Expanding Skills Means Extending Profits


It’s no secret that you won’t get very far in today’s marketplace unless you’re able and willing to expand your skill set. Taking time to learn will keep your business growing and changing, minimizing possible burn-out or irrelevance in your field. In a February 4 article from the Harvard Business Review:

This world, and by extension this world of work, is changing quickly and precipitously. One estimate has it that 60% of the new jobs created this century will require skills now possessed by a mere 20% of workers today. This means that whatever your specialty, it’s at risk of soon becoming outdated if not completely obsolesced.

—A To-Do List for the CEO of Your Career, Cathy Benko

Ms. Benko is talking to people concerned about their individual careers. The same advice should be applied to business owners.

Stay Intrigued or Stay Out

I think everyone has had the experience of a business meeting, interview, or networking session where that one person is somehow making the room static with awkwardness. After a few minutes, it becomes grossly apparent that the person is just disillusioned about the business itself. It’s almost as if they’re begging someone to please tell them to pack their stuff and find another career. The absolute worst is when that person is the owner of the company.

This sedentary attitude often shows in dated marketing materials and techniques, outdated equipment, and old-fashioned ways of thinking. Not a lot of business-growth potential there. Let’s face it: At the pace that most businesses move and change today – and close up shop – if you’re not learning, you’re doing a huge disservice to yourself and your business’s future.

Not every day as a business owner is going to be sparkly and exciting. When business is slow, we all want to pull the covers up over our heads and pray that someone will drop a big, fat sale in our laps. Still, it’s up to you to stay abreast of trends and news related to your industry. Not only will it benefit your ability to market to your target audience; it will keep you enthused and mindful of the direction your business should go in.

Your Staff Support YOU

New staff members are typically brought on board to supplement the abilities of the owner. This often-necessary form of growth also allows for a general expansion of the services that the business can offer. However, in many cases, the owner then detaches himself from the daily rigors of the tasks at hand and focuses instead on bringing in new business to keep his growing team busy.

You’ll see that many of these owners suffer severely as the years go on from a general detachment not only from the work but from the staff themselves. If the owner of the business doesn’t stay current on trends in the marketplace and doesn’t know the first thing about accomplishing even the most rudimentary tasks, how much time is wasted explaining to him or her the fundamentals of the way the business is being run
. . . without him?

Well-established companies I’ve worked for in the past didn’t make any effort to expand the skill sets of their staff. Some business owners are afraid that by improving their staff’s knowledge, they’re encouraging them to look elsewhere. In fact, if a team member plans to leave, (a) the added training might give her enough incentive to stay or (b) she would most likely have left either way because the business was a poor fit for her. Stifling people’s abilities to grow and learn within a position pretty much guarantees their general dissatisfaction.

Be a figurehead in your company for the “Always Learning” mindset and your staff will look to you as a role model and a leader.

Everyone Else Is Doing It

Even if you don’t think you have the time or resources to do so, at least one of your competitors is. You may not feel the effect immediately, but that other business is using it as a means to drive new business, using terms like “innovative” and “forward-thinking.” They’re saying it because it’s true.

What worked 30 years ago doesn’t work one-third as well today. What worked 10 years ago doesn’t work half as well today. You have to constantly keep on top of the trends in your market so that your brand and message constantly evolve, maintain relevance, draw attention. You don’t need a multi-million-dollar budget to do it, either.

Have a special half-hour meeting once a week where team members bring in recent articles relevant to your trade or service. Discuss how the information contained in the article could affect and be used by your business. Add a blog to your site where you show potential customers that you’re staying on top of the latest and greatest in your industry and offer expert advice. Subscribe to RSS feeds, social media, etc. to keep you updated without having to spend countless hours researching.

Think back to what you did in the first years of your business to get the word out there and think how you might upgrade those ideas to apply to 21st-century thinking.

What steps has your business taken to stay informed? How have you used technology to benefit this effort?

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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