Teri Hawkins has worked with the likes of Lee Iacocca, Bill Gates and Liz Claiborne. Why in the world would she be interested in local entrepreneurs looking to grow their start-up ventures?
That’s what the cynic would ask, but Hawkins recently held two boot camps in concert with Rogers and Bentonville-Bella Vista Chambers of Commerce and three minutes into her presentation it became obvious she has the wherewithal and expertise to make a difference.
Hawkins secured a private grant from some of her former large corporate clients and set up a non-profit in the past year with the mission of coaching start-up ventures in select communities across the nation.
“It’s my time to give back,” Hawkins told a small group in Bentonville Monday.
Houston and Seattle are two of the three locations Hawkins has committed to help entrepreneurs willing to work with her by first learning to listen and break from the old paradigms that 99% of entrepreneurs think will work.
She is visiting Northwest Arkansas to determine if the area will be added as the third region to benefit from her grant.
“I have been pleasantly surprised by the entrepreneurial spark and energy I see at work here. But there is still a lack of professional level coaching at an affordable price for most start-ups, which is not uncommon. My grant can help.” Hawkins said.
She spoke to a dozen or so self-proclaimed entrepreneurs Monday in Bentonville and quickly got their attention when she asked them to introduce what they do.
Standard answers ranged from video production, writer, cleaning service, logistics and public relations.
Hawkins said it’s a classic mistake to introduce yourself by telling folks what you can do for them. She urged the participants to shift the focus back to the other party and then to listen intently without trying to conjure up a way to sell them something.
“I find most people think they are good listeners but seldom are ... listening is not a passive activity,” Hawkins said.
When trying to grow a business through networking events, Hawkins said not to focus on too much at once.
“You may only make one good contact at a networking event, but make it the right one - someone you want to do business with. And how do know if you want to business together unless you take to time to listen and learn,” Hawkins said.
She urged the boot camp participants not to routinely give out business cards, but rather take cards from those folks they have met and are interested in cultivating a business relationship.
Hawkins said in today’s instant gratification society people have just three seconds to make first impression.
“You don’t do that by going on and on about yourself and your company. We simply don’t have enough time to care about what everybody does, that’s just the way it is,” she said.
Hawkins teaches the importance of learning a language that differentiates her clients from their competition.
Sandy Wright of Eureka Springs, a serial entrepreneur herself, said she joined Hawkins; Savvy Entrepreneur Club in 2010 and recently resurrected a business she started some 30 years ago with techniques she has learned Hawkins.
“I am excited to have Teri reaching out to Northwest Arkansas, she didn’t know much about this region, but is finding there is a great deal of start-up energy and momentum building here. She would be a good fit as mentor and business coach,” Wright said.
Before Hawkins leaves this area later this week, she will determine if Northwest Arkansas will be the third region to benefit from her grant.
The grant works to subsidize membership dues into the Savvy Entrerpreneur Club, which provides four days of intense workshops with Hawkins this year and phone consultation time each month.