Did you wonder why you had to suffer through most of the courses you took from kindergarten to the completion of your education? Do you remember the sense of joy with which you emptied your locker on the last day of school? Were you one of those kids who abandoned books, papers, pencils, extra clothes, and any recollection of the content of your classes the moment the semester was completed? Did you vow never to crack a book again, once you had your mortarboard? You are not alone. However, there were sound reasons for most if not all of your courses and you may find them remarkably useful when trying to start or grow a small business, even if you missed the memo back in school.
Writing, reading, manipulating numbers, all should seem like rather obvious skills for a small independent businessperson. However, understanding statistics, using artistic principles, and grasping the import of current events are just a few of the additional competencies you will need as an entrepreneur. Let’s look at some of the classes that you never imagined would enter your consciousness again after you closed the textbook for the last time.
The three Rs:
It may seem so boring to hear this again, but everyone needs to know how to read. You need to be able to read analytically and critically. This means being able to summarize what is said, identify and articulate how the writer made their point or achieved their effect, and assess the quality of their arguments. These skills from literature and rhetoric class are the best defense against propaganda or scams, and allow you to identify where a speaker or writer is making an unsupportable assertion, rather than merely feeling uncomfortable with what is being contended without knowing why.
Furthermore, you need to be able to persuade and influence others. Don’t you want them to purchase your product or servc9e? If anyone is going to have an impact using words, shouldn’t it be you?
Whether mathematics was fun or terrifying to you, you will need it in business. Until you can hire someone to do all your quantitative thinking for you, you will need to be able to do the calculations involved in setting up and managing your enterprise. Figuring taxes involves math, but even deciding whether you owe taxes and how much involves calculating your income minus your expenses. If you took business math, you are ahead of the game.
Lies, Damn Lies, And …
The complexities of determining how successful you are and how to be more so may require a bit more than just math. You need to understand some basic statistics as well. Perhaps you have heard the humorist Evan Esar’s definition of statistics, “The science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures. As a businessperson, you need to be able to understand what the data you observe imply. These days, as well, with Big Data as a hot commodity, you need to be able to assess whether a particular statistical measure is worth purchasing.
You may have wondered where you would ever use what you learned in History of Art, if you were lucky enough to take it. However, every time you update your business web page, you will need to use the principles of design. The same design ideas that make a classical painting pleasing and effective: balance, emphasis, movement, and so forth, make your web site and your marketing effective.
Remember all that emphasis on current events? A businessperson has to keep current and spot trends in the news in order to anticipate and respond to the marketplace. Your ability to track and analyze news and trends could mean the difference between your capturing, or missing out on, important opportunities.
Those fusty musty courses were doubtless a pain at the time. However, you will be pleased to have those skills under your belt and in your portfolio when you are trying to establish and grow your business.