In my first career as a registered nurse, taking additional courses following graduation was expected. Plus, it was important. Let’s face it – who wants an RN unfamiliar with the latest heart monitoring technology caring for a loved one during a health crisis. Not me! Ongoing learning was so important that it was rewarded with continuing education units (CEU’s) often required for re-licensing.
Nurses, of course, aren’t the only professionals bound by the imperative of continuing their education. Attorney’s, tax professionals, physicians, and engineers are only a few professions that require ongoing education to maintain their licensure.
And then there are entrepreneurs…
Ah yes! Long gone are the days of securing our degree in business, never to crack a book again – or so we hoped. With the rapid growth of communication technology, the need for ongoing learning – continuing education, if you will – is reaching epic proportions.
At the current rate of change, your skills – and your business – can quickly become obsolete and irrelevant.
School is never out for the pro
Former President of Harvard, Derek Bok, said, “If you think the cost of education is expensive, try the cost of ignorance.” How true this is for small business entrepreneurs. In today’s age of information, clients can access experience, expertise, and knowledge with the click of a mouse.
If you don’t keep up, the competition will eat your lunch. (Don’t ask me where this came from. Its been rumbling around my head for decades, waiting for just this moment to escape.)
Additionally, the pursuit of education and knowledge brings along other perks. It…
- Encourages contemplation, creativity, & thought process
- Inspires fresh solutions to stubborn problems
- Establishes a desire to stay abreast of changes in the business community
- Prepares you to be a more valuable service provider for your clients
- Permits your business to sustain success in an ever-changing environment
If that wasn’t enough, furthering your entrepreneurial education prevents mental and physical diseases…and, it’s just plain fun!
Class is in session
The pace of business comes at a cost. That cost being a lack of time for learning for which entrepreneurs pay dearly. With time limited, it’s important to focus your ongoing learning efforts on these important topics:
1. International economic trends
Regardless of your country of residence, you’re no longer an island. We recently “got schooled” on the far-reaching impact of conditions around the world during the recent shakeup of the Chinese economy. What happens to the future of your business is closely tied to what happens in China, Greece, Spain, etc. Pay attention or pay the price – the choice is yours.
According to a J.D. Power and Associates survey, only one in five Americans are even interested in technology. Really? You wouldn’t know with the number of people with their noses in their smartphone while waiting in line at Starbucks. Technology is on fire.
As entrepreneurs, we need to gain an understanding of the cloud, social media, user experience (UX), and apps like Evernote and Trello that are revolutionizing productivity, just to mention a few.
Although experts avail themselves and their expertise, entrepreneurs need to have an understanding of the far-reaching impact that such technological developments have/will have on the future of their business.
3. Consumer behavior
There seems to be some disagreement about which came first – changes in consumer behavior or technology. One thing we can all agree upon is that this is not 1995. Consumers buying behaviors are changing – and fast.
For instance, did you know that 89 percent of shoppers do online research before purchasing an item in-store. Or, that a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Or, an overwhelming majority (96 percent) of consumers have searched for product information from their mobile device. (Want more little tidbits like this? Check out 50 Essential Facts About Consumer Behavior.)
Egads! Lots to learn to stay fresh and relevant for your audience.
4. Industry trends
Each industry has its own unique set of goings-on that exert influence for opportunity and risk for your business.
It’s important to learn what is on the horizon for your industry. But, that’s not all. It’s equally important to continue your education to stay abreast of what lurks around the bend for your clients industry, as well.
What happens in your client’s industry materializes in your business.
Check out Deloitte’s Industry Outlook 2015 to learn more.
5. Marketing trends
Closely tied to technology and consumer behavior, the marketing landscape is continually on the move. Smart consumers know this. Subsequently, they make decisions (right or wrong) whether to do business with you or the other guy – much based on the relevancy of your marketing.
Want to know what marketing will look like in 2020? Check out Jeff Beer’s aptly named article in Fast Company, 25 Predictions for What Marketing Will Look Like in 2020.
Whew! My brain cells are saturated…and we’ve only just begun.
It seems as though we wouldn’t need to mention the importance of continuing our entrepreneurial education. However, we see that many businesses are failing every day – failing to stay informed – failing to stay up-to-date – failing to remain powerful and inspired.
The words of Shiza Shahid, CEO of the Malala Fund, sum up the importance for entrepreneurs to continue their education – Knowing allows us to act, allows us to repair, allows us to move forward and evolve.
Lifelong learning: An essential ingredient for entrepreneurs eyeing business growth first appeared here.