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Ask the Mompreneur: How to teach yourself what you need to know to run your business

By Jennie Wong

The Charlotte Observer (MCT)

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 8:12 p.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 8:12 p.m. MDT

There are a million things you need to learn as a business owner, in addition to the thing you’re really good at.

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There are a million things you need to learn as a business owner, in addition to the thing you’re really good at. You may be a superb butcher/baker/candlestick maker, but in order to survive (not to mention, make payroll), you’ll need to also acquire the basics of business. And without a corporate training department, who will teach it all to you?

The answer is, of course, you. You will teach yourself what you need to know, as you need to know it. You can’t learn it all at once, but in the end, if you have your own company or want to start your own company, you’ll need to embrace the ways of the autodidact.

IMPRESS YOUR CPA

Jo Cowan, owner of the blow dry bar Blo Charlotte, was a NICU nurse practitioner before she became a franchise owner and realized that none of her clinical skills were useful for running a small business. Cowan jokes, “Unless one of my salon customers is going into premature labor, then I’m your girl!”

When it came to decoding the financial aspects of entrepreneurship, Cowan always planned to use an accountant, but she still needed to understand the day-to-day aspects of bookkeeping.

“It was recommended that I use QuickBooks, but initially I had no idea what I was doing. I tried three times to set up my company, but thought I was failing each time. Then I ordered a QuickBooks manual, but that caused me even more confusion because I couldn’t find the answers I needed to my specific questions,” said Cowan.

“Finally, I researched online courses and found one called simply QuickBooksTraining.com, which offered self-paced tutorials with screenshots that I could complete at my own pace. Most importantly, they were organized so that I could learn what I wanted and skip the parts which were not relevant to me. I knew I had made a great decision when the time came to print out my general ledger for my tax accountant and he told me it was excellent!”

SWITCHING GEARS? WORK YOUR NETWORK

Whereas Cowan’s learning journey was necessitated by her first business, web designer Chris Trausch found his path to self-learning via his second venture. After graduating from Purdue University with a degree in technical graphics and starting the Charlotte-based web design company LunaseaMedia Productions, Trausch and his wife, Lindsey, embarked on a whole new enterprise.

“About 4 years ago, we decided to put all of our e-commerce technology and online marketing expertise into selling aftermarket parts and accessories for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, specifically, their Touring models,” Trausch wrote in an email. “And soon after launching Iron Aces Speed Shop, I designed a patent-pending motorcycle mount for iPhones and GPS systems, which turned us into a manufacturing company.”

And that’s when Trausch called upon his network of personal and professional relationships to rapidly learn what he needed to know for his product.

Trausch’s friend, James Burry, owns the Mooresville-based company BISS Product Development, which manufactures consumer products.

“He was able to help us with pricing, distribution, and intellectual property,” Trausch said.

“And our friends at the marketing agencies that I had worked with as a strategic partner, such as Crafted and Moving Ideas, wound up playing key roles in our branding and successful go-to-market strategy.”

BE A LIFELONG LEARNER

And after the wonders of online training and the resources within one’s own Rolodex, there’s still that time-tested standby, the book.

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