a skill and a passion. And I learned I had a passion for learning, but I still learned way too slow."

While he learned the lessons and learned them well, Baker wishes he knew then what he knows now. He wants to help others avoid learning those same lessons the hard way. Hence, the workshops and why he is working with PEP.

Information: Pend Oreille Economic Partnership: online, pepidaho.org; by email, brent@pepidaho.org; or by phone, 208-290-7752


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