By Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and CEO of PeoplePerHour.
Starting a new business is a bit like becoming a parent. You think that you’ve got this. You think, in advance, that you know what you’re doing. Then suddenly, you don’t have enough hands and you’re mopping up unexpected things from unexpected places. And your business skills are evolving all the time. Because, just like children, the needs of a business change. And if you want it to grow and reach its full potential, you have to change what you’re doing too. As well as maintaining the basics. So, how do you do that?
6 Ways to Keep Your Business Skills Fresh
Ongoing educational opportunities are a must for today’s workplace. For yourself and for your team. And OK, very few SMEs can afford to send their teams on £50k professional development and upskilling courses. But there are other options.
- Free online learning – With platforms such as The Digital Business Academy, you can pinpoint the skills that you need to work on to grow your business. And the support you need to develop those skills. Spend a little time searching and you’ll probably find things that hadn’t even occurred to you.
- Paid online courses – Digital learning used to be slightly sneered at, but in recent years it has become a vital resource. This is partly because many of the skills that businesses now need are related to online tasks. Online courses are considerably more cost-effective than classroom-based studies, and yet can provide workable, recognised qualifications. It’s a great way of upskilling when funds are tight.
Networking. The word can be enough to send shudders down any sensible spine. Schmoozing and boozing may not be for you. But if you run a small business and you’re looking for new contacts, then networking is actually a pretty good idea. Not just because it can help you find new clients. But because it can help you find the skills you need. From mentors to other SMEs with complementary services. If you meet with someone and talk to them, you’re far more likely to be able to strike a deal, if the need ever arises.
Whether you’re a one-wo/man band, or have a team working for you, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have internal access to all the skills your business needs all of the time. Working with freelancers is a great way to do this. With the freelance marketplace busier than it’s ever been, the range of skills available is virtually limitless. Freelancers are cost effective, because you’re only paying for the work you need. No overheads; no holiday or sick time; nothing other than the work you’ve commissioned. And because freelancing has become such an appealing way of life, the vast majority of freelance workers are highly experienced professionals, who work hard to ensure that their skillset and freelance services remains current.
Isn’t this just networking under another name? No. Both real world and digital events can, of course, help you with networking. But they can also expose you to new products, services and opportunities that could be of benefit to your business. This is especially true of tech. Tech is evolving faster than pretty much anything else right now. It’s impossible to stay up to date with all emerging tools, software, hardware and trends. Attending a few carefully selected events every year, can expose you to the information – and equipment – you need to keep your business current.
Software can be a hefty investment for your business, so it’s important to choose the right platforms for your needs. But if you’re wanting to grow and onboard new skills and new clients, selecting the right tools for your business can make a massive difference. From CMR systems to automation. Your business is unique and only you know what it needs. But you can be pretty well certain that whatever it does need, there will be a tool out there to help you.
Last but by no means least, you and your approach to work can have the most dramatic impact upon your business’ ability to stay ahead. All small businesses will have gaps in their skillset. It’s inevitable. As manager, it’s your job to be aware of what they are, and to find ways to work around them. You need to take pains to understand your team and find ways to build upon the skills they have, as well as identifying the ones they don’t. When onboarding new tools, you need to take care that you’re doing it properly, so the whole team knows not only how to use it, but why. And you need a continuously evolving strategy that the whole team is aligned with. Ideally, ongoing education should be factored into this.
Healthy businesses change all the time. And as they change, their needs change too. Keeping up with the evolving skills and technology can seem like a Herculean effort. But it’s an effort that will pay dividends in the longer term.