From the August 1999 issue of Startups

What have you learned today? Nothing? Listen up: If you put in too many days like that, you're well on your way to extinguishing your business. Today's smart entrepreneurs know the only path to lasting prosperity is continuing to learn new things. Yes, we know you're busy enough just trying to keep pace, pay the bills and plan for brighter tomorrows. But somewhere in that hectic schedule, you've got to make time to buff your brain--to take in new information, develop new skills, discover new ways to think out of the box. How? Where?

The good news is, nowadays, there are plenty of learning opportunities--classes, tapes, self-directed distance learning--crafted with your busy schedule in mind. Educators know time is your most precious commodity, so they've concocted programs that pack a lot into a short space, classes you can take at home at your own pace, and other strategies that make it easy to keep learning. Here, we distill some of the best offerings--so, truly, there is no excuse not to learn.


Robert McGarvey (rjm@mcgarvey.net) collects ethnic cookbooks (think Kitschy Canapes), foreign language tapes and the like. He says you never know when a tasty rumaki might swing a deal.

Back To School

You do have time for a class. Besides doing it in a classroom, you can now do it via audiotapes or videocassettes. Top-notch providers include:

  • AMACOM (http://www.amanet.org): American Management Association International (AMA) conducts classes in just about every subject a businessperson needs to know: leadership, communications skills, sales, accounting for nonfinance types and more. Most classes are available both on tape and in person. Get a catalog of the many offerings by going online or by calling (800) 262-9699.
  • CareerTrack (http://www.careertrack.com, 800-334-6780) offers in-person classes in key business areas: customer service, self-discipline, telephone skills, dealing with conflict and others. Download video and audio previews of many classes at the Web site.
  • ScheduleEarth.com (http://www.scheduleearth.com) gives details on hundreds of seminars that are offered pretty much everywhere in the United States. Search seminars by key categories: business/finance, management, sales and more.

Listen Up

Want inspiration? Wish you had time to read more books? Tapes may be your answer. Here's where to find them:

  • Audible Inc. (http://www.audible.com) stocks business audio books (such as Howto Think Like a CEO by D.A. Benton, $6.95), bestsellers and even some classics. The unabridged Moby Dick--all 21 hours of it--sells for $29.85. Who said all your learning has to be about business?
  • Nightingale Conant (http://www.nightingale.com, 800-525-9000) distributes tapes by most of the nation's sales and motivational gurus--Anthony Robbins, Tom Hopkins, Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar among them. Prices are modest: A six-cassette sales seminar taught by Brian Tracy is priced at $62.95.

Second Language

English is shaping up to be the 21st century's dominant language, but an edge still goes to entrepreneurs who can sprechen some Deutsch . . . or Chinese . . . or Tagalog. Pick up those skills on your own schedule with audiotapes.

The Pimsleur Language Learning System (http://www.4iq.com/pimsleur1.htm, 800-275-6940) teaches everything from Haitian Creole to Arabic and Russian. Short courses are $149, longer courses cost $345. The Web site offers a free taste of the Pimsleur technique--Lesson 1 of the Japanese tapes can be downloaded and listened to with the Real Audio player. (You can use a link at the site to get it.)

Get Out Of Town

Can you combine travel with a tax-deductible educational program? Maybe--but check with your accountant before taking any deductions. Even without tax breaks, though, sometimes learning is just easier away from the stresses of the office. Where?

Peterson's Study Abroad (Peterson's, $29.95, http://www.petersons.com, 800-338-3282) lists global classes held worldwide, from Athens, Greece, to Tel Aviv, Israel. The compendium highlights hundreds of educational programs and internships overseas. Lots of learning opportunities in the United States are included, too.