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Lifelong learning sets successful entrepreneurs apart

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By Pat Sisneros and Juergen Kneifel
Lifelong learning sets successful entrepreneurs apart from those who dabble in small business and fail to move a business to its greatest potential.
We visited with Bob Maphet, local entrepreneur and co-founder of Diamond Knot Brewing, to gain insight on why he's always learning.
Mathet doesn't have a degree in business. In fact, he and his original partner in 1994 co-founded Diamond Knot while working full time at Boeing.
"It can best be described as a hobby that got out of control," he said. "There were no formal plans in place to grow a large enterprise, but simply to continue process improvement in the small microbrew to quench the thirst of local customers. We were doing everything ourselves and we were using personal funds to finance the operation."
Mathet and his colleagues have learned many lessons along the way.
Last year, he enrolled in the Everett Community College's Small Business Accelerator program for what he hoped would take his business to the next level. Maphet was intrigued by the thought of growing his business by working less.
"I wanted to make an investment that would help me sort out the things that needed to happen and how we could move Diamond Knot forward using more formal business training," he said.
The program's first group of like-minded and similar-sized business owners proved to have plenty in common, Maphet said. He realized that all of them had fallen into a similar trap -- leaders were doing far too much of the work.
"In the past, if I wanted my business to grow, I just worked longer hours, hired and trained a few additional staff and eventually took on far more than was reasonable," he said.
There were several great takeaways from our conversation with Maphet, and we want to focus on two essential keys for business success that topped the list. It boils down to professional development and education.
"Never stop learning and asking critical questions."
We agree. If you become complacent in a small business it won't take long before your competition or organizational dysfunction will bring the business down.
"Partners and managers in the enterprise also need to keep learning and expanding their knowledge and skills," Maphet said.
He couldn't be more convinced: He's sending several company managers to classes this fall, and one of the partners will participate in the next Accelerator program, which begins this week.
"I'm committed to investing in people," he said.
Professional development is common in large companies but often gets slashed in financial crisis. Most small businesses do not plan or budget for professional development, regardless of financial strength; certainly a shortcoming. This very investment can enhance the skills and competency of those within the organization and is just the ticket for potential immediate and long-term return on investment. Not only does this signal to your staff that they are valued and worthy of the training and development, it also helps them become more efficient, effective and committed to the enterprise.
Tuition reimbursement programs are another benefit that has been used within large companies to lure talent and also encourage employees to pursue formal education. This would be a luxury for a small business.
Yet Maphet believes that the college classes his managers will take and the training that will be made available in the future at Diamond Knot is going to make a big difference for the enterprise.
Pat Sisneros is the vice president of College Services at Everett Community College. Juergen Kneifel is a senior associate faculty in the EvCC Business program. Comments:



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