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.