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I’m lucky.  I’ve had the chance to learn from some of the best minds in the country.  Sometimes I’ve found these people through industry connections, sometimes through classes and sometimes it’s been through books.

How I started my quest.

I started in business with absolutely no business training.  I had a degree in American History.  Not exactly the type of degree that prepares you for business.

Luckily most of running a business is about common sense.  Using common sense got me a long way.  Not having good financial skills almost put my out of business. 

I was running out of cash and didn’t realize it.  My profit and loss statement looked good and we were growing like crazy.  I didn’t realize that growth also cost money.  It was a painful lesson that some wise people in my industry helped me with.

Start with industry leaders.

I got lucky.  I ended up taking a class on financial management.  Boy, did I need that class.  During the class two of the teachers took me under their wing.  They helped me understand that just because I was growing and my P&L looked good didn’t mean my company was doing well.  They helped me read my cash flow statement.  What I learned made me realize how bad things really were in my company.

I learned that I wasn’t so smart after all.  How about you, have you had one of those nasty surprises that almost put you out of business?  If you have, you probably had someone help you out. 

Take a class from those who are world class.

Companies like Disney will teach you how they run their business.  I’m a customer service nut.  About twenty-five years ago I went to Disney and learned how they think about and deliver great customer service.

I took what I could and adopted it to my company.  Disney had resources I never could hope to have.  I managed to take what I could and adopted it to my much smaller organization.  I was amazed at how much Disney does was transferrable to my little vending company.

Find a company you admire and see if they’ll teach you what makes them special.

Take a master to lunch.

This is an easy one.  After my cash flow crunch I decided I needed to learn what successful business owners did.  Being young it was easy for me to arrange meetings with really successful business owners.  I learned that these meetings were a time for me to listen and not give my opinion.

Part of listening was finding strategies that successful business people used.  I wanted to know specifically what they did and how they did it.  I found almost no one ever asked really successful business people what led to their success.  They found the conversations flattering and I learned strategies I could apply immediately.

When I listened well, I learned very practical things.  Have you ever taken a master out to lunch?  If not, why not?  It’s time to start now.

Don’t forget to be a life long learner.

This means you should go to seminars, read books and listen to audio books.  I’ve been in business for thirty-five years and I still learn new things almost every week.  It’s not huge learning anymore.  It’s a small modification here and there.

The same will be true for you.  At first, you’ll have a steep learning curve. The more you learn, the better your company becomes.  I can tell you that learning never ends.  At some point you’ll wake up and realize that you really know what you’re doing.  That’s when work becomes effortless.  Doesn’t that sound like a great place to be?

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Topics: learning experiences, Customer Service, business management

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