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Small Business

A very different kettle of fish

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You can't educate mugs. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Such criticisms are apt for many people in small business. Yes, I know it's a hard call and I know that there are reasons for small business people not upping their educational ante, but none of them are good ones.

On the other hand, those people I call entrepreneurs are a different kettle of fish. These people are driven, they think outside the square and are realistic about their weaknesses. This means they're smart enough to go looking for outside help to educate themselves to gain a competitive edge.

Traditionally, even for entrepreneurs, small business operators do not seek out the courses offered at universities to improve their business skills. However, and happily, the small number of small business courses offered around the country, in too small a number of institutions, will undoubtedly create better small business owners out of our current crop of students in the future.

That said, of the more than a million businesses out there, most of their owners rely on other sources of education, and in too many cases the amount of educational input on a regular basis is close to zero.

Michael Gerber, who wrote the worldwide best seller E-Myth Revisited -- arguably one of the best small business educators ever -- has made a distinction between entrepreneurs who work on their businesses and technicians who work in them.

Plumbers, bakers, accountants, hairdressers, journalists, lawyers, doctors and landscapers, to name just a few, are technical people who think they could run a business.

However, they work in their business for long hours, as Gerber says: “Doing it. Doing it. Doing it.”

They work so many hours plying their trade they don't have time to think strategically to grow their business. Education can help you think strategically.

These people create businesses that are often hard to sell because they rely on the founder.

Many of the great businesses of our lifetime, such as McDonald's, came about because the small business owner turned himself into an entrepreneur and stopped flipping burgers.

The likes of John McGrath, the Sydney real estate guru, confesses to devouring business self-improvement books. However, he does not let the educational message wither on the vine.

“I create an action plan to implement any new idea I pick up from a book or a seminar I attend,” he said. “I don't like to procrastinate.”

The educated small business owner belongs to network groups, buys magazines, hangs out for the Entrepreneur section in The Australian and scours small business related websites. They are big book buyers but they read them and they implement what they read.

Switzer business coach Lesley Ann Grimoldby
thinks book-reading business owners have got their act together.

“The most successful small business owners I know are constantly seeking to learn from others and the most accessible way to do this is through reading,” she said.

“The best books aren't necessarily business books, they are often self-development books which help them to be a better manager and leader.”

In recent times, we have seen the spectacular growth of business coaches but life coaches have also become popular. These can be expensive for start-ups, and so groups such as Business Enterprise Centres can be great for budding entrepreneurs.

For serious growers, groups such as the NSW Business Chamber, the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Chambers of Commerce and employer as well as industry groups can be sources of education and inspiration.

It doesn't matter how you get it, but make sure you are not a mug who ignores the importance of education.

Work on your business, not in it. To learn how, book a complimentary business assessment today with a Switzer Business Coach.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.


Published on: Tuesday, August 04, 2009

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