Learning business skills on the go

Strategies for Start Ups and Growing SMEs

Learning business skills on the go

In the previous article we looked at the different types of courses you could do to feel more confident in your business skills and ultimately run your business better.

But, the reality is that not many businesses require you to do formal training. We do it because we know learning is key to growing and improving our business skills but that doesn’t make it obligatory.

Here are a couple of additional suggestions to remind you that learning comes in all forms…

Read more books

One thing I’ve noticed about people who are more successful in their field is that they spend a part of each day reading new ideas. When Tony Robbins started on his self development journey he pledged to read a book a week. He admits that was probably a little unrealistic but managed to read everyday, churning through a book about every 2-3 weeks. No-one could argue he’s not at the top of his game.

I overheard someone comment recently “Books? Who reads books anymore?” which made me roll my eyes a little. Although there’s so much online now, especially with the curse of Content Marketing, a visit to Lifeline Bookfest tells me that plenty of people are still reading. Kindle has also made reading more accessible. And more and more individuals are self-publishing as well.

A short course in 39 pages

Reading a book is very different to reading a few articles, a magazine, or a ‘Top 5 of…’ list online. It’s a compendium of someone’s professional knowledge, experience and business skills captured in 200 pages of juicy goodness. I’ve often read someone’s book for $27.50, then attended a 3 day course for $1,500 only to hear the same information regurgitated. Books also have limits and structure. I can spend an hour or less reading a chapter about sales techniques, or I could spend 4 hours darting all over the internet looking for the same information in byte-sized pieces.

For learning about business, there’s a few books that resonate but too many to list here. We’ll put up a Recommended Reading page soon…stay tuned.


Keep learning!

If you’re a seasoned professional about to start a business then you’re in the danger zone! This group consistently suffer from, ‘I already know that’ syndrome. It causes you to further enhance skills and methodologies that you’ve previously learnt rather than suffering the anguish of learning something in a completely new way. This behaviour will often be in your blind spot and will only come to light by comparison when you observe how others are approaching the same tasks and issues. The remedy is to just keep on learning, keep on reading, keep on attending seminars and new training, regardless of whether you ‘know it’ already.

Learn on the job

I always say there’s 3 easy steps to learning anything > observe it, try it, practise it. There’s a lot written about Learning Styles yadi-yadi-yada but I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t need these 3 steps to remember and apply what they’re trying to learn.

When starting a new business, you could literally learn everything you need to know by just trying it in your business. Anything. Social media, a website, a sales strategy, capturing client data, keeping a schedule, cooking the books (aka bookkeeping), whatever. The catch is how well you’ll do it.

If you’re a real DIY’er like me then you’ll be sitting there thinking, “I’m really not sure I need to do any study. I think I could probably just read about it and give it a go.” While this is true, I want to caution against the trial and error DIY method for your start up.

Learning your business skills through trial and error will cause you to spend about 10 times more hours on learning, trying and completing each new task. When you’re trying to run a successful business, one of the key ingredients you need to eventually learn is to leverage off other people and systems. If you attempt to run your whole business by yourself it will be suffocated by the amount of hours you have available. For some people this works, it’s comfortable, it’s achievable and is a little like doing the same job but without a boss.

If you’re serious about your start up but want to muck in and do things yourself, try this tip.

Hire, observe, learn, repeat.

This means to HIRE a professional to do it for you the first time…OBSERVE exactly what they do and how they do it…LEARN all you can about maintaining and repeating this task…then let the DIY side of you kick in by REPEATING it from then on, over and over again. Although this has a small cost upfront, it’s completely worth it for the time saved and elevated level of quality.

Trust me, as a consultant, I’ve tried to learn all I can through reading and DIY so I could competently show others what to do. And what I really learnt is…that’s a waste of my valuable time. Now I work very hard to strike a balance between activities that will save me money Vs activities that will MAKE me money. As only one of these will keep your business alive! Judging that balance is a whole other topic (which we’ll cover another time).

Become the Apprentice

If getting started and failing fast to learn success is not your cup of tea, then you may like to consider learning someone else’s business first. There’s a number of approaches in this concept.

  1. Identify successful individuals you’d like to learn from, then invite them to lunch or a coffee to basically hear their start up story and pick their brains for an hour. You can inflict this on several people. Most will be flattered and happy to help, but some will naturally say no and that’s ok.
  2. Start your business but identify an ongoing mentor to speak with on either a weekly or monthly basis to run through what you’re doing, plus why and how. They can give you direction based on their experience to help steer you in the right direction.
  3. Join a regular and consistent networking group to share experiences and hear from others to help you with your week to week planning and motivation.
  4. Literally get a job in a similar business, learn all you can, get as far as you can, then branch out and start your own business. This is a very traditional method and fully expected in many industries. If it’s a new business concept, you will be accused of being a copycat but that’s how industries grow so don’t be too concerned. Everything you do in business will be hated by someone, somewhere…don’t be too concerned about it. Just approach everything in an ethical manner (ie; don’t steal clients, plans, or Intellectual Property).

Pay attention

When other business owners, professionals and trades are talking about their work, pay attention. Even if their situation isn’t relevant to you, the way they approach solving their own issues might be. Quite often the best solutions are inspired by techniques applied in alternative industries. So, even if you feel you have zero time for upgrading your business skills, remember to really listen when people talk.


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