As small business owners, we might think back to our earlier years, and for some of us, this was a little while ago. I often reflect on areas such as education, and it recently got me thinking about the beginning of my business owner journey, right back to when I was 15/16 and where it all began. And further thinking about my education and how this prepared me for my business life today.
I grew up in a family of business owning. My parents owned businesses on and off throughout my childhood right through to my teenage years. I was exposed firsthand to small business from this young age, so I could see what it was going to take. From what I recall all those years ago, it was a lot of hard work, that friendly customer face and old-fashioned customer service not to mention living and breathing the business.
Back when I was in high school, education was so insignificant for what you would need to run a business. Well it seemed that way for me at least.
We of course had all the basics like maths, english, geography, history, chemistry to name a few. And there were clear pathways to university and the option to choose career paths.
But I was over it, I just wanted to go out, work, and earn money. So, by the time I was 16, I was a full-time employee and working in retail and loving it. The days were longer, there were no school holidays anymore and my friends and I slowly drifted apart having very different lifestyles. My point of all of this is, I didn’t have year 12, I didn’t attend university, I had no degree when I opened my first business at the age of 22.
I was taught to learn from experience, make mistakes, and learn from them and no matter what, don’t give up, just keep moving forward and make your own path. This is certainly something endured in my first business. I learned so many lessons, so many that shaped me into the person I am today.
When I look back, I really do believe I had no clue what I was doing and 100% hand on heart, if I was thrown back in time with what I know now, I would do it all over again, it was such a valuable experience and those lessons I carry with me for life.
I’m not saying everyone should just go out and start a business, it’s really not for everyone and it’s something that takes a special kind of someone to get off the ground not to mention be successful.
I do want to reach out to those right now, the younger generation that might be listening or you might know someone that will get value from this article.
If you finish high school and haven’t gone to uni, don’t think that’s a prerequisite for running a business, it’s really not.
In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say, pretty much, if you can read, write and do basic maths, you really don’t need more education than that.
What you need above all else, is passion. Finding something you love and enjoy doing all day every day and then being able to share that with your target market, this is the key to business success.
You need to be tenacious, you need the drive, the accountability to yourself and also, you need that long-term staying power, especially come the bad days and yes, we all have them.
I am yet to meet your average small business owner that starts their elevator pitch with ‘I have a PHD in XXX’
I am of course not talking about the higher end professionals, those that legally require their degrees like lawyers, accountant, psychologists etc.
I mean your real everyday business owner.
Much of our education as business owners comes after we start our business. This when the sh;t gets real and we know it’s make or break.
Educating ourselves in more areas of our business, it might be your finances, learning your accounting program. It could be marketing and how to run ads on Facebook, or even mastermind groups to connect with other business owners and share the pain points and get more advice and tips you would not have thought about yourself.
The options are endless and also far more present to us once we have started our business.
I didn’t know when I was 16 that I wanted to be a BAS agent & bookkeeper. I had no clue in 20 years time I would want to know all about marketing. I don’t think when I was 16, marketing even existed like it does today.
I certainly didn’t know I was going to love doing things like graphic design and hate things like writing copy for my social media posts.
So in essence I don’t regret not going to Uni, not for one second.
I actually cringe at the idea of what I might have chosen as my career path and where I would be today.
I have life experience, I have tested many waters and I know from making plenty of mistakes, exactly what it takes to run my small business.
And mistakes, wow, I still make these today…its far from over, I will continue to learn from them everyday.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have SO much respect for Uni, I truly believe all higher and advanced education has its place.
But until someone opens the University of Small Business, it’s just not something I would encourage people to feel like they have to do it.
If they know what they love and it needs a Uni degree, by all means, keep on going and you smash that time out.
But for those confused and not sure and yet to find their true calling, I really consider it a waste of time and money.
I was faced with an interesting situation in my mid-twenties, like many I have been in and out of being a business owner and I actually had a time when I worked side by side with other ladies the same age as me, and as chicks do when they work together, you get to know each other and I never forget this one conversation with our team.
We were all reflecting on our life journey’s to date and 2 of the ladies in our crew had been to Uni, they had done 4 year degrees in something like arts and I think psychology and they had the education debts through the government schemes and were also wanting to get married, have kids and buy a house. I remember listening, not commenting, and thinking to myself, wow, here we are in the same jobs for the same pay rates and they went to Uni.
I was shocked, I confess. I hadn’t thought about Uni and if I was missing out or if I should have gone. I was always happy with the path I chose. But to actually be working side by side with these ladies that had these education degrees and those looming debts just amazed me at the time. I felt so lucky.
See the problem is, we are so young when we are faced with this life altering decision.
What do we want to be for the rest of our lives.
Are you kidding me, what a crazy thing this is.
Who the hell at the age of 18 can possibly predict this, you’ve barely lived.
I didn’t work it out until I was around 30, like really knew at least a vague direction.
And this isn’t to say everyone’s the same, of course not. Many kids have dreams of being astronauts or doctors, nurses, lawyers, this certainly happens.
But for the vast majority, I really don’t think we can know at such a young age with so little life experience what we want to be forever.
This conversation even now makes me wonder…how many people went to Uni, started a degree and dropped out.
I also question, how many people went to Uni, completed their degree and then started working in their field to find out they hated it.
But really going back for a moment, let’s dive into maths. We are taught mathematics from an early age, how to add, minus, multiple and divide numbers.
I am not saying this is worthless, because of course it’s not. But once we reach high school and maths gets more complicated, I believe this forms into a science type of subject and doesn’t really fit the purpose of life.
Whether you end up in business or not, budgeting surrounds the world, home bills, wages coming in, spending going out, we are not taught how to manage this at all.
And for those that go into business, the 2 biggest roadblocks I hear about are finance and marketing.
The education system will one day catch up, let’s face it, it is a business, and the business model needs to get with the times, catering to the human needs of going into business is something that should be on offer.
You can find an abundance of separate courses about these subjects, they are literally everywhere, but if you want a serious education and I don’t mean a degree exactly, but the ability to be armed with the required skills for being a business owner, it’s difficult to find an all in one answer.
You need to go and dedicate years to separate degrees, for both accounting and marketing, from what I have seen, even these courses are behind the times and maybe this is why a course such as “how to be a business owner” doesn’t exist.
And that’s not all you need. Managing staff is also another huge aspect of being a business owner. From hiring to firing and everything in between.
Most of us are taught about things growing up like respect and being kind to others. But when faced with your first challenging team member, someone that can’t get to work on time, or those that don’t respect other team members. When are we taught how to manage this?
So, what does it take to be a business owner?
You need the passion, you must be tenacious, you need drive, accountability and you need to be resilient.
We need to bury our mistakes but after we learn from them.
We need to take risks and put ourselves out there, fully exposed to the world and open to the wins and loses this brings.
However, I don’t believe a completed degree or extended list of education is needed to qualify you to be a business owner.