One thing about owning a small business today (aside from the fact that you probably work more than 9 to 5) is that it requires being a lifelong learner. Gone are the days when you could simply go to school, go out and get a job and some experience, and eventually start a business. Not anymore. These days, you have to stay up-to-date on the latest technology, be a social media maven and keep abreast of all of the laws, regulations, taxes and other administrative directives that affect your business.
And all of that requires that you maintain a learning mindset. For many small business owners, having to stay up on the latest and greatest is both time-consuming and inconvenient.
However, the fact is, you can’t just run your business anymore. Indeed, let me suggest that you take that mindset a step further. While it’s almost back to school time for the kids, why not have it be back to school for your business as well? Consider the possibilities:
1. Take a new class (as long as it isn’t Algebra!): Undoubtedly, you have plenty of strengths when it comes to running your business. But we can safely say with equal assurance that there are areas of your business where you have weaknesses. Adopt the ‘back to school’ mentality this fall and take some classes online or at your local community college and brush up or learn those things you need some help on.
Also, consider offering the same benefits to your staff. Additional training is an easy and affordable way for your employees to learn new work skills and your business will benefit from having both a more engaged workforce, as well as a better trained one.
2. Go on some ‘field trips’: OK, let’s admit it: Field trips were sometimes the best part of school. The anticipation of getting to go someplace new and break the routine of school, and learning about something you never even knew about were all great things.
Business field trips are not that different. Again, it is important to keep in mind that learning new things is necessary to succeed in our business ventures. Therefore, the idea of a business field trip makes perfect sense. In the valuable book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” author M. Scott Peck explains why it is so important to “sharpen your saw.” If given the task of cutting down a tree, it would be much more effective if you took the time to sharpen your saw before sawing, thereby making the tree-cutting experience faster and easier. The lesson here is that being prepared before diving into tasks saves time and energy.
Another option would be to pick a business that you are interested in learning more about and set up a time to take the owner to lunch. Pick his/her brain. Tour his/her business. Learn something new.
Or what about organizing an outing for your entire staff to the local courthouse or zoo? This would combine education for education’s sake with a team building exercise to create a memorable bonding experience. Added bonus: Such excursions are very affordable.
3. Pick a major: Maybe there is something new that your business needs to master this year. Then get to it! Drill down, come up with a plan, bring in the resources you need to get everyone on the same page, and launch your attack. Just as picking a major in college allows you to become proficient in a narrow field, so too would picking a “small business major.” It would give you the opportunity to sharpen your saw and brand your business as superior in this new area.
School: It’s not just for students anymore.
How have you recently expanded your small business knowledge? Share your story below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss