There’s a great line in The Lean Startup by Eric Ries:
You can’t take learning to the bank; you can’t spend it or invest it. You cannot give it to customers and cannot return it to limited partners.
In the book, Ries goes on to describe the process of validated learning in product development, which is not what I’m talking about today; but for moment, just let that quote sink in.
Learning is valuable, but how many things do you need to learn before you figure out how to build a great business? How much time will you invest in learning the things that are not working?
Many small business owners learn a lot about what doesn’t work in the first year or two of business. That’s probably why so many businesses fail. It’s not because it can’t be done, it’s just because the business owner didn’t go through enough iterations of learning before her money ran out, or she just got tired of not getting it right.
I can truly sympathize with that. There was a time when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue “learning” if it meant that I was always begin given the gift of failure along with it.
want need to learn what works… and quick!
First, I think you should know that I encourage making mistakes, and while I don’t enjoy licking my wounds after tangling with a business problem I can’t solve in the first go-round, I recognize that from my greatest mistakes come my most valuable lessons.
But we’re not in business to learn all day long. Before too long, especially if you’re bootstrapping your business, you run into the very real need to make money.
Intuition is one of those wonderful God-given gifts that make so many women such excellent business owners.
Many women — especially those business owners in the service sector — seem to have their finger on the pulse of what others want and need, even without the market research recommended by business gurus like Ries.
Yes many small business owners are not getting the results they want because they’re held back by what they don’t know.
Is continual learning actually holding you back?
The second part of that statement is they don’t know where to go for the right information, they think they can’t afford to get the advice and coaching they need, or they don’t want to look weak.
It’s risky enough starting a business, in spite of all the naysayers out there! How would it appear if you admitted you didn’t really know what you were doing? The shame of not “making it” can be overwhelming. So you put on a positive face, but continue wandering through a fog. Been there!
Don’t be like me and wait until your business is in the abyss. If you’re not getting the results you want, and you can prove that you have a viable business model (most small businesses are fairly straightforward and “known”), you may only need to tweak some things to power your business through that slump.
When searching for help, it’s possible that just an hour or two of consultation could carry you through a project or a new marketing campaign. Some examples:
- Perhaps you’re too close to the problem and you can’t see an obstacle that’s obvious to someone else.
- You could be missing a simple change that could double your profits.
- It’s possible that you’re neglecting some detail that could illuminate where you’re wasting resources.
If you are learning all the time, congratulations! But if you’re learning all the time, and you’re still not getting the results you want, you’re missing something important.
When you’re ready for a breakthrough, talk with a small business expert with proven success turning businesses around. I invite you to see if working with me would be a good fit for you.