What is Your Continuous Education Program?

September 26th, 2009 by | Print

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Operating your solopreneur enterprise is not synonymous with a solid continuous education program. Although you do learn from interacting with customers, OJT (On the Job Training) is for employees and not solopreneurs striving to be market leaders.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe there is a benefit to interacting with your customers and working within your market. However, if your lesson planner is empty except for OJT activities, you will be a marginal success.

 

Chances are that you are similar to a high percentage of solo entrepreneurs – spending the majority of your day trying to complete the tasks at hand and thinking about how best to capture new business. However, when was the last time that spent a few moments contemplating ongoing education and the significant role that it plays in your success?

 

I think that if you had a few extra hours a day, you “would” spend time learning more about your business and how best to get at the money within your market. But, we all have the same amount of hours, so it simply comes down to how you prioritize education within your hierarchy of getting ahead.

 

If your emphasis on ongoing education often takes low priority, you must not understand the full benefits that it has to offer.

 

There are three realms of knowledge:

 

  1. What you know you know
  2. What you know you don’t know
  3. What you don’t know you don’t know

 

I will guarantee you that these three realms stack up like a pyramid in descending order with the first realm being a small section at the top of the pyramid while the third realm is by far the largest section.

 

Stop for a second and think back on your career, both as a solopreneur and an employee. There were times when you had an “aha” moment impacting your career going forward. OJT typically is the slowest path for stumbling across these “aha’s” while dedication to ongoing education creates more frequency for insight into opportunities.

 

The bad news is obvious – as a solopreneur, you simply have very little extra time for education. The good news is that ongoing education takes many forms and can be exciting and inspiring, creating a new sense of drive and purpose.

 

Before we get into the different categories for continuous learning and the options for each, I admit, I wasn’t always a good student. Although I typically received good grades, I wasn’t excited about learning so I didn’t live up to my full potential. Learning seemed more work than it was worth. But, that was mainly because I didn’t have a purpose for it. I didn’t know at the time how this new found knowledge was applicable in helping me get what I wanted.

 

And when it comes to the business that you are building, it helps if are passionate about your business and customer base, otherwise, ongoing education will become just another thing to get done.

 

There are two primary categories that you need to focus on:

 

  1. Your business
  2. Your customer base

 

You can’t succeed at learning about one without taking the time to study the other. For example, learning how to become a strong salesperson, for most, would fall under the first category. However, you will remain a second-rate salesperson at best if you don’t spend time learning about your customer base and vice versa.

 

How can you gain the knowledge that you need? Here are some of the primary options:

 

  • Get to know your customers. Ask them questions about their business and personal life.
  • Join business forums online. Read what others within the business world struggle with and how they solve problems.
  • Join your local Chamber of Commerce or other industry association. Participate in their events.
  • Network with other solopreneurs that offer complimentary products to your market. Share ideas and insights.
  • Take classes – either online or college extension courses.
  • Read the industry trade newspapers, magazines, blogs, and forums and those that your customer base finds a personal interest in.
  • Talk with your vendors to see what trends they see within the industry.

 

Here’s the key – and it may sound backwards – spend the majority of your time learning about the areas in which you are strong.

 

For example, writing is a strength and a passion, while conversely accounting falls low on the list of exciting things to learn about. So do I spend the little time that I have struggling through accounting classes or do I learn new ways to improve my prose?

 

Since I am passionate about writing, I will not only enjoy the process of learning, but I am more likely to pay attention and want to quickly show off my typing talent. While the more I learn about accounting, the more I realize that this is a function best outsourced. I want to have knowledge about some of the basics so I can still manage the output from my accountant, but I don’t need to spend precious time becoming an accounting whiz.

 

So take a moment and think about the priorities that you set for your solopreneur business and make sure to set aside time regularly for continuous education. It is an excellent source of inspiration, creativity, drive and capturing new previously unknown opportunities.

 

All The Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide

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