The reality show method of entrepreneurial training …

Reality television can be a terrific introduction to entrepreneurial skills. I like the shows on the Discovery Channel, such as Gold Rush, Amish Mafia, Deadliest Catch and any of the other shows featuring small businesses.

Take Gold Rush for instance: The show features three different companies. Each company has a manager with dramatically different techniques for dealing with employees and making decisions. As you watch each show, you may see examples of things you do or examples of things you probably should be doing. It isn’t too geeky to keep a notepad with you while watching the shows because there will probably be instances that you want to remember.

There is very little training for being an effective entrepreneur. It tends to be something you learn as you go along. Of course, some people are born with natural entrepreneurial talent but most of us can improve on what we do in running our companies. That is why watching other companies in operation helps improve our own skills.

Decisions: these reality shows show the entrepreneurs making decisions and you get to see the outcome of those decisions sometimes the outcome is good sometimes it’s bad. Always try to identify why a decision was a success or failure, and how the entrepreneur could have made a better decision. Be brutal in your critique.

Employee management: evaluate the management styles of each of the entrepreneurs. Are they constantly aware of what is happening on the job? If not, who steps in to solve problems? What method does that person use discover the real source of the problem? How does that person solve the problem? If another employee made a mistake, how is that handled? And finally, how are employees incentivized to avoid further mistakes? Good management styles are easy to spot, so make a note of them and try to incorporate them in your daily management style.

Operations: it’s easy to get so wrapped up in growing your company that you forget important things or don’t create closure on projects. Forgetting to pay a bill, renew a license, or check a maintenance schedule can put your company out of business. Such mistakes are common and learning to avoid them is a matter of experience. However, watching other people make these mistakes is a good way to learn from their mistakes so you can avoid making them yourself.

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