Like many other small business owners, you may feel you have not had the necessary educational grounding to help you achieve the many and varied tasks you are expected to successfully complete every day.
Upgrading your skills and those of your staff should also be one of your priorities to ensure the growth of your business. Training to use new technologies, industry-specific skills or administration subjects like financial management will help increase profits, productivity, staff motivation and customer satisfaction.
The number of resources available to you today to help you broaden your business knowledge is almost endless. Before deciding on a training course or program, you may want to identify the gap between your current qualifications and new skills you and/or your staff need.
The following educational resources have been compiled to help you clarify your options and make your decision a little easier.
1. Local universities
Courses taken through a local university can provide a broad approach to a big-picture topic, or very detailed education in a particular area—but at a fairly high cost. The hybrid and online programs currently on the rise represent more opportunities for small business owners and their employees to earn their MBAs while maintaining their roles at the business. These programs offer classes that are often structured to meet at nights or on weekends or to be taken online, and typically require a time investment of about nine to 12 hours per week, per course.
For instance, the University of Massachusetts MBA degree online offers an online part-time MBA course dealing with both the theoretical and practical aspects of accounting, management information, finance, marketing, and the management of human resources. The University of Colorado’s Professional MBA Online allows students to tailor their degree to fit the busy schedules of most SBO. The program can be completed either full time or part time, in as little as 16 months or up to five years.
2. Skill-specific online courses
Online courses can range from a short, half-hour PowerPoint presentation to weeks-long courses complete with reading assignments and homework. The following sites may be your stepping stone to finding a convenient web course that suits your time constraints:
- VuBiz.com offers simple training available 24/7 on hundreds of core business topics.
- Lynda.com allows users access to 879 online software training courses and 53,000 online video tutorials for either monthly or annual memberships.
- The Small Business Administration website has a variety of short, self-paced free online courses in basic marketing, business planning and other evergreen topics.
3. Mentoring and seminars
Good mentoring relationships are an excellent way to help you develop new talents and build self-awareness. Finding the right mentor/s is not easy but the following organizations are a good way to start:
- Service Corps of Retired Executives Association (SCORE) offers formal mentoring arrangements as well as team counseling, one-on-one counseling, and advice via E-mail.
- www.asbdc-us.org Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), SBDCs offer free counseling, with access to training programs and information resources. SBDC counselors are located at 970 centers across the country, 48 of which are on college campuses.
- The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), The ICIC studies and fosters entrepreneurship in urban neighborhoods. Its Inner City Advisors program provides a variety of mentoring and advisory services for free. One arm of the program matches business owners with teams of local M.B.A. students and professors. www.icic.org
- National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Services: The free NAWBO mentor program pairs a woman entrepreneur with a NAWBO member who has experience running a company. NAWBO provides members with an array of benefits including national networking and discounts from corporate sponsors like IBM and AT& T. www.nawbo.org
4. E-books and newsletters
A great source in-depth information, free e-books and e-newsletters need to be read with caution because are often from for-profit businesses trying to sell you a product (paid e-courses, books, consultations, etc).
To find useful e-books and newsletters:
- Subscribe to your industry or general business e-newsletters.
- Google the topic you’d like to learn more about. For example, if you’re looking for social networking tips for your business, Google “social networking free e-books.”
- Explore the free e-books and webinars at these sites (again, those publications that are not non-profit or government based may have an sales agenda i.e., sales of a product): SBA’s resource library, Gutenberg.org (you will have to do some searching here for specific titles), Free-e-books.net, Web-source.net and SmallBusinessSuccess.biz.
- Revisit our Eight great FREE social media eBooks
To make the most of any useful information you read about, pass on the links to the e-books or newsletter articles to your employees. You can even schedule monthly sessions based on what you have read and absorbed from the e-books and newsletters.
And don’t forget to check the bulletin boards of all your social media groups (LinkedIn, Facebook or Yahoo Groups) as many associations and independent companies tend to use these forums to publicize their online co