Entrepreneurs: Coach’s business delves into the art of team building

2011-08-14T00:05:00Z Entrepreneurs: Coach’s business delves into the art of team building

Gazette Staff

The Billings Gazette
August 14, 2011 12:05 am  • 

Nothing sums up the modern office like seeing a young Gen-Xer wearing cargo shorts and a neck tattoo working on a project with an aging baby boomer whose idea of casual Friday is to loosen his tie.

Workers of all ages have their own skills to contribute, although sometimes they don’t always speak the same language. That’s where Karen Grosz comes in.

“Teams, especially multigenerational teams, need help communicating now more than ever,” said Grosz. So do teams of mixed gender, mixed temperament, mixed whatever.

She’s been coaching business owners and employees for a long time, and more recently has joined with her daughter Liz in running In Good Glazes, a ceramic and arts business. It was there she quickly realized she could combine her two passions by using cooperative art projects to coach workers in a company she calls Canvas Creek Team Building.

“When the inspiration for Canvas Creek hit me, I quickly did tests and was overwhelmed by the strong reactions to the process,” she said. “I could tell Canvas Creek was going to impact a lot of people in a very powerful and positive way, so I jumped in with both feet.”

Grosz may be reached at 690-5999 or through her company’s website, CanvasCreekTeamBuilding.com. Here’s what else she had to say about hard work and serendipity:

Nature of the business:

On-site team building.

Why start this business?

The idea, the opportunity and the ability to launch were perfectly aligned for me as Canvas Creek Team Building feels like my whole life has come full circle. I have coached business owners and their teams for years, which gave me the background to understand helping to grow people forward. In Good Glazes gave me the understanding of using art with nonartists.

Where did startup funding come from?

My pocket, sales of my book “What’s Your Excuse?” and the desire to run a debt-free business. After the first test I knew I was onto something, so I asked my financial planner about the ins and outs of using my retirement account. He, rightly, suggested I be very careful. I invited him to be part of a Canvas Creek test so he could see what I was doing. His team had an incredibly powerful response to the experience and at the end I asked if he thought I should start Canvas Creek. His response was “You have to, people need this.” I’ve not used those funds, but his blessing increased my confidence.

How long have you been in business?

As a serial entrepreneur, 30 years, but with Canvas Creek, since March. My personality and today’s Internet climate made moving fast possible.

Your biggest challenge during the current recession?

Helping businesses to understand the return on investment is there when team building is done with a targeted outcome is my biggest challenge. Often companies cut travel first, then training in an attempt to control costs during a recession. That is not necessarily a good idea. Engaged team members have increased productivity and cohesive teams incur less turnover. Because Canvas Creek offers a fast and effective experience, we help companies conquer the recession, not survive it.

What was done to overcome those challenges?

Fortunately, the spending for training took an uptick about two years ago and training/team building, as an industry, is doing well. Generally when companies begin to feel hopeful they begin to require training. Spending money on employee engagement pays huge dividends and helps companies weather bad times. So, I have offered trial events and spoken at events hoping to increase understanding of what Canvas Creek does for teams.

What is being done to expand the business?

We are seeking more certified trainers now for several markets. After training, they will take Canvas Creek to the businesses in their areas. Website search engine optimization, social media, and simply getting the word out consume much of our expansion efforts.

Your best business decisions?

Joining the Chamber of Commerce and taking part in their networking group, Collaboration. Billings has an incredibly strong Chamber and the people I have met, the things I have learned, because of my membership, have been invaluable.

Your worst business mistake?

Hiring the wrong marketing firm in the beginning. I knew I needed help and I thought the firm I hired “got it.” They didn’t. My vision is rock-solid; I’ve learned to trust that vision and to protect it.

What advice do you have for someone running a business?

Connect with others. There is nothing more powerful than the theory of abundance. When you help others, they will help you. I interact with people not just in Billings, but around the country and together we are stronger because we share our passion and knowledge. Of course my advice that business owners should invest in team building goes without saying. It truly makes strong teams more creative and challenged teams stronger. Sometimes it is easy to accept the current temperament of your team and not challenge them to communicate and collaborate. Entrepreneurs are by nature very do-it-yourself oriented and often forget that a strong personal or team growth event, facilitated by a professional, has long lasting productivity dividends.

Number of workers?

No full-time employees besides me, but 12 people actively contribute to the operation/design of Canvas Creek Team Building.

What’s your five-year plan for the business?

We are already ahead of schedule with national expansion, which is very exciting. The plan in five years is for me to spend most of my time supporting a team of coaches with training and speaking opportunities.

A question you would ask other entrepreneurs?

What is your most effective networking strategy? Although a longtime Billings resident, I have a large network of friends outside Montana and am looking for ways to become well-known here.

If you weren’t doing what you are now, what would be your dream job?

I would still be coaching people, just in a different capacity. Coaching is who I am.

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