The Emerging Leaders Q&A series spotlights business owners who have participated in the SBA’s Emerging Leaders Program. Each featured business owner completed this extensive training with over 100 hours of classroom time and one-on-one counseling. Since its inception in 2008, the SBA’s Emerging Leaders Initiative has trained over 5,000 small business owners, creating over 6,500 jobs, generating over $300 million in new financing, and securing over $3.16 billion in government contracts.
Here is an Emerging Leader’s story.
What is Tier 1 Graphics: Tier 1 Graphics is a sign and graphics company specializing in vehicle wraps with locations in Cornelius and Mooresville, North Carolina. With generational experience in the sign industry – some family members who still own successful companies today – you could say its in our blood. Though we use old-school craftsmanship, we have adopted modern day technology to execute any project within the US.
About the Business: Tier 1 Graphics was established in 2011. This aspiration came after working for the family-owned sign company along with spending some time with a national vehicle wrap company based in Dallas, Texas. Matt Dinkel had the vision of offering the same quality products while providing an environment that had been unlike any he had previously worked for.
Four years after building Tier 1 Graphics into a company that had nearly doubled its sales every year, Tier 1 Graphics merged with the family-owned sign company. This catapulted the company into offering a full suite of sign products most businesses needed. With the merger, Tier 1 Graphics was now able to utilize the experience and services of the local sign company to expand to our current operation of over 10 full-time employees, and 7000sqft of production space with two locations. Tier 1 Graphics continues to offer premium service on all vehicle wraps, printing, lighted signs, and custom sign projects nationally and locally.
The Emerging Leaders Experience
Q: How did you get connected to the SBA’s Emerging Leaders program, and what was your biggest takeaway?
I connected with the SBA program by stumbling upon the program information on the SBA website. After doing some additional research on the program, it seemed like a perfect fit for our company and our current needs as we transitioned from a small to mid-size business. The biggest take away for me was the reality check you get once you start to dive into the program. By using your actual financials for most of the modules, you’re able to find weaknesses and some strengths you might not realize you have.
Q: How have you been able to apply what you learned from the program at Tier 1 Graphics?
We have been able to apply virtually everything we’ve learned from the program to some aspect of our business. Whether its financials, daily operations, or planning, we have gained the knowledge to implement specific strategies to understand where we’re at today and where we’re going tomorrow.
Q: How has the program helped you grow your business?
First and foremost, the business connections and network I have obtained usually takes businesses years to develop. Pairing that with a better understanding of what to look at within my business and how to allocate my time to make sure we are continuing to progress is what helps me sleep at night.
Q: When it comes to educational programs like this, what advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs so they get the most out of the experience?
It’s hard for me to compare it to any other educational program as I think it stands in a league of its own. With that said the advice I would give for this class is BE PREPARED! This class consumes a fair amount of time, which you’ll need to prepare. Being prepared mentally, logistically, and making sure you can fully devote 100% to the class when required, is key to making sure you don’t miss a class or assessment as they are critical for understanding how everything ties together. Lastly, knowing how valuable this opportunity is, as it could be the difference between your company struggling or finally breaking through the ceiling most small businesses face.
For more info on the Emerging Leaders program, visit the SBA’s website at https://www.sba.gov/emergingleaders. CBRBiz.com is your one-stop destination for all things entrepreneurship and business. Check out our partners to see all the incredible resources available to small business owners in the Charlotte region.