In a previous blog post, I discuss the need to build your firm into a viable, sustainable business that has significant value. I stressed that your continuing education as a business owner is critical to building such a business. I also think it is important to share anecdotal information regarding why I believe continuing education is so critical to your company’s ongoing and future success. Following are three personal reasons for my beliefs.
- I previously owned a real estate investment firm and was somewhat arrogant when I decided to significantly expand. I had purchased and renovated a number of multi-family properties in Houston and my own personal residence in Oakland, California. Consequently, I mistakenly believed that, because I had done renovation before, I understood everything. However, I was now operating in a new market, Atlanta, and focusing on a new subsector, houses. In addition, I went from renovating one-two properties at once, to renovating 10 – 12 at one time. I encountered myriad problems with contractors, inflated appraisals, and realtors and these problems were compounded by the scale.
- Only after I admitted I didn’t know everything and finally began attending conferences and seminars, did I identify the specific types of mistakes I’d been making, many of which I could have avoided had I been more receptive to continual education earlier!
- My takeaway: Just because you know something in one area, does not mean it automatically transfers to another without major adjustments. In addition, what works well on a smaller level becomes tedious when you add scale. Continuing education helps you realize all of this and identify potential solutions, or others who can assist, sooner!
Play to strengths but understand weaknesses.
- After spending years serving as an interim COO and CFO and as a business consultant, I repeatedly had to ramp up on new industries, switch from business services to manufacturing to retail, and identify and address a wide range of business issues. I embraced continuing education to help me do all this. I now periodically conduct training seminars.
- I have an MBA from the Wharton School of Business but I still have areas that I need to grow in. As markets change, I need to understand those changes. I believe in developing your strengths and delegating to your weaknesses. However, sometimes you need to build your skill set in an area in order to effectively delegate. (Please refer to a previous article, Empowerment vs. Abdication) For example, I know I’m very strong in finance, strategy, and operations but I had been weak in sales. I purchased a sales-driven company and spent ten months figuring out how to consistently drive sales and build a strong sales team. I attended sales seminars and training on how to recruit, manage, and motivate a sales force. In previous roles, I always had a VP of sales so I originally didn’t know how to do this myself. Through “on the job training” and supportive online and in-person training, I now do.
Exercise for the mind
- The only way we know how to do something is to smash through it ourselves or to learn from others. Sometimes you simply must do it yourself in order to learn. Other times, learning from others will significantly reduce the length of time your learning curve takes.
Everyone learns differently. Continuing education provides insight, methodologies, and information I may not have considered previously. My own continuing includes books (which I now read regularly: 4-6 per month on average), online classes and webinars on a specific business topic, and occasionally industry conference workshops. Like working out, exercising my mind helps me stay open, receptive, and creative.
- Creativity is not just important for creating new products or services. Creativity is what we need to identify and resolve all sorts of problems we regularly encounter in our businesses. Now, I always find time. Rom my serial business ownership, interim executive management and consulting roles, I realize that regular time must be consistently alloted to work on the business instead of just in the business or the business (or us) will eventually fall apart. Continual education is integral to working on your business.