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On–site education is one of the most cost–effective ways to grow your small business.
Take for example the case of the Johnson Tool Company. The company's President, Tom Johnson, had a problem. Many of the workers at his Los Angeles company — which designs and manufactures metalworking tools — were lacking the math skills which were needed for doing their jobs correctly. Johnson couldn't afford to send his 15 employees back to high school, so he contacted his state Department of Labor and learned about a not–so–unique state–funded training program.
At no cost to Johnson, high–school teachers visited the company twice a week to hold math classes between shifts. A few employees, metalworkers and office staff alike, even went on to take the General Educational Development (GED) high–school equivalency test. Johnson believes the math training really paid off. Invoices were more accurate, and mistakes were less costly since things as basic as decimal places were better understood. His employees improved their skills and were encouraged to further their education.
About 45 states offer some form of training subsidies to businesses, according to a 1999 report by Sacramento–based Steve Duscha Advisories. Criteria for the programs vary by state. Contact your state Department of Employment and Training for more information and to find out what programs are available to your business — or visit www.ed.gov for more information.
Integrating education into the culture of your small business should not be difficult once you understand what you are trying to accomplish — at least that's what Connie Halpern discovered. Halpern's New York–based PR firm gets a lot of their business through one–on–one interactions and referrals. After sales dropped, she instituted a unique educational program — every year at the company retreat, Halpern creates a faux–cocktail party and uses it to teach effective schmoozing.
Let's say that sales are important in your business. Any salesman can tell you that successful telephone selling involves much more than an autodialer and a well–written script. Being able to converse well and intelligently can make all the difference. One option might be to have phone training classes to help your new people learn what your top sales people do right. Not only does this training help your staff make more sales and become better conversationalists, but profits should improve as well.
Another option to improve your employees' skills is to create a vocabulary program that rewards salespeople for learning and understanding words that can make a difference in the business. A prize and some proof are all you need to get your sales staff talking smarter.
Small businesses looking to create educational programs can use whatever tools that work. In the case of sales training, you could use: