Learning never stops for business leaders like Rachel Robison, co-owner of Robison Equipment Company Inc., who attended the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses (10KSB) program at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Cleveland, Ohio. New tools and insights enabled the business to increase revenues by 30% last year.

Based in Geauga County, Robison Equipment was founded in 1945 and sells farming, landscaping and lawn care equipment primarily to small farms and homeowners.

"My career prior to this was in the medical field,” she explained. “So when I read about [10KSB] and the tools it could give me to become a better leader, I was excited."

Robison enrolled in 10KSB in 2019, graduating in spring 2020 — just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to disrupt businesses across the country.

Even in the face of the global health crisis, Robison still discovered ways to use what she learned to improve the way Robison Equipment operates.

"I think the first thing 10KSB showed me was the importance of putting the right people in the right places on your staff," she said. "Since we (Rachel and husband, P.J.) took over the business five years ago, my husband has been the mechanic on staff, but he also had to help run the business along with me. He ended up getting interrupted from mechanical work dozens of times a day, which was very inefficient."

The company hired a new mechanic, allowing the Robinsons to focus customers.

She also learned that, even in a family-operated business, developing cultural principles and living by them is important.

"I started to really think about who we were as a company and what we wanted to be," she said.

Robison realized that success as a rural business amid a pandemic would require balancing the stability of the company with a willingness to embrace an entrepreneurial mindset.

A desire to expand services as well as maintain safe distancing, Robison Equipment tested new ideas such as parts delivery and new payment methods.

"We'd set up displays outside, space out our showroom and find new ways to engage customers from a distance," she said. "We've been more proactive about reaching out to customers. Just being creative with the situation, trying to find solutions in a difficult time. I feel 10KSB really empowered me — and, by extension, the whole staff — to do that."

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