10/06/2012 06:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2012

How I Learned to Think Like a CEO

If you were offered an opportunity to grow your business, add new employees and cement your future, would you take it? It seems like an obvious choice, but as a small business owner it can be difficult to make time for anything outside the day-to-day operations of your company, let alone continuing education. But I am here to say the right program is definitely worth it.

As the CEO and owner of The Shred Authority, a company on the South Side of Chicago that provides document destruction, storage and other services to more than 1,500 customers, I'm always looking for new opportunities to grow and improve my business, but only if they will directly and positively impact my firm's financial performance. I am a recent graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program at Harold Washington College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. I have to say I never expected to find such a valuable resource -- for free -- at my local community college.

Sometimes as an entrepreneur, you become bogged down in the minute operational details of your firm. You have a hard time seeing the big picture. You want to be the one providing the services to customers or helping to build the products, because that's what you've done since the beginning. As a participant in the 10,000 Small Businesses program, I was forced to "think like a CEO" and, as a result, I've learned to delegate operational responsibilities and focus on the overall strategy for development and growth.

There are no magic bullets to growing a business, but, as I learned over my six months in the 10,000 Small Businesses program, there are clear building blocks. I worked on identifying growth opportunities, managing human resources, and obtaining financing. I was introduced to new metrics and analytical tools that have allowed me to reduce costs and have had a noticeable impact on my bottom line. Since enrolling in the program, I've added two new employees to my 15-person company, which has increased our operational flexibility.

One of the strategies I developed through my experience was the addition of a new product line in my firm -- document storage. I knew there was an opportunity to fill this need for our clients, but I wasn't sure how to effectively add it. I learned how to use one revenue stream to generate another and am already seeing growth in this new area. All of these benefits made a significant impact on The Shred Authority. And I discovered this gem at my local community college. Even busy entrepreneurs should take the time to develop ourselves -- in the best case, it can make an immediate impact on our bottom line.

Learn more about The Shred Authority and Ken Williams by watching this video.