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ERC Institution Singapore
World Class Business Education by Business Leaders
World Class Business Education by Business Leaders


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9 ways to beef up your business skills on the cheap!

In a perfect — albeit creepy — world, all entrepreneur-hopefuls wouldn’t need to mess with getting an MBA. Their business acumen would be engrained. That’s true to some degree. Some people can, as they say, sell ketchup popsicles to people wearing white gloves. But it’s hardly common knowledge to know how to manage employees or keep track of expenses or even devise a marketing plan.

For that, you need an education. But you still don’t necessarily need an MBA. Here, we break out nine low-cost, limited-time programs and offerings to help you get a toehold on the basics of business:

1. Community college courses: Audit courses if you can. After all, you’re there for information, not a degree. Want to make sure the instructor meets your goals? Try going to the class one night the semester before and ask to sit in. Most faculty will let you do that once. Or ask students how competent the instructor is. The website may also be helpful. Not interested in next Tuesday’s content? Skip class. Once you have the syllabus you can redesign the course to fit your needs. You’re auditing, remember?

2. Seminars: Sometimes these activities can get expensive. But if you look around, you can often find less expensive takes on the same topics. How do they do that? The seminar host is hoping you’ll buy CDs and books. Although you should prepare for some sales activity in the program, you don’t have to buy anything to get good basic information for a song.

3. The internet: Ted talks, blogs, websites (like this one) are loaded with information you can use. Make a list of areas where you feel weak and create your own training program. By searching on one topic every couple of weeks and taking notes, you’ll be surprised at what you can learn.

4. Magazines: These can be a rich source of information on business in general or your specific industry. Some of the industry-specific subscriptions can be expensive, but they’re worth it. If you’re not sure if the content will be valuable, check the magazine’s website to see if they have an accessible archive of back issues or ask for a trial subscription.

5. Build your own learning group: Do you have friends who are entrepreneurs or small-business owners who feel the same lack of business knowledge? Create a roundtable of them scheduled every couple of weeks. You can take turns exploring and sharing information on a topic or invite an expert to join you for the evening to answer questions.

6. iTunes U: This can be a terrific resource to hear from some very savvy people, often free or at a low cost. Download talks and listen while jogging or driving. Ivy-league professors have lectures available — both audio only and video. One online reviewer said: No dress code, bathroom breaks whenever, phone calls and texting are allowed. Only complaint is that my classmate meows sometimes, but that’s not really a big deal.

7. Local associations in your field: Many industries have associations that meet regularly, with speakers presenting on subjects that may interest you. As far as annual dues go, you should think of it like this: For the cost of a few lunches, you can stay on top of industry issues and learn more about business — not to mention, network with people in your industry.

8. Books: There are some great books out there on entrepreneurship, and many of them can help provide insights on how you can improve your business skills. I have one suggestion for you (shameless promo here) Small Business, Big Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did It Right. If we didn’t think it was a valuable book, we wouldn’t have spent the time and effort it took to write.

9. Just do it: Yeah, I know, stolen from the shoe folks. But jumping into the fire is going to teach you a lot. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, just do the best you can. Because after all, it is your business and no matter how much you work to learn, you’re the one responsible for your decisions.

Credits: Matthew Toren

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Almost every article ever written about entrepreneurship suggests that it's not for everyone. And yet the articles go on to list attributes that many successful people possess as the traits commonly associated with great entrepreneurs, such
as a strong work ethic, persistence, persuasiveness and discipline.

People like John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford and Oprah Winfrey didn't achieve greatness by possessing the traits and following the narrow path recommended by management gurus.

So, don't believe everything others say about you or how they label you. Maybe your supposed liabilities are really your assets. Here are 12 signs many people might consider a liability, but which can actually be indications that you are meant to be an entrepreneur.

1. Hate the Status Quo – It doesn't make sense to you that something has been done the time-honored way with no explanation why. You are not someone who wants to just go through the motions or sit by idly. Nor do you like following the pack.

2. Easily Bored - You find yourself easily bored, and others start viewing you as a problem. But nothing is wrong with you except that you are bored with activities that aren't up to your abilities and aren't challenging. That's why you hated most of the classes you ever attended. Think Bill Gates who dropped out of college to become one of the richest men in the world.

3. Fired from Jobs – You're too creative for your own good when it comes to working for others, and you may have some history, as I do, of losing jobs. Being just a cog in wheel is very difficult for you because you want to create something others can be inspired by and contribute to.

4. Labeled a Rebel - You know that greatness resides outside the lines of conformity and don't think that policies, laws and regulations apply to you. You have been described as a rebel and rule breaker and would defy gravity if you could.

5. Resist Authority - You have a lifelong record of resisting authority from your parents, teachers and bosses. You don't go along with the agreed upon norms of the group or community you work and live in.

6. Ready to Improve Everything - You always see how you could do things better. In addition, you are opinionated and freely give your two-cents about your better way of doing things--even when you're not asked.

7. Bad at Making Small Talk - You have difficulty making the kind of small talk that so many people get comfort from. This social pattern of relationship and rapport building seems like a waste of time to you and makes you uncomfortable.

8. Bullied in Your Youth - You may have been heavily criticized, picked on and even bullied as a child or teenager. This has caused you to be driven to excel and to prove to the world that you are indeed a force to be reckoned with.

9. Obsessive - You may have been labeled obsessive/compulsive because when you get started on something you have difficulty letting go. Don't let anyone convince you that this is a disease or deficiency. All of the great entrepreneurs become completely immersed in their vision. Howard Schultz stuck with Starbucks even when his family tried to persuade him not to.

10. Scared to Go Solo - The entrepreneur in you is scared of going out on your own—and also terrified of not doing so. This fear is so common in our society because we've been conditioned to think that entrepreneurship is much riskier than getting a "good job." The reality is there is instability in both.

11. Unable to Unwind - You can't go to sleep at night because you can't turn your thoughts off. An idea may even manifest itself in your dreams. The next morning you find yourself still consumed with that idea, distracting you from the job you're supposed to be doing.

12. Don't Fit the Norm - You have always been a bit uncomfortable in your own skin. Until you get used to the idea that you are in fact different from most people, it could prove to be a problem--or exactly the motivation you need to acknowledge the entrepreneur screaming to get out.

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