As an old educator, it’s probably unsurprising that I value education. I may even be biased in my perspective about its importance in life. But I suspect I’m not overestimating the importance of education for business. It’s not just a matter of keeping your business liquid, it’s a matter of ensuring that you are making business decisions that are informed.
It’s a common misconception that many new businesses fail in the first year. In Australia at least, the true rate of first year business failure is only around 1.5%. Business failure usually occurs around the time firms need to grow, or adjust their market offering for a different set of clients or customers. And the reason why they fail is lack of understanding of the marketplace and of the issues associated with running a larger business – from the taxation, housing and employment considerations to the technological and business processing issues that arise from growth. As a result, poor decisions are made in terms of market risk profiling, financial planning and funding, infrastructure investment, and employee and recruitment management. And it’s these poor decisions that can leave a giant gaping hole in the profit and loss projections that may previously have sustained a reasonable small enterprise.
Of course, most small business owners claim they don’t have the time to learn all the details of running a business, and they prefer to learn “on the job”. And perhaps, up until quite recently, that was still technically possible. But unfortunately, with the pace of business changes facilitated by technology-mediated operational and decision support systems, that freedom to learn on the go has dissolved, and funding organisations are increasingly requiring business owners to show evidence of their education and training as part of their risk assessment process.
The good news is that small business owners don’t have to enrol in MBA programs and other formal education in order to properly prepare for growing their business. There are a range of sources that facilitate business learning, both online and through mentoring and seminar experiences. In particular, MOOCs offer self paced learning that can fill gaps in knowledge without taking too much time out of your week.
Here are a few of my favourite MOOCs:
1. Udemy: 22,000+ courses ranging from free to a few hundred dollars per course. Over a thousand courses in business growth alone.
2. Coursera: nearly 1000 courses, all from universities, and with many attracting verified certification. This is probably a more ‘academic’ solution to preparing your business for growth.
3. Open Learning: Australian company offering a range of university and registered training organisation courses, most of which are free.
Additionally, the Australian Tax Office has some free online webinars for business, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission maintains modules on competitive business practice, and the Department of Industry and Science’s Single Business Service provides a range of resources to help with business operation.
Growing a business is no small achievement for a business owner. But it’s also a massive risk. Being adequately prepared for the challenge requires commitment to education to reduce that risk. And without education, our chances for achieving funding for business growth are approaching zero.