I was having a conversation about business with my father recently. He asked me how I knew how to build the company when I'd had no formal training. I told him, "Somehow, I just 'knew.'" And in saying so, I realized once again, how very much alike you and I are in this regard; most of us haven't had "formal" training, yet as small business owners, we define the very foundation of our economy.
I am not, by any stretch, knocking the value of formal training. It is an excellent asset; in addition to my college classes, there are several courses I took over the years that have been absolutely invaluable. But courses necessarily have their limitations, which brings me to a subject we're all familiar with: over-the-shoulder training.
Because so many of us were trained this way ourselves, we know that formal training is not a requirement for performance excellence. When each of us first opened our doors, did we actually think about how well-prepared we were or did we just do it?
We had to have some pretty clear ideas of what we wanted our reputation to be and how we intended to build it. Then we had to pass these ideas on to anyone we hired to help that growth. Whether or not someone is trained elsewhere before becoming your employee, every team member still needs to be indoctrinated into the culture of your organization. Everyone needs to be in sync with how things are done in your business; it's what gives each of us our mark of differentiation.
In other words, inherent to our success in building the business is hiring the right team members. This means we need to be able to recognize talented individuals and know how to help cultivate their skills in ways that make significant contributions to our company's reputation.
And that brings me to 2010. Many of us have grown up together in this industry. I hardly realized at the time I came into the field, back in 1982, that so many of you were relatively new owners--or, were being groomed to take over the family business--but, because I was new, LMT ran numerous articles geared to the start-up lab. Of course, hindsight being 20/20, it turned out to be a serendipitous topic.
In a sense, we're all "new" again: we're all going through "start-up" phase two--the mature version--as we seek to create an updated company vision, one that is adapted to new technologies and forms of communication. This time, we're all neophytes and yet, as you well know, there are street-smart types out there leading the way. They're the digital-age ones who just "know."
In this sense, there's an opportunity here for us to be "the new hires": we hire those with expertise in these new technologies and they teach us how to integrate them with our business model.
Once again, time will tell who among us does best at home-grown, over-the-shoulder learning.