business advice

By Rieva Lesonsky

Summer has ended, the kids are back in school—and it’s time for you and your employees to go back to school, too. What’s that, you say? You can’t afford to take a minute off from your business? I say you can’t afford not to. Every business owner—and his or her employees—can benefit from learning something new. So why not send yourself (and your team) back to school to gain new skills, tools and experiences that can boost your business?

I’m not talking about taking a leave of absence to go back to college or even taking university or continuing education classes after your workday is done (for small business owners, that would be “never.”). But there are plenty of ways old dogs can learn new tricks without taking substantial time away from the business. To start:

  1. Figure out what you need to learn. Is there something you wish you knew that’s a common stumbling block as you go about your day? Whether it’s simple (learning how to create an infographic) or more complex (upgrading your accounting system from paper-based to cloud software), pinpoint these pain points and make a list. Ask your team, too—you never know what little bit of learning might unlock new productivity for your employees.
  2. Find a source. Is there someone on staff who could teach others what they need to know? Maybe that entry-level college grad could show the other employees how to film and edit quick videos on their smartphones for your business blog, or your sales manager can school the sales reps in the new CRM system. If you don’t have the resources in-house, check online. Often a quick Internet search will reveal tons of how-to videos, webinars or even online courses into common business tasks. Casting your net wider, look at night and weekend courses offered at local colleges, universities or adult education programs. And don’t forget your industry’s trade association—if you and your employees are members, you probably have access to seminars, webinars and conferences where you can learn the latest tips, tools and tricks to help your business grow. Finally, don’t forget the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and SCORE—both offer free, in-depth counseling and advice from small business experts, plus a raft of other resources. (Disclosure: SCORE and the SBDC are clients of my company.)
  3. Make the time. You may think you (and your employees) can’t afford to take a moment away from your business. I’ve talked to lots of entrepreneurs who finally made the time to take courses, get counseling or otherwise learn more to help their companies, and I haven’t met one who regretted it. As the saying goes, working on your business is ultimately more important than working in your business. And improving your employees’ know-how and skills will make your business even stronger. You may not have a lot of time to spare—but everyone has time to learn.