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6 Clever Ways for SMEs to Upskill During a Downturn


| By Bridget de Maine | April 28, 2020

Here are the best ways for small business owners to upskill, including online courses, business books and ideas to improve your portfolio during COVID-19.

Upskilling ideas for SMEs

Although it may seem counterintuitive, a downturn isn’t a great time for small businesses to grind to a halt. When things are slowing down, it’s wise to ramp up your efforts, setting the foundation for when business does start to pick up again. Here are a few upskilling ideas that might just boost your business down the track.

Sign up for Online Courses

Sign up for online course 

Has it been a while since you’ve hit the books? Now’s the time to dive right back into learning. The current climate of online courses guarantees plentiful, easily accessible and budget-friendly options, with aggregators such as Edx, Udemy and Coursera offering courses in everything from contract law to cryptocurrencies with institutions as prestigious as Yale and Harvard universities.

Closer to home, learn how to acquire bookkeeping or digital marketing skills or check out the fee-free online courses offered by TAFE Australia in foundational subjects such as managing spreadsheets and improving leadership skills.

Build Your Portfolio

Any brand can work on presenting their offering in the market more effectively. A “portfolio” is your company distilled in its most impressive form; your elevator pitch, combined with some examples of achievements you’re proud of from your business.

By building an introductory package you’d send to potential clients, investors or customers, you’ll also be able to pinpoint gaps and spend the downtime plugging them. If, for example, you’re lacking global names from your list of previous clients, aim to hit them up next. If it’s more creative work that’s missing, add that to your to-do list. By the time the downturn is over, you’ll know exactly which pavements to pound.

Pick a Project with Meaning

SMEs can spend time upskilling during a downturn

It may not feel like the time to pick a passion project, but what have you always wanted to do with your business? What have you wanted to fix or try? Committing your time and resources to a project that has meaning for you will drive learning across a range of business areas – that’s what Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg did when he programmed his own video games by the time he was 10.

“Learning how to program didn't start off with wanting to learn all of computer science or trying to master this discipline or anything like that,” he has said of the self-education that also helped him create an early Spotify-esque music player. “It started off because I wanted to do this one simple thing – I wanted to make something that was fun for [me] and my sisters.” If you have a problem you want to solve, you’re far more likely to absorb new skills and increase your own training and development by being hands-on and committed to the outcome.

Curate a Clever Reading List

Small business owners can upskill with business books

Success in business isn’t an exhaustive subject, especially as the world continues to accelerate with technological advances on a near-daily basis. To help yourself adapt to the ever-changing world of business, try this upskilling idea: create a reading list of the ultimate business books that will further your entrepreneurial education. Try the enduring classics like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People as well as the newest, buzzy tomes like James Clear’s Atomic Habits.

Find a Mentor

Although business can be a minefield, chances are there are people who’ve blazed a similar trail before you, making them a worthy go-to for practical, actionable business advice and personal training and development. A mentor can be a knowledgeable, experienced sounding-board, a right-hand person or a trusted advisor, depending on the relationship you develop. Find someone whose business, career or value-set you admire, then get in touch and arrange a virtual coffee.

Change Your Thinking and Invest in Yourself

Throughout your endeavours to upskill, it’s important to adopt a different frame of mind than you might have done with education earlier in life; this isn’t knowledge that’s “nice to have”, it’s an investment in yourself and your business. At its core, this is work and essential training and development, and if you treat it as such, you’re much more likely to be productive and take it seriously.

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