6 Ways To Develop Your Business Skills

Editor’s Note: Brandon is the founder and author of Proverbs and Business. He is currently in the process of moving Proverbs and Business to his new website, www.brandonhelderop.com. Brandon enjoys writing about Leadership, Social Media and Politics. You can follow him on Twitter at @b_helderop or contact him at brandon@brandonhelderop.com.

In today’s fast-paced business world, information is moving quicker than ever and it’s never been more important for us to be on top of things and constantly learning and developing our business skills. Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” If we aren’t growing personally and professionally then we run the risk of falling behind our competition who I guarantee is. In order for each of us to become experts in our respective fields, we need to make learning a daily habit. As a result, the following are six low-cost resources available to you in order to hone and develop your business skills:

1. Books
There are an endless amount of books out there for you to read. Unfortunately, it seems like I run into a lot of people today that give me the excuse that they aren’t readers. Well guess what? While it may be cliche, leaders are readers. If you aren’t daily taking in new information and learning, you aren’t growing. My advice is that you just start somewhere. Find a good book by a reputable author. If you are looking to save some money, I’d suggest going to your local library to see if they have the book you are looking for. If not, look at purchasing it on Amazon. I purchase almost all my books on Amazon. You can get a book for cheap and have it shipped fairly quickly to your doorstep. I’ve even found some books in great condition on Amazon for as little as $0.99 and around $3.00 for shipping. It’s worth it.

As far as suggestions for books to get started with, I have some favorites that I recommend. However, it all depends on what you are doing and what you are looking to learn. If you have any questions or are looking for recommendations, drop me an e-mail and I can offer you a few suggestions.

2. Online Courses
Online courses are a great resource and there are several offered by organizations online. For example, right now I am in the middle of a course that is offered through the website, Udacity. The course I am taking, titled How To Build a Startup, is taught by Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur and professor who teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford, Columbia and Caltech among others. So I’m learning from one of the best professors and the best part is that the courses offered through Udacity are free. Also, did you know that Stanford is offering 16 free online courses for the Fall quarter?

3. Podcasts
iTunes has an endless amount of podcasts for you to subscribe to. One, in particular, that I subscribe to is a leadership podcast by Andy Stanley, the popular leadership author and speaker who is also the Senior Pastor of the mega church, North Point Community Church in Atlanta. Sometimes I’ll listen to his podcast while I am running. Podcasts are a great way to get some education time in while doing other things. Another great time to listen to podcasts is while you are in the car. If you are able to play your phone over the car speakers, you can get some education time in while driving.

4. Websites
There are a lot of websites available to you. The best part is that the only investment websites require are your time. I spend about an hour each day reading new articles. Here is a list of websites that I visit regularly:

For Business and Leadership:
Inc
Entrepreneur
Young Entrepreneur
Fast Company

For Social Media:
Mashable
Social Media Today

5. Seminars and Events
Seminars and events are great resources available to you. These events allow you the opportunity to hear the experts speak. I try to attend at least one event every month. Some of these events include topics such as start-ups, leadership and social media among others. For example, I will be attending TEDxDetroit on October 26. This event will allow me the opportunity to hear the Metro Detroit’s leading thinkers and creators. It will also be a great chance to do some valuable networking.

I’d recommend looking up some local organizations and finding out their event schedule. For example, if you are interested in social media, there are social media clubs and groups available to you no matter what city you are in that hold monthly events and seminars.

6. Mentorship
Do you currently have a mentor? If not, you are taking a big risk. I’d recommend pursuing mentorship in your field. You can do this by finding 2-3 experts in your field and seeking them out. Take them out for coffee and use that time to ask them questions and pick their brain. I’ve recently been doing this as I am looking to improve my social media knowledge. In the past month, I’ve gone out for coffee with 2 social media experts and had a conference call with another who happened to be in a different state.

