One of the challenges of being a business owner is dealing with the many times you have to make on-the-spot decisions without time to research or plan. Successful business owners will often say they are good at shooting from the hip when they have to make these types of snap decisions. However, I’ll suggest that the difference between good and great entrepreneurs is the type of ammunition they use.
Business owners who rely on their gut instinct and opinions will may guess correctly, but run the risk of missing their mark because they don’t have the background to make an informed decision. In contrast, business owners who are continually researching trends, staying on top of what is new in their industry and expanding their education and skill set are more well prepared when they need to shoot from the hip.
It’s easy to say you are going to spend time keeping up with trends but hard to do it when you’re buried under the day to day requirements of keeping your business running. How do you find time? Here are some of my favorite tactics for staying ahead of the knowledge curve:
- Podcasts – I download a variety of business, news and entertainment podcasts to my iTunes account. I save several at a time to my phone so I have them with me wherever I go. When I am at the gym, out for a walk or driving in my car, I can put the time to good use. I like to mix up serious news with entertainment and thought-provoking ideas. Some of my favorites include NPR’s “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” and “Fresh Air,” “The Marketing Tech Blog,” “Ted.com” and of course Roundpeg’s “More than a Few Words”
- Google Reader – I love subscribing to blogs, but the truth is I just don’t have time to read the updates every day. Capturing them all in my Google Reader account allows me to group articles by topic, so I can dive into an hour of web design, small business, social media or art. Sitting in a coffee shop or doctors office, waiting for an appointment, I can scan five or six posts quickly and pick up a tip or two on the fly. Every few months I try to add a few new blogs to the list, and delete some I find myself skipping over. Right now I am enjoying Jay Bear’s Convince and Convert and Jeff Bullas, but I am always looking for something new to add to my list.
- Answers on LinkedIn – I have a fairly large community on this network and have found that tossing out a quick question generates a flurry of responses. Some are valuable and some are trash, but with a strong network the good content will outweigh the bad. Since I have contacts all around the world, I can usually get a few responses at all hours of the day or night. You can do the same thing on Twitter, but the 140 character limitation makes it more difficult for me to describe anything but a very simple problem.
Do I still sometimes rely on my gut and shoot from the hip, with no real idea how it is going to turn out? Absolutely. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. But I do like to have a little market information backing me up. What about you? How do you stay on top of what is hot, new or important?