How Small Business Owners Can Keep Learning in 2018

To stay competitive, small business owners must continue to educate themselves and learn new skills — without letting their day-to-day responsibilities get in the way.
In a changing world, it is crucial for business owners to stay educated and up to date. (Photo: Kinga/Shutterstock)

Small business owners are busy people, but that doesn’t mean they can stop learning and expanding upon their skills. In a time when innovation happens at the speed of light, small business owners must stay on top of trends and know what’s

Deborah Sweeney

“Unless you’re growing, you’re shrinking. You’re a leader, so you need to be in tune with the latest and greatest, but also you need to make sure you don’t get stale.” -Deborah Sweeney (Photo: Deborah Sweeney)

happening in the business world to remain competitive.

“Unless you’re growing, you’re shrinking,” said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of online legal filing service provider “You’re a leader, so you need to be in tune with the latest and greatest, but also you need to make sure you don’t get stale.”

Are you a small business owner who wants to learn, but feel you don’t have the time to go to business school? Here are a few useful ways you can expand your skill set in just minutes a day.

Listen to podcasts

When you’re sitting in traffic or eating your lunch, what are your ears doing? You could maximize that time by listening to podcasts.

iTunes and other podcast directories feature a huge category of business podcasts that you can tune into when you have time to listen and learn. Some are only a few minutes long, while others can last for an hour. You can find podcasts on nearly any topic, and episodes are free to download.

Sweeney said she enjoys listening to “StartUp,” a show hosted by Alex Blumberg and Lisa Chow on the Gimlet Media network.

“‘StartUp’ takes a thoughtful approach to what it means to start and run a business,” she said. “It is a good listen, especially for those who can relate and/or want more insight.”

Related: Small Business Owners: 8 Podcasts Worth a Listen

Read — or listen to — a good book

Reading a quality business or self-improvement book is another great way to continue learning. Or, if you learn better by listening, get an audiobook instead.

Chiraz Bensemmane, CEO and founder of business development consultancy Pitch World Fast, suggested setting aside time in your daily routine to learning activities like these.

“We all are commuting or sometimes in need of a break from work to refocus,” she said.

Take advantage of quieter moments like these to take a breather and listen to an audiobook or read the next chapter of book that’s relevant to your small business’ industry and goals.

Related: How To Evaluate If a Business Book Is Worth Your Time

Watch webinars and tutorial videos

Bensemmane also suggested signing up for educational webinars online, such as TED Talks or short tutorial videos on YouTube.

Don’t know where to find a good webinar to attend? Start by looking at upcoming online events offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, National Federation of Independent Business or sign up for a SCORE workshop.

Related: 8 Powerful TED Talks About Being an Effective Leader

Sign up for newsletters and blogs

If you have just five minutes a day, you can get notified of trending topics and educational articles by just checking your email. Steve Pritchard, founder of car insurance comparison site, said he keeps up to date by signing up for email newsletters and industry blogs.

Steve Pritchard

“Taking the time out to acknowledge what is going on and what competitors are doing is really important.” -Steve Pritchard (Photo: Steve Pritchard)

“Small tasks, such as signing up [for] newsletter and article alerts that are relatable to (or in opposition of) your business, are great ways of sprucing up your skills,” he said. “They alert you and remind you to read up on new trends in relation to your business field.”

Pritchard suggested making it a personal goal to read at least one article a day to help you stay on top of what’s going on in the business world — without needing to make a huge time investment.

“Taking the time out to acknowledge what is going on and what competitors are doing is really important, so you need to dedicate time to fit this into your schedule, despite how busy it is,” he said.

Related: 10 Blogs Small Business Owners Should Follow in 2017

Attend seminars and conferences

At seminars and conferences, you can attend learning sessions about your specific industry, as well as network with the top professionals in your field.

Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of marketing consultancy Mavens & Moguls, said she goes to a few business conferences every year to keep her skills fresh.

“Like all business owners I am always busy. You just have to make it a priority,” she said.

In 2018, make it your goal to start learning more, Arnof-Fenn advised. Whether you carve out a block of time on your calendar each week or budget to attend a conference or two next year, “build it into your plan or New Year’s resolutions,” she said. “It has to be written down as a commitment to professional development.”

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