Professional development for business owners
Hi, welcome to this week’s episode, where I’m going to talk to you about continued professional development.
So grab your favorite drink, and let’s get into it.
So, CPD, or continued professional development is something that we are all encouraged to do if we’ve ever worked in an office environment or an educational environment, or any kind of big corporation or big corporate environment, from my experience. I was encouraged to do it in retail, when I was managing stores, I was encouraged to do it heavily when I was teaching, to the point that if I didn’t complete my continued professional development plan, then I wouldn’t get my tiny raise every year. It was a way of encouraging us to basically invest in our future, invest in our knowledge, and understanding the whole principles around being a teacher is that you reflect on your practice and then you improve it. And you do that through either reading, or going on courses, or getting involved in workshops that are held in your school. I mean, to be fair, I worked at one of the best schools in certainly Nottinghamshire, maybe the whole of the UK. So I was very lucky that that was my experience; we had monthly book clubs, we had lots of access to CPD, I was heavily encouraged to study and complete a Master’s. it was something that was really ingrained in my process of teaching. I was teaching for five years, and it was something that just felt very natural.
When it came to running my business, it felt like something I should be doing. I think the same thing happened when I was in retail, I was the person who did the training,I was the person who helped retail staff get on to training programs for management, and then deliver those programs to them, and sign them off as a manager so that when a job came up it was basically theirs when they were ready for it. So my whole career has been around teaching and mentoring and training people. Taking that into my own business just seemed like a really good fit. I think that as a business owner, it’s really important to continue to develop. I think that we all are very skilled in our own niches, our own areas, and that’s really powerful. But it’s also really important to keep learning, to keep growing that knowledge, to keep it current and to keep it fresh, because you can forget things. We’re all human, we can’t remember everything, and by doing things that top up your knowledge, you then recall the things that are already within your brain that you already know, and you add to them. That creates a kind of ‘scaffolding’, so you start with some learning and then you scaffold on top of it: that helps to grow the knowledge and understanding but also to really strengthen the foundations.
Doing CPD is a really important thing for me as a business owner, and I think it should be for all business owners; keeping those fresh ideas flowing, getting influences from other people, understanding other people’s ideas, and perspectives, and that might change your ideas and perspectives, which I think is very powerful. I have always been a massive believer in lifelong learning: even before I was a teacher or something I felt really strongly about, that growing, changing, developing and having a sense of challenge are kind of the fundamentals to making a human feel excited and like they’re moving forward. Everyone loves to move forward, whether they’re kind of aware of it or not. Going away or doing certain things or reading books; it’s all about being challenged, in my opinion. So yes, CPD for a business owner, I think it’s really important.
So, what kind of things can you do as a business owner? When I started out as running my own business, I mainly just invested in reading books – that was my way of doing CPD. Because it was easy, it was accessible, it was quick: I could pick up a book from a store or from an online shop and I could just start reading and start thinking about what some of those sentences or statements in that book had me feel, and I could put some of the actions into place. That was a really powerful, quick, easy way to get started. I then joined a business book club, that was brilliant, because not only did I have to finish the book, I had to form my own opinions on it, and then talk about them. I also got to listen to other people’s opinions on the book, which were usually different to mine and they made me think, “oh, yeah, that’s amazing”, and really, really changed the way I felt and thought about the book in good ways.
I attended networking events, meeting other business owners, and talking and sharing common wins, common losses, common ideas, but also learning from each other in a more experiential-type setting, is really, really powerful. I continue to do that even during lockdown attending networking events online and talking to other business owners – it’s just a really nice way to see how you know the world of business is going but also keep yourself talking about your own products and services, which helps you to think about expanding them and changing them and growing them and all those kind of things.
I’ve attended a lot of online sessions and webinars, I don’t know about you, but since lockdown, that’s been my way of doing CPD, and I found them really good. I’ve gone for some paid ones, I’ve gone to some free one and I found the quality is really good. I think that the paid ones are obviously going to be better, because they’re designed to be a product that is a one-stop shop, whereas the free ones usually lead into a pay for product, in my experience. The free material can be great, but you might not get as much content as a paid one, so a good balance is good for that.
There are lots of great online courses out there: I’ve started one for an NLP qualification, which I’ve found amazing and I probably wouldn’t have done if it was not for this current pandemic situation. I think actually, that’s one of the benefits that’s come out of it. Obviously, it’s not a great experience or a great situation for any of us to be in, and some people have had severe tragedies and problems. However one of the positive things that’s come out of it is that a lot of businesses have had to move online. And that has been great because a lot of courses have moved online. Many very experienced and excellent providers have moved their provision online. Courses that I would have wanted to do, that maybe were in Leeds, for instance, or another part of the country not really accessible to me because having to go once a week or once every couple of weeks was just not really possible. But a lot of those people have started moving their courses online, which means that there’s bigger choice, more choice, better quality available online.
That leads into qualifications and certifications, and I’ve been looking at doing a pure coaching qualification, a diploma or something with a University or coaching institution. Before that would have meant having to think about the logistics. Now, it means that I can do it over the internet, which means I can get the same quality of provision and the same quality of institution, but I can actually access it, whereas before, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it.
Coaching and mentoring also allows you to access wonderful skills with people. In mentoring, if you want someone to tell you how to do it basically, to give you advice and give you actual steps to take, or coaching if you want to work through those problems and talk through them and make your own journey through. Both of those things are really good CPD because either you can learn from somebody else or you can learn about yourself with the guidance of somebody else.
