If you want to improve your business, keep learning

At the start of every year, many of us tend to think of the next 12 months as a blank slate, full of opportunity and promise. We take stock of ourselves and resolve to improve in various ways. This is a good thing because there’s always room for improvement. If we want to improve our businesses, one resolution we could all make is to learn more.

Regardless of how old you are or how long you’ve been in business, there will always be new things to learn that can make your company better. Without improvement, you’re always at risk of losing out to competitors. And it’s hard to keep improving if you don’t continue to learn.

This column will focus on educational opportunities and resources available in Colorado Springs. Space doesn’t permit us to mention all of the worthwhile organizations and available opportunities in town, but here are some we’ve been involved with that we believe are worthwhile:

Revenue North’s Small Business Growth Summit — On Jan. 20 and 21, Revenue North (www.RevenueNorth.com) is staging a small business conference at the Antlers Hotel. More than 60 conference topics will be presented by leaders in their fields and will be applicable to businesses in all phases, whether start-ups or long-term companies. It’s priced very reasonably and, from looking at the topics being offered, looks like a great educational opportunity. Laddie will be presenting four programs and we would love to see you there.

Small Business Development Center — Hosted by the UCCS College of Business, the SBDC is part of a national network and offers low-cost training workshops and a free business resource library. Its mission is to help small businesses “start, grow, and prosper in Colorado” and it works with companies in El Paso and Teller Counties. The website, www.CSSBDC.org, offers a broad assortment of online information to help you. Laddie has served on the SBDC Advisory Board for a number of years and we frequently refer start-up businesses to them for assistance.

Pikes Peak Library District — Our local library offers a variety of free classes on computers, and software, and information can be accessed online at www.ppld.org/classes. Our friend Terry Zarsky, who is the Business Service Librarian, teaches an excellent class called “Minding Your Business” that includes writing a business plan, and how to find information on your industry, competition, vendors, target market, financials, demographics, advertising and marketing. You can access the schedule at http://ppld.org/job-classes.

Better Business Bureau — Our local BBB has an online Resource Center at http://southerncolorado.bbb.org/Business-Resources that contains links to valuable business information and offers BBB books on a variety of topics. Executive Director/CEO Carol Odell writes a wonderful, timely and informational blog on their website, covering a variety of topics that you can access free of charge.

SCORE — A national nonprofit organization that partners with the U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE’s emphasis is on educating and counseling small business owners, whether they’re just starting out, growing, or simply want to do better. It provides educational workshops, resources, templates and tools. The local organization’s website is http://coloradosprings.score.org.

If you’re pressed for time but could squeeze in an informational luncheon or other event once in awhile, some of our local business organizations offer periodic learning opportunities. Here are three that we’ve been involved with for a number of years:

The Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce (www.coloradospringschamber.org) hosts periodic Chamber University workshops covering important business topics, and luncheons with speakers on timely issues impacting business owners. It’s also the parent organization for the Chamber Rising Professionals group (geared for business people aged 21 through 39), which hosts events with educational speakers and offers the opportunity to work with mentors.

The Colorado Springs Women’s Express Network (www.cswen.org) is affiliated with the American Businesswomen’s Association and promotes education as part of its mission. This group hosts monthly meetings with informative programs and has access to the national organization’s resources. As past president, Judy has been impressed by the local and national organizations’ commitment to educating businesswomen.

The Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce (www.scwcc.com) is also an excellent group for businesswomen (although men also attend). Part of its mission is to “support, develop and promote women in business through education.” It hosts monthly luncheon meetings that include informative presentations, and periodic business workshops for additional learning opportunities.

These are just a few of the educational resources available to business owners in Colorado Springs and many other excellent organizations offer learning opportunities. As you’re planning for 2012, resolve to improve your business by making ongoing education one of your priorities.

Laddie and Judy Blaskowski are partners in several businesses, including BusinessTruths Consulting. They are authors of The Step Dynamic: A Powerful Strategy for Successfully Growing Your Business. Judy@BusinessTruths.com. Connect with them on LinkedIn.