3 Things They Didn’t Teach Me at Business School

I did a lot of schooling.  Non-business Bachelor’s degree.  Three years’ worth of additional undergrad courses.  Thirty months of modular distance learning while articling.  It was a long road and I learned a lot.  What has really surprised me is all of the important stuff that I’ve learned since that no one ever taught me.

You’re going to have to sell.

Whether you’re applying for a job, presenting an expansion plan to a bank, or recruiting clients for your practice selling is an integral part of being a professional.  This applies equally to those who run other businesses as well.  You are going to have to take your ideas and present them professionally in front of those that you want to buy into what you’re selling.  This doesn’t mean that you are going to end up the stereo-typical used car salesman, but you are going to have to advocate for yourself and your business if it (and you) are going to survive and flourish.

It’s all about customer service.

You will have customers, and you will have to deal with them.  You’ve done the job of selling – they’ve bought your pitch.  Now you have to perform to meet the expectations you set during the selling phase – or exceed them.  You have to pay attention to those who will be paying your fees/salary, respond to (or anticipate) their needs.

You’re going to be a boss, and would do well to become a leader.

There will come a time when you will require the assistance of others to achieve the goals that you have set out for yourself.  Whether you get promoted at work and now have a staff to manage or that little practice of yours has grown to the place where you can no longer run the business, source new work and actually do the work you signed up for.  You’re going to need to hire, mentor, correct, encourage, motivate and maybe even fire people.  A quick check of the syllabus shows that this wasn’t taught in Advanced Financial Accounting – or likely in any of your technical courses either.

So how do you develop these skills?  Read.  A lot.  Try, make mistakes, and learn from them.  Talk with other people who are in business, share your experiences, learn from theirs.  Find a mentor.  These skills are going to be every bit as important as the technical skills you went to school for – do everything you can to acquire them, and master them.