There is one group that probably has the most need for professional development but has the least time – owners of small businesses. My parents owned a small business. They worked seven days a week. They never took any training courses. I am sure that if they were working today, they still would not take any formal instruction, but they might be active searchers on Google or YouTube. They might use Facebook or a website to stay in touch with their customers.
Several years ago I tracked small business blogs with some interesting examples such as a sign company, a coffee roaster, and a metal fabricator. Some have gone out of business and others have stopped blogging but there a few that continue. One was highly successful. A lot can be learned from all of these. I wonder if many small business owners have looked at what others have done with blogging over the past decade. It’s not about SEO (search engine optimization) it’s about staying connected to customers, suppliers and communities, and continuously learning.
Personal knowledge mastery is a skill set that all small business owners and operators could use. The trick is finding a way to develop these skills so that they do not take more time but instead save additional effort. PKM could get them to engage in networks that can help their business. They can use platforms like Twitter for competitive intelligence. They can find similar businesses in different locations, so they could exchange information and ideas in a non-competitive way. Active and visible sense-making can also help to find others in the local area with similar issues but different businesses. Again, the major barrier is time. Time to get adept at PKM is likely seen as an unaffordable luxury for small business owners.
But small businesses create most of the new jobs. In France, a 1999 study (PDF) from INSEE showed that large organizations have a tendency to destroy internal jobs: by transferring jobs to subsidiaries, contractors and subcontractors. For example, from 1985 to 1987 French firms under 500 employees grew between 1.5% to 38.9%, while those over 500 employees all decreased their staff by between 6.3% and 48.3%. Later data, from Canada, shows that small businesses created about 100,000 jobs per year between 2000 and 2012, medium firms created 17,000 per year, while large firms only created 11,800 jobs per year.
If small businesses create most of the jobs in our current economy, they need to be at the forefront of the next economy. Small business is not immune to automation, but they could be much more flexible than large enterprises in adapting to the network era. Plus, there are a lot more of them to try different approaches.
My PK Mastery workshops have been attended predominantly by freelancers and people in medium to large sized organizations. We are in the middle of the first workshop of the ‘in 40 days’ series and I will be running another one starting 26 May 2014. If there are any small business owner/operators interested in participating, please let me know. There is currently a 50% reduction for early sign-ups for the next online workshop. If any small business owners are interested, I will gladly offer a discount. Just let me know what you need. I think it’s time we helped each other.