With today being Small Business Day it seems apt to post something meaningful and that you can learn from. One thing that separates more successful business owners from less successful ones is personal appetite for continued learning. This post by Justin Kulla from Forbes proves it. Therefore, we’ve collated 14 ways you can keep learning when busy running your business.

1. Become curious by nature.

Curiosity never killed the cat. In other words, don’t be intimidated when trying to understand what you don’t know. Whether it’s a technical subject or a confusing situation, seek enlightenment. Your curiosity will help you and your business. One of the prime applications of this is when understanding stakeholders such as suppliers and clients. There are many other solid reasons to be curious: this only scratches the surface.

2. Be receptive to feedback.

Broadly, the learning methods listed here can be split into two. Ones directly related to your business and others that concern your own development. Learning from feedback links more to the former. Be sure to listen when people give you feedback. This can be your family, friends, colleagues, customers, suppliers or anyone really. You’ll always encounter feedback that you don’t agree with, however you’ll likely still learn something if you think positively about what’s been said. Learn to love feedback.

3. Engage with your customers…they might know a thing or two.

In a similar vein you should be looking for strong connections with those vital (and not so vital) to your business. Authentic connections. Quality business owners do this by nature, as it’s who they are. Even if this isn’t quite your style, the gains for you typically far outweigh the risks. From engaging with your customers you’ll gain more insight and your customers will appreciate your efforts.  Moreover, you can learn a lot about your industry, customer issues, gaps in your industry and competitors.

4. Sleep properly, take a break. Learn better.

Too many small business owners make this mistake. Not enough sleep. Missing out on sufficient sleep can even reduce your life expectancy. Breaks are important for focusing on the present when you get back to work. So that you can create excellent things. Overworking is bad not just for your own health, also for your bottom line. Be sure to relax after a long day and take plenty of breaks when you require them. Learn to sleep well.

5. Get or keep reading.

The wealthy read, the successful read, the supremely creative read. If that’s not tempting enough to make you reach for a book, then what is? Reading stimulates your mind, indirectly influencing your business (and its success). If you learn to love reading, you’re setting yourself up for success. There are a myriad of personal and professional benefits that are reaped from the act of sifting through pages with words on them. If you don’t have the time, create the time. Ten minutes of reading each day is proven to provide more benefits than you would imagine.

6. Find an inspiring mentor.

A mentor is essential for any business with tremendous value, insight and support. Finding the right mentor offers highly personalised advice based on your situation or query. Having a professional mentor or life coach while establishing and managing your small business can be a game-changer. Whether it’s to help you gain confidence, tackle unchartered problems or plan your budgets, two (or more) brains on an issue is almost always better than one. You should choose your mentor selectively though and find them to be inspiring, so that you’ll have the most fruitful of partnerships. If you have a quick question regarding your own continued learning, reach out to one of our experts.

7. Make time for exercise.

Exercise stimulates more than just your body, it activates your mind. Surely as a business owner you’d agree that an active and continuously learning mind is going to generate more success than a stale one?

Consequently, it is imperative that you do some form of exercise. Ideally of the exhaustive and tiring variety, twice per week minimum. If all you can simply manage is a couple of long walks per week, it’s definitely going to be better than no exercise at all. In the process, your wellbeing can vastly improve with certain personal exercise programs.

8. Challenge yourself with free online resources.

The web is chock-full of excellent resources for your own learning. Many are free of charge. We’ve a selection of useful blogs and media for small business owners at our Knowledge Base.

Sporcle is also excellent for more theoretical, fun and trivial-pursuit style knowledge accumulation.

9. Consider a MOOC or two.

Massive Open Online Courses are often a great option for all budgets. They are highly affordable with useful topics. Some cost nothing. They take a lot less time than traditional undergraduate degrees while being more practical and far less expensive. However, you need to be very self-motivated to complete them as you’re only accountable to yourself.

10. Consider a part-time degree or an Open University course.

This is perhaps a more traditional suggestion but still has considerable merit. It may be the case that you need to thoroughly increase your knowledge in a specific industry or subject area. If you have solid organisational abilities and are able to complete a degree while running your business, it could be worth it. A part-time degree with the Open University is typically less expensive than most universities and can be completed over 5-6 years.

11. Learn by meeting experts and professionals at industry events.

Industry events are not always that useful. Often time is wasted, participants feel awkward and people feel awkward sometimes talking about themselves. Make your time at events useful by engaging in authentic conversation and building personal connections with those that you can learn from. Try to seek out those that are experts in their fields and that have more knowledge than you. So much can be learned from being humble regarding your own limited knowledge.

Treating such events as learning experiences will make you feel better about being there and stand you in good stead for the entire day. If you’re looking for a tailored learning event, reach out to us.

12. Become a volunteer at an organisation that is meaningful to you.

Volunteering is a way for you to ‘Pay it forward’ and give your time, skills and experience to a good cause. Encourage yourself to get involved as it will give you the opportunity to enrich your own learning and development through all sorts of varied activities. If you are looking for a challenge or want the opportunity to use your skills, volunteer. Stretch yourself while giving back by considering some of the experiences on offer within the voluntary sector.

13. Write down what you’ve learnt.

By writing, your brain associates a physical activity with a certain time and -in the case of learning- what’s been learnt. This makes it storing and recalling the information much easier, helping you retain knowledge far more effectively. Again, a better working brain helps to make a better working business. This also helps you to practice your handwriting, which is a task that stimulates areas of the brain that help you think analytically.

14. Use our online CPD HUB.

There are so many benefits to having all of your development plans, records and files in one place. Thinking of a way to record your own learning?

  • Efficient storage and easy access to your own private learning records.
  • Always safe and secure to maintain your CPD portfolio, meaning you can be confident that your data is secure.
  • Helps you establish best practice and develop life-long skills (as well as demonstrate any mandatory CPD).
  • Share on social media or with your colleagues, inviting feedback that demonstrates your expertise.
  • Encourage reflective practice making you more aware of your own learning.
  • Sector experts on hand to assist via blogs and questions which means you are able to ask specific questions and get an answer.

We hope you found something useful within this post. When running your own business it’s too easy to forget about learning. The danger is that your success may be under threat if you don’t expose yourself to new knowledge and novel ideas. If you’re to take one thing from this post it’s be happy, happy learning.

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