Gain an Edge Through Professional Development
Ellie Kassner, WE NYC Mentor

Employees who work for large corporations regularly receive access to professional development opportunities such as lectures, panels, retreats and more. When it comes to your small business, you are charge of your professional development – along with pretty much everything else. But just because it’s hard to find the time to pursue personal and business growth doesn’t mean you can let it fall by the wayside.

Decide on a schedule

Planning professional development on a regular schedule makes it more likely you’ll keep your commitment to it. Should you plan it monthly? Quarterly? Annually? And how long should each session be?  A day? A long weekend? A full week? No matter how frequent or how long the sessions are, make sure you leave ample time to reflect on your experience.

Rising to new challenges will ensure that the hours or days you take away from your business to develop your personal aptitude will be time well spent.

Ellie Kassner

What to do

As a business owner accustomed to wearing many hats, you may be shocked to realize you’re not great at everything. We all have things we could be better at. Running a small business probably tests your weaknesses more than you think. Try to choose professional development missions that build those skill sets that need improvement. Rising to new challenges will ensure that the hours or days you take away from your business to develop your personal aptitude will be time well spent. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Professional development does not need to be stuffy or have a singular focus. Choosing a multifaceted program will most likely be a better fit for a do-it-all business owner.

Specific ideas

  • A weekly yoga class. Learning to relax and find balance is good for any entrepreneur.
  • Toastmasters. Hate public speaking? Get over it! It’ll help you and your business.
  • Improv. Improve your team-building skills by putting it all on the line with an improv troupe.
  • Fellowship. Give back to your community with volunteer or community service work and see where your business can grow.
  • Retreat. Unplugging and getting away from it all can be a holistic way to avoid burnout.

Take notes and time to reflect

When you’re in the middle of a moment, you often think “I’ll never forget this.” While you will remember some things, others will slowly slip away. Taking notes allows you to reflect on exactly what you were thinking in the moment and provides context so you can benchmark later. Transformative exercises work best when you take the time to dig deep immediately following the experience and then again after about a week, a month and a year.


Practice makes perfect. Working on any professional development will only be as effective as your follow through. Set goals for progress and stick to them. If you fall short, take a hard look at why. Maybe this year’s goal will turn into a two-year resolution. That’s not a problem as long as you stick with it.

With so much on our plates, it can be difficult to take time away from the immediate and often urgent tasks at hand to look at our businesses and ourselves abstractly. However, taking the time to do so will keep your perspective fresh and give you a personal and professional edge!