It’s unwise to tackle a goal without any mentorship to keep you going in the right direction. John Crosby said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” Find a mentor and begin picking their brain for knowledge. There is a reason they are where they are and you are where you are. They have already made the mistakes that you would most likely make along the way. Wouldn’t it be ideal to piggy-back their wisdom and save some time, sweat and tears?

What other resources would you suggest?

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Why Aren’t You Pursuing Your WHY?

Right now I’m reading one of the best books I’ve ever read called Start With Why by Simon Sinek. In the book, Simon fires off so many nuggets that I could literally dedicate a series of posts just to this book. However, I was reading yesterday and came across a quote that really grabbed my attention and prompted this blog post:

“All great leaders have charisma because all great leaders have clarity of WHY; an undying belief in a purpose or cause bigger than themselves.” (Start With Why, pg. 134)

Simon goes on to tell Bill Gates’ story and how his WHY is to “help us all become more productive and achieve our greatest potential.” (pg. 134) Want to know a leadership secret? Because of his WHY, everything Bill does is dedicated towards his WHY and his cause. Great leaders have a crystal clear WHY and, as a result, dedicate their lives to finding new ways, different WHATs to bring their cause and passion to life. That’s why Bill and Melinda have the Gates Foundation. Through their foundation, they’ve led the charge for around 100 billionaires who have pledged to donate half their wealth to philanthropy as well as leading the charge to defeat malaria. Through these two missions, their goal is to help millions of people have the opportunity to realize their greatest potential.

Maybe your why isn’t as huge as Bill Gates’, though. Guess what? You have a driving purpose, a passion, a dream. As a Christian, I happen to believe that God has given each and every one of us a dream and a purpose for living. What is yours? If you don’t know, I would highly encourage you to take some time to think about it.

Now think about WHAT you are doing right now in your job, business ventures, free time, etc. If you know your WHY, are your current WHATs helping you achieve that cause and passion? If not, maybe that’s why you aren’t happy doing what you are doing.

Your WHY should determine why you do your WHAT. People tend to feel like they are in a rut because they aren’t following God’s purpose for their lives. The reason a WHY is so inspiring is because it encompasses something that is greater than ourselves. It shouldn’t just be about you. If it is, then your WHY is too small. If we pursue our WHY, we are intended to touch the lives of a large number of people. That’s how a God-inspired WHY works.

But not only that… if we pursue our WHY with passion, because it is touches the lives of so many others, it’s very possible that others may begin asking you if they can be a part of it. According to Sinek:

“When a WHY is clear, those who share that belief will be drawn to it and may want to take part in bringing it to life. If that belief is amplified it can have the power to rally even more believers to raise their hands and declare, “I want to help.” With a group of believers all rallying around a common purpose, cause or belief, amazing things can happen.” (pg. 136-137)

I’d really suggest that if you don’t know what your WHY is, figure it out. I promise you that God has a plan and a purpose for your life. He has placed a dream and cause on your heart. I’ve heard it referred to as the “sweet spot”. It is up to you to figure out what that is.

Life will not always be perfect. However, it will be much more fulfilling if you can figure out what your “sweet spot” is and run at it with full speed and might. Pursue your cause so that great strides and achievements can be made. This world will be a better place if you are aiming to pursue your dream.

Brandon is the founder and author of Proverbs and Business. He is currently in the process of moving Proverbs and Business to his new website, www.brandonhelderop.com. Brandon enjoys writing about Leadership, Social Media and Politics. You can follow him on Twitter at @b_helderop or contact him at brandon@brandonhelderop.com.

How To Increase Your Influence

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the type of influence I have (and need to have) in the positions that I currently occupy as a husband, friend, mentor, co-worker, etc. More specifically, am I influencing others as I should by the example I am setting and, also, am I developing other leaders as a result of my leadership? As a matter of fact, what does influence even mean? There are two quotes that come to mind by John Maxwell, my favorite leadership guru, that describe influence. First, “Leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less.” Second, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” And a bonus quote I like by former President John Quincy Adams who said, “If your actions inspire others to do more, to learn more, to dream more or to become more, you are a leader.”

