Human Resources and Small Business & Startups

Back to school already? We never left

August 31, 2015
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Michigan center for small business and technology picks up $3M grant from feds
The Grand Rapids-based Michigan Small Business Development Center produces classes across the state, including at its headquarters at GVSU. Photo via fb.com

The traditional American mindset is focused on returning to school this time of year, but who can afford to ever stop learning?

First-graders to first-time entrepreneurs to seasoned business owners need to nourish their natural curiosity every day. The most successful entrepreneurs nourish their businesses by continuously pursuing emerging trends, improved applications and new collaborations.

Rather than saying goodbye to summer to head back to the classroom, consider a year-round classroom that never stops. Stoke your personal classroom!

The strongest entrepreneurs are self-directed learners. You find a way to implement your vision. Keeping yourself well-informed can only enhance your ability to grow and manage your business. What trends are on the horizon of your industry? What new tastes and preferences are your customers developing? Have your competitors developed new strengths? Will global market changes unseat your existing business model? Are there governmental or political changes lurking? How can technology make your life easier? Are current Internet stories accurate?

Equally as important: Who are your future customers? What will they need? How will you communicate with them? How will you keep them coming back? Keeping an eye on your external world keeps your long-term vision focused.

Keep a handle as well on what is happening in your local community, among your employees and with your suppliers. A rich network of your local connections is also a learning classroom. Where else could a soccer coach become your website designer?

Look inward. Are you embracing the skill sets of modern mobile knowledge workers and capitalizing on the experience base of older employees? Employee recruitment and development requires understanding of generational differences, trust, collaboration and accountability. Does your learning channel include continuous improvement of your leadership abilities?

Determine the vehicles that are your best learning devices. Do you assimilate most information from independent reading (on screen or on paper)? Do you prefer quick live feeds, YouTube recordings or webinar broadcasts? For many, a traditional classroom setting works well, because it is familiar. It also encourages dialogue and debate and testing of ideas. A coffee shop conversation can produce quick collaboration.

Physical location matters to visual and auditory and tactile learners. Know your preferences for optimal learning. And determine what times are your best learning windows. ASAP every morning? After the dog goes to sleep at night? When others are available for dialogue?

Assemble the tools that will stoke your personal classroom. Start with the organizations recognized for business education excellence. An initial course or workshop or webinar can widen the door to new opportunities and new relationships that lead to new discoveries. Universities, colleges, training organizations and training mentors are powerful resources that can help you establish your personal classroom. Keep filling it up.

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