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Lifelong learning for entrepreneurs, but not all of it comes from books

Article provided by Discovery Business Insurance.

“The conversation of learning is coming up more and more as it relates to entrepreneurs. You may have heard this idea that the new skill is to be able to learn unlearn and relearn consistently throughout your lives,” says Rob Paddock. But he adds, these are not traditional forms of learning. “If you think that you can learn something once, do an MBA and rest on your laurels on this hallmark of achievement and knowledge, you are radically wrong.”

“It’s quite an exciting time to be an entrepreneur and to be in the in the world of learning because there are lot of mechanisms now to get ‘the Swiss Army knife’ of skills that you need. An online short course, a webinar, seminar, maybe you are reading books of interest. All of it is really important.”

Venturing into the entrepreneurial world is an education in itself, he says. “Your education is built on top of the willingness to actually go and do something. Start putting yourself out there. That’s the underlying resilience that we need to develop as entrepreneurs.”

Searching for meaning in knowledge

Creativity led to Paddock venturing out into the business world. “My background is actually in music. Business is the same fundamental creative process where you conceptualise something that initially is just a thought in your head, and eventually gets put out into the public domain. In art that might be on a canvas or in a sculpture, in music that might be in some sort of performance and I see entrepreneurship as no different,” says Paddock.

His family ventured into a few creative ideas before they saw their eLearning business take off. “My brother Sam and I started the business together with our parents. I don’t think we recognised how lucky we were with the GetSmarter business to actually find a business model that worked and that was profitable.”

“We were in three different businesses. There was a legal firm, a property business and then online education, which then started growing really nicely. One of the mistakes and strong pieces of advice I try to give entrepreneurs regularly is that when you find a business model that works, thank your lucky stars, knuckle down and focus. We tried three other business, and they all failed. It was only after the failure of those other businesses that we really recognised online education was the business to focus on.”

Both GetSmarter, which has since been sold, and Valenture Institute, are alternatives to traditional learning.

Challenging norms and making change

Paddock says Valenture Institute was created to push back against traditional learning. He says global focus groups revealed that students main aim was to make a change in the world. “Kids of today are actually showing, through their time and effort, that they want to make the world a better place. They care about issues like climate change, social justice and inequality. The feedback was that they wanted a schooling experience which gives them a platform to engage in the challenges that they care about.”

“We also saw that the issues that they raise match almost exactly to the UN sustainable development goals. So at Valenture Institute we’ve fundamentally focused subjects around those SDGs. You’re still taking the traditional subjects, that’s important for university articulation, but you’re applying those in the context of the SDGs, of solving real-world problems.”

He says entrepreneurs can do the same, when thinking of which business to begin. Like this, changes made in small ways start to add up to big changes.

The last aspect and one of the most important, is that “a good educational system is built on a strong emotional base. Our mentors at Valenture Institute work exclusively with students to develop that”.

He adds that for entrepreneurs this means a focus on mental wellbeing: “I see a psychologist every week, every single week. I think that it’s the biggest gift that you can give to yourself. It is unfortunate that it still has a certain layer of stigma. Our own psychological and emotional well-being as entrepreneurs precedes every other business metric that we could consider.”

Learning to fail

Paddock says it was the hard attention to detail that actually makes the business work. “A lot of business is in the small details. Especially as you’re in the start-up phase towards profitability. It’s in the small details operationally that help you control your spend and help you on the top end to actually access new markets or realise new revenue opportunities. It takes a lot of time and attention.”

He says another key, is learning confidence: “It’s the resilience to actually putting your work out there and dealing with the inevitable highs and lows of what comes back at you, that is so fundamental to entrepreneurship. If we if we don’t have that base layer of confidence, we won’t be able to make the inevitable leaps and what I would say to entrepreneurs listening to this is that the fear never goes away. Please don’t be fooled. It’s not that the fear just disappears.”

Learning to fail is another opportunity, he adds. “I failed a lot of times and I’m quite comfortable in that space and that comfort has been built over time through exposure therapy. I back myself to recover from the inevitable failures, the inevitable shortcomings, the inevitable learnings that need to emerge. That’s probably the primary ninja skill.”

The 15-episode The Healthy Business Show is brought to you by Discovery Business Insurance. For more insights from Rob, on the importance of lifelong learning, listen to the podcast below.

Discovery Business Insurance is a proud Partner of the NSBC