Importance of training for entrepreneurs
I am a solo entrepreneur who has been able to DIY (Do It Yourself) most parts of my business. That’s been possible because I invested in software systems with helplines, as well as education programs that provide tutorials. This combination has made it possible for me to build my own website, handle my own bookkeeping, and distribute my own content. There’s only one problem with the DIY approach. It sometimes means that I’m blindly following instructions that are either (1) outdated or (2) just plain wrong.
I have been the victim of the “just plain wrong” issue more times than I can count. Last year I followed some “expert” advice about upgrading the security on my website, and then used a YouTube video to implement the suggestions. Sadly, the information was wrong. Upgraded security did not happen. Instead I locked myself out of my email accounts and my website. My web host had a backup that, unfortunately, was from four days before the incident. The result was that I lost four days of work.
I realize that this website fiasco could have been avoided if I’d done more research. If I’d spent 30 minutes reading documentation before proceeding with the security changes – or consulted an expert instead of a YouTuber — I would have saved myself hours of unpleasant work.
Companies invest in training employees
According to the 2017 Industry Training Report: “Overall, on average, companies spent $1,075 per learner this year compared with $814 per learner in 2016. Manufacturers spent the most per learner this year ($1,217), followed by services organizations ($1,157). Larger companies continue to operate on an economy of scale as they spent less ($399) than midsize ($941) and small ($1,886) companies. … On average, employees received 47.6 hours of training per year, nearly 4 hours more than last year. Midsize companies provided the most hours of training this year at 54.3. Midsize service providers had the highest average number of hours overall (75.5).”
If corporate employees are getting more than 45 hours of training per year to improve their proficiency in specific jobs, think of the value of training for a solo entrepreneur who is doing everything. How much time could you save with training email marketing, Google documents, Excel, PowerPoint, project management, photo editing, video editing, accounting software, website management, or general security? Wouldn’t it feel great to know the efficient, correct way to use software – rather than muddling through? In the rest of this blog post, I share resources that can help improve your skills and save yourself some valuable time.
Where entrepreneurs learn skills?
- Application training and tutorials. Most software applications have a learning center. Most companies have spent a great deal of effort creating training tools to make learning their software easy, so read the introductory documentation and/or watch the introductory videos. Check out their library of “how to’s” and answers to frequently asked questions. If you’re paying for the software and still have questions, you can contact the help desk.
- Local learning. You can find non-credit courses through your local community college, professional associations, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE or Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Our local SBDC regularly offers 4-week courses on how to use QuickBooks accounting software, which is a great investment if you’re doing your own accounting. There are also local trainers teaching classes on using Google documents, Adobe Design, Excel, PowerPoint and more.
- YouTube. This is my favorite starting place to answer quick questions, such as “how do you change your password in Firefox?” There are many YouTubers who’ve done clear, visual videos that will save you a great deal of time. Remember that this information can also be outdated or, in the case of my recent security experience, just plain wrong – so use trusted sources and proceed with caution.
- Udemy.com. Udemy boasts more than 185,000 online courses and more than 49 million students. I have purchased dozens of Udemy courses and they are often on sale for approximately $13. Udemy classes vary in quality, however they offer a no-questions-asked refund policy if you are unhappy. Overall I’ve been very impressed by Udemy. Classes are updated regularly and rated by participants. You can also view sample lessons.
- LinkedIn Learning (formerly called Lynda.com). Lynda.com has a reputation for high quality classes and offers more than 17,000 courses. I have taken many of their courses and have found them to be excellent. Lynda.com is a subscription model – you can watch as many courses as you like beginning at $27 per month (if you pay annually). Many libraries offer free access to Lynda.com.
- Free Open Courseware. There are an amazing number of free college level courses online. These include edX which offers free subject matter from universities and colleges around the world, and includes a certificate of completion for a nominal fee. Free open courses are also available from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Yale University, Stanford University, Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon University, and more.
- Online learning sites. Courses are available in art, music, math, engineering, graphic design, software development and pretty much every other subject you can think of. This list includes 50 online learning sites, many of them free, that can benefit entrepreneurs.
- Private online courses. Many experts offer courses related to your business. Recently my email has included offers for courses on LinkedIn, how to launch a business, social media marketing, and website building. Most experts offer a free report or webinar that will introduce you to their program. While these courses tend to be more expensive, they are also highly targeted and often include coaching from the course creator.
- Membership sites. These sites charge a monthly fee for exclusive content that is highly targeted to members. One example is my membership site – the Solopreneur Academy – that offers weekly seminars related to the needs of female, home-based business owners. One of the benefits of membership sites is that you get access to a library of content created by one group, so it tends to be very cohesive. Membership groups also allow you to have access to the course creators so that you can ask questions and get feedback.
Benefits of developing entrepreneur skills
I hope this article encourages you to develop your skills as an entrepreneur. You don’t need to do everything yourself. Investing in training can decrease your frustration level, reduce mistakes, and make your business run more efficiently.
More resources to learn entrepreneur skills
- How to create a business operations manual
- Your business needs a procedure manual
- Ask for help so you can grow your business