If you’re in business, you know the only way to grow is to keep learning. There is no shortage of new skills to learn and old ones to master. The internet’s infinite reach has made it easier than ever to access information.
In fact, it can be said that we are in the gilded age of information. There are more than 125 million blogs; more than 187 million registered domain names; YouTube serves up one billion videos a day; Facebook users will upload 30 billion photos this year.
But at some point the numbers blend into a meaningless haze. If we define information as facts, and knowledge as the discernment of those facts, then there is an abundance of the former, but a shortage of latter.
And this does not serve entrepreneurs well, because the creation of knowledge takes time and contemplation – two elements in short supply in the life of any entrepreneur. Depending on the size of the business, the CEO may also be the COO, CFO, CIO, VP Sales and VP Marketing. This does not leave a lot of time for reading academic journals and peeling grapes. And it bodes even more poorly for our beleaguered entrepreneur since innovation is the key to any long-term success.
And since innovation requires knowledge, which requires time to sift through information, and the entrepreneur has no time, you can see how this becomes a vicious cycle.
But the time-honoured strategy for the entrepreneur is to seek out the knowledge brokers; the websites, experts or consultants who do the heavy lifting of the thinking, and dispense it in chunks that are digestible, and, more importantly, applicable.
This knowledge can be roughly divided into two streams: technical and business development. Technical skills are those you need to keep sharp in order to stay even or ahead in your industry. And business development skills are the ones you need to really help you differentiate yourself from your competition.
All things being equal, it’s hard for, say, two competing mechanics to create a great deal of separation between themselves on the merits of their technical skills alone. What will make one garage more successful than another is a whole set of business processes that create a unique customer experience guaranteed to have clients coming back time and again.
The separation occurs in how well an entrepreneur develops his or her marketing plan, the condition of the premises, how the customer is greeted, what is the guarantee and what is the follow-up. It occurs in how efficiently he collects outstanding invoices, how well he utilizes social media, PR or word-of-mouth, how he strives to improve his close ratio, how well he up-sells to increase the margins.
And that is the focus of this issue of Make It Business magazine: to help you bridge the divide between information, knowledge and success.