Many business leaders would agree that education is essential to building a successful company. But is a traditional business degree enough? Many skills and subjects that don't fall under a typical curriculum can have profoundly positive effects on entrepreneurs and their careers.
These six leaders share the one class they would recommend any entrepreneur pursue -- and explain how the lessons learned can come in handy down the line.
When it comes to business success, there's no getting around the reality of finances. Even if you're not the CFO, understanding what your bottom line really means can be critical to staying afloat. That's why Chris Gronkowski, creator of shaker bottle Ice Shaker, recommends taking a course in accounting.
"Having a bachelor's degree in accounting has helped me to be successful in business," notes Gronkowski. "By understanding cash flow statements, balance sheets, profit and losses you are able to strategically plan and grow your business. Accounting tells the story of a company in numbers and indicates how successful your company truly is."
The ability to communicate your thoughts clearly in the workplace and beyond cannot be overstated. This isn't necessarily a skill that comes naturally to many people, however, which is why Ajay Paghdal, founder of blogger outreach service OutreachMama recommends entrepreneurs take a class in copywriting.
"Clearly and concisely getting your message across through writing is a skill that takes many years to master," he says. "However, learning the basics of writing copy that sells your product or service and convinces prospective customers to take action will serve you well for years to come."
Being a leader means making big decisions, and that's often the most difficult part of the job. Is there a class that could help you feel more sure you're making the right choices? "Philosophy taught me how to form logical structures in my head to solve problems quickly," says Syed Balkhi, co-founder of software firm OptinMonster.
"When you practice this, you start to realize that the arguments that win, time and time again, are the ethical ones. So, if you want to be right more often than wrong, choose the ethical path, and people will follow.
It's often said that the whole world is a stage, but we rarely feel like we've been given a script. So, why not practice improvising? Amy Stellhorn, founder and CEO of creative agency Big Monocle, says: "Improv teaches you to think on your feet." That's a skill we could all use.
"It is practice for being on a stage (like you are when you're giving a presentation at work) and, like in presentations, you will have to manage a room and adapt to what is happening in it," Stellhorn adds. "Improv also teaches you to say 'Yes and' to build up people and ideas. When you're the kind of person who makes ideas grow, people are attracted to you."
"Starting a company is a roller-coaster ride. It is all too easy to get your self-worth wrapped up in your company worth and lose your balance," notes Lisa Curtis, founder and CEO of superfood retailer Kuli Kuli Inc. With the twists and turns of everyday life, both in and outside of the office, a little extra time spent on mindfulness can go a long way.
Curtis says: "I spend 10 minutes every morning meditating and have found that it helps me to be much more grounded, thoughtful and, ultimately, a better leader."
"Understanding basic human dynamics is essential to leading effectively," says Matthew Capala, founder of SEO training program Search Decoder. No matter your line of business, it is almost certain that part of your job includes interacting with people. And even understanding yourself better is bound to help you do your best work.
"Actively assessing your own psychological shortcomings before building a team will strengthen your connection to your goals," Capala adds. "Being self-actualized is a process and a journey, and awareness of your limitations combined with the strength of your team members' achievements creates an environment where all seek success."