Monday, July 20, 2009

National Learning Systems (NLS) graduates from Meridian Center for Business Development

National Learning Systems, a resident tenant of ours, is graduating at the end of July. Here is our press release
STILLWATER, Okla. The Meridian Technology Center for Business Development is pleased to announce that National Learning Systems (NLS), a resident of the business incubator, has graduated and will move into another location in Stillwater in July.

National Learning Systems partners with schools and the Oklahoma State Department of Education to provide high-quality, research-based educational courseware supported with sustained professional staff development proven to increase student achievement. Since their move into the incubator in September 2006, NLS has grown to 8 employees.

Charlcie Cumming, Director and owner of NLS, remarked "Being a resident of the Center for Business Development has been important for our growth at NLS. We have been able to obtain assistance in hiring new employees and have benefited from being able to host training sessions in their conference areas. We've enjoyed the benefits of the business incubator and appreciate all the support and encouragement provided by their staff."

Ron Duggins, Director of the Center, said "NLS has been a great client and we appreciate all their dedication and hard work which has made them successful. By being able to have the facilities to develop companies such as NLS, North-central Oklahoma and Stillwater are able to keep businesses in the area, creating jobs and further opportunities for our community and region."
I am really pleased when we get to graduate a company from our incubator. Yet when I tell people a company graduated from our incubator, they often ask me what I mean by that. Do I just kick them out after a set period of time?

When a company becomes a resident in a business incubator, there is supposed to be more going on than just renting space; we incubate a new company by adding value to their development.

Each client has different needs. NLS already had a pretty experienced management team, so they had little need in developing a business plan or figuring out their business concept. Instead, for example, we were able to help NLS hire additional staff by making sure they had a good job description, were doing a good search, and by being available to their staff to discuss candidates.

But NLS is now at the point they don't need us, though they will continue to have our support: NLS can and should contact me if there is some assistance I can provide. That means it is time to graduate from the program.

Roughly, I've found it takes about two to three years for a company to know if it is going to stand on its own or not. I use roughly since every company is different and circumstances vary. But if the first year is spent getting a product out the door, the second year starting to sell the product, the third year making some profit...and the company is not moving along that progression at all, then we have to consider the viaibility of the company.

In a way graduation is less about the clients' needs, than ours. As a company becomes more successful, the cost of our incubator services becomes a smaller and smaller part of their budget. They don't need our help to stay in business, but it is nice to have someone there to help whenever you need it. I am sure many clients would love to stay in an incubator permanently. But how would we work with new clients if the old ones never moved out?

Graduation is really about the client no longer needing the services I provide, and I taking those services and offering them to the next prospect. Just like graduating college, it is about the company moving from adolescence to adulthood. And while that transition may be disruptive to both the client and us, it is important for growth.

Congradulations NLS on your graduation!

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