Back-to-School Lessons for Your Business

Each year, August’s transition into September marks the start of a new school year, which brings with it a sense of excitement that just can’t be matched. (Just last week, for example, my fourth grader was so thrilled to shop for her new school supplies that she spent a full 20 minutes at Staples deliberating over which binder to get!) Businesses can learn some useful tips by taking a close look at back-to-school practices and attitudes.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about what businesses can learn from the kindergarten crowd. Those lessons still apply, but I’ve since identified a few more suggestions based on what older students experience, too.

For example, It’s important not to underestimate the power of new beginnings. They’re an opportunity to try something new, make big changes, or reevaluate. Kids get a new beginning at the start of a new school year, and whether you’ve been a parent of a young kid or just remember your own childhood, you’re no doubt familiar with the sense of newness and anticipation that accompanies the arrival of autumn. Adults frequently mark new starts on January 1 (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?) or the beginning of a company’s new fiscal year.

But there’s no reason to wait until a particular calendar date to make changes at your organization. In schools, teachers launch new study topics and students mark learning milestones throughout the year. In businesses, too, the evaluation of current practices and the development of new programs can take place at any time. The best time to improve an organization is always right now. Do you see a practice that needs improvement? Do you have an idea for a new service that your clients will love? Don’t wait until a fixed date to get to work on those issues!

Of course, business decisions are usually more important than “Should I get the purple binder or one with the kittens on it?” Launching a new endeavor at your organization probably takes a bit more time and effort than stopping in at your local Staples to stock up on #2 pencils. But if you’re thoughtful and plan properly, you can implement changes successfully.

The back-to-school period has even more lessons to teach businesses. For example, just as students who want to succeed in school have to do their homework, businesses that want to succeed in their fields need to do their homework, too. First, you need to meet your clients’ needs. That’s your basic mission—the minimum you have to do. If you want to earn “extra credit,” though, you then need to figure out how to develop your unique value proposition and increase the value of what you offer so you can exceed your clients’ expectations.

Finally, never forget that learning is an ongoing process. Just because you’ve graduated from school doesn’t mean you know everything, right? By that same token, just because you’ve landed some great clients and are seeing your business grow doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels and just kick back. There’s still plenty for you to learn—from both your successes and your mistakes!