08/03/2012 11:19 am ET

Speed Counseling For Struggling Business Owners

Recently, I was invited to a new effort to help aspiring entrepreneurs in the food business. It is being spearheaded by Jim Koch, founder and president of the Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams beer. He teamed up with Accion, a microfinance organization, to create a new program called Brewing the American Dream.

Part of the program is something they call speed coaching — an interesting process they are doing all around the country. It works like this: Tables are set up with signs like operations, finance, marketing and so forth. Each table has a sign-up sheet with 20-minute time slots. Each table is staffed with either an employee of one of the sponsors or a local expert or business owner. Every 20 minutes a new session starts, and participants change tables.

This whole thing seems to work on several levels. First, it is inspiring to hang out with aspiring entrepreneurs. And 20 minutes seems to be long enough to assess the situation and get someone pointed in the right direction — or to at least keep the owner from going in the wrong direction. It also works because building a successful business requires being competent in many areas, so being able to cover six topics in one night can be critical to assessing weak spots and opportunities. This addresses a big problem for entrepreneurs, which is that many either don’t know where to go for help or don’t think they need any — an occupational hazard of being optimistic, confident and driven by passion!

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