While the value of an MBA program is certainly high, we know that some of our best business leaders never went to grad school. In fact, many never finished college.
However, that doesn’t negate the value of broadening your base of knowledge and this is true whether you’re just starting your business venture or career, or are a seasoned business owner or manager who could benefit from a specially targeted course or two.
Fortunately, there’s a wealth of courses available online today that hit every level of knowledge required for business success and, unlike a Harvard MBA, many are free. Explore the portals detailed here and you’re bound to find some classes that will benefit your business plans. They also provide an excellent foundation upon which you can base a very valuable company training program.
Let’s hit the basics
There’s usually no better place to start than going over the fundamentals, so let’s begin at Google. For better or for worse, Google is like the air we breathe – it’s absolutely necessary for business life. In my experience it’s shocking even today how many local businesses haven’t figured out how to get listed on Google.
And there’s no excuse for this because at Grow with Google’s Local Businesses tools and resources, you’ll find basic courses that teach you how to claim your local business listing, find new markets, develop your online advertising smarts, and more. By the way, that “more” includes general management topics, like how to collaborate with your team and even how to write a business plan.
Tip: Be sure to check out Google’s free Primer mobile app that gives you access to a large catalog of five-minute lessons. You can spare five minutes a few times a week to invest in building your brain for business, right?
While Google offers some good advertising and marketing courses, if you want to get fully up to speed on virtually all aspects of digital sales and marketing, you need to head over to the HubSpot Academy and check out their long lists of courses. They have everything from short courses to longer courses that can lead to a certification, if that’s your desired outcome. I appreciate that HubSpot tells you how many lessons are in each course and the overall length of the course in hours and minutes.
You’ll find all the critical topics covered including inbound marketing, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, blogging, YouTube/video marketing, search engine optimization, and many more. There is often an emphasis on HubSpot products and services, but the content is sufficiently general that you’ll be able to apply it to your business no matter what software you’re using.
Tip: Consider making HubSpot certifications a part of your employee training program. That will show your team that you truly care about their advancement and create a higher level of loyalty.
Pushing the envelope
While I don’t want to show any disrespect for what Google and HubSpot have to offer, they generally cover topics that would interest any business owner or manager. Yet, with so much competitive success today tied to complex and technology-based business acumen, many leaders have an urgent need for specialized courses that mine their topics more deeply.
For example, businesses of all sizes are leveraging data to drive their success. This is true whether we’re talking about a larger enterprise working with Big Data, or a local business trying to squeeze the most important insights out of its loyalty program data. At the same time, businesses of all sizes are creating billions of lines of code on their websites and mobile apps.
This puts the spotlight on developing some level of understanding – or even having command of – a coding language. Today, Python is filling that niche. It can be used to manipulate data and author apps, and because it’s a high-level language, it’s more like speaking and easier to understand.
A tutorial like Intro to Python for Data Science will give you the fundamentals you need to understand the Python language, make informed decisions regarding how it is deployed in your business, work better with developers, and let you know if it’s a topic you need to pursue further.
That’s just one example of a topic that you might deem worthy of additional study. There are many more and one of the best ways to get the big picture is to check out Class Central.
Class Central is sort of a “clearing house” for MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses. These are free online courses offered by colleges and universities around the world. When I last checked, they listed more than 2,000 business courses, nearly 1,300 computer science courses, and over 500 data science courses.
Within the business courses category, topics include finance, management and leadership, strategic management, entrepreneurship, marketing, business intelligence, accounting, project management, and digital marketing. I did a quick search for “finance” and got a wide range of results: international finance, corporate finance essentials, construction finance, and finances for non-financial professionals, just to name a handful.
Tip: You might want to start with Class Central’s list of All Time Top 100 Free Courses. These are proven winners and include several business courses, such as Y Combinator’s Startup School. However, be warned that not all classes are self-paced; many (if not most) have start and end dates.
Take a few moments to explore all of these options and remember that time invested in yourself virtually always delivers a good return, and the same can be said about investing in your co-workers.
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