What one characteristic unites the most successful people in business? It’s the fact that they know they still have more to learn. Pursuing a career as an entrepreneur is a process of continual growth, and it’s never more important to focus on learning than when you’re right at the start of your career. If you have a strong idea but don’t yet have all the basic business skills you need to turn it into reality, it’s important to know where you can learn more. The good news is that you don’t have to go far out of your way to do so, and it doesn’t need to cost you a lot either.
In the workplace
Many people overlook how many opportunities there are for learning within the workplace. If you’ve already left your old job behind to set up your business, find out what your colleagues have to teach you. If you’re still an employee, find out if your workplace runs a mentoring scheme or if you can persuade someone to mentor you on an unofficial basis. You can also take the opportunity, whenever you have a slow day, to ask colleagues in different roles if they will teach you particular tasks or help you to improve what you’re already doing.
For most people, the easiest way to access formal education during the busy process of setting up a business is to take online courses. Although you will have to work hard, do all your reading and complete your assignments if you want to get anything out of them, they are mostly very flexible, so can fit around your other commitments. Academically focused organizations EdX and Coursera offer some great business courses free of charge (though they welcome donations if you can afford it) and there are a number of other online providers which do charge but provide excellent tuition.
If you’d rather study in person, night classes are available in most major towns and cities and are generally practical for fitting around work. Some colleges also run business skills courses at the weekends. You will generally need to study for at least 40 hours in classes of this sort to pick up a full set of basic business skills. Often they’re supported by further courses in specific areas, so you can move on to focus on the skills where you need a bit more help. Local business support services can often recommend courses.
Finding a group of people who are facing similar challenges gives you access to individuals you can learn from and also, often, to learning resources focused on people in your situation. Female entrepreneurs can benefit from groups like those supported by Lady Barbara Judge, which help woman overcome the disadvantages in access to learning created by the fact that they still bear the bulk of care responsibilities. Dyslexic entrepreneurs can organize for improved access to assistive technology and alternative learning methods.
Do you have a useful skill of a different kind? Increasingly, people are arranging skill swaps over the internet as a means of getting jobs done or learning things without having to spend money. The idea is that you find somebody who is an expert in a particular area of business, and you get lessons from that person in exchange for something you can do, such as teaching a different skill or helping with some DIY. This is a good way to get access to the kind of one to one tuition that would be expensive to pay for, and it offers plenty of opportunity to ask questions.
When you make mistakes
Part of the ongoing process of learning in business inevitably involves making mistakes. This will happen quite a bit early on, no matter how well prepared you are. When it does, the important thing is not to let shame or embarrassment make you try to forget about it as quickly as possible, but to treat it as a learning opportunity. Nothing is quite as effective at showing you the gaps in your skill set. It’s also helpful to pay close attention to any customer complaints, as they often highlight inefficiencies in how your business is run and show you where more training is needed.
When you’re starting up in business with a small team it really helps to have everybody familiar with the basics because you’re going to have to be able to cover for each other in the event of somebody being ill or otherwise unavailable. It also helps to ensure that you can all see the big picture and maintain a shared vision of what your company can become. Time and money spent on sharpening up your skills will always pay back well, and this initial investment will be the start of a lengthy learning process.