How Personal Investment Can Pay Professional Dividends

By | October 26, 2008

Here is a good article that was sent to me from Citigroup.

Skill Build for Success: How personal investment can pay professional dividends

The begining of the year is the perfect time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished in the last twelve months and to prioritize goals for the future.

All too often, entrepreneurs focus solely on the ‘hard’, financial metrics to gauge their progress and underestimate the importance of building the softer skills that can also drive success. You invest in your business, but how much are you investing in YOU?

As you look to the New Year, think about what you can do in 2008 to build skills that will make you more successful at work. The following are tried-and-true strategies that can help take you, and your business, to the next level:

1. Take a training class

Take a step back and assess what personal improvements could make a professional difference for you. Ask yourself: “What skills am I lacking?”, “In what areas of my business can I do a better job?” Then, consider taking a training class to let the learning begin.

“Last year I looked at my business and realized that I could make a lot more money if I learned ways to create better contracts, terms and deals in general,” said Lisa Bodell, CEO of futurethink, an innovation research and training firm. “I couldn’t afford much time out of the office, so I took a two-day negotiating seminar with a local university. In just 48 hours and for a few hundred dollars, I learned critical tips, tricks and tools to close better deals. It’s probably the best thing I ever did – for me, and my business.”

Many universities and training associations offer seminars that build critical skills and require minimal time and money to participate. Consider classes that tackle skills critical for business owners to know, such as:

  • Selling: Learn how to find better leads and land better clients
  • Negotiating: Create solid contracts and close bigger deals
  • Computers/Technology: Increase productivity with new tips and tricks
  • Marketing: Reach out to new audiences in new ways
  • Presentation and Communication Skills: Communicate with more clarity and impact

Do your research by going online, getting training catalogs, and talking to fellow business owners. Learn what types of training have been valuable for your peers.

2. Build your personal network

So much of our professional success is driven by personal connections. Are you connected? Get on track by getting in touch – with old friends, colleagues, or people you’d like to get to know. By making time for conversations over coffee or sharing information via email around mutual areas of interest, you can form important bonds and make valuable contacts for building your business.

“We were expanding and I needed to find an outsourced call center that we could work with ASAP to help handle our customer service,” said Laurence Lederer, CEO of GuidePoint Health, a Health Insurance firm in Stamford, CT. “I called a couple of fathers I knew from my son’s class at school and they gave me the names of two companies within an hour. My personal network has been invaluable in helping me professionally – they knew what I was looking for right away.”

When building your network, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Commit time to connecting – Just shooting someone an email isn’t enough to build a relationship. Pick up the phone or meet for a quick lunch to make a deeper connection.
  • Mix it up – To learn something new, meet someone new. The best rolodexes include people from different background, interests and age groups. You might be surprised by how much you can learn from someone who seems like your polar opposite.
  • Give a little, get a lot – The best way to get help when you need it is to set an example by being generous with your own time and advice. Share articles or contacts with people in your network who could use them. You can be sure they’ll return the favor when you need it most.
3. Hire a personal coach

Ready to sharpen your skills, but not sure where to start? Consider hiring a personal coach. A coach can be enormously helpful in assessing your strengths, identifying areas of improvement, prioritizing goals for success, and helping you know where to better focus your business. Their goal is to not only build skills but build confidence:

“The most important thing I do with my clients is to help them overcome the obstacles between where they are and where they want to be. I ask them the questions they’ve never taken the time to answer,” comments Joe Watson, founder of No Excuses consulting in Reston, VA. “We explore things like: ‘What would your peers say are your biggest weaknesses? What’s your biggest professional fear? What gives you the most satisfaction – at work, and outside of work?’ My goal is to help people change old behaviors and build new skills to move forward in all areas of their life.”

Make 2008 the year of YOU. Chances are, your business and your clients will reap the rewards.

How well are you investing in yourself?

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