This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.
If your web travels are anything like ours, it seems like every day someone’s pitching a new online tool that’s going to “triple productivity!” or “help you scale your business quickly!” or “make doing payroll more fun than 10 barrels of monkeys!” OK, maybe not that last one. Payroll is never that fun.
But if, again, you’re like us, you rarely get around to implementing that tool. Why? Because you take one look at the site, shake your head in confusion at the seemingly extensive steps to get started, and go back to canoodling with the Excel spreadsheet you rode in on.
Or, perhaps you actually do try and get started, but the FAQs don’t shed too much light on how you actually use these tools. So you sort of try to teach yourself, and everything you ever end up doing seems like it might be correct. But it also seems like your efforts might lead to the eventual implosion of your site, because, well, you don’t really know what you’re doing.
What’s an entrepreneur to do? As with learning any other skill, practice helps, but so does good instruction. Check out these resources that can help you develop skills you need to run your business — so that next time, you know how to get the job done right.
This New York-based startup won hearts at last September’s New York Tech Meetup with a charming, quirky video featuring their team. It was a fitting introduction, given that their main product is, in fact, approachable video content. Specifically, the site boasts a fairly broad catalog of video tutorials on a variety of personal and enterprise web tools, from topics as advanced as in-depth Google Analytics functionality to simpler lessons on things like getting started with Facebook. And even if you are fairly skilled at using the tools you encounter on a daily basis, Grovo might be able to expose you to new ones. “For a lot of people, it serves as a discovery platform,” co-founder and CEO Jeff Fernandez says.
Khan Academy boasts quite a large library of videos, but most of us are (thankfully) past the time in our lives where we need to be practicing how to factor a trinomial. But for the entrepreneurs in the audience, there’s an entire section of video tutorials devoted to topics that many of us do come across, such as accounting and raising rounds of funding. The founder and president clearly have a penchant for learning themselves — between the two of them, they hold seven degrees from MIT.
The SCORE Foundation has a whole suite of tools and services that they offer to small businesses, but E-Business Now is a particularly accessible one — the instructional video workshops are available on-demand at no cost. The lessons start out at a basic level designed to familiarize small business owners with the value of leveraging technology. Some of the later lessons, though, provide a good overview on topics like cashflow management. Even a tech savvy entrepreneur might be able to use a refresher on nitty-gritty like the different types of payment options out there.
If you’re the “I watched a video and now I totally get it” type of learner, this one might be for you. They cover some pretty heavy stuff (what is “graceful degradation,” anyway?) as well as intro-level lessons. The elegance level is high, which aesthetes will appreciate, but at $25 or $49 a month, you need to be pretty sure that you’ll get enough use out of it to justify the price tag.
With a seemingly unending list of useful skills out there, getting started can feel overwhelming. According to Fernandez, having a clear plan of action can help. “It’s very very important not to bite off more than you can chew,” he says. “Understand the tools that are available to you, start using them and set reasonable metrics.” Sims, too, suggests that setting parameters is one of the keys to successful education — and execution. “Pick a definable project you’re looking to learn to create,” he says, “and then learn the skills you need in order to make that happen.”
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, shironosov