Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tips For Accessing Professional Development

As a small business owner I feel like I’m constantly juggling different roles. One moment I’m a bookkeeper, the next I’m an editor, and then there’s the work I’m actually good at; the work that I get paid to do. My business needs me to address all these roles effectively to be successful, but it’s really tough to be innately good at everything. If you’re like me, there is at least one thing that you could do more effectively in your business.  I've discovered that professional development is the solution.

What should you do about the inadequate business skills you’ve identified? You have a few options:
  • Ignore them 
  • Hire or outsource someone to do them for you 
  • Learn to do it right 
Learning to do things right doesn’t have to take an insurmountable extent of time. There are a number of ways to learn the tasks associated with running a successful small business:

Take a course – Formal education can take place on campus at your local community college, through modular courses at distance universities, through online courses by training companies and open learning, and other places such as continuing education by your local school district.

Have someone teach you – Find someone who knows what you want to learn and ask them to teach it to you. This could also be finding a mentor, or being an apprentice.

Take a webinar – These short online seminars shed light on the key points about a topic of interest. Completing more than one of them on a certain topic can be very insightful. Often times you can find webinars for free. Discover other benefits of webinars in this article.

Attend a conference, workshop, or seminar – Workshops and seminars can empower you to try new things and view your work differently. When you attend them as part of a conference you can leave feeling refreshed and eager to continue learning, and motivated tackle your biggest roadblocks. Check provincial boards, business associations, trade shows, and your local chamber of commerce to find out about learning opportunities.

Try volunteering – There are many organizations that are looking to work with and train eager volunteers. Look for an organization that needs the skills you want to learn.

Seek out tutorials – Many software and equipment companies host face-to-face tutorials or online tutorials to teach people how to effectively use their products. When shopping for software and equipment ask which suppliers and retailers offer support.

Source the internet – You can find multiple articles, videos, and white papers on almost any subject you search the internet about. Wikipedia and YouTube are among the favourites out there, but be aware that internet content may not always be reliable so be sure to seek out more than one source. You can also find motivational speakers on

Visit your local library – Your local library is a vast source of information. Thanks to technology most libraries can borrow books from other libraries to help you access the information you need.

If the free options won’t give you the education you need, there are small business grants and loans offered by federal and provincial governments, as well as business associations that fund the professional development of small business owners and their employees. Search the internet for funding options that may be right for you.

What other ways have you found effective for learning the business skills you need?

Miranda Vande Kuyt is a self-employed project and communications consultant. She is also the facilitator of the "Look Before You Leap: Self-Employment Survival Strategies" online course through