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Experience + Expertise, Meet Your Instructor: Dr. Sean Harry

Posted by PCC Small Business Development Center on November 12, 2021


Dr. Sean Harry is an instructor who has worked at the CLIMB center since 2011. Harry teaches early business start up classes through the Small Business Development Center. Dr. Harry has helped hundreds of small business owners, and now he is ready to help you! Read more about Dr. Harry below.

Why do you teach?

I have been a teacher of adult learners all my life. I really enjoy helping people discover new things. One of my favorite programs is the Advanced Small Business Management program. It's a 10 month program where the class meets once a month in a 3 hour class session, and then for an hour or two during the month with their advisor. Clients come from businesses that have been around for 5 or more years and are ready to take their business to the next level. For many that means they are heading towards $1-$5 million in sales. It's an exciting group of people to work with!
I also teach a class for the Functional Nutrition program that helps people start a professional nutrition career or add holistic nutrition to their medical practice. I get to help them focus on the business side of their practice, which is very inspiring for me to see happen. 

What is your real world experience?

I’m one of those people who has done a lot of everything. I started out in the ministry and moved to non-profit management. Then I worked for an online school where I helped recruit students into the University and managed groups of Admissions Advisors. Following that, I started my own company as a Career Coach - helping people figure out what they want to be when they grow up. When the economy hit the skids in 2010, there were no jobs. My clients started asking if I could help them start their own business. Since I had started 2 businesses in my life and had a Master's degree in business I said, “Sure! Why not?!” I’ve been helping people turn their dreams for building their own company into reality ever since. 

What is your favorite part about being an instructor?

I love it when the lights come on. When a concept clicks and I can see student’s faces as they really understand what we are working on, then to watch them put what they learn into practice as they start and grow a successful business -- well that's both fun and satisfying!

Tell us about a time that you were most proud in your role as an instructor.

There are so many success stories that I'm proud to have been part of. About 6 months after one of our Marketing classes, I met a client who had taken the class. He had (reluctantly) implemented the recommendations from class and his business was taking off. I love to see that. 

I've worked with so many business owners through the COVID-19 pandemic, shut downs, etc. All of them had to make major shifts in their business due to the pandemic. It was very inspiring to be able to see how these entrepreneurs were able to make shifts they needed to be able to keep their business alive and then to grow. Some of the businesses we worked with ended up not making it, but others showed an enormous amount of resilience. There have also been many people who during and following the pandemic decided it was the right time for them to start a business. I'm proud to have been part of a team that has helped new businesses get started during very challenging times. 

What kind of transformation do you see in your students during a course?

Clients/students often come in thinking like employees. They leave thinking like business owners. WIN! 

How do you think the courses you teach affect students' lives and/or careers?

We know that small business owners aren't doing this work simply to get a paycheck. To the business owner their business is a way of "showing up" in the world -- their business is an extension of who they are. It's very important to them, and my job is to help them succeed -- to help them make their life-long dreams become a reality and I've seen that happen over and over again. I like to say that I have the most interesting job in the world!

What skills are needed in order for someone to achieve success in small business?

Small business owners need to be able to be creative and take risks when they start a business. Not big risks. Calculated risks. The biggest challenge is to get out of their own way. When we first meet with them we provide business owners with an assessment tool (The GrowthWheel 360 Assessment) that helps them identify where they should focus their energies at the moment to have the most impact. When they are able to focus, they end up doing more in a short amount of time, which drives them to even greater successes. 

It’s a proven fact that when you start a business you will fail, and fail, and fail again. I help them fail fast so they can move on to the next step.

If you could give one piece of advice to all your future students, what would it be?

Have fun! 

How do you keep yourself knowledgeable and up to date on trends and industry standards in order to deliver the best quality of education?

I read a book on small business every two weeks or so. I go to a one- or two- day long training at least once a year and attend a national conference every year whenever possible. I have conversations with my colleagues who are experts in a different area of business than I am, and pick up some great tools for helping clients. I also try to take a PCC class at least once a year as well.

What do you do for fun?

I go hiking almost every Friday during the spring and summer. I recently built a small woodworking shop and enjoy working with hand tools making things for family and friends.  I like to read and try to nap on weekends. Pre-pandemic, my wife and I liked to travel. I hope we can get back into that routine when things get "back to normal" - whatever that looks like.

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The Oregon Small Business Development Center Portland Community College has  helped thousands of businesses over the past 40 years. We combine one-on-one  advising with programs taught by business experts, giving our clients the  resources they need to grow their businesses. We’ve celebrated many successes  with our clients. We'd love to celebrate your success. 

Topics: Small Business, Meet the CLIMB Team, Meet the SBDC Team

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