Most people learn by doing, and sometimes failing, in the process of developing their business. These lessons are often costly. You can speed up the process of learning and avoid some mistakes if you are more intentional and strategic. Being a busy entrepreneur is no reason to stop learning and you will probably never be the business person you could be if you don’t push yourself to learn. The more you learn, the more successful you are likely to be. There are four simple things that an entrepreneur can do to foster their learning: reading, interacting, researching and experimenting.
The more you read the more you will bed down the fundamentals of running a sustainable business and feed your mind with creative ways to grow it. The types of books you should read include: “how to” books sharing the fundamentals of business management and growth; entrepreneurial stories and biographies to provide inspiration and anecdotal learning; and macro economicand current affairs books, magazines and newspapers to keep abreast of major trends and economic events. If you just can’t find the time to read, experiment with audio books. These can be purchased and downloaded from the Internet onto an MP3 player so you can turn any car trip or exercise session into a learning experience.
The entrepreneurial journey can be a lonely one; many business people slave away all day without any meaningful interaction. It is for this reason that an entrepreneur should: strive to get into a network with fellow business owners in which they can share experiences, get advice and nurture a support base; and develop a relationship with a more experienced business person who will serve as a mentor. Being part of a network and having a mentor can serve as an excellent learning tool because you are forced to reflect on your experiences, share them and extract key insights. It is also valuable to leverage off the experiences and insights of others.
The Internet has opened up a whole new world to entrepreneurs, making information readily available. Use the Web to uncover industry trends, competitor information, academic research and expert opinions. Recent developments on the Web mean that it is no longer just documents and text that are available as key learning resources; you can now download podcasts or watch videos via the Internet. There is a wealth of valuable information available if you just learn how to search effectively.
The entrepreneurial journey is an opportunity to learn through experimentation and failure. Planned experiments can provide an entrepreneur with wonderful insights into their business, its customers and potential innovations within the business. The key is to limit the cost of failure. Being in control of your own business is an opportunity to experiment with a new sales approach, try a new combination of products or vary your work approach to see the effect it has on your overall business. One of these experiments may create the breakthrough you need to build competitive advantage.
Jonas Ridderstrale and Kjell Nordstrom (Funky Business) said it best: “We control the most critical resource of our times: our own brains. Power is transferred from the capital investors to the competence investors. The uneducated, humble, loyal employee is a thing of the past.” Power now belongs to the educated, insightful entrepreneur.