By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville
“I’m thinking of starting a business but my degree is in art history. Do I need to go back to school?”
A business degree is not necessary to be successful; few of my clients have one. But you do need business knowledge. You might consider taking classes at a local college or university. These could be related to entrepreneurship, accounting, management, marketing, or any other business subject that is relevant to you. These are in depth studies and can help you run your business better. The problem is the time and money it takes to complete the courses.
Or you can learn many of the necessary proficiencies on your own. You will need to have self-discipline for this approach. Start by subscribing to entrepreneur-related magazines and reading applicable articles in newspaper business sections. Read industry publications and subscribe to Internet or email newsfeeds. Find books that cover the information you need to know. Libraries are a great source for the books and many offer free magazine downloads, business research, and other services.
You will need to cull through the plethora of information available to determine relevancy. Unsubscribe to extraneous periodicals and newsfeeds to prevent an overwhelming volume of material on your desk or in your in-box. Dedicate a certain time each day to learning, just like you would in school.
What you miss by studying on your own is interaction with others. There are several ways to accomplish this.
Get one or more mentors who have “been there, done that.” A number of local organizations provide mentoring services, some for free and others at reasonable fees. Outside mentors are more likely to be honest when you are headed in the wrong direction then family and friends who might act more like cheerleaders.
Attend seminars and workshops. You can find these on websites or listings in business publications. Get on email lists to keep up with current offerings. Workshops provide interactive sessions, typically between two and four hours, on a specific topic. In addition to the facilitator, you often learn from others in the sessions. Network with other participants at workshops for added value.
Go to conventions or meetings to learn about your industry and meet vendors. You can also learn from others providing similar products and services in other markets.
While a business degree would be nice, it’s certainly not required for success in small business. One other key to success – don’t stop learning after you open your business. Large businesses often provide educational opportunities for their employees and most professions require continuing education to remain in good standing. It’s critical that small business owners follow the same path.
Ed Rappuhn is a mentor, workshop facilitator, and the past-chair of SCORE Nashville. SCORE mentors guide entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses. Sign up for a free SCORE mentor, find out about our reasonably priced workshops and other services, or volunteer to become a SCORE member at www.scorenashville.org.