By Dr. Terry Neese, Founder, Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women
No matter how long you are in business, there is always something new to learn. Whether it is becoming more familiar with the benefits of marketing through social media or learning about new products that are available in your field, all small business owners can benefit from enhanced education. I believe that this is true whether you are 26, 46, or 66.
As a small business owner, here are some cost-effective ways for keeping up your skills. The same could be said for your employees; it is worth investing in their education as well. You will wind up seeing the end results in your bottom line.
- Consider a degree part-time
Universities and colleges all across the country welcome entrepreneurs who want to return to college to finish up a degree on a part-time basis. Usually, there is financial aid available, as well as flexible funding programs. For instance, one of our partners at IEEW,NorthwoodUniversityinCedar Hill,Texas, offers majors in management, marketing, and accounting with concentrations that range from international business to entertainment management to automotive marketing and management. All these programs can benefit entrepreneurs, and Northwood’s student body ranges from ages 17 to 60. The school offers evening classes for undergraduate and graduate degrees, and 98 percent of the students receive financial aid. In fact, Northwood is so committed to assisting small business owners that it hosts our Business Boot Camp from July 9-13 every year for our PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® students fromAfghanistanandRwandathat graduate from IEEW’s unique entrepreneurship program.
- Take online courses
If you or your employees just don’t have the time to get to a traditional classroom setting, consider taking courses online. About 29 percent ofU.S.higher education students are taking courses online, according to the Sloan Consortium, a nonprofit group that promotes online education in general. This is a way for small business owners to improve their skills, with a great deal more flexibility in scheduling compared to traditional classroom time.
- Attend trade/professional association workshops and conferences
Whatever kind of business you are in, there will be some association to represent you. Aside from the valuable contacts you can make by joining such a group, there are always educational opportunities available. Associations offer certifications and designations, which will give you valuable knowledge and training and help you market yourself as an expert in your field. Even if attending an organization’s annual meeting is too costly for you at the present, there are usually local chapters that will offer workshops and chances to obtain certifications. They are welcoming to new members. There also are wonderful networking benefits of joining a local chapter of the key association in your industry. Your time will be well worth it.
- Read, Read, Read!
Trade magazines are in business for a reason. That reason is to inform and enlighten those in a particular industry. Spend the money (and remember, subscriptions to trade publications can be written off as a business expense) and subscribe to one or two of the leading magazines in your industry. Nowadays, you can even get very inexpensive online subscriptions to most publications. You can keep up on the latest trends, learn new marketing and branding information, and connect with individuals quoted in articles who can become part of your client base. For instance, I read the Washington Post, Washington Times, New York Post, Wall Street Journal, and my local newspapers every day without fail. It keeps me in the know, and I can follow all the new trends in business. It is well worth my time – no matter how busy I get.
Utilize education for the amazing tool that it is and happy learning!