Author: Dr. Cheryl Cottle, Ed.D
As an educator, woman in business and a woman’s business consultant, I am very much averse to education — continuous learning and development. I believe that as an individual you should be very much involved in investing in your knowledge advancement. As women in business, in order to keep up with the ever expanding market and trends, education and development is key to survival. Invest time to hone your skills in business development.
It’s advised that prior to starting your business, you should acquire firsthand experience in various aspects of the business you will like to start, including operations, human resources and training, finance and administration, merchandising, customer services, inventory management, cashiering, buying, marketing, promotions, Information/Computer Technology, social media, and other leadership and management practices. I have found that clients that I have worked with throughout the years with clients who have worked in the industry before launching their businesses, and they have been more successful at managing their start-up, than those who did not. They have developed the core competencies needed to build a business and take it to a sustainable level. They are more poised to succeed than one who learns on the “fly” or by the "seat of of one's pants” — so to speak, or as one clients says “by osmosis”. However, we are not always fortunate to have this opportunity to build our positioning capacity, but all is not loss, there are others ways that you can build your knowledge-base and maximize your positioning in the marketplace that you have chosen to enter. In addition, to learning the business first-hand, there are other ways that you can build your intellectual capacity.
Some ways are:
Formal learning is often very attractive, and are conducted by colleges or universities in your community. These courses, however are costly because they include course fees, books, and time — time in terms of attendance, assignment completion and active participation and involvement. It also requires a full time commitment, which will have an effect on your business development. Generally, to pursue a formal approach to education and development, you will be required to put your business on hold until you have completed these programs.
Informal learning approaches; including programs that are available at the community level. are also great places that you can pursue, and they generally do not take as mush time to complete or is that costly. Programs that are available through community-based education with an educational and empowerment agenda. Some of these programs are offered free. There are also courses that are offered online — courses that do not require a very high level of commitment. They are not necessarily time specific, as a result you can be flexible in terms of when you access the space. It also saves a lot on transportation and dress. How you show up is less significant than when you attend a formal classroom — you show up on your keyboard, and this could be in the confines of your bedroom, clad in a pajamas — at any time of the day or night.
Social media groups; some groups on social media have an educational component that is designed to educate and empower their memberships. These are great spaces to be a part of and it's advised that you participate and share your thoughts; and the objective is not to be right or to score points, but to learn from others — to learn from the pool of knowledge that has be generated through these questions. Facebook and LinkedIn are two social media sites where you can find great groups that facilitate the education, inspiration and empowerment of their members. Women in Business on Facebook is a group that I have founded in 2008 that seeks to facilitate the empowerment and education of women — it is a group dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurship for women, as a way of fostering their economic, social and political independence. In order to pursue this goal, the founder have also created a Women in Business Mentoring Programme that is dedicated to enhancing the knowledge base of women in business. It's a private group that offers one-on-one support to its members in an environment that is safe and non-judgemental — a safe place for asking questions, and receiving answers that you can incorporate into your business.
Continued investment in your education and development in entrepreneurship, can give you the advantage to compete in the ever growing competitive marketplace. To succeed in today’s economies, regardless of where they are located, one must invest the time and resources to be a part of it, and to strive to successful in your business — and in every other aspect of your life.
Having a coach, a mentor, a guru or a personal trainer can also serve as a catalyst for success. My best advice to women in business regarding engaging in your educational development is to be a self-directed learner — know your learning style, your finances, identify the time that you can allocate to your intellectual development, and actively participate in your development, to be the best entrepreneur that you can be.