Archive for Entrepreneurship

Professional Development for Entrepreneurs

We entrepreneurs are a busy bunch. We’re usually wearing lots of hats from marketing to finance to sales to operations to new product development – well, you get the picture.

Even with the right employees or outsourced assistance to handle much of our day to day operations, the buck still stops with us and therefore we often feel like we have our hands in all pies.

Which makes for a very busy & sometimes impossible schedule.

And, no, this isn’t a blog about some great new productivity hack. It’s a blog about something that entrepreneurs tend to short change themselves on amidst all our other priorities: planning for and investing in our own Professional Development.

We know the value of Professional Development for our employees, but we often take a more ad hoc approach for ourselves. We keep up with our industry through mandatory continuing education courses, conversations with colleagues and attending industry events. But professional development for entrepreneurs needs to be broader based than that in this rapidly evolving business world.

Professional Development is Not Networking

Yes, we do we always seem to be in networking mode, don’t we? And I’m certainly not suggesting that you can’t network at a professional development event. I’m just making a case for planning and prioritizing your own professional development.

Entrepreneurs tend to be curious and willing to take on the risk of doing something differently. After all, we are often trying to disrupt an industry or create an innovative product or service. Or perhaps simply run a business more effectively than the last business we worked for before striking out on our own.

But we also spend significant time in the bubble of our own business and its related industry due to the daily realities of running and growing a business.

Which means we have to be proactive in thinking about and seeking appropriate professional development opportunities that will expand our knowledge base and encourage our ability to learn new skills or develop new perspectives.

We Can’t Afford to Operate in a Silo

We’re doing business in a fast changing, global economy. Even if our business is local, we need to understand the changing business environment we operate in and the rapidly changing nature of providing services or products.

Successful businesses are able to innovate and adapt to change. To run innovative and forward thinking companies, I advise my clients to  “always be learning” and looking for new approaches to marketing and running their businesses.

To be successful in a world where the pace of change is constantly accelerating, we all need to widen our knowledge horizons so we can effectively embrace new opportunities and understand how new business tools can build or disrupt our businesses.

The rapid spread of using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in business applications is a good example. I don’t have to understand the coding any more than I need to know how to write an algorithm, but I absolutely must understand the possible impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on my business and the businesses of my clients.

Go Outside the Box to Think Outside the Box

One of the ways to promote “outside the box thinking” is to get outside of your comfort zone, which is where planned professional development comes in.

There is a wide range of topics & delivery systems available to choose among from outside your industry or type of business. And there are myriad convenient (and often free) delivery systems.

Beyond the typical professional development seminar there are many options such as: listening to a futurist’s podcast or enrolling in an online course through a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) or reading a book on a subject of interest that you don’t know much about…it’s all out there to be accessed but it takes giving it some thought and doing some research to find worthwhile and interesting topics.

Professional development obviously also includes keeping up with our industry specific skills and knowledge-base, but that’s what continuing education requirements and workshops with industry experts are designed to do.

Find something outside your comfort zone that will challenge you to consider new ways to think about your own business.  In this fast changing business world, the ability to adapt and innovate is a requirement, not an option. As a small business owner planned professional development will help you stay ahead of the curve.

So before you sign up for the next webinar on time management, consider spending some time finding a way to get out of your silo instead. It’s worth the effort to invest in yourself.


Entrepreneurs – Are We Born or Made?

In my experience, there are two types of entrepreneurs: those who go into their own business out of necessity or opportunity, and those who are born to it.

The common thread is usually boatloads of enthusiasm and optimism. And, believe me, both are absolutely necessary to succeed in one’s own business.

The Making of an Entrepreneur

An example of the “born to it” category are the neighborhood kids who knocked on my door a few weeks ago to ask if I wanted my car washed. They proudly announced that they were both entrepreneurs and inventors.

Charmed to see a couple of enterprising youngsters on my doorstep, I struck up a conversation with them about why they were doing odd jobs for their neighbors.

I learned that they call themselves the Two Musketeers. They were both enthusiastic and optimistic about succeeding & both had immediate goals.

One youngster is earning money to buy a GoPro so he can start his own Google video channel; the other “business partner” wants to upgrade his phone so he can invent video games. He proudly told me that he’s already invented one game, but he needs a better phone to do more.

As longer term goals, they are planning to add additional services like weeding & garage organization to their services list, so they already have expansion plans.

I thought those were pretty well defined goals for a couple of middle-schoolers and promptly hired them.

How Life Circumstances Foster Entrepreneurship

All of this started me ruminating about why people start their own businesses in the first place. I was an early entrepreneur – my neighbors hired me to mow lawns, shovel snow & wash cars when I was a kid and it absolutely helped make me more independent.

I didn’t know then that I would ultimately choose the path of a serial entrepreneur, but I did like the financial ability to buy things independent of my parents’ choices.

My parents were expecting me to be a doctor or a lawyer, so they probably didn’t think I’d be bitten by the entrepreneurial bug either but looking back I think there has always been a part of me that knew I wanted to be my own boss. And a desire for independence is another common trait of “born to it” entrepreneurs.

As a serial entrepreneur, I know why I started the businesses I did. But then I started thinking about commonalities of purpose that motivate entrepreneurs to take the risk of leaping into their own businesses.

I’m not talking about entrepreneurial personality traits. Rather what do entrepreneurs believe will be better in their lives if they are in their own business? What makes it worth the risk?

It’s one of the first questions I ask clients. I ask because in order to help them start or build their business, it’s important for me to understand what energizes them about being an entrepreneur and what motivates them to be in the particular business they own.

I came up with a few common threads.

5 Reasons for Being an Entrepreneur

Over the years I’ve received some interesting & heartfelt answers, but they mostly break down into some variation of these five:

  1. Independence – not answering to an employer holds out the possibility of being more in charge of one’s own destiny & schedule
  2. Finances – keeping more of the monetary benefits of one’s work can seem like a much better road toward financial security than working for someone else
  3. Flexibility – having flexibility in where, when and how one is working is extremely appealing in the very busy lives we all lead
  4. Necessity – a change in employment or personal circumstances requires finding a new professional path
  5. Legacy – being part of the next generation in an existing family business combines elements of both familial duty and the opportunity to build on an existing business foundation

Working with Entrepreneurs and Business Startups

There are as many variations and combinations of the above as there are entrepreneurs. I love what I do because I enjoy working with folks who are energetically and enthusiastically working toward creating & building their businesses.

Entrepreneurs embody hope for the future and embrace taking a risk for a goal that is important to them.

I’m grateful to have meet a lot of interesting business owners with a variety of perspectives. They are passionate about what they do and I’m never bored because I work in all types, stages and sizes of businesses.