The value of continual education in business

At some point - and we have all done it, we get to a point of knowledge within our business or industry were we feel……. comfortable. It is at this very point; you can guarantee that you have just fallen BEHIND the game.

Business is ALWAYS evolving, whether it is directly such as with a new piece of equipment or product, or indirectly via innovation in a related industry such as cloud accounting or tablet invoicing. So by thinking that you have attained all of the required knowledge for your industry, it is more likely that you are simply unaware of some evolution.......hence you have fallen behind.

Continual education does not need to be a repeat of the science class in your third year of high school - with classrooms, teachers, books and if you were lucky, the odd practical experiment. Education today comes in a range of different areas and delivery styles, and often it is the most unexpected which can provide the greatest value.

In broad terms I find that education divides between two distinct categorises, “technical” and “general”.

The “technical” is more your expected form of education - specific to your industry. It may be from an equipment supplier, trade or industry organisations and is generally aimed at improving your core technical competency. This sort of education is prevalent across many industries; from the financial planning industry with their continual professional development through to the auto mechanic who needs to be checked out on the latest computer diagnostic gear.

Typically this is the sort of education you are already aware of and I find most businesses are aware of it, albeit not all take advantage of it for either themselves or their staff.

The “general” can be wide and varied - it can be cheap, it can be expensive, it may be targeted or very broad - but either way be careful, as you may learn a lot and even have some fun along the way.

Over the past few months I have attended a number of different education sessions; for clients, with clients and a few for myself personally. Some of the topics included;

  • Cloud software
  • Aggressive behaviour management
  • Networking
  • Visual marketing
  • Business development
  • Unlocking cash from your business
  • Time management
  • Illusion and perspective
  • Personal styling
  • Profile / SEO management
  • Wealth creation
  • A business risk workshop
  • Team dynamics
  • And of course some more generic presentations and motivational speeches given by various entrepreneurs

What may surprise you - as it did me in some cases - was the quality of some of these presentations, with several of them being free. When you start with a few simple web searches, you will find that there is a range of presentations available which may be suitable for both you and your team.

Do not under estimate the value of providing education to your team - most employee surveys say that they want more development. Equally, there can be immeasurable upside for a business having better educated and performing employees. Some businesses use training and development as a clear strategy to gain and retain key staff, whereas others are simply concerned with making the work environment safer or more productive. Which ever is your driver, I find that appropriate education delivered to the correct audience always provides value.

You may also be surprised as to who is offering these sessions, with the likely list including;

  • local Chamber of Commerce
  • Business associations
  • Councils/Local Government
  • Commercial firms
  • Networking groups
  • Product suppliers

The agenda for some of the providers is clear - they are marketing to you, but this is no reason not to listen and take away some valuable information. If you only take away new/valuable knowledge - YOU win, if you happen to buy their product or service, then you BOTH win. Either way, there is little downside with the greatest cost generally only your time.

A special mention about some of the Council and local Chamber of Commerce presentations – the driver for these is normally just to make you more successful. Sure – having your business be successful is good for the municipality or retail precinct – but the biggest winner here is clearly you and your business. I recommend that you be aware of what is on offer in your local area and participate as appropriate.

As a quick way of assessing where you are at, ask yourself three simple questions;

  1. when was the last time you took time out to invest in yourself by attending some form of education session?
  2. how comfortable are you with your industry, what's on the cutting edge and do you know how it impacts you?
  3. what level of education (outside of the business) are you offering your staff, and… how would your competition answer this question?

Unless you can answer a "Quick Yes" to these, then you most likely have some great education upside - just waiting for you.