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Should you, a busy entrepreneur with her hands full of home-work-family-finances-operations-clients-kids, take time out for a learning program? The short answer is a yes, but of course, like all things, there are caveats.
Recently, I had the opportunity to be part of the IIM-B delivered NSRCEL Goldman Sachs #10KWomen program for women entrepreneurs who are keen to grow faster. To say that the learning program was useful, is an understatement.
It helped me answer many of the doubts buzzing around in my head, but it has also helped me think about business growth in a more structured manner.
You may see other entrepreneurs joining such programs, and wonder, should I consider enrolling too?
Will it help me?
At the same time, you may also ponder over the sheer foolhardiness of stepping back from everyday work— especially at a time when it seems like the business absolutely needs you to be hands-on, every single day.
That’s why I am writing this post — to help you make sense of what learning programs can do for you, but more importantly, how you can make them work well for you.
Newsflash — just signing up (and being selected) is not enough — there is more needed to make a structured program really worth the time you invest in it.
First things first, should you, as a busy entrepreneur with her hands full of home-work-family-finances-operations-clients-kids, take time out for conscious learning? The short answer is a yes, but of course, like all things, there are caveats.
To me, the most important reason someone should join is — regardless of your past experience and education, as an entrepreneur, it is easy to get into the routine and keep executing, without asking yourself enough tough questions.
Programs like this act as a kind of reset button. However, if you feel that you have enough ‘challengers’ in your everyday life, who make you question all your assumptions, and you are already learning a lot at this stage— perhaps this is not the right time for you to invest in structured learning for yourself.
Another reason to join is to ramp up your learning quickly in areas that you are deficient in. In my case, for instance, I understand Content and Community Building well, but my training in Finance, Organization Design and running Operations in a structured manner hasn’t been great.
I wanted a well-rounded program that would bring me up to speed in these areas, in a way I could apply to my business.
To sum it up, if you need formal training or certification in specific areas that will help you grow your business (or make it more profitable), if you feel you are getting stuck in a rut and need a more challenging environment to think afresh, a cohort-based learning program is a great fit for you.
Now, keep in mind that these programs tend to be intensive – they include classroom sessions, group discussions, after-class readings, assignments and more! That’s why I will be talking next, about actually making structured learning work for you.
To make this really juicy, I asked some of my fellow cohort members, all accomplished entrepreneurs, to chip in with their learnings as well.
Being clear on what YOU want to get out, it really helps. Do you need a better grasp of certain functional skills? Is your primary objective to raise funds at the end of the program? Do you want to get better at decision-making?
As Melanie Fernandes, Founder, P.Labs Ventures, a performance marketing agency, says, “Instead of assuming that you want to grow, the more fundamental question to ask is: what’s preventing you from growing? What are some of the recurring challenges you face, which the program can possibly help address?”
Knowing this helps you to really focus on those aspects and let the other things come to you in a gentler fashion, no stress involved.
Melanie adds, “Doing a SWOT analysis of self and business is very key, without which it would take a long time to make sense of the information.”
Plan for what you will delegate and how, if you are going to spend time learning. You cannot handle a full load of work-as-usual and hope to stay sane, or gain enough from learning sessions if you are multitasking.
Whatever you imagine it will be like, an immersive experience at programs of this nature will demand more from you than you realize.
As Ranjini Kumar, Founder of Pygmalion Solutions, a talent development solutions firm in Bengaluru says, “Dedicate time for the program and set expectations at home about setting aside the time for sessions and also for pre-reads and assignments; otherwise, it gets accumulated in the end, and we may not do justice to the learning part.”
By their very nature, cohort-based programs are designed for a group, and group members will vary in their skills, previous experiences, and ability to participate in different sessions and on various topics.
One of the things I found most useful, was to learn more about my fellow cohort members, and spend time talking one on one with as many people as possible.
As Richika Agarwalla, Co-Founder of Asama Enterprise LLP, a social enterprise working with artisans in Assam says, “Be prepared to not just attend class, but to speak up, to ask questions and network with everyone around. You never know what you may learn about someone else’s business which can help you in running yours.”
Now, if you are an introvert, this may be way too tiring for you – in that case, make a note of people you would like to connect with in the future, and space out these interactions even after you are done with the program.
Richika mentions that these connections are among the most important parts of the program that she has carried ahead with her.
Most learning programs are meant to help you think through your challenges, not solve them for you.
As Ashirbani Roy, Founder & CEO of Aashirs, an online jewellery store says, “The course would give you a basic framework on scaling a business and to make it specific for your business, you have to deduce these learnings and tailor make them for your specific needs.”
Ashirbani adds that such learnings could come not only from the course instructors or professors, but also from your fellow students.
If you go in expecting to come out with ready-made answers, you will be sorely disappointed. Instead, prepare to be challenged.
As Ranjini adds, “We need to be open-minded and be prepared for rejections or negative comments on your business – this will only motivate us or show clear areas for improvement.”
Finally, if you are at a stage where you are no longer a solopreneur and have built a team, their involvement is critical.
Unless your team is aware of what you are up to and support it, this will not succeed. My team at Women’s Web were absolute rockstars in terms of giving me the bandwidth to learn.
Entrepreneurship is about Execution, no doubt, but sometimes, you may need to pause and make sure that you are not just executing well, but executing what you need to.
I would love to hear in the comments if my tips on using learning programs for entrepreneurs helped you, or if you have your own experiences to share!
Image Source: miacheljung via Getty Images, free on CanvaPro
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Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas and conversations to create change. She has been writing since she was ten. In another life, she used to be read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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Some time ago, Imtiaz Ali and Hansal Mehta respectively spoke of biopics of Madhubala and Meena Kumari. But do these biopics do justice to these women?
I recently came across a Reddit thread that discussed the fact that filmmaker Imtiaz Ali had announced making a biopic of Madhubala, and I wanted to explore this a little.
Of late, biopics based on the lives of beautiful but fatefully tragic women such as Lady Diana and Marilyn Monroe have created waves. Closer at home, we hear about the possibilities of biopics being made on the lives of Meena Kumari and Madhubala as well. These were hugely famous, stunningly beautiful women who were the heartthrobs of millions; who died tragically young.
I am glad that the Orange Flower Awards seek self-nomination. High achieving women often suffer from self-doubt, and this is a good way to remind us that we are good enough.
A few days ago, I saw an Instagram post announcing the Orange Flower Awards which recognise the power of women’s voices. I read about it with curiosity, but didn’t give it a second thought.
I received an e mail from Women’s Web seeking self-nominations for the Orange Flower Awards, and I ignored it. Yes, I write occasionally, but I didn’t think my work was good enough for me to nominate myself in any of the categories.
A past winner especially tagged me and asked me to look at nominating myself, and I told her that I was not ready yet. “That is up to you”, she said, “but I think you should nominate yourself.”
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