Uncertainty is a part of entrepreneurship. Many entrepreneurs will recall times when the doubt and uncertainty about their business seemed insurmountable. Questions about payroll, sales, marketing and staff can overwhelm even the most seasoned entrepreneur. Those entrepreneurs who are able to guide their business through the uncertainty often come out stronger and more stable for growth. For entrepreneur and small business owner, Megan Torrance of Torrance Learning, finding the right people to help her through those uncertain times is why her business is still growing.
For eight years, Megan Torrance worked as many professionals do in today’s workplace. Torrance was an independent contractor who helped her clients standardize and centralize backoffice administrative functions. However, Torrance grew weary of the life of an independent contractor, never knowing the size or timing of her next project. In 2006, Torrance started receiving more and more interest in projects that involved online learning called eLearning. She decided to take a chance and devoted some time to “build out” the eLearning side of her business. “I realized that was a much more stable and marketable business than the independent contracting,” recalled Torrance. That decision paid off. She started to receive more and more eLearning projects and in 2008, she moved into her own space. The business grew, so she hired 3 people in 2009. Now, the business employs 13 employees and Torrance Learning focuses exclusively on creating custom internet learning modules involving interactive media that allows businesses to train their workforce in consistent, repeatable ways.
Torrance discovered the MI-SBTDC in 2008 through a fellow business owner. “I thought she was crazy at first,” admits Torrance. “I couldn’t believe someone would provide one-on-one consulting at no-cost.” Torrance decided to contact the Greater Washtenaw regional office of the MI-SBTDC. She started meeting with Charlie Penner, Regional Director for the Greater Washtenaw region. They started to go over her business strategy to help her work “on” the business as well as “in” the business. Penner helped her look at her strategy and guided her to resources that Torrance could use for help. In addition, Penner brought in Donna Lewis, MI-SBTDC small business consultant, to help her with sales and marketing.
“Megan has been a great client because, in addition to understanding both the technical and business sides of her company, she is open to suggestions and eager to learn,” said Penner. “Megan knows the kind of work she wants to do and has a clear vision of the kind of company she wants to lead. It’s truly been a pleasure to help her achieve her goals.”
“They were very helpful and assisted us in some key places. Charlie always asks good questions and is great at connecting us with the right people and resources,” explains Torrance. “The one-on-one consulting is the most helpful. Having someone with such diverse knowledge who also understands my business is great. They help me look at the big picture and celebrate with us when we have success.”
As the business continues to grow, Torrance is focusing on some defining a clear strategy for the future. “We have some key areas that we are going to focus on going forward. We want to become more efficient while broadening our offerings. We are looking at expanding into mobile technology and other areas. As a business gets larger, time allocation becomes the hardest part. You have a lot of responsibilities and you have to get really creative to pull it all off,” said Torrance.
As an independent contractor turned entrepreneur, Torrance has some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “What’s been very helpful for me is connecting with other business owners and talking about some of your fears and problems. When we were going through tough times, I was mortified and embarrassed. But the other business owners helped me understand that it was ok. Everybody goes through it. It’s those kinds of relationships that are really important.”
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