In Australia, we are recognised for the vocational education and training arena. We live in a society that idolises entrepreneurs. So it makes sense to register an RTO. Being an entrepreneur; one who register an RTO, or sets up any other business is a process between joy and suffering, risk, fear and reward.
Some people simply want to be “half-entrepreneurs,” ditching the corporate restrictions yet having someone to set up their independence. The trouble is, these half-entrepreneurs never fully untether the safety net of working for others, and rely heavily on someone to support them through their process. These people often crumble at the first sign of trouble.
The entrepreneurs who find the strength to muscle through the hard times and persevere through the Standards for RTOs are the ones who succeed. This perseverance whilst an admirable trait, also often comes at a high cost. The cost can be personal, and it can also be monetary. If it is monetary – that’s OK, it is not your health, or your family. When it effects your family it means working late and having your business become your identity. It is here that relationships can wither, and the personal joys of life outside of work become forgotten memories.
This for most is not why you registered your RTO in the first place.
Fortunately, there is a solution, which I’ve learned over the years; it’s never too late to stop and look at what is happening. Balance is the solution, and it is achievable if you have the self-awareness to recognise problems when they arise.
Here are five lessons to help you in your journey.
Take time for introspection
Your grit, dedication, and passion are all recognised. Unfortunately, the traits that create successful businesses can be a double edged sword. You become engrossed in your business and it can all too easily become an obsession. You are not working in a bubble. At this point, the behaviours that propel you forward become the things that hold you back.
The key is to perfect the art of introspection. Stop and collect your thoughts. Embrace the silence and reflect on what is.
Reflect if the hours you are putting in could be done smarter, or you could have assistance from someone else. Someone who can mentor you through the process, to find efficiencies.
We are bombarded with huge amounts of external stimuli; text messages, emails, smart alerts, other messages meaning the average person is connected 24/7. It can become a bombardment of information and for some it can be an overload. So take regular time to stop and reflect. This self-awareness is key to your business, and your sanity.
You learn the most from listening
Most of the great entrepreneurs spend more time listening than they do talking. The reality is, that when you’re speaking, you’re not learning. Listen to someone who knows what they saying and can help you on the journey.
Listening may come more naturally to some than others, but it’s something anyone can do with some conscious effort. Take the time to listen to everyone; your potential customers, anyone in the industry you will be training in, even if you think someone might not have a good idea, you’ll never know unless you hear them out and you’ll often be surprised at how much you can learn.
Stay curious, ask questions and really listen to the answers. Then record whatever you can so you can refer to them later on.
Believe in the power of failure.
It’s the best way to learn. Just because you didn’t come up trumps in your audit (internal or regulatory) it means it is an opportunity to learn. To rethink your business processes and grow. Remember mistakes are a great way to learn, and not to repeat the same ones. Don’t be afraid to do the unexpected. That nervousness you feel means you’re growing.
A big part of running an RTO is “seeing around corners”. Be a proactive leader and embrace and drive change, not run from it. Let’s face it change is the normal in life, and especially in the VET world. Why? Because innovation can turn multi-billion dollar industries upside down overnight, and if you’re too set in your ways, you won’t see it coming.
Never stop learning, because it gives you courage. The more knowledge you have, the more comfortable you feel to embrace the next change.
Reconnect with reality
When you get started and the students are flowing through the door, courses being held and trainers / assessors filling you time schedule, it is all about the numbers. At this point you become focus solely on getting more; more students, more courses filled, more on scope.
This is when you need to take time to review what is happening within your business. It could be a third party view on your RTO through an Internal Audit. It could be regular management meetings, or simply a coffee with your clients. Connect with reality and see if what you are delivering is what is actually needed.
Don’t chase the shadows, set up systems so you can chase the real business.
A winner never quits; a quitter never wins.