Interview with Mike Sweet, CEO of NimblyWise
Tell Us About Your Journey
So my entrepreneurial journey started about 15 years ago when I graduated from business school, and I really wanted to work in smaller companies. I’ve been in traditional consulting, and I was lucky to find an entrepreneurial opportunity in the golf industry, something I’m very passionate about. So I was able to join a software development company and to begin to work on a technology enabled venture.
And that just led to a whole unfolding of career opportunities. I got connected with some great investors, and then they invited me to join another one of their companies. And so that company was called Credo Reference, and that was the first time that I became a CEO. And when I became the CEO of that, I got just everything I could imagine in terms of running a business, growing a business, the challenges of all of that. And I grew that business for about ten years. We ended up having about 75 people at our peak. And then in 2018, we sold that business, and I started a new start up.
Tell Us The History of NimblyWise
So when we sold Credo, my last company, we spun out a new business, and that business became NimblyWise. And so it was going from a much larger business, Credo, and then back to a very small start-up. And so that business, NimblyWise, is focused on helping young professionals and college students develop the soft skills that they need to be successful in their careers.
What Makes NimblyWise Unique in Your Market?
We have two divisions. One is in higher education, where we’re working with universities, and we’re all about helping them focus on these soft skills. A lot of curriculum providers in higher education focus on the subject area knowledge, and not as much on the career skills that are being developed in their curriculum. So that really differentiates us.
And then the work we do with corporations, with their young professionals in our training and coaching work. There we’re not only doing coaching and supporting young people in terms of building their confidence and helping them feel that they can achieve their goals more readily, but we’re also training them in certain mindsets and certain habits that they might not have learned in school that will really help accelerate their careers as they move forward.
So when we talk about soft skills, we’re talking about things like communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, the ability to collaborate with others well. All of these skills are nuanced and require experience, and they require exposure, but there’s also lots of techniques that you can pick up to do them more effectively.
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So when we’re working with young professionals, we really try to follow an approach where we use multiple modalities. One, they’re learning material online, so they’re teaching themselves. And then based on their understanding of that material we’re getting together in group workshops where they’re working together, they’re encountering new concepts, they’re getting support from a facilitator and from their peers. And then once they’re done doing that, we then pair them with a personal coach, and they work individually with that coach on the specific challenges they may be having or the specific growth areas they want to focus on. So it’s really bringing together that online learning, the group workshops, as well as the individual coaching elements that makes us different.
What Are Some Inspirations That Motivate You?
So the biggest inspiration is really wanting to see everybody have a chance to succeed. So when we started NimblyWise, I was lucky to join with my former HR director, Sarah, and we decided to start a business where we really focus on helping young people develop the soft skills that are super critical to their career success. We just love the idea of doing everything we can to help people really get to the next level in their careers and build meaningful lives.
What Advice Can You Offer Other Entrepreneurs?
There’s so many pieces of advice, so many things that I’ve learned that I’ve learned the hard way and that I really do love to share with others. I think one of the things that I think is really valuable is finding a good network of advisors. I think a lot of people think that entrepreneurship is about figuring out things on your own and doing it on your own, and there is a lot of that. But I think a lot of people will be well served if they built a strong adviser network early, and so they could draw from those people’s experiences and get some momentum from all the help they can get from them.
I also think that when you build a team, you really want to make sure that you’re surrounding yourself with people that are different than you, that think differently than you, that have different expectations and different experiences than you, and that really helps you to have the range of perspectives that can really enable success.
Where Do You See NimblyWise in 3-5 Years?
When we think about three to five years, we’re thinking about a business that does everything from working in higher education and helping institutions serve their students better, helping students develop the soft skills that we’ve talked about, and be able to signal that they have those soft skills when they go in to work for new employers when they enter the labor market. And then we look in companies, we want to be offering solutions that help people accelerate in their careers, but also help upskill them in a way that their impact will be greater in the business and do so in a way where they’re feeling that they’re fully engaged, that they want to be in that work environment, that they want to stay there, they want to build a career there. Because we see that as a benefit to our employer partners. And then ultimately by our success with higher education and with corporations, we want to then be able to go direct to consumers and be able to offer programs and services directly to them so that they can accelerate in their career goals.
What Value Has Gesmer Updegrove Provided NimblyWise?
The thing about Gesmer that’s unique is that it provides lots of resources beyond just the legal services. For me, the fact that it helped me access the broader entrepreneurial community in Boston and realize that I’m not the only one facing some of these challenges was really helpful. And it gave me a lot of support, not just Gesmer directly, but indirectly through the other people that I was introduced to. Furthermore, as I would go along and I would see that I had a new challenge in the business as we reached a new growth plateau, Gesmer was already experienced in that area and could provide a resource to me whether it was somebody to help do a lease, or somebody that helped me with a financing, or somebody that helped me with my accounting needs, and so all of that connection was super valuable to my success. And then finally on the other end, now that I’ve had success giving me opportunities to present my story and talk about that so in a full life cycle from the beginning of the business all the way through the end and through the sale, and now as a successful entrepreneur it’s just been a great journey with Gesmer.
Why “Go With Gesmer”?
We go with Gesmer because a lot of people talk about being a trusted advisor, but Gesmer truly is one and the way that they really invest in understanding an entrepreneur’s business and what they’re trying to achieve, and are able to bring together the resources, the support and expertise and really have a tremendous impact in the success of the venture.
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