What unites all our Hub members? There are many things but I think the key element is their thirst for knowledge. One of the most refreshing things about the Hub is our members’ openness about the areas that they lack skills or experience in, and their desire for personal or professional development.
If you’ve ever worked in the corporate world I think you will agree that this can be a very different environment. My experience of working for large companies has been one where often employees are afraid to ask for help or admit that they need training. Competitive environments and job insecurity can make people very protective over their shortcomings, and I’m sure we can all think of people in jobs that they don’t actually have the right skills to do…
Therefore if you are coming from a corporate job and starting up a business you might be tempted to exaggerate your abilities and downplay your weaknesses. One thing you will quickly learn is this is doing yourself a disservice – who are you kidding when you have no boss to impress or colleagues to compete with for that promotion?!
Instead, the smart business owner knows that constant learning is a trait that all successful business owners and entrepreneurs share.
5 Cornerstones Of Business Learning
The following 5 points are what I consider to be the cornerstones of business learning and development. Learning does not have to take the form of the classroom and exams, it can just as easily be reading a blog post, attending a talk or watching a video. The great thing is that there is a wealth of business support and education available, particularly online and often for free. The downside is that sometimes this information is not reliable and therefore it’s important to find trusted sources.
Fortunately if you join a business networking group of likeminded individuals, you will have a great pool of expertise and help available – whether that’s getting direct advice, or recommendations for reading, courses and other business resources.
- Learn about being a business leader
Being a business owner / entrepreneur is not the same as being an employee or even a freelancer or self-employed sole trader. If you want to create a business that provides more than just a salary for yourself – for example you want a team of employees, or a network of franchises, or a business that you can sell once it’s grown to a sufficient size – you need to start to think like a business leader.
One way to do this is to find a mentor. This might be someone like Hub member Chris Waters who coaches and mentors business owners; or a prominent business leader / entrepreneur who you can learn from by reading their content and following their progress (Richard Branson etc.).
- Learn about running a business
As well as thinking like a business leader you also need to learn about running a business. Even when you first start out and it’s just you sitting at the kitchen table with your laptop, you need to begin to understand the processes and systems that will allow you to run a successful business. There are different business models out there, some might even subvert your idea of what running a business looks like, and you need to find out what will work for you.
I would recommend studying other successful businesses and exploring different approaches. Talk to other business owners about how they run their businesses, get a copy of The E-Myth Revisited, or recruit some professional help.
- Learn about the various components that make up your business
One lesson that start up business owners quickly learn is that you can’t do everything yourself. Outsourcings and / or recruiting staff to do those jobs that are not your core competency is essential. However, many of us find that in the early days we do need to do our bookkeeping, marketing and other non-core activities, at least until profits allow us to get an expert to do these for us.
Even if you have the capital to recruit a team from the offset it is important that you do have a good understanding of how each activity is contributing to the success of your business. Not only that as a business owner the buck does stop with you, so errors in your tax return or breaching data protection laws by not storing customer details securely, are all your responsibility. You don’t need to become an expert, but you should have a good working knowledge of all business critical areas.
- Learn about your area of expertise
Many us work very hard to become an expert in our field – whether that’s by gaining professional qualifications or achieving a degree of success. However having earned our ‘expert’ status it’s very easy to become complacent and fall back on old knowledge rather than pursue new. Continued Professional Development (CPD) is something those in fields such as education, healthcare, engineering and law will be familiar with, but it is equally important for the retailer, marketer, or IT provider.
Keep on top of industry trends and developments, look for opportunities to increase your learning, read up on what your peers and competitors are talking about, or doing, and keep challenging yourself.
- Learn about your weaknesses
Lots of leadership and business advice focuses on playing to your strengths. This is valid and helps individuals and teams concentrate on the things they do well. But ignoring your weaknesses can undermine your strengths, such as if you’re great at sales but hopeless at fulfilling orders because of poor organisation skills!
Being honest about your weaknesses – look at what things you avoid, feedback from others, analyse reoccurring issues your business has etc. – will allow you to build in more resilience. This might mean that you need to learn to do something that you currently put off, outsource a specific area of the business, or design new systems or procedures that help militate against those weaknesses.
Covering off these five areas of business learning will give you the skills needed to give your business the best chance of success, and the sooner you start the better! Many of the lessons I’ve learned during my business journey so far boil down to getting advice and support early. We all need to be honest about our abilities. Delaying getting this learning at best temporarily stalls your objectives, at worse damages your chances of success.