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How to Build Skills That Help Your Small Business Grow

AARP’s online courses can help you learn the fundamentals of starting a successful venture

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Studies show that entrepreneurs age 50-plus are among the most successful, profitable small business leaders. While experience matters, it’s not a magic wand that solves every problem that can threaten a company’s survival.

Starting and growing a business is no easy feat. Many new ventures are expensive to start and require years of relentless work before the fruits of that labor arrive. It’s no surprise nearly 20 percent of businesses fail in their first year. Starting and managing a business in today’s economic climate, in particular, requires an agile and proactive approach that prioritizes developing skills that will help your business thrive.

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Research shows older adults want to learn new skills

Longevity trends would indicate that the first human to live to 150 years old has already been born. This means that all older workers — not just aspiring entrepreneurs — will need to become lifelong learners. Instead of the traditional approach of obtaining a four-year college degree then climbing the career ladder, most workers will need to reskill throughout their careers, through on-the-job training, online education or other options.

The good news is that older workers are eager to learn. According to a 2021 AARP survey of older adults, 94 percent of respondents stated they are willing to learn new skills if requested by their current or a potential employer. In fact, more than 26 percent have already taken computer or technology training and 22 percent of respondents have obtained a license or certification in the past two years.

Embracing the mentality of a lifelong learner is an essential trait for a successful small business owner. Entrepreneurs must adapt to thrive, and that flexibility requires an understanding that a strategic plan is a living, responsive road map. Cultivating both technical and soft skills is necessary not just for starting a business but also for staying in business.

Add new skills with Skills Builder

Launching a business can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. Without the proper guidance and research, it’s difficult to know how to prioritize business activities. Should operations come before sales and marketing, or after? When is the right time to file a trademark, before or after incorporating the business?

Fortunately, there are resources that can help aspiring entrepreneurs learn how to manage these decisions. AARP launched the Skills Builder for Work platform to help experienced learners close the skills gap. The platform offers both free and paid courses and certificate programs. Consider these entrepreneurship courses to get started:

Small Business Fundamentals. Start with this free crash course in small business management. The course offers a “fundamental understanding of the most critical areas of small business management and will help you assess whether a career in small business is right for you. You’ll leave with a firm understanding of the basic skills required to run a successful small business.”

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Online Business Fundamentals. This free course is a great resource for any aspiring entrepreneur, whether launching a product-based or service business, to explore necessary action items and strategies to succeed in an online marketplace. This class covers the importance of solving a problem, finding your target audience online and connecting with their needs.

Finance 101 for Entrepreneurs. Budgeting and cash flow management are two of the most challenging aspects of entrepreneurship, especially for creative and social entrepreneurs. However, financially healthy businesses are best positioned to scale. The Finance 101 for Entrepreneurs course covers “basic concepts of finance, including startup financing; pricing; cash flow; and financial ratios.” You can earn credits from certifying bodies such as SHRM and HRCI.

Introduction to Entrepreneurship. Learn which decisions need to be made before starting a venture and the success factors for staying in business in the long run. This course also covers the strategic planning process and financial and operational requirements for getting started.

Shifts in workforce demographics indicate that investments in reskilling and upskilling are a critical expense for aspiring entrepreneurs and established business owners, regardless of company size and tenure. Business leaders must make lifelong learning a priority to deliver relevant, impactful products and services with an eye on the changing needs of customers.

Take your knowledge further with free and paid certificate programs available through the Skills Builder platform in entrepreneurship and small business management. Visit the Small Business Resource Center for those 50-plus for dedicated resources on starting, managing and growing your brand.

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