Leaders that have true influence understand the stages of leadership. I’ve heard the stages of leadership presented by several leadership speakers/authors (however for the sake of citing I am taking from Tony Morgan’s website):

Set the Example
The first stage is this: true leadership and influence starts by being the example-setter. It’s impossible to inspire and lead others if you yourself don’t know the way, go the way and show the way as Maxwell says. If you want to position yourself as a leader in your organization, you’ll have to begin setting the example for others. If you are in sales and want to be the top salesman in the office, start by making more phone calls than anyone else. Recently, I ran into someone that was telling me that their company’s salespeople make 30 cold calls per day. Instead of doing the minimum and the status quo, he had instead decided to make a daily habit of calling 50. As a result, he was booking more meetings and creating a larger amount of new business than anyone else. Setting the example means being the bar-raiser in the organization.

Lead Others
Once you have become the example-setter and bar-raiser others to follow, people will soon want to know what you know so they can do what you are doing. At this stage, while you are still taking ownership, you begin to delegate responsibilities to others that are following you. Also, you begin to teach. They see you booking more appointments and bringing in more new business than anyone else and want to know how you are doing it.

Develop Other Leaders
While it’s important to lead by example and lead people, as leaders, one of the ways to judge our effectiveness is by the fruit we are bearing in the form of new leaders. My suggestion is to first find a mentor if you don’t have one already. However, make it a goal to find a mentee. That person is someone that you can pour into and offer guidance to just as your mentor will do the same for you.

Answer this riddle: would you rather have a million dollars or a penny doubled everyday for 31 days? Hopefully you chose the penny because on Day 31 you would now have over $10 million. Influence is such an important aspect of bearing fruit as a leader. Our own leadership influence is limited. However, as we develop leaders, our influence increases because it multiplies, just like the penny.

Inspire Leaders
While you should always be setting the example, leading others and developing new leaders, at stage four your focus changes. For example, a guy like John Maxwell has several leaders that he mentors in his organization, EQUIP. Those leaders are leading the charge and taking ownership of their positions. As a result, John’s focus doesn’t necessarily need to be on the first three stages. While all three stages of leadership are still essential, John’s job is to cast a vision and inspire his front-line leaders as well as those who read his books and listen to him speak. That should be the goal.

The truth is that not all leaders make it to stage four. Many may never make it to stage three either. However, it should be our goal to continuously grow. If we can set the example and be bar-raisers, lead an organization, develop leaders within that organization then we’ll position ourselves to be stage four leaders whose job is to inspire and cast the vision for our organizations.

It’s a process, though. You won’t be a stage four leader today or tomorrow. So make it a goal to start today by striving to be an example-setter and bar-raiser for your organization. Go the extra mile. Make 20 more calls than anyone else as my friend did. That will put you on the right track.

Brandon is the founder and author of Proverbs and Business. He is currently in the process of moving Proverbs and Business to his new website, www.brandonhelderop.com. Brandon enjoys writing about Leadership, Social Media and Politics. You can follow him on Twitter at @b_helderop or contact him at brandon@brandonhelderop.com.

Four People (Dead or Alive) I Would Invite To My Dinner Party

I came across a blog post recently that really got me thinking. The title of that post was “Ten People You Would Invite to Your Dinner Party”. Since the goal of having this dinner party would be to soak up wisdom and knowledge and learn from the greats, I’ve decided that four people would be a perfect number. In my opinion, a smaller group equals a more intimate and special setting. With that in mind, the following are the four people (dead or alive) I would invite to my dinner party:

