Entrepreneurs often devote thousands of dollars to coaches, conferences, guidebooks and magazine subscriptions -- all to improve their business management skills. However, running a tutoring company has led me to an important realization: I learned much of the knowledge I’ve needed as an entrepreneur in high school.
Here are the five pieces of advice that were most helpful to me:
1. Control your own learning. High school students are often encouraged to take detailed notes, sit in the front row and participate in class discussions to improve retention and performance. Likewise, learning to operate a business requires leaders to take an active role as a student.
For instance, if you’re skilled in accounting but weak in marketing, educate yourself about current marketing trends and best practices. You don’t need to become an expert, but it’s critical to understand the fundamentals. When you no longer rely on others to analyze new opportunities, you shape your company’s growth.
Encourage your staff to be proactive, as well. One way we empower our team members is by providing them with opportunities to complete online courses. We also connect individuals who wish to learn a new skill with other experts in the business.
2. Don’t procrastinate. Waiting until the night before a test to study isn’t the best way to learn -- or retain -- course material. Similarly, leaders should allot ample time to consider their options and do research before beginning a new project.
If you’re constantly making decisions at the last moment, you may need to reconsider your management practices.
3. Effectively utilize your time. Juggling several assignments, exams and projects for multiple classes and extracurricular activities can be difficult for students who don’t manage their time well.
Likewise, the majority of leaders struggle to do everything on their own. As a result, they become overworked and stressed, and they may burn out. When you’re running a company, managing your time well means recognizing when to delegate, when to expand and when to invest in technology.
4. Create incentives for yourself. Studying for an important test is all the more difficult when your friends are out enjoying the weekend. Grades often serve as a strong motivator in high school, but it’s just as important to set incentives in the business world.
Managers frequently offer incentives to their staff, but leaders also benefit from rewards, especially during a particularly challenging week or quarter. Create small incentives that are encouraging, such as treating yourself to coffee at Starbucks, a massage or tickets to a sporting event.
5. Cultivate multiple options. Intelligent high school seniors know it’s best to have more than one college option. When their acceptance letters arrive, they evaluate multiple factors, including financial aid, campus amenities and academic programs, to select the perfect school for them.
College is an investment, and just like any other investment, it’s important to analyze multiple options and explore the long-term implications of each. At Varsity Tutors, we investigate multiple cities for expansion at once rather than focusing on a single location. By applying the same criteria to each location, we can ensure our personal biases don’t cloud our judgment.
The single most important lesson we learned in high school was to keep learning. When you’re in student mode, you’re more receptive to new ideas. This allows you to continually identify new opportunities and approach your business with renewed curiosity and enthusiasm.