One of the pitfalls of graduating from high school and/or college is the belief that you’ve finished your education.
I close my classes with a slide that says, “To Keep Your Money In Your Company,” with an arrow pointing to “Education.” I firmly believe it’s the best investment you can make for your company. If you want to be a success in this or any other business, spend time daily on your education.
You should always be looking for ways to learn more about business, sales, estimating, production, human relations, customer service, etc. You should also be learning more about life. Some people disdain the liberal arts (art, literature, philosophy, history, psychology, the sciences, etc.), but a major advantage is that you develop a broader spectrum of knowledge and skills. A liberal arts education can also improve your thinking skills.
I see too many company owners who aren’t willing to pay for education, either for themselves or their employees. There’s no nice way to say this is a major mistake. It has been my experience that this mindset is typical of those whose focus is being a mechanic. The majority of their thought process is focused on the work being done, not backing up and looking at the big picture. If you’re a business owner, the big picture is what matters.
Education gives you and your employees hope. It encourages you and sometimes forces you to think about what you’re doing and how you can do it better, faster, at a lower cost and more profitably. Education helps you and your employees solve problems not only on the job but while working with clients, other employees, suppliers and subs. It can help with your estimating and your sales. Remember, nothing happens in business until somebody sells something, at a profit.
Part of educating your employees is accepting the fact that when they try something new, they’ll make mistakes and some of those mistakes will cost your company money. You’ll make mistakes as well. Everyone needs to be held accountable for their choices and the decisions they make, but if someone is trying to do good, that’s far better than not trying at all. Reward the effort and pile on the praise even if the results are less than expected. You’re paying yourself and your employees to think, so give praise while you’re giving correction.
There are a lot of avenues available to improve your education, with books, audio tapes, podcasts and videos. Last weekend, we purchased nine eBooks from Barnes and Noble for less than $23; eight of them were business related. If we discover just one nugget in one of the books, we’ll recover the investment.
Even eBook readers aren’t that expensive; our basic Nooks are only $150 and they’ll probably be even cheaper the day after Thanksgiving. You don’t need the biggest and the best unless you’ll be using it to watch movies. (Since Barnes and Noble is kind enough to invest in an actual store in our area, we return the favor by buying our books from them and we encourage others to do the same. It’s one of our favorite date night places; it’d be a sad day if the last major brick-and-mortar bookstore had to close because of lack of sales.)
Education gives you the mental strength to make things happen. It removes the boundaries set up by ignorance and lack of knowledge. It also removes the hesitancy to try something new, to use new people or subcontractors to get a job done. It throws out the old mantra, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it!”