“I don’t need business school”

Posted on April 22, 2022

One of the biggest mistakes I have made in business, and of course there have been many, was not investing enough in my own personal development.

When I started ResponseSource, at 26 years old, I thought I knew it all. I didn’t need business school. Having been a business journalist, interviewing many heads of marketing and business leaders, I thought I could do better than them.

That kind of naïve arrogance worked for a while and the business grew quickly from its beginnings in spare room of my tatty South London flat. But as the company grew more complex and the world around it changed I eventually realised I needed to start learning again.

Completing the Cranfield BGP in 2014 was a turning point in many ways. I learnt that educating yourself does not detract from your own innate ability or beliefs in how things should be done. Instead it boosts your confidence in your own judgement while giving you the tools to handle the things you find more challenging. It was also the beginning of a process that ultimately led to the successful sale of ResponseSource to Access Intelligence plc.

After BGP I went on to invest in my own development more regularly, including short courses in sales management, finance and the role of the non-executive director. But not just in business. Most recently I completed a mountain leadership course at the renowned Plas y Brenin training centre in North Wales (the picture above features one of my course-mates on the summit of Snowdon). What you gain from training in one area often benefits other areas of your life. Many mountain leadership skills, for example assessing people’s ability and preparedness for an upcoming challenge, can easily translate to the business world.

The unavoidable thing about being an entrepreneur, or a business owner-manager to use a less glamorous but more meaningful term, is the way in which the role becomes all-consuming. Not so much a job but a way of life. It’s so easy to become buried in the day-to-day that you become blinded to the real potential of your business. I speak from personal experience, even though I have always been pretty good at delegating. Investing in your own personal development takes you out of the business, often accompanied by people in totally different sectors but dealing with surprisingly similar challenges. In that environment its hard not be more creative about solving problems and more strategic about plans for the future. The Cranfield BGP certainly worked for me in this way, and it helped that this happened on regular intervals over a period of months, such is the structure of the programme that gives you deeper and more lasting insight that one or two day courses.

But in the real world there are two towering reasons why you shouldn’t do training. Not enough time. Not enough money.

Both of these reasons are rubbish, of course. If you’re drawn to a particular course then there is a very strong chance it will pay back the cost in time and money, possibly many times over.

So, if you’ve been thinking of doing a course but made excuses for putting it off (haven’t we all), then stop procrastinating and get yourself booked in.

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