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Chris Hubble

Management

Secret to Small Business Success: Commitment to Lifelong Learning

Is there anything we can’t learn from?

Published: Thursday, March 3, 2022 - 13:02

There’s a misconception that the most successful business leaders are born with their leadership credentials imprinted in their DNA. Surely because they’re more successful than their peers, it stands to reason they’re extremely sharp or even smarter than their non-CEO cohorts. But in truth, what sets successful business leaders apart is their innate curiosity and sponge-like ability to draw out insights about their business from all kinds of places.

In November 2021 Bastion Db5 teamed up with Vox Media and surveyed more than 400 U.S. small-business owners (SBOs) and decision makers. Many insights into the workings of SBOs’ innate curiosity were gleaned.

When asked about their management style and what it takes to succeed, the No. 1 characteristic small-business owners cite is a “commitment to lifelong learning.” They almost unanimously share a drive to seek and absorb new information. In general terms, this means someone who is highly curious and somewhat obsessive about gathering data—and always learning from it.

The study findings explained SBOs’ hunger for knowledge and how they draw their insights for their businesses. Top characteristics include being a voracious (online) reader and considering all content to be fertile ground for business insights.

Voracious readers

SBOs seek to take in as much information as possible. We’re not talking about staying up to speed on 140-character Twitter blasts, but rather consuming fully developed content. SBOs are constantly thinking about their business (85% say “always/often”). Even when they’re off the clock, they will almost always investigate potential opportunities if they present themselves (94% are very/somewhat likely to click a link and read a post if it could potentially solve a business need).

From an advertiser’s perspective, this means there’s no wrong time to advertise to SBOs—their business is always on their mind, and they’re constantly open to new information if it might improve their business or solve an issue.

In terms of management style, SBOs put high value on the following to be successful:
• Self-motivation and self-reliance
• Ability to focus on what’s important
• Commitment to lifelong learning
• Resilience
• Closely monitoring finances

SBOs put high importance on self-motivation because they know no one is going to care about their business as much as they do. For this reason, they take it upon themselves to always be on the hunt for ways to improve.

You’re probably not the next Zuckerberg or Bezos. But if you’re starting a company, responsible for part of an organization, or making bets on entrepreneurs, you’re most likely to succeed if you act as a sponge.

Broad content and sources

SBOs know that keeping their ear to the ground at all times will be a major factor in the success of their business. Being voracious content consumers keeps them informed in all things surrounding and not surrounding their business. To ensure the content they consume is diverse, they rely on multiple sources and methods to stay informed.

When asked about how they like to consume general content vs. small-business content, their top choices for both didn’t differ: online articles and online videos.

Small-business content

General content

Articles

54%

61%

Online Videos

47%

55%

Email Newsletter

42%

47%

LinkedIn

38%

34%

Podcasts

32%

36%

Television Shows

26%

53%

Radio Shows

19%

30%

None

5%

2%

Whether topics were directly related to their business or not, SBOs were always thinking about their business (directly or indirectly). Almost three-quarters (72%) agree: It doesn’t matter what the subject of the content is; they’re always thinking about how to apply it to their small business. Almost nine in 10 said they’re open to advice/referrals when consuming content, making them virtually always ready to take in any information that could possibly be helpful to their business.

When asked about how they get their business content, SBOs cited magazine sites or apps, social media, news sites, apps, or newsletters as their top sources.

SBOs believe they must be well-versed in many subjects if they want their business to be successful. Topics at the top of their list include economic news, followed closely by consumer trends, technology trends, and new products and services.

As shown, intentional content consumption is a large part of a small-business owner’s effort to continually learn. A business owner’s broader innate curiosity for bettering their business and staying on top of the latest trends and shifting market industry norms is a consistent marker of overall business success.

Discuss

About The Author

Chris Hubble’s picture

Chris Hubble

Chris Hubble serves as CEO of market research and consumer insights agency Bastion db5. Before founding db5 in 2009, Hubble served as CEO at Hall & Partners USA. Hubble has more than 30 years of experience in consumer insights, with particular expertise in new product development, brand strategy, brand communications, and customer experience. He’s worked with more than 50 percent of Fortune 500 clients. Bastion db5 has done work for Yahoo!, Verizon Media, and BuzzFeed.