One of the oldest questions in business is “Which matters more, education or practical experience?”. In reality, a healthy mix of both will always be the preferred option, but when it comes to striking this balance, there is one major pitfall in which many people become trapped without ever realising. Namely, we tend to have the mentality that education is something you get when you are younger, before moving on to practical experience.
Today, this idea of learning everything you need to know and then heading off to work just doesn’t apply anymore. The world moves so quickly now that entrepreneurs who want to get an edge over their competition need to be constantly retraining and absorbing new information, or they risk getting left behind. But this does not mean you have to go back and get another college degree. As long as the information is reliable and well-sourced, it doesn’t matter whether it comes from Harvard or YouTube, so here are 10 resources that will make you better at business development.
Of the many free online courses available today, the Khan Academy is widely regarded as one of the best. The not-for-profit organisation offers ad & subscription-free access to courses covering a broad range of business & finance-related subjects, including but not limited to maths, economics, finance, and entrepreneurial skills.
The courses offered by the Khan Academy can help you improve your business development skills directly, or can help you better understand a particular subject that may be related to your field, such as engineering, health, coding, and much more. If you’re looking to fill any gaps in your academic knowledge, this is the place to start.
To Bid or Not to Bid
Not all education revolves around learning theories, formulae, and cold, hard facts. In many cases, it is just as important to learn about business tactics and judgement, but this can be a lot harder to do.
Learning through trial and error can be a risky and expensive process, especially when it comes to things like bidding for contracts. Not only do you want to avoid investing too much time and energy into farfetched prospects, you also want to avoid winning anything you can’t deliver on, or you could find yourself at the centre of the next NCH debacle. This checklist can help you separate the realistic from the unrealistic, and decide whether or not you should place a bid.
Hubspot may have more name-recognition than the Khan Academy, but it is lower in the ranks for one reason: not all of its courses are free. Many are, but some require an active Hubspot subscription to sign up and complete, which could be a barrier to some.
While the Khan Academy focuses mainly on the financial side of business, Hubspot Academy focuses more on the marketing side of things, so it is not necessarily a case of choosing one over the other, but the right mix of both.
Future Risks and Opportunities
One of the most crucial skills to learn in any line of business is risk-benefit analysis, which is another example of a time when trial and error can be a costly process. It can also be quite difficult to attribute these relatively abstract concepts to a number of potential outcomes. The Future Risks and Opportunities Toolkit is a very comprehensive document will walk you through various steps and methods needed to calculate the likelihood of various options, and identify any potential problems that may arise, enabling you to make an informed decision and avoid any unnecessary risks.
If you regularly read up on business or finance-related topics, then you are likely already familiar with Investopedia, which maintains one of the most comprehensive financial dictionaries on the web.
While the range of topics Investopedia covers is not as broad as the likes of the Khan Academy, they do offer guides on more specific subject matter related to taxes, investment, financial theory, and so on, so if you’re looking for very specific information rather than a general overview, this is where you should look.
While the Khan Academy is a great resource for a laying a broad foundation of knowledge, and Investopedia helps you find answers to specific questions, anyone who is a true expert in their field will understand both established mainstream theory, and new or alternative views.
So while you certainly want to get most of your information from clearly reputable sources, it is also useful to hear from those who may not be as well known, but who have expertise and experience that could benefit you. Podcasts are the perfect way to do this, not only because there are so many to choose from, but also because they tend to get alternative viewpoints on the most topical issues, ensuring that you are kept in the loop with regards to the latest developments in your field.
Ted Talks cover an extremely broad range of topics, from personal stories of social issues to easy explanations of complex scientific subjects. As there is no overarching narrative to the Ted format, it can be easy to forget what a valuable resource they are. But since they can be hosted by almost anyone, you can find a Ted Talk on almost any subject these days.
One of history’s oldest and most popular ways to hone your abilities in any field is to get a mentor. But finding a good mentor who you respect and who is willing to take you under their wing is not always an easy thing to do. And although a mentor is not a necessity, you still don’t want to miss out on any possible feedback or insight.
This self-coaching document has been designed to walk you through a series of questions, depending on whether things are going well or not-so-well at work. It may not be the same as a real mentor, but it can teach you how to self-reflect and criticise constructively.
Partnership Analysis Toolkit
Who you decide to do business with can determine whether or not you are successful, so ensuring that all of your partnerships are working in your favour is a crucial step in protecting yourself from being brought down by somebody else. This Partnership Analysis Toolkit was designed for the health sector in Australia, although the material is not specific to that sector. Using this toolkit can help you determine if a partnership is a healthy one, or whether you may have conflicting interests down the line and need to part ways.
Business Development Toolkit
There’s no point in developing the individual skills needed for business development without actually studying business development as a concept as well. This toolkit by business psychologist Alan Bradshaw walks the reader through the various stages of developing a business, covering everything from how to choose a premises, to building rapport with clients.
Business development is a broad topic filled with lots of different tactics, theories, and techniques. It is not an exact science, and not everything will apply equally across the board. The key thing to remember is that business development is a never-ending learning process. Not all of the information you learn will be useful to you right now, but by casting a wide net and learning as much as possible, you can prepare yourself for anything the business world might throw at you.