As a business owner, manager or C-level executive, you spend many hours thinking about how to improve your business but for your clients, customers and for your employees. You may also spend considerable time thinking how to improve working conditions for your employees, what else you can offer them in terms of benefits, and to nurture their personal development.

You also need to consider your own personal development. As a business owner, you are more than aware of the changes that have happened in business in the last year, let alone the last decade. So, if your skill set or management training belong back in the Noughties, it’s time to upgrade them and treat yourself like you would any other employee.

Upgrading skills is just one part of personal development, which also includes updating yourself on the latest trends and developments, keeping abreast of changes in technology, and sometimes just treating yourself to a brand-new skill set! Equally, personal development involves taking a holistic view of your personal development to include your work/life balance, your family and social life, your future goals and own career development.

Take your time

Forbes asked their Coaches Council to share the personal development techniques they recommend most to busy executives and business owners:

  1. Read Widely On A Multitude Of Topics
  2. Spend More Time Reflecting
  3. Keep Your Eye On The Broader Goal
  4. Be Curious About Other People
  5. Understand How You Are Perceived
  6. Set Morning Intentions
  7. Keep A Balanced Calendar
  8. Don't Wait. Just Do
  9. Practice Mindfulness
  10. Be Self-Aware
  11. Learn To Use Silence

(see the full article here:)

It’s an interesting list that points towards changes of mindset as much as a set of skills. The key ingredient to all of them is time – time to read, think, talk and act. There are numerous opportunities to increase your knowledge, both in person and online. What business people need to do first is block out some time in their diary and prioritise their own development.

Upgrade your skills

As an employer, you’ll know it’s vitally important that your workforce have current skills, especially in industries where you need to comply with the latest standards. The same applies to your own skills, both as a business owner and as a leader. If you are in a position where you require a certain knowledge set, such as finance, you’ll be aware of the need to upgrade your knowledge about the latest legislation and financial initiatives.

Equally, as a business leader, you want to be aware of the latest approaches to employee engagement, mentoring, leadership, as well as the more mundane aspects such as employee legislation.

Personal development and the latest tech

Are you really getting the best out of your shiny new smart phone, or business tech? It’s very easy to run on “old tapes”, when you do things on your new device in exactly the way you’ve done them on every mobile device you’ve owned the last 10 years. Instead, take time to learn how to use the technology to its very best ability, to help you do your job better. Be brave and ask the youngest person in the office to update your skills – they will know what’s useful, what’s not, what’s trending and more importantly, why.

Employee engagement

Employee engagement apps and platforms enables chief executives and managers like you to engage with employees wherever they are; on site, offsite, or working remotely. It can provide real-time insights into current activities and projects, and more importantly, employee attitudes.Snap surveys and similar techniques enable you to judge the mood of employees as well as their views on proposed changes.

These real-time systems are also ideal for recognition and reward on a regular basis, an important part of making your employees feel valued beyond the traditional bonus or “Employee of the month”. Peer to peer recognition is also highly influential too.. Most of all, giving employees access to a virtual online work community shows your business to be open, approachable and interested in ideas, from suggestions on improvements to innovative ideas.

New opportunities for the 2020s

Setting your business goals for the 2020s will inevitably involve planning for future change. So, you might want to educate yourself about a whole new marketplace, or learn how to export abroad more easily, or discover emerging trends.

Many organisations offer courses on aspects of business, such as The World Trade Centre’s Trade Accelerator Program (TAP) program. (See our blog ). Simply search online for the variety of courses available, or call us at the Chamber office to discuss how we can help you (

Webinars online

Business webinars are an efficient and effective way to upgrade your skills and knowledge without the need to travel to a course or conference. Again, it’s a case of doing a little research to find webinars on the topics you’re interested in, and at the level of detail you require. If a free webinar is on offer as a trial, view that first to ensure the rest are of sufficient quality. Webinars, courses, videos and other online resources form what the Harvard Business Review calls your PLC – private learning cloud.

“The PLC is flexible and immediately accessible, and it enables employees to pick up skills in the context in which they must be used. In effect, it’s a 21st-century form of on-the-job learning.”

One to one consultancy

If you can’t find a seminar covering exactly what you’d like to learn about, why not link up with an expert in the area, for a one-to-one discussion. These can be incredibly focused and productive since it will be focusing entirely on your business. Such a session may cost more than a webinar or open seminar, since you are in effect booking a high-level consultant. However, the time you save over attending a group event in a venue miles away will be considerable.

If you have a really good idea for business training or a seminar that you think other businesses in Woodstock may benefit from, call us. We may be able to help with setting this up, advertising it to all members, and identifying potential partners. If you team up with another employer with similar training requirements, you may be eligible for a Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG) Consortium Stream.

Attending our networking events is a simple way to discover local experts and mentors, even if they’re in totally different industries. Many members tell us how reassuring it is to talk to fellow business members at networking events, and discover they have similar issues and skill gaps themselves. An followup meeting between contacts you make may help you identify where the gaps in your personal development are, and how to address them.

Owner operators and personal development

The smaller your business, the more likely you’ll feel it’s difficult to take time to work on your own personal development. In fact, it’s probably more crucial for small business management than for senior execs in large organisations who can rely on their own employees to help with specialist knowledge.

Attending conferences can be a cost-effective way for small business management to gain a lot of knowledge in a short period of time. Not all conferences have eye-watering watering ticket prices, and if you pick them carefully, you can access considerable information and inspiration on the same day. Again, the trick here is to look for conferences that are focused on the key issues you need to address in your own personal development. Even if a conference is beyond your budget to attend, they may offer online live streaming of keynote speeches and selected presentations for free or a much-reduced fee.

Trade shows as education

Trade shows and expos can be very illuminating. Simply walking around and noting the latest developments and products can update your knowledge about the latest ways to improve productivity and achieve business growth. Trade shows can be quite overwhelming with so much on offer. One way to keep track of what you have seen (and learned) is to dictate your thoughts onto your smart phone. This enables you to quickly recall who you’ve met, rather than wading through a pile of business cards and brochures on your return to the office. A voice file can be transcribed quickly and easily online, (see so you can quickly turn those dictated notes into action points.

Learn something totally new

Personal development is also about relaxing and recognising the need to turn off from work. Your personal development plan should include something that is entirely for yourself. Enrol on a cookery course, take up tai chi, volunteer for a local charity – anything that takes you out of the work environment and preferably not related to what you do 9-to-5. Perhaps you’d like to take up golf, then enter the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce golf competition in the summer!

More help from your local Chamber

As your local Chamber of Commerce, we have contacts right across the business spectrum, from local business managers to national government advisors, as well as access to a wide range of business resources. Call us to discuss your business personal development requirements – we’re happy to help.