Educational podcasts are also great. I listen to a couple a week now: I think I talked about in my previous episode about mental health that I stopped listening to them when COVID and the pandemic and lockdown happened, because my brain was a bit too full and I felt a bit too confused, but I have actually gone back to listening to them and there’s some absolute gems out there. So I really, really recommend educational podcasts.
When? When I first started my business, I found it really hard to make time. I knew I needed to make time but I couldn’t separate the doing, from the thinking, from the learning and the actions that I needed to happen with my business: a kind of muddled up little mess, basically! I was stuck in ‘I need to be doing this but I’m too busy doing that’, and I would read a business book, but it might take me a month to read a business book. And a bit disappointed in that process.I think as I got more into my business, as I ran my business for a bit longer, I started to realise that investing in myself was actually investing in my clients and investing in my future. It was investing in my business.
It wasn’t about me, it was about my future, it was about what people could get from me; it was about how far I could take my business, and that changed the way I thought about it. I started to prioritise it as something that I did at least half a day, sometimes a full day, depending on the week. I’ve now scheduled it into an online Google Calendar. It’s there every week, every Thursday morning, for three hours CPD, and I get to choose what that is. I take my ideas to CPD and put them onto a wall planner, one of the Moxie wall planners, and I can then see at a glance what course or what online workshop I’m doing, or whether it’s actually three hours of reading a business book this week, or whether it’s something else: it really helps me to plan it, and I really don’t negotiate. Something really bad has to happen for me to not do my CPD now, because it’s non-negotiable: I’ve made it non-negotiable as a task I have to take off on my wall planner every week, otherwise I have not really achieved it.
So, schedule it in, make it non-negotiable. Three hours a week in your working week is not a lot. And it could be one hour, it doesn’t even have to be that long, but do it because you will feel so much better if you do it.
Some recommendations… Books: as I said, I started with books, and my favorite so far is Company of One by Paul Jarvis. It is an absolute stonker of a business book, in my opinion. iI has got some amazing advice and some just great “oh, yes” moments in it! T here’s been, I’m gonna say at least 10 of those where I’ve thought of course, I mean, that makes sense, that’s completely right. I love the way that he phrases things, the action steps and the things he makes you think about. It’s a very good book, highly recommended. If you have one business book, that would be it for me.
The Working Woman’s Handbook by Phoebe Lovatt: love this book. It is an absolute gem for helping you think about the fundamentals and getting you in the right mindset and thinking about products, services and how you make the business work. I’d say Company of One is probably a bit later stage, for when you’ve been running your business for a while, but you can read it early on too, whereas The Working Woman’s Handbook, definitely good for near the beginning or if you’re trying to do a review. I highly recommend every six months or every year do a business review: I’ve just sat down and really looked at my values and my mission statement and my keywords and what I’m aiming at as a business. And it was so powerful to do because it’s changed. You know, it does change, it evolves, it grows, it develops. It’s really worth doing on a regular basis, and that book might be very helpful for that.
I also love Atomic Habits by James Clear, I go on about this book all the time. It’s based on another book, and I have forgotten the author and the title, but I have just downloaded a sample on my Kindle to have a look at because it is also apparently very good. And you know, James does credit him in the book, so it’s he’s not copied him – he’s been influenced by him. It’s just great for setting up habits, setting routines, thinking about how you use various things in your day, how you set successful habits, how you get rid of bad habits. It’s just a great book, amazing. I talk about all the time because it’s that good.
I have attended quite a lot of good webinars recently, some paid for, as I said, some not paid for. The paid for ones are just better in my opinion. I’d recommend finding webinars from people that you like and trust or want to learn from. Fitting into that is signing up to their email list: you’ll find a lot of people that have a good email list will send out tips and advice in their emails. They’ll also be able to let you know when things go on sale, so they might have kind of exclusive access or a discount code. If you like somebody in the way that they teach online or the way that they are running their business, then sometimes it’s worth signing up to their email list to find out how they’re doing it or when they’re doing other courses.
And find industry events. I just attended Brighton SEO a few weeks ago and it’s excellent. It was completely what I needed. I’ve always done SEO as part of my business: it’s one of the pillars that I deliver and one of the things that I help clients with, but it’s not something that I think offers kind of sexy or interesting or everyone goes “oh (sigh), I’ve got to do SEO”. Going to an industry event just helped me to think yeah, this is really important and actually this is a big part of having access online – it’s a big part of my business. It just really invigorated my kind of feelings for what most people would think of as a bit of a boring topic. Find your industry panels, find out who’s running those big leading events, and register for them – a lot of them are free at the moment because it’s online. It’s well worth getting involved in this.
The takeaway this week is do CPD and make time for it: find something that you find really interesting and make time for it, schedule it into your weekly plan so that you do it and make it non-negotiable. See it as protected time to nurture both yourself and your business, and see it is really important, because it is really important: your future and the way that you grow and the way that you continue to move forward is all wrapped up in how much you invest in yourself and your business. Find ways to do CPD that you enjoy: it doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t have to be reading, if you’re not into reading, and it doesn’t have to be webinars if you don’t want to talk to other people. Think about the ways that you would like to learn and the ways that you would want to grow your business and sign up for those things, do those things. And finally, enjoy it, because it’s supposed to be fun! You’re nurturing your own knowledge and understanding and you’re growing as a person and as a business. That’s supposed to be a good thing: you’re investing your money or your time or both into yourself, so enjoy it. I hope you found that useful. If you want to chat some more get in touch my details are in the show notes. I’m here to help.
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