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15 Affordable Resources for Learning New Business Skills

15 Affordable Resources for Learning New Business Skills

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

What’s your favorite resource for learning new business skills cheaply?

1. Coursera

Andrew Schrage
    Coursera offers a wide variety of business-related Web courses for free. You can take and complete courses as you wish and communicate with other students.

    Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

     

     

    2. Accelio

    Liam Martin
      Accelio has a number of step-by-step guides written by industry experts (versus some professor). The lessons cover anything and everything — not just business. The unique thing about Accelio is that courses are task-specific, and you only learn what you need to learn.

      Liam Martin, Staff.com

       

       

      3. Experts

      Aaron Schwartz

        Although reading a book or taking an online course is great for learning, as a CEO, my time for self development is limited. To improve different skills, I ask close friends who work for tutorials. Spending two hours taking a friend to dinner and chatting with an expert allows me to focus my questions on the issues that are relevant to my business.

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        Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

         

        4. People Who Are Smarter Than You

        Andy Karuza

          They say wise men learn from other men’s mistakes and fools learn from their own mistakes. Put yourself around people who are smarter than you, and learn from them. In fact, you can learn something from everybody, even people who you would least expect. Also, take the time to read every night from industry experts and thought leaders; it’s free knowledge without the lunch!

          Andy Karuza, brandbuddee

           

          5. AppSumo

          Danny Boice
            AppSumo offers great deals on learning resources and tools. It’s like LivingSocial, except that it solely caters to founders and geeks.

            Danny Boice, Speek

             

             

            6. Lynda.com

            Joe Apfelbaum

              As a busy professional, it’s hard to find time to learn new business skills. I find that every time I learn something new, our business improves. I read a lot of books, but when I don’t have time to read books, I listen to audio interviews and courses. I like Lynda.com for software skills and Mixergy for business skills.

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              Joe Apfelbaum, Ajax Union

               

              7. Audiobooks

              Mark Krassner

                I spent a lot of time following prominent bloggers and reading as much business news as possible. I was becoming the jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Therefore, I decided to read more books that took a deep delve into topics that were important for my business. I struggled with finding time to read and started listening to audiobooks while working out. The results have been powerful.

                Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central 

                 

                8. Udemy

                Lauren Perkins
                  Udemy is an online education platform that’s ideal for busy entrepreneurs wanting to learn new skills on the go without being fully immersed in a classroom. Topics can range from business foundations to SEO training. The depth and intensity of the courses vary, so it’s perfect if you want to learn the basics of a new skill.

                  Lauren Perkins, Perks Consulting

                   

                  9. Online Communities

                  Phil Laboon

                    I am constantly gaining new insights from reading industry blogs. I’m a big fan of Moz and use them a lot as a resources for insights key to our industry. There are so many low-quality sites trying to pump out false data about our industry, and Moz always seems to do a good job blocking that stuff from their site. I enjoy learning from the different points of view in discussions and forums.

                    Phil Laboon, Eyeflow Internet Marketing

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                    10. Quora

                    Ronnie Castro

                      For getting up the learning curve quickly, nothing beats talking to an expert directly. Quora is a nice alternative where you can find candid thoughts from leaders concerning specific business decisions.

                      Ronnie Castro, Porch

                       

                       

                      11. Mixergy

                      Mike Cuesta
                        Mixergy is where I go to get brutally honest advice and lessons from real entrepreneurs. Andrew Warner who runs Mixergy is an overwhelmingly energetic and transparent interviewer. There are hundreds of interviews from real entrepreneurs who have overcome all sorts of obstacles. Even more impressive is the breadth and depth of companies interviewed — from bootstrappers to VC-backed tech giants.

                        Mike Cuesta, CareCloud

                         

                        12. Peers

                        Natalie McNeil

                          Chances are that you know someone who is strong in one area of business that you would like to learn who could learn something new from you, too. I’ve acquired many new business skills simply by swapping information and training with other successful entrepreneurs. It’s a win-win situation.

                          Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

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                          13. Skillshare

                          Derek Flanzraich
                            Skillshare continues to be the best way to learn something specific at an affordable price from the best teachers.

                            Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

                             

                             

                            14. YFS Magazine

                            Anthony Saladino
                              YFS Magazine provides free, actionable business advice from some of the brightest entrepreneurs worldwide. Regardless of your niche, you will find useful information throughout the website that is sure to help you learn techniques to improve your business.

                              Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

                               

                               

                              15. Mozinars

                              Fabian Kaempfer

                                My favorite resource for learning new business skills are webinars from Moz. They’re free webinars with experts in marketing and SEO. The content of each “Mozinar” is very specific, valuable and actionable, rather than general and vague. You can leave a webinar with lots of great insights and tactical approaches you can apply to your own company or situation.

                                Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

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                                Trending in Productivity

                                1 We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why? 2 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away 3 How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits 4 14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress 5 11 Things You Can Do to Increase Employee Productivity

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                                Last Updated on January 6, 2021

                                14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                                14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                                Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

                                In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

                                For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

                                For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

                                Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

                                Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

                                Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

                                How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

                                Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

                                1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

                                Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

                                For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

                                2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

                                Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

                                Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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                                Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

                                3. Create a System

                                Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

                                This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

                                You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

                                Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

                                Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

                                4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

                                We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

                                If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

                                Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

                                Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

                                5. Use a Ratings Scale

                                Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

                                Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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                                It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

                                6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

                                This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

                                You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

                                You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

                                7. Offer Feedback Forms

                                Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

                                First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

                                Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

                                You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                                8. Track Cost Effectiveness

                                This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

                                Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

                                Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

                                9. Use Self-Evaluations

                                Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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                                Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

                                10. Monitor Time Management

                                This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

                                Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

                                  The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

                                  While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                                  11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

                                  We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

                                  Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

                                  For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

                                  Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

                                  Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

                                  From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

                                  12. Utilize Peer Feedback

                                  This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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                                  Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

                                  Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

                                  It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

                                  13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

                                  When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

                                  Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

                                  Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

                                  14. Use an External Evaluator

                                  Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

                                  They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

                                  While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

                                  Final Thoughts

                                  These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

                                  The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

                                  The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

                                  More Productivity Tips

                                  Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

                                  Reference

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