Staying Alive - By Staying Informed
The Information Age has changed our society just as greatly, if not more than, the Industrial Revolution changed the farming society of the 1800s. It's a fast-paced, "wired" world, with news flashing around the world almost instantly, e-mail connecting far-flung correspondents all over the globe, and information bombarding us from all sides.
Unfortunately, often the information bombarding us is not information that can help our businesses thrive. We must learn to cultivate our own methods for staying abreast of developments in our particular field - and we must learn to ignore information we can't use.
Where to start? The following list of suggested resources is just that: a starting point. We hope you will use these ideas to develop and move on to your own, more sophisticated, network of information resources.
Ten Ways to Stay Informed
- Subscribe to industry or trade publications that focus on your business - or the business of your clients and customers.
- Join a professional association, chamber of commerce, or network with other entrepreneurs in similar industries.
- Look for information on the Internet. Watch for opportunities to interact with business or industry experts in "chat room" interviews. Put the interviews on your appointment calendar and be sure to show up.
- Subscribe to Internet newsgroups that focus on your industry.
- Read newspapers - local and national - to track business trends.
- Talk to your customers and clients. What issues are troubling them? What is their mission? What factors do they think will affect their business in the future? Ask yourself, "How might this affect my business?"
- Invest in training: attend a conference or seminar on a subject that affects your business. Once there, don't be a wallflower: Strike up conversations with other participants. If a session is particularly helpful, go up to the speaker to thank her ... or add a comment of your own. Ask for her business card. If she agrees, you'll have a resource who's just a phone-call away when you need a fast reality-check. Most people are flattered to be consulted - but remember, their time is valuable, so don't waste it. Ideally, information exchange should be a two-way street. Do you have information that might benefit your source? Share it with her.
- Visit or call your city library - or check out the library at a nearby college. Find out what resources - periodicals, newspapers, reference materials - they offer for someone interested in a business like yours.
- Recognize that at some point you may not be able to know everything about your business. Learn to use consultants or hire employees who can compensate for the gaps in your knowledge.
- Cultivate your curiosity. Don't be afraid to try new things. The most important skill you can develop is not the ability to remember information, but the ability to seek out and find the information you need, when you need it, and then use it for the benefit of your business.
(Online Women's Business Center, Dallas, TX)