Most people in business really don't know what they are doing when it comes to the business of business. It doesn't mean they aren't successful. It means they generally aren't as successful as they could be. In a moment of candor, most of us will tell you that we're plowing into virgin territory regularly. And what we're doing for continuing education is generally a hodgepodge from a variety of sources.
A great solution is to join a peer learning group. More on those later in this post.
If you own a business and you don't understand the foundations of business, then you're likely functioning at 50% or less of your potential. Where else can you get an ROI (return on investment) like that?
For years I've asked the question, "How did you learn how to do business?" The typical response is, "School of Hard Knocks"; in other words, trial and error is the teacher—a cruel one at that. Check out the results of this small study I conducted recently with attendees of ON-PURPOSE@WORK. (click on it to see a full size version)
A small percentage of people have undergraduate business degrees or an MBA. Candidly, as a man with both an undergraduate business degree (BS from Lehigh University) and an MBA (University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business Administration), I'll confess my college degrees prepared me with concepts, tools, language, and business context. They didn't, however, turn me into a businessman. Degrees accelerate learning but they don't make the person quite like being on the job does.
Business consulting is an effective means for business improvement. Executive and business coaching are ways to improve as a business person on the job. Business books are a great way to learn. A popular way for learning how to do business was "Peers in Industry."
Most management and business training tends to be job specific or skills related. Overlooked are the fundamental concepts of business, the free enterprise system, and basics of what is called "general management" and business leadership. Most businesses are built by, as Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It, calls them, technicians who have an entrepreneurial seizure. They haven't got a clue about being in business. Look no further than the professions of engineering, medicine, and law, for example, for really smart people who often don't have a clue how to do business, but are in businesses. Perhaps they have enough honesty to call them practices instead of businesses.
Peer Learning to The Rescue: One of the most overlooked programs for business training is non-competitive, facilitated, peer learning groups. In Napoleon Hill's classic book, Think and Grow Rich, he introduces the business idea of mastermind groups. These are generally self-managed versus having third party facilitators who prepare the agenda and lead the group. Peer learning groups are also called business roundtables or CEO groups.
The power of having peer learning grows your learning exponentially because the groups typically involve business training, reading business books, special learning programs, or technologies. In other words, they combine all the ways we learn plus the many benefits I've outlined in this On-Purpose Business Minute.
Let me share some recommended resources for peer learning groups for second stage businesses:
- Vistage International: I know several people who participate in, speak to, or chair Vistage groups. Generally, Vistage members are running businesses with a minimum of ten or more employees. Ray Watson in the Orlando, FL area and Dave Zerfoss in Charlotte, NC are personal friends and two top-notch chairs.
- C12: I know Buck Jacobs, the founder of C12, as well as many members and chairs. C12 is designed for the Christian business person. Here are two solid chairs: In Orlando and north connect with Randy Harrod and in Orlando south Kevin Respress.
- CEO: Colleagues of Executive Officers: John Smith, the founder of CEO pioneered the concepts of business roundtables for Christians in 1989. In April of 1990, I joined one of John's CEO groups. He's been a mentor and friend ever since.
- Peerspectives Roundtables: Peerspectives is both a group as well as a specific technique developed by the Edward Lowe Foundation. The Peerspectives technique provides a structured approach to problem solving and sharing. A friend of mine, Steve Quello, uses this approach in Florida.
- Christian Business Roundtable (Roseville, CA area) is sponsored by Bayside Church. Uniquely, they offer four levels of roundtables: Business Owners, Solopreneurs, Managers, and Executives.
- Christian Roundtable Groups are sponsored by Truth@Work and are designed for solo owner or SOHO operators. Contact Ray Hilbert.
So there's my recommendations for bolstering your business skills, concepts, and relationships. If you are serious about growing your business to the next level, then run, don't walk to find yourself a peer learning group.
The On-Purpose Business Person helps readers integrate their heart and head into their business/work/career in ways where you can be yourself, prosper, and make a difference.