By Jennie Wong, charlotteobserver.com
There are a million things you need to learn as a business owner, in addition to the thing you’re really good at. You may be a superb butcher/baker/candlestick maker, but in order to survive (not to mention, make payroll), you’ll need to also acquire the basics of business. And without a corporate training department, who will teach it all to you?
The answer is, of course, you. You will teach yourself what you need to know, as you need to know it. You can’t learn it all at once, but in the end, if you have your own company or want to start your own company, you’ll need to embrace the ways of the autodidact.
Impress your CPA
Jo Cowan, owner of the blow dry bar Blo Charlotte, was a NICU nurse practitioner before she became a franchise owner and realized that none of her clinical skills were useful for running a small business. Cowan jokes, “Unless one of my salon customers is going into premature labor, then I’m your girl!”
When it came to decoding the financial aspects of entrepreneurship, Cowan always planned to use an accountant, but she still needed to understand the day-to-day aspects of bookkeeping.
“It was recommended that I use QuickBooks, but initially I had no idea what I was doing. I tried three times to set up my company, but thought I was failing each time. Then I ordered a QuickBooks manual, but that caused me even more confusion because I couldn’t find the answers I needed to my specific questions,” said Cowan.
“Finally, I researched online courses and found one called simply QuickBooksTraining.com, which offered self-paced tutorials with screenshots that I could complete at my own pace. Most importantly, they were organized so that I could learn what I wanted and skip the parts which were not relevant to me. I knew I had made a great decision when the time came to print out my general ledger for my tax accountant and he told me it was excellent!”
Switching gears? Work your network
Whereas Cowan’s learning journey was necessitated by her first business, web designer Chris Trausch found his path to self-learning via his second venture. After graduating from Purdue University with a degree in technical graphics and starting the Charlotte-based web design company LunaseaMedia Productions, Trausch and his wife, Lindsey, embarked on a whole new enterprise.
“About 4 years ago, we decided to put all of our e-commerce technology and online marketing expertise into selling aftermarket parts and accessories for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, specifically, their Touring models,” Trausch wrote in an email. “And soon after launching Iron Aces Speed Shop, I designed a patent-pending motorcycle mount for iPhones and GPS systems, which turned us into a manufacturing company.”
And that’s when Trausch called upon his network of personal and professional relationships to rapidly learn what he needed to know for his product.
Trausch’s friend, James Burry, owns the Mooresville-based company BISS Product Development, which manufactures consumer products.
“He was able to help us with pricing, distribution, and intellectual property,” Trausch said.
“And our friends at the marketing agencies that I had worked with as a strategic partner, such as Crafted and Moving Ideas, wound up playing key roles in our branding and successful go-to-market strategy.”
Be a lifelong learner
And after the wonders of online training and the resources within one’s own Rolodex, there’s still that time-tested standby, the book.
Jordan Lipton is one of the founding doctors at Signature Healthcare, a concierge medical practice located in SouthPark and uptown. Perhaps it’s no surprise that an entrepreneur who exceled in medical school would still turn to book-learning to expand his horizons after becoming a business owner.
“One of my favorite business books is ‘Good to Great,’ by Jim Collins. In it, he talks about how great leaders combine intense determination and profound humility, putting personal ego aside for the long-term vision of the company. And because concierge medicine is all about providing the very highest level of service to our patients, we’ve really taken his advice to heart when it comes to getting the right people ‘on the bus,’ ” said Lipton.
Lipton also recommends getting out of the office to spark learning and creativity.
“I’ve had great educational experiences from networking. Meeting other entrepreneurs is a forum for sharing ideas, so the doctors in our practice make a point of participating whenever possible in groups like the Entrepreneurial Leadership Circle at the McColl School of Business at Queens University and the Charlotte Chamber.”
So now ask yourself – what’s the most important thing you need to learn for your business? What topic is most urgent for you at this very moment and how can you get yourself up to speed? Will you turn to online resources, a book, a friend, a consultant, or a group?