As a business owner, you wear a lot of hats, and some may fit better than others. However, you can improve your current skills and gain new ones to boost your business savvy. Continuing education is an investment in yourself and your company. While you may delegate certain tasks to employees or consultants with particular expertise, you should have some general knowledge of areas outside your comfort zone. You can gain that know-how by taking courses for small business owners.
Identifying Areas for Improvement
Start by performing a SWOT analysis, outlining your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This can help you identify areas where learning something new could make a big improvement.
Maybe you’re experiencing a high turnover rate, or perhaps you owe more taxes than you expected. A SWOT analysis can pinpoint prime areas for development, such as HR or accounting. Then find courses for small business owners that address those weaknesses.
Benefits for Business Owners
Going back to school will help you learn new skills. You could gain a hard skill, such as mastering a software program, or enhance a soft skill, such as motivating your team. Instead of business as usual, challenge yourself to try new things.
The benefits of taking a course go beyond learning new skills. Continuing your education helps you expand your horizons and come up with new business ideas. You’ll also grow your small business network by interacting with instructors and other business owners in your area.
Gaining a new skill also helps you better relate to your employees. For example, taking a class on basic computer science could help you better communicate with your IT provider, and learning simple bookkeeping techniques can better prepare you for a meeting with your CPA at tax time.
Finding Education Opportunities
Going back to school doesn’t have to mean getting an MBA; you can find plenty of affordable courses at local institutions and online. Here are a few good places to start:
- Your local community college or university may offer continuing education courses on a variety of topics and doesn’t require you to seek a degree. Small business loans can often pay for the classes.
- Local Chambers of Commerce often offer leadership workshops. You will build your own leadership skills as you go through the program, helping your community as you help yourself. Also, look at the classes your local library offers. Many teach free workshops on technology.
- If you’re a member of a professional association, check out its continuing education programs. Get paired with a mentor who can teach you new skills through organizations like SCORE. Or you can coordinate a skills-sharing group with other business owners where each member teaches the group about an area of their expertise.
If you don’t have a lot of free time to take a class, consider some of the online learning opportunities available, where you can take a class in the comfort of your home or office. One of the advantages of online learning is that you can work on the material at your own pace. Here are a few options:
- The U.S. Small Business Administration has a Learning Center that offers dozens of free courses on topics related to running a business. For example, learn social media marketing or cybersecurity.
- LinkedIn Learning offers more than 13,000 courses, many of which relate to owning a business. For example, take a software-specific tutorial or learn customer service techniques.
- Another popular online learning site is Udemy, which offers more than 100,000 courses taught by experts. The business category has classes on public speaking, financial modeling and talent management.
The needs of your business will change, and it’s important that you change with it. By learning a new skill, you can maintain a fresh perspective that will help your business evolve and grow. Gaining knowledge is an investment in you and your business that can pay dividends.