Whether you are a newbie business owner of 6 months or a veteran of 16 years, you still have a great deal to learn about business.
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Calvin Schiller learned that the hard way.
"I had been in business over 10 years and thought I already knew everything there was to know," Schiller explains. "I made it through slumps and down turns, so I felt pretty arrogant about my business acumen. That is when I decided that I did not need a Web site for my bricks-and-mortar store."
"A year later, my son pointed out to me how wrong I had been," he says. "We lost a quarter of our business to an online startup before I figured it out. I do not rest on my laurels anymore. Every year, I take a couple of classes to keep myself current."
Like Calvin, veteran business owners and newbies alike can always benefit from more knowledge in the four key business areas: financials, management/employee relations, technology and marketing/sales.
Experts advise that all business owners including solo practitioners and home-based business operators learn to read a financial statement. You cannot understand where your business is going or if your accountant is doing as you ask unless you can read and understand the whole financial picture.
You need to learn to read all the basic financial papers about your business including all inventory spreadsheets, profit and loss statements and employee benefit information.
Take a class, read a book or hire a business coach, but, as the business owner, it is your responsibility to comprehend your business' financial position at all times.
No matter how much you know about management issues, there is always more to learn about motivating employees. Every year, business gurus write books on new ways to improve employee morale, boost employee productivity and improve employee work performance.
As a business owner, you need to know the latest information about these issues in order to keep the good employees you have, improve the performance of underachievers and successfully hire the right people for your job openings in the future.
While these issues are not quite as important for solo or home-based business operators, most businesses measure their success by how big they have grown and how many employees they employ. At some point, even home-based business operators may need to hire employees to grow the business. Study up on the basics of employee management and motivation now.
Every year, smaller and smaller machines do more and more work for a cheaper cost. Technology makes our lives easier and also provides more and more business opportunities for those in the know.
No matter what type of business you own, you need to investigate how technology can make your work and the work of your employees easier. For many businesses, this means keeping up with computer technology. The only way to know if your company really needs those faster computers is to keep up with the technology and what it can do.
Take a class, attend a seminar or read technology magazines to know the capabilities or near capabilities of technology, so you can keep ahead of your competition.
One of the most important aspects of your business is sales. Without sales or customers, you do not have a business. You need to make sure your customers are getting excellent service from your sales staff and that you understand the basics of marketing.
Understanding the basics includes comprehending the latest trends in marketing, including Web sites, Internet marketing and the possibilities of personal digital devices. In difficult times, your understanding of marketing can boost your business ahead of more timid competitors.
You do not need a marketing degree to understand the basics. Take a seminar, a class or watch a Webinar on appropriate topics and keep up with the trends in your business and industry.
"I learn from my mistakes," notes Calvin Schiller. "Now I have a Web page, an e-newsletter and a downloadable brochure for personal digital assistants (PDAs). I am not going to be one of those guys who does not get it. I may not be hip anymore -- I have had a flat top haircut for the past 20 years -- but I can text message with the best of them."
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