By Jean Kruse / Guest Editorial
Efficiency is the key to maximizing small business profitability, productivity and potential. However, in devoting so much attention to processes and people, many business owners neglect to optimize their most important asset: themselves.
Whether you’re a novice or veteran entrepreneur, every day offers the opportunity to learn something that can be applied to improving the quality of your business, whether right away or sometime in the future. It’s simply a matter of being aware of what’s going on outside the walls of your store, factory or home office.
Search engine technology has made staying abreast of business-related news easy thanks to systems such as Google Alerts (https://www.google.com/alerts). Simply enter some basic search terms for topics of interest – your industry, locations where you do or want to do business, competitors’ names, technologies, etc. – and you’ll be notified when relevant content appears on the web. Alerts can be set to be issued as they happen, or on a daily or weekly basis.
In addition, RSS feeds and customizable news aggregation websites such as alltop.com bring news headlines, blogs and podcasts together in a single location.
But don’t omit “traditional” news sources such as trade journals, national news publications, your local paper or the Corridor Business Journal. While it’s great to get web news tailored to your needs, you may spot something in a story on a seemingly unrelated topic that could benefit your business or, perhaps more importantly, influence your customers and their needs. The key is to keep your mind open to new and valuable information, regardless of its source.
And just because you’ve finished school doesn’t mean your career as a student is over. There are always new skills to learn, new technologies to master and new ways to do things. The Corridor’s colleges and universities regularly offer classes and seminars on timely business topics, both on campus and online. Local chapters of professional associations, chambers of commerce and other groups also host meetings with speakers and presentations, giving you a chance to double your time investment by both learning and networking.
SCORE, the nonprofit business support organization, provides numerous free workshops on business topics. The organization usually holds two workshops each month at a local library from August through May. Go to www.scorecr.org to see the workshops that will be scheduled – the workshops scheduled in August will be listed on the website sometime in July. You can also click on “online workshops” for a list of webinar topics you can take any time of the day or night from the comfort of your own home or office.
You may also want to consider attending multi-day conferences sponsored by an industry group, either yours or those representing your customers. Though registration fees, travel and lodging may be involved, the long-term payoff in visibility, education and networking will likely more than justify the expense.
Finally, the best way to maximize your personal efficiency is to take care of your health. Take breaks during the day and set business aside completely when you leave work – especially if you spend most of your time in a home office. Exercise regularly, eat right and don’t put off regular medical exams or vacations. After all, if the boss isn’t operating at 100 percent, chances are the small business isn’t, either.
If you need a mentor with whom you can meet to discuss ideas and someone who will just listen and help you sort out your thoughts, sign up for a face-to-face meeting with a SCORE mentor on our website, www.scorecr.org. You can meet with your mentor as often as you like, and the discussions are free and confidential. If you prefer an online mentor, sign up by clicking on “Mentoring” and then click on “Get free advice now via email.”
Jean Kruse is a SCORE counselor and SCORE Iowa district president. She operated her own CPA firm for 13 years and in 1988, joined RSM McGladrey, a national firm, where she provided accounting and tax services to small businesses.