REGINA GLENN, A business owner for the past 25 years, is a workshop junkie. She estimates that she’s attended more than 130 classes or seminars throughout her career (and personally conducted about 200) at colleges, the Chamber of Commerce, the local Rotary Club, professional associations, even churches.
Attending a workshop is a lot like “sitting down with your popcorn and watching the movie go,” says Glenn, founder of management-consulting firm Pacific Communications Consultants in Bellevue, Wash. Classes help her stay up-to-date — she’s learned about Internet marketing and international partnerships, among other topics — plus provide a venue for networking and spotting new talent. These days, if you don’t branch out to meet others and “learn what is going on, you will not survive as a small business,” she says.
Many entrepreneurs say the key to building a successful business is to never stop learning. To that end, numerous business owners say they pepper their schedules with classes and online seminars that teach them everything from basic management skills to the latest industry-specific concepts. While it’s often difficult to step away from the daily grind, they say it makes them better business owners — and helps them better manage the stress of running the show.
For Kate Coxworth, founder of one-year-old fashion company Kate Boggiano in Chicago, classes help her get a grip when she’s feeling overwhelmed. She’s currently taking an 11-week basic marketing class through the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing, a trade group. She enjoys talking to seasoned entrepreneurs in attendance who have been there, done that, and are willing to share lessons learned.
When she looks ahead at all the work needed to build her brand, “in my mind, I can see how things are going to go well and bad at the same time,” says Coxworth, who also takes e-commerce seminars and webinars. “To hear from other industry experts makes you feel better.” The only tricky part is finding the time, as she serves as her company’s president, primary shipper, accountant, designer and “about 10 other jobs,” she says.
Some business owners say they need to attend class precisely because they wear so many hats. Many, like Coxworth, say they’re experts in their industry niche, but need more training on the basics of running a company, such as marketing, hiring employees or managing cash flow. Others say they want to gain a competitive edge by learning about hot topics, whether that’s going global, using technology better or becoming eco-friendly.
Want to take a class? Here are five place to find one.