As the owner of a startup business, you have a lot on your plate. You manage clients, track billing and expenses, order supplies and book your services, all while creatively advertising yourself and creating a brand that people will notice. It’s easy to feel like there just isn’t time in the day to fit in any more tasks.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to ease some of this strain on yourself? A way to give your small business a boost and push you in the right direction? Today, we’d like to suggest that ongoing learning can fulfill this exact role in your life and your business.
In addition to being an invaluable resource as you work to build up your brand and business, ongoing learning has the added bonus of being easy to fit into your busy schedule. You can often even complete this learning online, so you don’t have to worry about dropping everything to commute to a school or campus. Instead, you can do it all from the convenience of your own computer. By sprinkling ongoing learning into your lunch break, evening or weekends, just a little bit at a time, we think you’ll be amazed by the results you see.
The Benefits of Ongoing Learning
It’s easy to feel tired and even burnt out as a business owner. There’s so much to do, and if you’re just starting out, it can feel like all that weight is resting solely on your shoulders. So if you’re asking yourself, “Why should I bother with ongoing learning as a business owner?” then we understand where you’re coming from.
However, we also think that ongoing learning is worth the time and energy. By investing yourself and your efforts, here are just a few of the benefits you’ll begin to experience as a result. Whether you’re a DJ, designer or photographer, ongoing learning has the power to revolutionize your business.
One of the most crucial aspects of running your own business is the need to stay on top of current interests and fads. If you aren’t relevant, customers are very capable of leaving you and going with someone more in line with the latest industry trends. However, if you aren’t currently tapped into the industry mainframe, it can be challenging to get a sense of current trends.
Ongoing education helps with this in more ways than one. First and foremost, it gives you the tools you need to learn how to follow trends. It will teach you how experts stay on top of the shifting markets and help you learn to do the same. Then, you can continue with these techniques even after your learning program ends.
Secondly, it also helps by tapping you into the network itself. As you learn, you’ll be reading relevant books, articles and essays. You’ll be learning to use new tools and technology, and you’ll learn the industry thought leaders who you should be following. In short, ongoing learning puts you directly in touch with the current flow of the industry, thus helping you spot trends even before they crest and decline.
Any educational program is a fantastic opportunity to network, and as a business owner, you’ll want to make the very most of this possibility. If your ongoing learning will put you in touch with classmates, why not reach out to them and exchange ideas, techniques and experiments? Is the instructor or teacher available for contacting? Take advantage of this and make a personal connection with them.
The basic idea here is that you never know which connection could be the one that leads to that breakthrough client, sponsor or investor. Keep those lines of communication open and foster connections with those relevant figures in your industry. You never know how this might end up benefiting you. Even if it never leads anywhere major, you’ll still have valuable connections who you can always ask for advice.
3. Avoid Burnout
Burnout is inevitable. It doesn’t matter if you have the best, most exciting dream job in the entire world. There will always be days, weeks and months where you feel exhausted, and like you’ve lost your vision of why you’re doing this.
The solution is to figure out how to come back from burnout, and how to lessen it as much as possible. One of the best ways of doing this is by reminding yourself what excited you about this world and this industry in the first place. Ongoing learning is a spectacular way to do exactly this. It teaches you about new ideas, new technologies and new trends within your field. It connects you with others who are excited about these things. All of this combines to make the perfect antidote to the burnout that creeps up on us all from time to time.
4. Reinforce the Fundamentals
As a business owner, you’re constantly striving to learn some complicated new techniques in the interest of staying relevant and beating the competition. We’ve all been there, and we get it. It’s vital to stay on top of what’s current.
This becomes a problem, however, when we’re working so hard to stay on trend that we forget the basics. Ongoing learning can help with this. It’s a great chance to be refreshed on the basic skills and information that you started with. We’re not saying you forgot these things. The odds are that these things are so deeply ingrained that you couldn’t forget them if you tried. But sometimes they get buried under the latest gimmick, and we need to be reminded of our roots. Ongoing education is just a gentle reminder that many of us need in this department.
Types of Ongoing Education Available
When we think of education, many of us have the knee-jerk response of instantly conjuring up an image of a classroom in our heads. Because many of us have spent so many years of our life in school, the idea of learning and education is inherently tied to a classroom environment.
The truth is, however, that this is far from the only type of education out there. To illustrate this, just think about the last thing you learned. Maybe you learned the ins and outs of a new app on your phone, how to cook a new recipe or how to speak a new word in a different language. The odds are that you didn’t learn this in a classroom. Many of us are learning new things every day without even really trying. The key to ongoing learning is to make this process intentional.
Here are just a few of the types of ongoing learning where you can begin to invest your time and energy.
