Star power in crowd

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Warren Buffett react during a speech by graduate Dennis Deer during the graduation of the inaugural Chicago class of the 10,000 Small Businesses initiative. (Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune /June 12, 2012)


The per capita star power of the commencement speakers was off the charts for the 37 graduates of a new management program.  In a ceremony held Tuesday at Malcolm X College, the inaugural Chicago class of the 10,000 Small Businesses initiative were sent off by Warren Buffett, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

What the small business owners gained during the 20-week program, may be more valuable.

“I feel like I got more than an MBA,” said Dennis Deer, a Chicago-based small business owner and psychologist who runs a counseling business for police officers and ex-convicts.

The 10,000 Small Businesses initiative was launched in 2009 by Goldman Sachs, which committed $500 million to provide small business owners with practical training and access to capital.  Chicago is one of seven locations in the U.S. to participate in the program, with the investment bank committing $25 million locally for small business loans, education and grants.

City Colleges of Chicago took the lead for the management program, which was held at the Harold Washington campus.  Small business owners in a wide range of fields, from recycling to organic catering, studied accounting, marketing, negotiation and other topics.

Deer, a North Lawndale native, launched his business in 2000 and has 22 employees.  He works with police departments throughout the Chicago area, providing training services and counseling.  The training he received set him straight on a number of management issues

“The single most important thing I got out of the program was how to move from being day-to-day manager and step back and be the CEO of the company,” Deer said. “I’m a better leader, able to delegate more. “

Beyond the curriculum, he said the networking was invaluable.

“I didn’t want the program to end,” he said. “There aren’t many opportunities I get to interface with other business owners. It’s lonely being the president of a company.”

Like many recent graduates, Deer intends to keep up with his classmates.  He said an alumni association is already in the works.


Inc. Magazine

Jo | staff


 Jun 13, 2012


First Chicago Grads Exit '10,000 Small Businesses' Program

Warren Buffett, Rahm Emanuel, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein turn up in Chicago to honor the 37 graduates.

Photo courtesy Dennis Deer

Warren Buffett and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein meet with graduates of the Chicago 10,000 Small Businesses initiative on Tuesday.

This time, the big guys came out to honor the little ones.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel congratulated the 37 graduates of the inaugural Chicago class of Goldman Sachs’s 10,000 Small Businesses initiative on Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The program, launched in 2009, offers a sort of mini-MBA to entrepreneurs. Over the span of 20 weeks, Chicago small business owners attended 10 eight-hour classes aimed at helping them develop their enterprises.

Chicago is one of seven U.S. cities offering the program. Companies hoping to participate in the initiative must have been in operation for at least two years and have at least $150,000 in yearly revenue and four employees.

Among the Chicago graduates Tuesday was John Griffin, owner of Chicago-based security firm AGB Investigative Services Incorporated, who says his company has already experienced sizable growth since he began the program at the start of 2012. “I’ve been able to negotiate for better margins for my contracts,” Griffin says.

AGB–whose services include everything from cyber security to armed personal guards–expects to increase gross revenue by 35% in 2012. The company has already hired 17 new employees so far this year.

According to a Goldman spokesperson, small business owners consistently say the program’s negotiation lessons are among the most helpful modules. Many small business owners leave money on the table because they don’t set a firm goal, break-even number, or walk-away number before entering a negotiation, the spokesperson says.

Dennis Deer, owner of Deer Rehabilitation Services, also graduated on Tuesday and was elected by his classmates to give a speech introducing Buffett. Like Griffin, Deer had owned and operated his business for nearly 10 years before enrolling the initiative. Despite his years of experience as a small business owner, Deer says the classes have him insight he never received as a hands-on entrepreneur.

“One of the reasons I needed a class was that I had been working in the business, but not working on my business,” Deer says. “I’m a psychologist. I never had any formal business education. … The single most important thing I learned was to be step back, allow my staff to do their jobs, and to focus more on the vision and mission of the company.”

The Actual Graduation Speech that Dr. Dennis Deer gave during the 10,000 small business graduation.