Guest #1 – Ronald Reagan
If you know me, you know that I am extremely passionate about politics. I love studying past history and have spent many late nights reading about past Presidents and the United States’ Founding Fathers. One of my favorite Presidents is Ronald Reagan, not only for his accomplishments, but also for a few other qualities. First, Reagan was a phenomenal storyteller which allowed him to draw the interest of the American people and effectively connect. At my dinner party, he would keep us entertained with his entertaining stories. Also, Reagan had a great sense of humor and ability to lighten the mood when the time was appropriate. As the story goes, following the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan, as he lay on the hospital table, he looked up at the surgeons and said, “I hope you’re all Republicans”. Another story goes like this: during mike check for his Saturday radio broadcast, Reagan came on and said to everyone’s surprise, “My fellow Americans. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. We begin bombing in five minutes.” He had a great personality and ability to make people laugh.

In addition to those qualities, I would love to pick his brain on why he was so successful as President. In the future, I plan on running for political office so who better to take mentorship from than the one they called The Gipper.

Guest #2 – The Apostle Paul
If you’ve read any of my past posts on this blog, you would know that I speak often of the Vertical Alignment. The Vertical Alignment is how we prioritize our lives. For me, God is #1 in my life. Therefore, everything I do, believe, value funnels through my personal Biblical worldview of how I see the world.

The quality that stands out to me about Paul is that he was fearless and unapologetically bold about his faith. Paul knew he was called to be set apart for the gospel and, as a result, had purpose in everything he did and preached to all with absolute boldness. When someone is sold out for something like that, it is contagious and that’s why Paul’s ministry was so successful. My prayer is that I am unequivocally sold out for my faith like Paul was.

I would love to have Paul at my dinner party because I would love to be around somebody like that who is so contagiously sold out for his faith. Also, I would love to hear some stories that didn’t happen to make it into the Biblical canon.

Guest #3 – Rich DeVos
Hands down my business hero is Rich DeVos. For those of you who know me, you know that I have a background in network marketing that began when I was 19 years old. While I’ve since moved on to other ventures, I would not be the person I am today if not for my time in the Amway business (co-founded by Rich DeVos). A quality that sticks out to me about Rich is that he believes in people. That belief is so evident in the Amway organization. In Rich’s book, “Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People”, he writes, “It’s been said there are two types of people–those who enter a room and say, “Here I am!” and those who come in and say, “Ah, there you are.” Rich is the second type of person. It’s no coincidence that the last phrase in that book is a simple one: I love you. I can attest that Rich uses that phrase. I was lucky enough to receive a few wedding presents from Rich in the form of signed books. Each one at the bottom is signed with “To Brandon. Love Ya, Rich”.

I want to emulate that kind of belief in and love of people and would love to pick Rich’s brain. Not to mention, he’s a phenomenal communicator and storyteller as well.

Guest #4 – John Maxwell
I love to read books on leadership. Specifically, my favorite author is the leadership guru, John Maxwell. In fact, it is because of him that I blog on the topics of Proverbs and Business. I heard a talk of his a few years back in which he told of many leaders he knows personally that consistently read the book of Proverbs each month (one chapter per day). John is not only a leadership author and speaker, he is also a pastor. I love that he comes at you, the reader and listener, with leadership knowledge based on a Biblical foundation.

If you are looking for a good book, you won’t go wrong by picking up any of his books. My favorite, especially, is his book Failing Forward. I’ve written in the past about an online community I’ve co-founded in Metro Detroit, along with two others, called Fail Detroit which is based on the idea of failing forward like John talks about in his book.

I would have a ton of leadership questions for John and he would probably get tired of all the questions I would throw at him. The guy has one of the greatest leadership minds so I’d definitely take advantage of having someone like that to talk to. Not to mention, he is also a phenomenal storyteller as well. Seems to be a common thread among many leaders.

I think this would have to be an all-night dinner party or maybe week long because between all the knowledge, wisdom and entertainment, I wouldn’t want it to end.

Your turn: What four people (dead or alive) would you invite to your dinner party?