What They Don’t Teach You in Business School (Or Any School)

Apr 08

I have long harbored the theory that many other things were far more important to succeed in business: education, knowledge of your market, selling skills, contacts, start-up capital, and a long list of other items. Basically all the things I learned when I was an MBA student and business owner.

It turns out the first step in business success, whether you have your own business or work for someone else, is knowing yourself well.This still seems strange to me. 

But enter “why is self-knowledge important” into a search engine and you get thousands of articles and books. Here’s a short sample from Psychology Today 

When you think about it, how could it be otherwise? Are we not simultaneously our best resource and our biggest roadblock?

The Myth of the Solo Operator 

Reality: You can’t run your business successfully all by yourself.

For some people, this news may come as a huge relief. You can stop pounding on yourself because you don’t do certain things very well, and you could just get help–end of story.

Or maybe you’ve already faced this reality. You’ve contracted with a part-time assistant, or you’ve taken the plunge and hired an employee. Or you work for someone else, but you figured out how to get help from your co-workers with the tasks you don’t do so well.

This is a strong first step. I congratulate you if you’ve already taken it.

But what happens when you don’t realize you need help? Suppose
you’re heavy on execution skills (you know how to get the work done and get it done well), but you don’t have much strategy (you can’t see the road ahead)?  

Then what? 

It’s easy to see when you don’t excel at the details of your business. Plenty of solo entrepreneurs have a hard time keeping track of their appointments. They can’t keep the paper under control, (that would be me) or they don’t keep up on their billing. These are execution problems and they’re relatively easy to fix.

There is an entire industry of bookkeepers, administrative experts, and virtual assistants waiting to help. If you work for someone else and you have trouble with administrative tasks, chances are they may actually be someone else’s job. (Lucky you.) 

But say you have your head down in the work every day–you’re strong on execution–and you aren’t looking ahead at ways to evolve the business. Customers love businesses like this, especially when the businesses first start up. The owner serves them. Who could be better?

However, if you’ve got your head down into the work every day, what happens if you need help in figuring out where to take your business next? How do you trust someone to help you with this “higher level” issue? Could you even admit you need help? 

The good news is that help is available. I have seen clients work through their business strategy questions using coaching; participation in trade associations and business organizations; and mastermind groups.

What do you do when you know you need help with the strategic questions about your business (or your career)? Comment below.

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