1. Formal Education
These all represent forms of education that take place at a fixed time and are more formally organized. While some of these options may be free, these are also very likely to require payment to access.
- Classroom training: This is what we traditionally think of as education. This means sitting in a classroom with a designated teacher or professor.
- Formal qualifications: What additional certifications or credentials can you earn in your field? What does the training for them look like?
- Online interactive learning: Think of this like an online classroom where you can interact with an instructor via messaging systems.
- Webinar: This is real-time video learning through the internet.
- Conference: Gatherings of industry leaders, innovators and thinkers who come together to share news, developments and tutorials about the field in question.
- Seminar: A seminar is a learning group, held perhaps one time or as a series, where one individual leads a discussion-based class.
2. Informal Education
These types of education can be completed on your own, at your own pace, with no oversight of any kind. While it’s not always the case, these types of education are much more likely to be free.
- Podcasts: Play one of these while commuting to work, washing dishes or running on the treadmill.
- Video: The internet is full of videos on any topic imaginable.
- Blogs: Find blogs on the topics that interest you and subscribe to them to sprinkle nuggets of learning throughout your week.
- Books: No matter what you want to learn about, a book is always one of the best places to go. Both paper books and ebooks are great ways to learn.
Online vs. Offline Learning
There are lots of benefits to both in-person and online learning. You can profit from each in different ways, and each offers benefits that the other does not. Likewise, both have a few drawbacks that the other won’t have. Deciding which is best for you is a personal decision, and there is no right or wrong answer here.
Online learning has the incredible benefit of allowing you to complete your learning from anywhere. At home, at the office on your lunch break or even from a coffee shop on the weekend — it doesn’t matter. You can also complete your learning whenever is convenient for you, save on transportation costs and not worry about having to be somewhere at a specific time.
Offline learning, however, has the added benefit of allowing face time with industry professionals and peers. This creates greater opportunities for networking and helps you build these all-important relationships.
Decide whether online learning, offline learning or a combination of the two is best for you, and take that first step towards beginning your continued education. Whichever you choose, you’ll find it’s well worth it.
Get Your Team on Board
You may have heard the advice that if you want to start a gym program, it’s best to do it with a friend. This is an excellent idea because it gives two people the benefits of a gym routine and creates accountability between the two. When the one sees the other going, they’ll remember their desire to go too, and both can help encourage each other on the days it doesn’t sound so fun.
Ongoing education is very similar. It can be difficult when it seems like you’re the only one doing it. Make things easier on yourself and share the benefits by inviting your entire team to participate in ongoing learning with you.
Here are just a few tips for getting this ball rolling within your business.
1. Highlight a Mix of Learning Opportunities
Not everyone enjoys podcasts, and not everyone like to read books. Some people would rather attend a discussion-based class and others would rather sit in the back of a lecture and listen. To make sure there’s something for everyone, try mixing up the types of educational opportunities created for your employees.
2. Create Learning Incentives
Most people like the idea of learning. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that many people are busy and if there isn’t any concrete reason for them to learn, it’s much easier not. Create a culture of learning by giving employees incentives and rewards for furthering their learning, and you’ll be amazed as you watch this culture grow.
3. Get Your Employees Excited to Learn
Create spaces that foster a love and excitement towards learning, spaces where employees are allowed and encouraged to share what they’ve learned with one another. This might be a bulletin board, a monthly meeting or whatever else you can dream up. Perhaps if an employee completes a particular special educational opportunity, you may even give them the chance to put on a talk for the other employees to share their new knowledge.
4. Bring in Experts
Do you have a longtime friendship with an expert in your industry? Did you just meet an up-and-coming entrepreneur? Ask them if they’d be willing to give a talk to your employees. This gets your employees excited about new topics in the field and brings in an outside voice and a fresh perspective they may not have heard before. Who knows? It may just be the spark that ignites a renewed interest in a particular subject for one of your employees.
How to Get Started With Online Learning as a Business Owner
Getting started is as easy as taking that first step. Pick up a book. Download a podcast. Look up seminars and classes in your area. Once you settle on one or two options that spark your interest, it’s as simple as just beginning.
One idea in particular that you can also investigate is looking into tax deductions for educational expenses. This may not always be an option, depending on specific circumstances, but it’s certainly worth checking out. You never know what benefits you or your employees might qualify for.
Get Your Free Trial of Táve Today
Online education isn’t the only way you can give yourself a helping hand as a small business owner. Your newest virtual assistant is here — Táve. Táve is a software app that helps you manage the business end of your operations and lets you focus on the more creative tasks. From workflow management to online bookings and lead tracking, Táve can do it all.
Try Táve for a month and if you don’t love it, you won’t have to pay a dime. Get your free trial today and start experiencing the power of Táve.