Continuing education is very important for any individual. Many professions require a certain number of hours documented to ensure your knowledge base, standards, and practices are current and adaptive. My previous profession was a good example of this. I had to stay current on what was going on in the realm of finance and life/health insurance so that I didn't get in trouble with malpractice or just to become aware of what was going on in those spheres. Since shifting gears into retail, there was no such compelling requirement.
Even while I am not forced to attend classes or lose my license, the value of staying informed has never been more vital. Even when you think you may know everything, you will always learn something else that will put a new angle on your point of view.
Tank: We're supposed to start with these operation programs first. That's major boring [cheese]. Let's do something a little more fun. How about... combat training.
Neo: Ju jitsu? I'm gonna learn Ju jitsu.
[Tank winks and loads the program.]
Neo: Holy [cheese]!
Tank: Hey Mikey, I think he likes it. How about some more?
Neo: Hell, yes. Hell yeah.
From that point on in the groundbreaking sci-fi movie “The Matrix” (1999) the protagonist, Neo, was on a quest to learn more and more about who he was, where he existed, and just how/why things were the way they were. If only we had the technology they did to instantly transfer the data into our brains! Alas we don't, and we have to invest a lot more time, energy, money, and social interaction to make it happen.
As a small business owner (or aspiring one), it is imperative that you continue to learn and train. Nobody will make you do it, but you will lose not just to competitors but to yourself and your own potential if you don't compel yourself to continually learn. Today marks the end of the Public Officials Leadership Academy and while not currently holding office, I was able to take much away from those sessions to consider for private life. Also there are other classes or at least conventions I can attend to get retailer tips, product knowledge, and act as a way to schmooze with other people like me to share ideas on what works, and horror stories of what didn't.
Local associations, educational outlets, and professional conventions are all great sources to learn more about what it is you are doing from food service to niche retail. Even outside a formal setting, go to other places that do what you do. If you own a cafe, go to others to see what they are doing. Why is it decorated that way? Who do they serve? What is their culture? There is a Japanese term for this called “Genchi Genbutsu,” or, “Go and See.”
What ideas can you bring back from those other places? As long as you don't practice copyright infringement, borrowing a method or idea will neither label you as your scoped target nor dilute your own brand of doing things. There aren't many new ideas under the sun and if it works for you to give kids a toy with their meal, you probably won't have McDonald's lawyers knocking on your door.
Neo did the same thing. He learned about The Matrix, its denizens, how it worked, then adapted successfully in order to succeed where others had failed before. He was “The One” among many who decided to learn more and do something with that knowledge. You too can be The One even in your own community!