Emergent Wisdom

Thoughtful Observations from Business and LIfe

Does business training work?

I've read that some people question the value of training. "leadership can't be taught", I overheard at one conference. I dispute that. Having invested quite a bit of money in my own personal development, I would indeed be exasperated if I thought it had made no difference, or had not resulted in me taking a leading role in the UK as an activist on some socio-political topics. And by 'leading', I don't necessarily mean 'at the top', just someone who makes a difference whether publicly or behind the scenes, and that some people approach me for information, advice or help.

That doesn't mean that all training is equally good though, or that results will necessarily be as quick as are sometimes promised. I've certainly been on courses that in some ways were life-changing in that I underwent a slight shift of direction aftewards, even if actual tangible results may have taken considerably longer than I expected. And some results I've not achieved yet. And I've also been on some trainings where I resented the waste of time even though someone else was paying, and couldn't wait to leave at the end. I've also been on some trainings where I resented the money I thought my employers were wasting.

And frustratingly, there have been trainings where I thought they were very good, I learnt a lot, intended fully to put it into action, but somehow failed to actually take any meaningful steps forward. Why is that?

I couldn't help but notice also that the trainings on which I failed to take any steps forward afterwards despite being pleased with the training itself tended to be more business-oriented. I suspected then that it was my own 'stuff' that was holding me back. After some considerable time I thought I'd understood the problem better: That there were many skills required to run a business effectively, and that if I felt I was missing a couple of crucial ones, it could be holding me back. I'll admit right now that one of my specific weaknesses has been getting to grips with finance and the whole admin side of business.

I don't think I'm the only person with entrepreneurial aspirations who can be great at the creative side of things, but is somewhat weak on the self-discipline to do admin. Some years ago I was a computer contractor, working through an agency, with my own limited company. That's not really running your own business, you are essentially a glorified temp, but the reality is that you still have annual documents to file at companies house, VAT returns, tax records and so on.  For my first company I was referred to a large firm of accountants who - supposedly - specialised in dealing with IT contractors. They made a complete hash of my book keeping and VAT. It may seem strange that I had the confidence to grasp the complex logic of a sophisticated program with thousands of lines of code, but when it came to dealing with relatively few entries recorded by my accountant, my brain just glazed over.

It soon became apparent that there was some internal power struggle going on within the accountancy firm, and fairly quickly it suffered an internal divorce, and I found myself being fought over by two different companies that both claimed to be handling my accounts. My accounts did not become correct during this period. why I didn't sit down and go through it properly, I don't know. Perhaps it was because I gave up trying to get sensible answers from the accountant and failed to get them to correct the problems. I think at the root of the matter was a confidence issue. Anyway, it ended with a VAT inspection and a suspected VAT overpayment, but because my records were not good, he couldn't authorise the refund.

At the time I was earning enough money to drown out most problems, but it was different years later when it came to starting my own business, and I think that's where the somewhat scary past experiences came back to haunt me. So I think behind my not actually going forward in a conventional business by myself was a fear of it all going horribly wrong, all over again.

So when I was in the process of staring a website-based specific business, I was quite interested to stumble across Tigrent's Business Success System - 3-day introduction to starting and growing your business. It seemed to promise to teach the broad range of skills needed, including admin-related ones, that improve the odds of you being successful in business. That was obviously of immediate interest to me, so I attended the evening introduction.

Now, you know that when you attend a free introductory training, it's mostly going to be sales pitch. I don't mind that as long as:

- I get what I actually went there for, and

- While they're pitching they're also passing on some useful information or perspectives that I can use, even if I don't buy the product they're selling.


Well, they met those criteria, and actually, I was quite interested in the training they were selling. Then of course they used the well-practised technique of loading up the training with extras, quoting high prices for each of the training and the extras, and then offering them both to you - for tonight only - for a knock-down price of less than the price they were quoting for a single one of the extras. Call me cynical, but I don't think the group I was with were the only ones to get that offer somehow.

I will say though that undeniably, on the face of it, it seemed to be good value. So, yes - I took the bait. And I've just recently come back from attending the course. Was it worth it? Watch this space, I'm going to review it soon....