By Ted A. Baker, CEO/Executive Director, Muncie Innovation Connector—
MUNCIE, IN—After a successful initiative last year, Celebrating Entrepreneurs in 2022, the Innovation Connector has chosen a new theme for 2023: Empowering Entrepreneurs in 2023. While we will continue celebrating entrepreneurs, we believe the next step is to provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and business owners to be empowered – to learn, collaborate, and share their knowledge with others. As I have expressed in prior articles, one key trait of a successful entrepreneur involves being a lifelong learner. Because of rapidly changing technology, consumer market changes, continual demographic shifts, and current workforce shortages, it is now more critical than ever for businesses to understand the business landscape so changes and pivots can be made if necessary.
There are several ways for entrepreneurs and business owners to be lifelong learners. First, be a reader. This is the easiest way to engage in the learning process. Books are available for nearly every topic, problem, opportunity, motivation, business success and failure, how to start a business, how to end a company, and the list goes on and on. I did a quick Google search, “books about business and entrepreneurs,” resulting in 102 million hits in .74 seconds. No one may know the exact number of books that have been written on this subject, but one thing we do know – it is a significant number! I have read many books on these topics and have accumulated quite a library. I often utilize concepts I have learned from reading, which I can apply to my work at the Innovation Connector. Subject matter experts share their knowledge for others to learn. We can learn so much from their advice and experiences.
Our reading does not have to be limited to only books. Reading articles from various publications can provide great insight into successful entrepreneurship. Articles are usually topic-focused, meaning they are written with a limited topic scope. An example would be an article about the legal issues of starting a business compared to a book that would include this topic in “How to Start a Business.” Articles are easier to write, allowing for a greater range of thoughts on topics. And there are plenty of written articles. Again, a simple Google search, this time for “articles on entrepreneurs and business,” yielded 205 million hits in just.47 seconds. I love reading articles for one simple reason – they are short! Everyone in the business world is busy. Our available time is limited. Reading an article or two when I have the right time is meaningful, and I learn a lot.
Again, there are articles written about every business topic. I recommend you find a magazine or publication that appeals and start creating a regular reading routine. Karl LaPan, Director, UF Innovate/ Accelerate @ The Hub & Sid Martin BioTech, and a leading international expert on business development, is an avid reader and writer. He believes entrepreneurs and business leaders must read regularly. He writes, “Passionate entrepreneurs are engaged learners, and agile learning is integral to your relevance. By prioritizing agile learning, Founders foster a high-performance culture, nurture higher levels of engagement within their organization, and promote adaptability, intellectual curiosity, and collaboration between themselves, their stakeholders, and especially with their customers.”
A second way to be a lifelong learner is to network with like-minded leaders and people who inspire and challenge you. This usually involves one-on-one time with others, including mentors, other leaders in their field, and maybe even a business coach. Each of these is based on developed relationships. This is one of the most meaningful and impactful ways to learn. Ryan Carruthers, Content Marketing Manager at Together Software, expresses this in an article, 7 Reasons Mentorship is Integral to Growing Your Career. She says, “A mentor will support you, cheer you on, provide feedback and advice, and help you define and reach your goals. It can be a key relationship in your life and potentially impact your choices and career trajectory significantly.”
Being a business owner can be very lonely. Because of sensitive topics that a business owner deals with, such as financial issues, employee changes, and a possible sale of the business, to name a few, it is not wise for a business owner to share this information with others in the business. Many owners then keep this information to themselves and try to process how to handle it. A trusted network of wise and experienced people can be a lifeline to the owner. From my experiences, my contacts have always been willing to listen, provide opinions and advice, and, most importantly, encourage me.
I have attended many professional conferences during my time in business and my role at the Innovation Connector. While learning subject material at these conferences is valuable and important, some of the most valuable takeaways are from discussions with my peers before and after sessions, in the conference lobby and hallways, and even during a meal. And as a result of these experiences, I have accumulated a list of colleagues and experts I can contact anytime if needed. And I also am a resource for these colleagues. Relationships matter and are a must for the lifelong learning journey.
A third way to be a lifelong learner is to attend conferences, workshops, and seminars, online or in-person, to develop skills, gain new ideas, and become more informed about subject matters of interest. As I previously mentioned, I have attended many conferences and learning sessions during my professional career. While some sessions may be different from what I was hoping for in the delivery of content, I have always been able to learn something. And there is no shortage of events you can attend. Business associations usually host conferences that members and guests can attend. Universities and colleges offer a plethora of business, and relevant events in that one can learn by participating. Some organizations host workshops, seminars, webinars, and panel discussions in nearly every community. This is true for the Muncie community. The Indiana Small Business Development Center and The Shafer Leadership Academy, located in the Innovation Connector, offer various relevant events that community members can attend. Both organizations provide quality and professional programming. Please visit their websites (www.shaferleadership.com and https://isbdc.org/locations/east-central-indiana-sbdc/ ) to see what is being offered in 2023.
The Innovation Connector also hosts many events throughout the year. As part of our mission to “Empower Entrepreneurs in 2023,” the Innovation Connector is ramping up the number of programs offered in 2023. This is being done as a direct result of the impact of the recent Entrepreneur Showcase Week. A few examples of what is being planned include:
- Providing Excellent Client Experiences – Based on the Disney model
- Learning to Excel with Excel
- Several workshops about marketing for small businesses, including social media and geofencing, and analytics
- A course about Enneagram and how knowing your “number” can help in everyday life and business – presented by Jennifer Stanley
- Coding Clubs, robotics, programming drones, and summer day camps for students in grades 2-8.
- What parents and caretakers should know about their children’s devices, the internet, apps like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and more
- Securing your business’s internet, computers, and personal devices
- What is Square Space?
- Presentation Design
- Women’s Peer Group Experience
- Funding Opportunities for your business
- And more…
Starting in February, a rolling list of courses offered by the Innovation Connector can be found at www.innovationconnectorevents.com. Registration information, dates and times, and prices will also be posted on this website. Our office phone number is 765-285-4900 – Monday – Friday from 8 am – 4 pm, or email Natalie Smith, Events and Program Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This new year, 2023, is a perfect time to begin or continue our lifelong learning journeys. I wish you well.