Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.
Want valuable insight into how to grow your business? Holly hosts FREE 30 minute strategy sessions at The Yard in Williamsburg. Email her to set up a time firstname.lastname@example.org or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How.
I run a small home accessories business. I’ve been doing it for about four years now, and recently I’ve had a lot of success. Do you have any advice on how I can continue to learn and grow my business? I never went to business school, and I know that there’s still a lot for me to learn. I just don’t know where to begin or how to incorporate it into my already busy schedule. How do you recommend I get started?
Happy Home (accessories) Maker
Congratulations on your first four years of business and the success you’re already seeing; that’s no small feat. I’m most impressed with your desire to keep learning and improving. With that attitude, you’ll surely see much more success in your future. Here are a few things to consider when you start to incorporate professional development into your already jam-packed business day.
First and foremost, always be willing to learn. Professional development should be one of your top priorities as a business owner. It can seem out of reach when just running the business takes so much time, but as business owners, it’s our responsibility to prioritize our own development for the well-being of our business. Start small and commit to one hour a week of in class or online learning. We can all carve out one hour a week; we just have to prioritize it. Most importantly, make it a life-long habit. There is always something to improve upon when it comes to our business.
Second, take it one topic at a time. I often see clients who get really inspired to grow their business and suddenly throw themselves into five different classes all covering different topics—one for marketing, one for accounting, one for leadership, etc. The problem with this is that they become so overwhelmed, they don’t benefit from any of it. You want to invest in learning that has depth more than breadth at this point. If you spread yourself too thin, trying to learn too many things at once, nothing will stick. Pick one topic and focus. Where you begin is entirely up to you. Consider an area of your business that you feel you know the least about or that you feel needs the most improvement. This is the best way to see improvement in your business.
Third, follow through and finish what you start. Often times, we start programs and get excited for the prospect of change and growth. We’re super motivated to begin, but when it comes time to put in the effort and do the work, we can make excuses as to why we can’t finish. Those excuses often come from the millions of other responsibilities you have when you run a business—believe me, you’ll never be short on excuses. Don’t let this happen to you! You must commit and see it all the way through to the end to reap the benefits.
Finally, apply what you’ve learned. Continuing education is useless if you don’t take what you’ve learned and apply it to your business. This can be the tricky part because it often means that we have to make tough decisions and change our habits. This is where most business owners fall short; they know what’s right, but struggle to put it into practice. Be prepared going into the process and know that professional development isn’t just about acquiring new skills; it’s also about changing the way you work. The business owners who can actually do this see the most success.
Good luck with your own professional development! Take it slow, but make it a continuous process for life. Start with one hour this week. Making this small choice is transformative, and you’ll certainly be able to learn what you need to grow.