Entrepreneurs Need Education Tune-up

With students returning to school, it is a good time for entrepreneurs to review their lifelong learning plan. It is critical for those working in competitive markets to stay on top of the latest changes and technology affecting their businesses.

Lifelong learning is a popular term for the need for people - entrepreneurs or not - to continue educating themselves for both personal and professional reasons. Scientists warn that people must keep their brains active if they want to avoid mental decay. Those who continually seek to learn are more creative, innovative and more likely to pick up new skills.

“Twenty-first century jobs are constantly changing, which require individuals to continually evolve their skills. Developing a practice of lifelong learning is essential for the entire workforce, but most especially for entrepreneurs because of fast-paced technology changes, annual regulatory changes and the changing environment around a workforce that has evolving needs and skills,” according to Annette McIver, Senior Business Services Director at Lorain County Community College.

Many entrepreneurs get caught up in the day-to-day activities of running their organizations at the expense of not engaging in self-education. Studies show that successful endeavors are those that have a longer term focus, including owners who devote time and effort to educating themselves.

Rosanne Catella, President, Ohio Business College, noted, “Social media and the Internet have added another twist to this skill set and entrepreneurs who are not familiar with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others will be faced with multiple challenges in successfully marketing their products or services. Lifelong learning in this venue is a must.”

In addition to pursuing learning opportunities for themselves, entrepreneurs need to provide development for their employees. Along with spurring employees to be more productive, providing development opportunities to workers increases their loyalty to employers. Larger organizations are more likely to promote education and training for employees, while small- to medium-sized companies are starting to see the value in providing employee development opportunities.

A difficult issue for smaller employers is that they often have high employee turnover. These employers often argue that it is difficult to justify spending money on employees who do not stay long. On the other hand, studies show that providing learning opportunities increases the retention rate of employees in small- to medium-sized businesses.

Lifelong Learning Resources

Organizations can find ways beyond formal education or training to create a culture of lifelong learning. Lunch discussions, sharing of reading materials, and internal meetings to discuss new innovations can all be used to supplement formal learning.

For entrepreneurs, there is a plethora of resources available for learning. The problem is that there may be too many resources. Entrepreneurs need to determine which sources are worth their time and effort.

Ohio Business College has worked with many entrepreneurial students over the years. They come to Ohio Business College because its curriculum is focused on the technical and basic courses - Information Technology, Accounting, Business Administration and Healthcare - that help students achieve their goals "without a lot of fluff", according to Catella.

McIver said a wide range of resources exists at Lorain County Community College to assist entrepreneurs in gaining and keeping skills up-to-date, thus enhancing efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. Its Small Business Development Center provides business acumen workshops and private, no-cost business advising.

Business Advisers of Cleveland, a non-profit group, provides free counseling, mentoring and consulting services for individuals who want to start for-profit and not-for-profit businesses, and for those who already lead an organization and need free, unbiased answers to business-related questions. The group helps new and existing businesses in developing business plans, preparing for obtaining funds, marketing and buying businesses.

More generally, Cathy Ashmore at The Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education in Columbus suggests that entrepreneurship is a lifelong learning process and that everybody in the U.S. should have the opportunity to understand the concept. Everyone needs to understand how entrepreneurs contribute to the economy and consider owning a business as a career option.

Perry Haan

Dr. Perry Haan is Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship, and former Dean of the Business School, at Tiffin University. He resides in Rocky River and can be reached at 419-618-2867 or haanpc@tiffin.edu.

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Volume 2, Issue 3, Posted 7:35 PM, 09.03.2014