Carbon County may be entering a new dawn, and that dawn may well be Dawn Ferrante, who threw out the first pitch on what is looking to become Carbon County's Entrepreneurial League System.
Ferrante, Executive Director of the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation, has argued that the county's attempt to attract outside businesses is unlikely to succeed. She believes the it has to develop its talent from within – and the way to start is to grow its entrepreneurial base.
This, Ferrante began doing, on Friday, April 16 at the Kovatch Training Center in Nesquehoning, with a presentation of the Entrepreneurial League System with co-developers Tom Lyons Ph.D. and Gregg Lichtenstein Ph.D.
"I met Tom Lyons last summer when he came to speak at my Penn State master's program in Community and Economic Development," Ferrante said. "I was so impressed, and I though it was absolutely perfect for a rural area like Carbon County."
Over the following year, Ferrante and Lyons, the Field Family Chair in Entrepreneurship at CUNY's Baruch College, have been talking about bringing the program to Carbon County.
"The Entrepreneurial League System is a system for developing entrepreneur skills so that they can, in turn, develop their businesses," Lyons explained. "We've come to Carbon County to talk about the system and how it works, about developing the skills of entrepreneurs, and our successes in other places.
"ELS is designed as a coaching system to help entrepreneurs develop their skills and climb a ladder of skill development," he continued. "It's set up such that coaches work at specific skill levels: personal one-on-one, peer group coaching, and community coaching."
"We created ELS because across the U.S. no one in any community was really responsible for developing entrepreneurs," Lyons noted. "People were trying to use entrepreneurship as an economic development strategy, but it was done in a fragmented way with entrepreneurial service organizations, business incubators, and low interest loan programs – all operating in a fragmented way and not really developing skills."
In our competitive environment, we have to increase the level of skills of our entrepreneurs because that's the only way we can increase the levels of wealth and employment," added ELS co-developer Greg Lichtenstein.
Lichtenstein, CEO of Collaborative Strategies, calls ELS a "coaching system for developing entrepreneurs."
"ELS is very powerful and has works in Philadelphia, Central Louisiana, and West Virginia," he said. "It helped create 300 jobs in Central Louisiana in a three-year period, increased revenues by $37 million, while increasing exports."
Lichtenstein explained that ELS was designed and operated by entrepreneurs. To go beyond the one-size-fits-all approach, ELS organizes entrepreneurs by skill levels, similar to the baseball farm system: Rookies, A, AA, AAA and Major Leaguers. At each skill level, a fledgling entrepreneur is matched with a coach.
"ELS focuses on building entrepreneurial skills, not just one-time improvements in performance," he said. "We take a holistic approach to entrepreneurs."
Entrepreneurs entering the program are assigned to a farm team according to their level in the four skills categories – technical, managerial, entrepreneurial and personal maturity – and are graded in each as low, medium, high or exceptional.
"Rookies pay attention to only one gauge on their dashboard, and it's usually their favorite gauge," Lichtenstein stated. "Single A players notice the separate gauges. At AA, they start connecting these elements together and start realizing the relationships. It's not about getting more information, it's a matter of fundamentally changing the way they think.
"Rookies think if they have a good idea and the world will beat a path to their door. They are inside-out thinkers. As they rise in the system, and become customer focused, they begin to be an outside-in thinker."
Lyons and Lichtenstein spoke about entrepreneurs rethinking how they were doing business. As an example, a construction company changed the way it approached bidding and within three years moved from a $5 million a year to a $32 million a year business.
Lichtenstein indicated that Rookies averaged sales revenues of $500,000, single A players had $1 million, and AA players averaged $5 million in sales.
He said that entrepreneurs think differently at each level. Rookies see a time window of a few days to three months; single A players-from three moths to one year; AA players from one to two years.
"That's why its so hard to teach annual budgeting to a Rookie," Lichtenstein said. "You can only begin to teach budgeting to a single A. We learned that we should only be teaching the kind of things they can absorb."
Lichtenstein learned this from a class he once taught. He asked the participants how they liked the class. Half loved it. Half hated it. He soon realized that the half that hated it were either not ready or too advanced for the level of the material. That led him to propose the multitiered ELS system.
"After the meeting, the Economic Development Corporation in partnership with Carbon County will apply for a grant for Tom Lyons and Greg Lichtenstein to return to do a formal study of our area," said Ferrante. "They will look at how many entrepreneurs we have that will participate in this study; what kind of culture we have in Carbon County; what levels will be as Rookie, A, AA, and AAA like the baseball Farm system; and help us identify coaches.
"Then we hope to launch the program with about 35 entrepreneurs – to grow their skills, and increase revenues like the other areas that increased by 41 percent while in the program. When they grow, they hire more people and generate wealth for the community. Their wealth grows and they pay their people more money."
With Carbon County's ELS in Spring Training, can the regular season be far away?
Further information about the Entrepreneurial League System is available at: www.EntreLeagueSystem.com.