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 Weaver, Bennett & Bland: Founded in 1982, Weaver, Bennett & Bland upholds its three client-focused cornerstones: helping, planning, and protecting. Our team of approachable and down-to-earth attorneys gives clients creative solutions in a broad range of legal areas, including business law, civil litigation, divorce, family law, personal injury, estate planning and estate administration, elder law, and special needs planning.
About the Business: Weaver, Bennett & Bland started before I was a glimmer in my parent’s eye, and the original partners – Dave Bland, Chuck Bennett, and Lee Weaver – built a thriving law practice in Matthews, NC for 35 years. As some of the founding partners transitioned out of the firm, they needed new leadership and vision for the firm’s next 35 years. I took the helm in 2017, and haven’t looked back since.
About Matthew Villmer: I’m originally from Evansville, Indiana, but I’ve lived in states throughout the U.S, ultimately landing in Charlotte. My wife and I moved to Charlotte about five years ago from New York City. I practiced law up north for several years after moving from Pensacola, Florida, where I focused much of my practice on environmental claims against BP after the 2019 oil spill. My wife and I love international travel, and we try to take at least two trips abroad every year. Last year we went on a whirlwind trip throughout Europe, and in 2019 we’re headed to Japan for almost a month.
The Emerging Leaders Experience
Q: How did you get connected to the SBA’s Emerging Leaders program, and what was your biggest takeaway?
Oddly enough, I saw an ad for the program through the Nextdoor app, and I applied that same day. My biggest takeaway was a lifelong relationship with my fellow Emerging Leaders. Although we’ve all graduated from the program, we still keep in touch through regular communication and “CEO Braintrust Meetings,” which we attend every couple of months. Surrounding yourself with other smart and tenacious business owners is invaluable, and the SBA helped make it a reality.
Q: How have you been able to apply what you learned from the program at Weaver, Bennett & Bland?
The SBA’s program included the creation of a 4-year business plan, with specific steps and action items to accomplish the outline. I’ve applied what I learned to make substantial progress on the 4-year framework, and we’re pushing ahead to achieve our goals by 2022.
Q: How has the program helped you grow your business?
The SBA’s curriculum had a broad focus, but several of the classes educated the CEOs on marketing and achieving long-term goals through the smart use of business lines of credit. We’ve instituted a marketing plan and attained certain business credit using the SBA’s resources, allowing us to generate new business and grow the firm as that business comes in.
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?
My best advice is, “attend the classes and do your homework.” It’s the same advice we all remember from college – if you’re engaged and you show up to class, you’ll learn everything you need to know.
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.