No matter how long you've been operating your business or how much past training you've gone through, it's always possible to learn something new. Especially when you consider that fields like marketing, tech, sales and others evolve every year. There is a wide range of potential training for small-business owners to develop new skills, and you don't have to spend a fortune to do so.
By learning new business skills, even at a beginner's level, you'll gain a more well-rounded view of how to operate your company.
Here's a look at some of the top skills business owners can learn—and how you can do so on a budget.
Best Skills for Business Owners to Learn
- Project management. As your company expands, projects will become larger, more complicated and more intense. Do you have a strategy to keep everything on schedule and within budget? Project-management classes will teach you how to get the most out of your limited resources like time, money and staff.
- Sales. Ultimately, the goal of any business is to build revenue. Even if you're already an experienced salesperson, just picking up an extra tip or two can make a difference for future deals. Plus, you can pass on any ideas to your sales team, so the whole organization benefits.
- Financial management. Your financial statements show the health of your company. Financial classes can teach you how to make better use of this information to set more accurate budgets, forecast your future revenue and help you plan around challenges like a cash crunch.
- Marketing and branding. What impression do you leave on prospects with your marketing materials? Do people clearly understand your company values and the benefits of your product? By gaining a grounding in marketing concepts and studying what other great brands have done, you can adopt similar strategies for your own business.
- Digital marketing. The internet created new tools for getting the word out to customers. Social media, website sales funnels, email marketing and search engine optimization are a few of the techniques that can build a consistent stream of online customers. This is one of the new skills needed to be a business owner in the digital age—and can give you an edge over competitors who aren't keeping up with the times.
- Communication. As a business owner, you speak on behalf of your organization, so clear communication is essential. Whether you work on your public speaking, writing or active listening skills, all of these will improve your leadership and conflict resolution abilities.
Low-Cost Ways to Develop New Skills
So now that you've got an idea of what you'd like to study, where can you pick up these new skills? Here are some effective, generally lower-cost options.
- Online courses for small-business owners. The Internet has more high-quality business training material than anyone could watch in a lifetime. Through websites like Coursera, Udemy and Mixergy, you can take business courses from industry experts at little to no cost.
- Local college and university classes. If you'd prefer studying in person, your local community college or university may offer night classes for professionals. Signing up for an official class with a set schedule also could help you move through the material, rather than going at your own pace online, where it's easier to skip days.
- Business associations. Organizations like the Small Business Administration and your local chamber of commerce may hold entrepreneur classes to teach these skills. Offering continuing education is one way they meet their mission of supporting business owners—so it's smart to take them up on it.
- TED Talks. The TED Talks series is a goldmine of speeches from the very best in fields around the world. Anytime you have a spare 15 minutes, you can catch speeches from visionaries. Each one can inspire.
- Business networking. Networking events are more than a place to land your next client. As you work the room, keep an eye out for attendees who specialize in areas you'd like to learn more about. See whether they'd be up for a quick coffee or call to discuss more about what they do. You could learn some valuable information and develop a contact for the future.
- Employees. Your employees could also help you understand their various specialties. Chances are they'd be glad you're showing an interest in their work. Not only do you get to learn from their varied experience and training, you could also improve morale because you're showing different employees you value their abilities.
- Books and audiobooks. Top entrepreneurs are often dedicated readers, and with good reason. Every book is a chance to learn from the life experience of someone else, so you don't have to make the mistakes yourself. Putting aside even 30 minutes each night to read can help you pick up new skills. And if actual reading doesn't appeal to you, consider listening to audiobooks and podcasts during your commute or workout.
No one expects you to be an expert in every field. That's why you hire employees. But by learning new business skills, even at a beginner's level, you'll gain a more well-rounded view of how to operate your company. Not to mention, you'll inspire the rest of your team to invest in their continuing education as well.
Photo: Getty Images