Sponsored by the U. S. Small Business Administration
The Madison County Chamber of Commerce


Successful Small Business Owners Focus on Training

"Experience gets us to where we were yesterday - Habit keeps us there." Confucius. Another way of stating this centuries old piece of philosophy is "If we continue to do what we've always done, we'll continue to get what we've always got (sic.)" F. Edwards Deming. If you buy the premise of these two sayings, it's an easy trip to the conclusion that change is required if we are to improve. How do you make smart changes that yield the desired results? To make a successful change, it is imperative that you know what you are doing. To gain the necessary knowledge to make the change, training is frequently the best, most direct way of achieving the change.

Successful entrepreneurs dedicate time and resources to training. The business world is changing all the time. Since the advent of the personal computer in the early '80s, business has changed dramatically. People who do not adapt to this piece of reality are doomed to fail to achieve their goals. The only way to keep up is to try new things. A wise business owner realizes that to try and fail is not the smart thing. Instead, the successful owner will concentrate on helping himself by helping his employees learn new skills, improve existing skills and find better ways to get the work done. The smart owner recognizes that successful training of employees (and himself) is based on life long learning.

Whether your workforce is comprised of high school graduates or college graduates, all employees need to learn and grow. There are many motivators to which each of us respond. The most basic of these motivators is self-preservation. I can think of no stronger motivation to do something than when a person's life is threatened. Now I'm not suggesting that the way to handle a need for change is to threaten an employee with, "If you don't get this change made, I'll kill you." There are other motivators. The highest level of motivation is called "self-actualization". In other words, an employee can be highly motivated if you give him the opportunity to learn to better do that which he already likes to do. The short summation is, if you value long term employees, you will invest in training which keeps them growing within their jobs and helping you grow the business.

Another thought on the need to train is the employment situation locally. Across the country and certainly in Indiana, unemployment is a low point. Effectively, all those who want to work and are employable are working. When fast food restaurants will pay $7.50 an hour to push hamburgers, you, as an employer, are up against some tough competition. So, if you have employees who lack necessary skills, you'll probably be better off training the existing workforce instead of trying to sift through what is available in hopes of finding the right person.

In medium and large firms, employee training is usually handled internally. Entry-level employees are provided with an orientation and receive specific on-the-job-training for specific job duties. Ongoing employee education is necessary at all levels. However, in the small firm, the training function may often be neglected. There are several reasons. It adds to overhead expenses. It's a cost that some entrepreneurs find difficult to justify. Therefore, if training is done, it is usually the owner who serves as the trainer. On some topics, the owner is the best person to relay valuable information, particularly if the owner is highly qualified by reason of experience or training. In other cases, the owner should consider providing funds to send employees to specific college classes, seminars or workshops, which provide specific information. Whatever the situation, it is the responsibility of the owner to insure that necessary training is given. If a business is to go forward, training is a necessity.

People are the key factor in joining the capital and physical resources of the company to produce profits. Well-trained and motivated employees can prove to be the difference between success and failure. And even though it's difficult for the owner to take time to plan for and conduct training, it is the owner's responsibility to ensure that the company's capabilities remain strong. Training helps the company maintain its readiness to respond to the marketplace. Trade associations can often help. Trade magazines, books, seminars and conferences all can provide an avenue for modestly priced and very focused training for industry members. Whatever path you choose, changing a little of what Harry Truman said renders the key. "The buck stops with you."

Contact us by calling The Madison County Chamber of Commerce at (765) 642-0264 or write to:

Union Bldg, Suite 211
1106 Merdian Street
Anderson, IN 46016

You may also send E-mail to us at