Writing your business plan? Don’t forget your own professional development

This may seem like a no-brainer to more serious or experienced people climbing the ladder of success, but one must strive to keep up and invest in professional development. Many of the business plans I review fall short in this area, and a lack of vision early in the planning process can be fatal to the business.

When a potential entrepreneur shows me a plan that cuts corners in important ways, I worry. Go “naked in health care”; family members working for free; no free time plans; back or unpaid wages; a statement that all marketing will be done “by word of mouth”; and no budget for career development: one or more of these is a sure warning that trouble is ahead on the business rail. You see, if a product or service to be offered is truly viable, it stands to reason that the business would be profitable enough to support the necessary business expenses, which include creating a human-friendly environment, compared to the machines. .

When addressing the issue of “professional development”, we could divide it into two sub-themes: How do you “do it”? and “What are the benefits that justify the cost of the investment?”

How exactly is professional development “done”?

For the last two years, I have bought an average of two or three books per month, which are related to a subject area that interests me, either in a bookstore or when a book club circulates associated with this area. of interest is sent to my mailbox. The reason I haven’t specified my area of ​​interest is that it doesn’t really matter, relative to the general point, which is: you should buy books that address a topic of your own interest and read them. This practice (virtually made into a “habit” by the book club) costs me about $50 per month.

I also subscribe to about two dozen periodicals (newspapers and magazines). Some are industry specific, some are business magazines, and some are consumer magazines. Some are paid subscriptions and some are free subscriptions based on my ties to certain industries or subject areas (and some are included in membership fees). My paid subscriptions are around $300 per year.

It is also very important to attend conferences and workshops. If you go as a speaker, you can use the visibility of the conference platform as a means of networking, building a reputation for having a certain type of expertise, learning from others who have different views or specialties, and justifying travel expenses. . If you go as an assistant, you can achieve many of the same goals, without the visibility of being on the official program. Conferences vary widely in price, but several hundred dollars for conference fees and $1,500 for food, lodging, and travel can be typical for a four-day national conference. Regional conferences are typically less expensive across the board, since they are held at less expensive facilities, have lower conference fees, and may be just a short drive away. I plan to attend a one day workshop in Atlanta within the next month or so. That will cost $149 for shop fee and mileage expenses (about a three hour drive). Annually, one should probably budget at least a few thousand dollars for these activities (for example, four or five), and of course, “the sky is the limit.”

Networking nights are everywhere. These occur in any given community as social, cultural, and business events. Organizations like a local chamber of commerce often sponsor gatherings that allow people to mingle and come together for drinks and light meals. Many cities have bona fide networking clubs, which function to provide a free exchange of ideas, resources, and contacts. The entry fee for most of these events is low: $30 may be typical. How often should you attend? Oh, I’d say a hundred bucks a month would keep someone from accusing you of being a loner.

Professional memberships are also important. For any given discipline or area of ​​expertise, there are probably three or four similar associations or organizations one should join. (Hint: Discounts on conference fees, publications, and other benefits are usually available to members as an incentive to join.) Being an active member is also important. Try to contribute in some way, in addition to paying the due membership fee. You may participate in conferences and support the organization’s patrons (which maintains the organization’s viability), serve on committees or in leadership positions, respond to other members, provide pro bono services, or the like. While membership rates and availability vary widely, $1000 per year would be a good place to start.

Some training is covered above in the context of workshops and lectures, but you may also want to consider taking a formalized course from time to time, or even enrolling in a degree or certificate program. On a smaller scale, you could buy software, take courses, and stay current on the Internet (e-learning is expected to be a major trend). If you are now convinced to implement the suggestions I mentioned above, but are still looking to cut costs, you can certainly spend time in the library and online, researching and staying up to date. I would recommend that you do not try to cut all costs, because that would mean that I am back to square one, with respect to the purpose of this article. The theme is discipline and creating positive habits. (Remember, I said the book club circular guarantees my own regular behavior? Meeting announcements, membership and subscription renewals, and other regular reminders will help make sure you follow through with the action, if you’re determined to do so in the future). future. first place, of course).

What are the benefits that justify the cost of the investment?

Now, some people will say that they cannot afford to invest in books, conferences, workshops, and other tools that would help them keep up or advance their careers. I would answer that it is a matter of attitude and planning, at least to a large extent.

Can you afford to pay for your own professional development?

Well, that’s up to you, your own attitude, and the decisions you make about your career and business goals.

Your own career development (and employee development, assuming you’re still working on your business plan) is a much better investment than anything else you can buy. Paying attention to your own professional development and addressing the means by which you will grow people in your organization within the pages of your business plan will help you demonstrate that you are insightful, adaptable, and worth the investment—yourself ( if you are looking for outside capital).

As for me, I estimate that the several thousand dollars per year that I continue to invest will eventually be worth much more than what I have spent. I know what I will not have if I do not invest: No current knowledge; no contacts; no contracts; no industry knowledge; and no ability to show that I have a clue about what is going on, as a professional calling, among my peers in academia or the business community.

That would be a very high price to pay, indeed.

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