Small businesses are notorious for putting training into the too-hard basket. Yet the right training can deliver a huge return on investment, allowing you to work smarter, not harder.Cut the excuses – online learning provides free or value-for-money options. You don’t even need to leave the office.There are certain practical processes common to all businesses: a customer database, accounts, cash flow, marketing material, file management, etc. There is a wealth of software options for all these functions, but you need the skills to understand how to use them.Computer SkillsMost readers are confident on the web and are keen to keep up to date with the latest gadgets and software.But:
- Do you know how to use formulas in a spreadsheet program such as Excel to create your cash flow?
- Can you use formatting to ensure that the proposal for that prospective client looks professional?
- Is your PowerPoint presentation boring because you copied someone else’s and just changed the wording?
- Do you understand how to manage your files so you can find a document straight away?
The majority of us have taught ourselves to use a computer, so there are gaps in our knowledge. We know enough to survive day to day, but tend to focus on the things we enjoy, such as the latest iPad applications, surfing the net or social networking.Do you gloss over your lack of the key skills so critical to a sound business? Increasing your productivity can be as simple as filling in the gaps in your computer skills.Courses such as the Internet and Computer Core Certificate (IC3) offer the advantage of providing a well balanced overview of computing fundamentals in one package. This information can help when you are buying a computer, troubleshooting or managing files. It also includes the all-important word processing, spreadsheet and presentation programs, plus the internet and email.Yes, you might know a lot of the content, but this is where online training is ideal. You can work at your own pace, check what you know, and then focus on the new content. Completing a certification provides proof of your skills and builds confidence. It can also help provide a benchmark when you start employing staff.I have seen a lot of businesses with wonderful websites and Facebook pages that struggle to manage the orders or emails that they generate.If you are still in the planning phase, then why not complete a course before you start your business?The all-important accountsFor most entrepreneurs, keeping their accounts up to date is their least favourite task and they will leave it to the last minute before tackling it.But keeping accurate accounts and running an ongoing cash flow spreadsheet are essential for a sustainable business. Flying by the seat of your pants is no longer a viable option. Banks now require solid proof that you have a viable business that will enable you to pay back any loans.Check out all the options before deciding which accounting software is best for your business. Modern accountants provide a lot of helpful advice and training on how to read your accounts to track progress, increase profits or pick up problems. Make sure your accountants provide this service.Online accounting options such as MYOB, Xero or Accomplish are easier to use and offer the extra benefits of the cloud, providing flexible access with automatic updates and backup.Ensure that you get help to set up your accounts, as mistakes at this stage can create major problems in the future.Then learn how to run your accounts software, even if you later employ someone to look after the day-to-day management. The latest versions are much easier to use and provide a much clearer picture of the state of your business. You need to understand how it works and make good use of the reporting functions. Suppliers have lists of approved trainers, and also provide online training and assistance.Training is not a luxury – it is essential in business today.Next month’s article will look at the training available for growing businesses.