Regardless if you have a MBA or high school degree, continuing education is a must for entrepreneurs. But you might be maniacally putting out fires from marketing to managing cash flow and feel there is no time for continuing education.
But without learning, your startup could be blindsided by something you could have prevented. And equally important is without learning your overall skills might plateau.
It is true that there are not enough hours in the day to pursue formal full time or even part time education and run your startup. So here are three 'double dipping' opportunities where you have a chance to learn and invest in your business at the same time:
1. Create a startup club.
I recently was on MSNBC Your Business to talk about an Inc.com article I'd written about my 20/20/20 rule. The same episode showcased the founders of Richer Poorer's, a hip fashion forward sock company. They had an interesting twist on marketing via social media influencers. Instead of paying for top influencers as media partners to promote Richer Poorer, they flipped it and found other strong growing brands like them and treated them as media partners.
They curated brands that had a like-minded spirit, high quality standards and CEOs who were similarly strong story tellers. They took fellow entrepreneurs from Ban.Do (a lifestyle brand), Hedley and Bennett (an Apron brand) and Jeni Splendid Ice Cream (a super-premium ice cream brand) on a trip to Hawaii.
All the founders learned from one another and got to know each other's businesses. Without any contracts or firm expectations, each brand heavily yet authentically promoted one another. They cross pollinated each other's customer bases. Richer Poorer received millions of impressions on their e-commerce site and got access to hundreds of thousands of new emails as a direct result of the trip. Not bad for a trip to Hawaii that just cost $25,000.
Richer Poorer's creative marketing approach aligns with my research-where a superconsumer of one category is a superconsumer of nine others. A superconsumer of vitamins, for example, tends to have two to three times more life insurance than they need. Someone who eats high end potato chips are far more likely to prefer craft beer.
Creating a startup club in your own category can be a tricky. But by creating a startup club in adjacent categories, you worry less and learn more.
2. Teach your kids about your startup.
Part of the reason I left my role as a senior partner at a consulting firm was to spend more time with my three kids, who are 9, 11 and 13. Each of them had different reactions to my transition, but my eldest Miya had the most concerns. It became important for me to spend time with her and explain what I was doing, why I was doing it and the reasons why I had confidence we would not end up homeless.
Explaining what a think tank and advisory firm on growth strategy is hard enough to do for another adult. It was incredibly helpful for me to hone, simplify and eliminate jargon from my explanation for Miya. Now I tell her, "companies are happiest when they can grow. I help companies grow through by writing, speaking and giving advice."
This has led to even more conversations with Miya and my other kids about how to start and grow a business. We pretend to they are starting up a coffee shop and have to buy coffee, cupcakes and sandwiches, to force them to think about demand and inventory costs. We're reading a great children's book on entrepreneurship called The Startup Club, written by my fellow Inc.com columnist JJ Ramberg, to help Miya figure out how to launch her Japanese Chibi style greeting cards business (to help her pay for her phone).
Does this take time? Yes. Does it drive sales? Not directly, but it helps me hone and reflect on the underlying purpose and mission of what I'm doing.
Albert Einstein said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." Plus it gives me better work-life balance, so I can put my best into my business.
3. Become a journalist (or keep a journal).
Whenever people come to me for career advice, I always say to keep a journal. Write about what gives you joy and what depletes energy. Write about your wins and losses and why each happened.
You can publish it online or you can keep it personal to you. Ultimately you, your own experiences and your successes and failures are the very best education you can get.