The Information Age Actually Has Some Useful Information
The Internet has brought us all a treasure trove of content. From a good Netflix binge to the free courses offered by Stanford University, there's a lot online to consume, more than one could in a lifetime. Much of it is indeed cat videos and pointless arguments, but the small business owner can find reliable gold mines if they know where to look.
Much like you find with the Shopventory blog, quality content is being written every day by some very experienced experts with a wealth of knowledge to share. It only makes sense, of course. With the millions of small businesses worldwide, it's easy to imagine many of them have similar problems and can offer insightful, relevant advice. This is especially true in today's world, where fresh, clickable content, drives potential customers to your site. Suddenly, sharing one's knowledge becomes incentivized!
It's a good idea to get plugged in and learning about what's being tried and how those lessons can help you. One glance at Pinterest will show you the average retailer today is getting pretty creative. (By the way, it's a good idea to open up a Pinterest account). Whether you love them or hate them, the mere exposure to others' ideas gets your own creativity flowing.
It is important to give yourself time to read. Whether it is a mountain of books on advanced business theory or the occasional blog post (such as you're reading now), people who read about what they're doing are far more likely to succeed at doing it than people who insist on learning by trial and error. It's that simple.
It may not be every book or every post that really strikes a relevant chord, but some do and you should be there to learn. They may provide insights into a problem you're facing, or help to re-frame an idea you just couldn't get, or raise a concern you never considered. To paraphrase an old favorite: you don't know what you don't know.
Tyrion Lannister once said, "the mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone". He said it in a book and later in the HBO series 'Game of Thrones' - based on those books. Don't be intimidated by business-focused books. There is a reason they are written and recommended by the best minds in the world of business. Even if you aren't an entrepreneur, knowing the thinking behind the mechanisms of commerce is going to make you a better employee, a better customer, and a more capable citizen. Here are some of our favorite titles to get you started:
The Nordstrom Way - This book is really an amazing look into the culture of one of the greatest retail giants ever. More so than the products they carry, Nordstrom sells you an experience. They are one of only five companies to make Fortune's "best companies to work for" and "most admired" list every year the surveys have been taken. If you are looking to move your business "upmarket", there are few better examples than Nordstrom and this book is an in-depth guide to the culture that got them there.
The Checklist Manifesto - So often in life we know what we have to do, we know how to do it, we know when it needs to be done, but in the heat of the moment, it still manages to go undone. Surgeons, Airline Pilots, and Architects are all featured here. Not usually groups you'd associate with low skills or incompetence, but prone to the most basic human errors just like the rest of us. This fascinating read shows you how something as simple as a checklist can solidify your business and your life in general.
The E-Myth Revisited - This is required reading for every entrepreneur. Business guru Michael Gerber walks you through the systems that every business needs to thrive. From forming your company to creating documentation, this book walks you through the most common misconceptions, mistakes, and pitfalls that lead to so much failure in the small business world. We cannot recommend this book strongly enough.
Blogs used to be a joke about nerds shouting pointlessly into the void. Now they are among the most powerful tools in the world of commerce. From large corporate product announcements to thinly veiled sales pitches to just sharing what they've learned, most businesses serious about reaching people on the internet have a blog.
Some are more useful than others and can have insights that may change the way you work for the better. It doesn't mean you have to read every post or go back into the archives, but it does mean you're getting insights into how another company may be handling the same problems you're facing. Here are some of our picks for regular appearances in your inbox:
Kabbage - Kabbage is an online lending platform aimed at business, but their blog is packed with great insights. Much of it is about securing funding, but there are also loads of ideas on everything from improving physical security to SEO (search engine optimization) tips to simple ideas on inventory management. There is plenty here to help your business blossom.
Google Small Business - Yes, that Google. If anyone knows a thing or two about promoting a business online or making the most of Google's many useful tools for small business, it's Google. This blog gives you rich, in-depth looks at Google's offerings and how to make the most of them, from leveraging Gmail to optimizing AdWords to attract the Customers you've been dreaming of, this blog is going to give you your own Google consultant.
Small Biz Survival - This blog is a bit of a hidden gem. It's all about small-town business but it's been around for 10 years now and has enough content to teach a full MBA degree. It has a plethora of insights into everything from hiring strategies and inventory merchandising, down to the nitty gritty like taxes and insurance. If you can only choose one from this list, this is the one to go with.
Help Scout - This one is a bit of an in-house favorite here at Shopventory. It is geared towards software services, but there is plenty in here for a retailer. The main focus is on Customer Support practices, but they delve into everything from group dynamics to pricing strategy. The content is more relevant at some points than others, but the quality is consistently above the fold. Think of this one as bonus content if you're an avid reader
The bottom line here is to expand and grow your mind so you can, in turn, expand and grow your business. Reading is the cheapest, easiest, and (so far) the most efficient way of absorbing information. We now have a world where reading materials are more accessible than ever. There are no more barriers to publishing. Insights can be shared freely and from anywhere.
No matter what your business, there is someone out there facing the same challenges as you. There is no reason not to learn from their mistakes and gain from their insights. We at Shopventory know inventory management. From coffee shops to liquor stores to small booksellers, we understand the challenges faced by our thousands of small business customers, and that's why we blog.
So, if you'd like to learn how merchants save an average of six hours per week, we offer a full-feature 30-day free trial of Shopventory and Shopventory is backed by a 30-day money back guarantee. That way, you can test it out for 60-days risk-free and see the return on your investment— plans start at less than a dollar per day!