Originally written for Essential Install Magazine (May 2017)
At the heart of any small business is the requirement to earn a living. As much as we love to follow our passions and enrich our lives, we, as humans, have basic needs to satisfy first. You know, stuff like putting food on the table and a roof over our heads. These primal needs are engrained in our physiology, so it's little wonder that so many small business owners find themselves swamped in production work just to keep the invoices going out and the money coming in.
The home technology industry moves way too fast to stagnate so continual learning is a must. Yet the constant cycle of ‘sell, build, bill’ leaves little or no time for ‘non-essential’ tasks like learning. In the end, we're left with just two options; learn on the job or become stale.
But what if we take a different approach? What if we put time aside to ‘play’, to be creative with our technology or with our business procedures? What if we spent some time with our team outside the workplace and got to know each other a little more?
Even better, what if we took time out each week to learn something new? Google do this. Employees are given '20% time' in which to explore, be creative and work on things that would 'most benefit Google'. It's been a pretty darn successful policy resulting in products like Gmail, Google News and Adsense.
So, I made a commitment to myself this year to learn a new range of skills and put them into practice. Some of those new skills relate directly to the work I do and keeping up with technology, some relate to running my business and some are just for fun. As a matter of fact, the process has already started.
Just last week I took a day out and spent some time with Rako at their HQ in Kent to learn something new - lighting control. I've wanted to know more about this subject for a while as it's outside of my normal comfort zone. My business doesn't install lighting but I do plan to install some in my home one day. No matter what I do with the knowledge I’ve gained, having a greater understanding of the subject has already changed the way I think about lighting in the smart home industry, not to mention in my own house!
The experience has also had a positive effect on my mindset, not just because of what I’ve learned, but because I’ve stretched my brain in a positive way and succeeded in doing something I promised myself to do. I can't wait to experience the next new thing now!
So, what's stopping you learning something new? Why not make some time for your own development each week and learn a new skill or two? Enroll on a course or visit some colleagues you admire. See how they do things and use their experiences to make a few changes within your own work?
After all, learning is a life-long endeavor!