For small businesses, education and innovation go hand in hand

There used to be a time when creativity and innovation were only associated with artists, musicians, writers, and the like. It didn’t take much for an organization to stand out, as competition wasn’t so intense…as long as it was a little different, it was perceived as innovative, making it easy for someone to dominate the market. But with changing times, came a different mind-set. The need to ideate and innovate is pivotal now more than ever before. For businesses, it has become a game changer!

The 21st century innovation/technological revolution has changed the way we do business, becoming an integral part of every facet and detail of our personal lives and businesses – how we work, how we live, how we interact, how we conduct business, the types of businesses started, and more, making it vital for business owners to constantly learn new tools, skills, and techniques to maintain their competitive edge. But for small businesses who are short on time (and often, cash), how do you jumpstart your business education? Here are some education resources for every small business owner to get the information they need to help their team succeed.

Books and Podcasts
Access to practically anything that we want to know is available at the touch of a button. If you have the time, reading a book or listening to a podcast is a quick and easy way to brush up on a specific business topic.

Degree Programs
If you have the time to commit (and a few thousand dollars to spend), most college programs offer undergraduate and graduate majors in entrepreneurship. This provides the formal business education and training that potential partners, investors, employees, etc. find valuable. Additionally, many programs are incorporating opportunities to develop an actual business as part of the curriculum, combining business principles with applied, real-world experience.

Continuing Education Programs and Workshops
There are a number of free online courses that can be completed in a few hours a week, including those through edX, Coursera, US Small Business Administration, to name a few. If you need face time with instructors and classmates, check local programs for free seminars and guest speaking sessions sponsored by local small-business alliances.

Mastermind Groups
These groups, whether online or in person, allow you to be surrounded by like-minded individuals and trusted advisors who meet regularly with the goal of improving each other’s lives or businesses. The collective brainpower of the group, the “mastermind,” can solve problems and take advantage of opportunities in a way that an individual person may not be able to (think, two or more heads are better than one).

Incubators and Accelerators
Incubators tend to focus on startups and usually work best when focused in a specific field or industry. Accelerators provide that next step for a business to transition from start-up to full-fledge operation. These options tend to provide the close network, collaborative support and access to mentors, which have been proven to be successful elements for long-term business success.

In the hustle and bustle of entrepreneurship, it is not always easy to make time to take a class or do. But if you are to solidify your business’ competitive edge and demonstrate your position as an expert or thought, it is no longer a luxury but an imperative to develop a mindset receptive to new ideas and open to continual learning.

The University of Florida Small Business and Vendor Diversity Relations offers a wide array of learning opportunities for small businesses. For more information on the University of Florida’s program, go to https://sbvdr.admin.ufl.edu/. Follow them on Twitter @UFSmallBusiness and Facebook @UFSmallBusiness.

By Kathey Porter, MBA, CPSD, Director UF Small Business & Vendor Diversity Relations