The GiFT that Keeps on Giving

Shelley SmithBlog, Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, Predictive Index

First thing Monday morning I am in my car, coffee riding shotgun next to me in the console cup holder. I am excited when I pull into the parking lot at Stratford University in Newport News and as I gather my teaching materials I think about the nineteen small business owners who will soon be joining me in the campus auditorium. Juggling papers and hot coffee on my walk to the glass front doors, I ponder what questions my audience might throw my way and look forward to helping them find answers.


Shelley Glasses 2An Idea Whose Time Had Come

Jennifer Morrone, fellow Peninsula Women’s Network member and owner of a pet-sitting business called Critter Sitters and More, approached me a while back with the idea of offering informative sessions about topics of interest to local small business owners. Jennifer was working hard to establish her business and she recognized the value of partnering with an executive coach. She also knew that many small businesses were unable to afford such services. Jennifer persisted and as I listened to her ideas a concept began to form.

The result was GiFT (Getting Focused Together), a 12-week program designed to educate small business owners about strategies for intentional growth. Our first session was held on September 28 and the workshop runs through February 22, 2016. Holding our sessions at Stratford University provides an academic atmosphere and puts everyone in the mood to learn, which is especially important at 8:30 on a Monday morning!

Highly Customized and Responsive

One of the many benefits of the GiFT workshop is that it is a small, intimate group. It is easy to get lost in the crowd at a large conference or seminar, but with GiFT everyone is able to join the discussion, ask questions, and share experiences.

Another major benefit is that the sessions are highly customizable. Because there is a limited number of participants I can address the needs and concerns they have, rather than being forced to rely on a fixed lesson plan.

Just recently everyone agreed they wanted to know more about setting and maintaining a budget for their business. The New Year is just around the corner and they wanted that knowledge so they could better manage their cash flow come January 1. I had planned on covering budgets in a future session, but since the group was eager to learn about that topic right away, we were able to address it sooner rather than later.

In addition to budgets, we have also discussed the areas of customer segments, value propositions, and pricing of services. As we progress through each lesson I thread the conversation back to the previous lessons, reaffirming the value of all the information that came before. I especially stress the importance of priorities and organization for business owners.

Leading the GiFT sessions has been an extremely gratifying experience for me. When I compiled all of the material and began creating assignments I felt good knowing that other professionals would find the information I had amassed over the years important and would use it to build their businesses and make them stronger.

The Takeaway

This workshop is called GiFT for a reason. The sessions are affordable because I know money can be tight for business owners. Accessing the knowledge you need to take your business to the next level and investing in yourself is like giving a gift to your business and your future. I want participants to use the info I provide to focus their businesses, help them make more money, and achieve their goals. When they make a decision in the future, I hope they imagine a little version of me on their shoulder, steering them in the right direction. I want the lessons they have learned from the GiFT sessions to be with them for years and years to come.

When I created the workshop I also thought about how important it is for business owners to connect. Everyone works on the projects during the sessions, but some attendees have even gone so far as to form mastermind groups to help each other brainstorm new ways they can improve their businesses and work together. The connections they have made through the sessions will serve them long after our time together comes to an end.

Nothing is theoretical. During the sessions we tackle real-life obstacles and successes. I recognize I am standing in front of real people with real dreams and goals. Many times I see their faces light up with the spark of an idea. Other times I see confused expressions because I have brought up something they weren’t familiar with or hadn’t thought of in relation to their business. I encourage participants to stretch outside of their comfort zones and find new answers they maybe hadn’t considered before.

Not Just another Monday

When I pack up my materials and head back to my car after an hour spent in a GiFT session, I feel drained. I hope with all my heart that everyone in the session recognizes the value of the information presented and that they will try the strategies we laid out.

Yet when I pull out of the parking lot, ready to begin another busy week, I also feel invigorated. I love sharing my expertise with others and seeing them succeed. As I merge into the steady stream of commuting traffic I know there is no place I would rather be bright and early on a Monday morning.

Interested in checking out a GiFT session for yourself? Visit for more information and to register.

Stay tuned to the blog for success stories from two business owners who took part in GiFT and find out how the information they learned during the sessions has helped them and their businesses.