Starting your own company is undoubtedly one of the most exciting things you can do, but it is also one of the most challenging. From destructive personal habits to a lack of knowledge about how to properly run a business, there are many roadblocks that can keep you from achieving the success you so greatly desire.
The problem is, many people don’t have the time to enroll in additional business classes at school to learn these new skills. This is especially true of those who have already launched their startup and are now discovering that their skill set is somewhat lacking.
So how do you keep your lack of knowledge from bringing about a premature end to your entrepreneurial dreams? To achieve lasting success, you’ll have to develop the ability to learn these important skills “on the fly” as you simultaneously manage your company.
Here are 7 ways you can make this happen:
1. Leverage Failure
Failure is an unavoidable aspect of the business world. Even when you seem to have a great product and great team, failure is always a possibility. In fact, industries with the highest startup success rates still see 42 percent of new companies fail within their first four years of operation.
Though failure is hard, it is essential that you take a step back and assess why you failed. This allows you to gain key insights that will help you perform better in the future. As serial entrepreneur and investor Steve Tan recalls, “I’ve been involved in e-commerce since 2005. During that time, I’ve had four startups that went under. It was very hard — depressing, even, but I didn’t give up. By evaluating the reasons why my past efforts had failed, I was able to use these lessons to launch a company with my brother that now has an eight-figure annual revenue.”
2. Become a Self-Starter
Successful learners need to be self-motivated. As Jack Canfield explains, “World-class achievers don’t wait until external influences – such as a teacher, manager or boss, or new developments within an industry – force them to gain new skills or knowledge. They are self-motivated learners who are constantly looking for new ways to improve their performance and deepen their understanding of the world around them.”
To learn on the fly as an entrepreneur, you need to develop a desire to make active learning a key part of everything you do. This requires humility and self-awareness. An inner drive for improvement will help you be a more successful learner than if you were forced into change by external forces.
“Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.” – Will Smith
3. Set Goals
Even if you’re self-motivated, it can be hard to maintain focus on learning activities when you have so many other entrepreneurial duties on your plate. Smart goal-setting is essential for keeping on track. If you want to learn more about social media marketing, creating a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goal will be far more effective than having a vague desire to learn.
Goal-setting gives you the tools to track your progress toward learning milestones. As you use smart goals to remain focused and committed to on the fly learning, you’ll be better positioned to achieve actual results.
4. Find the ‘Why’
If you don’t feel as motivated to learn, it can help to focus on the why. Why do you need to understand Facebook and other social media platforms? Why should you learn about supply chain management?
As you more closely examine how such issues impact your company’s bottom line, you can find the motivation you need to make learning a priority. When this happens, you’ll be more likely to constantly search for new learning opportunities, making it far easier to learn in a hectic environment.
5. Set Aside Time Every Day
When you have a busy schedule, it can be easy for certain activities to fall by the wayside. More often than not, if you don’t carve out some “learning time” in your calendar, there’s a good chance you’ll end the day without taking any time to learn at all.
While it’s true that many of the best entrepreneurial learning opportunities are entirely unstructured, setting aside a period of structured “study time” demonstrates a level of commitment that will help you keep on track with your learning goals. Even using as little as 15 minutes to read a how-to article or work on a learning project will pay big dividends over time.
6. Look for Structured Opportunities
You don’t have to sign up for a class at your local community college to gain access to expert knowledge. It’s easier than ever to find knowledgable, authoritative resources that will help you develop the skills necessary to keep your business on track. From articles published by other entrepreneurs to online courses, there are countless resources you can use — and many of them are completely free.
Professional conferences can be especially valuable. Industry-specific conferences often focus on the trends and skills that will have a direct impact on your startup’s success. Better yet, conferences also create valuable networking opportunities that can help you foster new growth opportunities.
“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci
7. Get Hands-On
To become a successful learner, you need to put aside any fears about “not knowing enough” and start practicing. Studies have found that students who learn by doing perform better than their peers. The same is true in the business world.
At the end of the day, nothing beats hands-on learning. If you’re trying to learn a new language so you can better communicate with your customers, you’ll learn much quicker as you practice speaking, rather than simply reading from a textbook. Personal engagement in the activity you are trying to master is the best bet for mastery.
As Jim Rohn famously said, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” To achieve lasting success, you have to become a learner. This requires that you examine what factors could keep you from reaching your ultimate goals and then take action to gain the skills and knowledge that will allow you to address these issues. As you strive to become a continual learner, you’ll cultivate the tools you need to become successful.