Send your business back to school
We can all benefit from going back to school
It’s that time of year again when parents are rejoicing, and children are lamenting. That’s right, it’s back-to-school season. We normally associate this with children, as they start their new school year ready to broaden their horizons, but why should we limit ourselves? Why not use the start of the academic year as an opportunity to broaden your own horizons—and those of your business?
Learn and grow
Your kids may not be excited about going back to school, but they should be. Learning new things is one of the most exciting things we can do and leaving school doesn’t mean we need to stop. In fact, now couldn’t be a better time. Whether you choose to brush up on a fresh topic, attend a training course or even head back to school yourself, more knowledge can only ever be a good thing. And your business will see the benefits.
For a more hands-on training experience, try online courses—YouTube hosts a number of free streams you can attend and sites like Lynda are always available and cover virtually every topic you could need to know. But if you only have one free hour a month, consider a more concise learning experience. Webinars are a resource that provide focused, topical information in a shorter format. Verizon offers a monthly, no-cost webinar series. We’ve covered topics from social media marketing to learning how to optimize your business for voice search. Plus, our webinars are available to play back whenever you want—just visit our website.
New school year, new you
As children prepare themselves for the academic year ahead, with the purchase of new school supplies, why not do the same for your business? Now we’re not saying you should completely revamp your business (this isn’t an extreme makeover) but it might be a good time to take a step back and consider what is and isn’t working. Think about any outdated technology or processes that could be refreshed, or whether any employees could benefit from new training. The easiest course is to do nothing—particularly if everything seems to be working fine. But there’s always room for improvement—and shaking things up is what leads to innovation.
Kids will be adjusting to their new timetables, with new lessons and topics—should you be taking a look at how you use your own time? Think about how you spend it, both personally and professionally—are there areas you would like to focus on more or is there an end goal you would like to reach? By creating yourself a new timetable you can start to plan the areas you want to focus on and map out your personal and business growth. By taking a moment to really look at your business, you can identify what needs your attention and what doesn’t—and you can dedicate your time constructively. For some inspiration, or just to help get you started, you could join the US Small Business Administration—it’s designed to serve small businesses and is filled with plenty of resources and expert advice to help with any situation.
Make new friends
Schools encourage students to make new friends by splitting up friendship groups into different classes—while we’re not saying you should hire a whole new team, it is important to work with different people. Why? Because other people can offer different perspectives, broaden your mind and help introduce new ideas. If you’re always working with the same people, your perspective can become narrowed and it can be hard to see alternative solutions—but introduce someone new and things can get a lot more interesting. Try speaking to someone from a different department or branch—or if your team is a little smaller, try reaching out to other businesses, partners or suppliers that you would love to learn from, and pick their brain over a coffee. You’d be surprised how many people would love to chat if you just ask.
Networking events can be a great start. Even something as simple as engaging with others on social media can help you meet new people and diversify your network. If you’re not already using it, LinkedIn is a great free resource—it’s the social network of choice for business. You can connect with new people, find new clients and follow industry trends and topics.
Pick up a book
Whether you’re an avid reader or you’ve fallen off the wagon, now is the perfect time to pick up a new book. Learning from others and from training courses is great, but sometimes the simplest pleasure and greatest learning experience comes from the written word. Anything you could possibly want to learn has already been written down somewhere; head to your local library, join a book club or just search the internet for inspiration. Business books and white papers are great for brushing up on a topic and developing new skills, but don’t underestimate the benefits of reading fiction—it has been proven to help you be more open-minded and creative.
And you don’t even have to limit yourself to books—in fact you definitely shouldn’t. The internet has so many resources available, and you’re probably already accessing many of them daily. Connect with publications online or through Twitter to get snippets of information and decide if you want to read more. Resources like these give you up-to-date information and help you stay ahead of industry trends. The business section of the newspaper or business-focused publications are prime resources for helping you understand what is going on beyond your storefront—and many of these can be accessed online. For more focused advice, start following business blogs; sites like Hubspot are a great resource for marketing tips, The Khan Academy has interviews from entrepreneurs to help inspire you, and our own Business Markets Blog offers advice on everything from technology and communication to diversity and marketing.
Oh, the places you’ll go
Don’t wait for the school bell to get started. Start learning something new today. Kids are preparing for their future with every new lesson they attend—it’s time your business did the same. Whether you decide to develop new skills, attend a training course or meet with others to discuss ideas—there are many resources available, so try them and see what works for you.
Don’t become complacent about your personal development; you may have come this far already but expand your knowledge and who knows where you could go in the future.