Ever since I graduated from college in 1976, I have been fortunate enough to work for companies that invested in my professional growth. When I was with Owens Corning in the late ’70s, they sent me to numerous courses on public speaking, negotiating, change management and so on. I still benefit today from what I learned during those classes.
When I moved to Greenville in 1979, I was fortunate that my new employer, Builder Marts of America, also believed in continuing education. I went to numerous continuing-education programs during my time with BMA.
When I became a CEO in 1988, I continued that tradition. Over the years I sent many people to a lot of different courses to help them be more effective in their jobs and grow as professionals.
When you send your employees to continuing-education courses, it tells them you care about them as people and that you are willing to invest in their futures. You also benefit from what they learn at these courses as they become more effective in their jobs after getting educated on topics that may not be familiar to them.
One of the best courses that I and others I worked with attended is finance and accounting for non-financial executives. A lot of non-accounting people don’t understand the basics of finance and accounting, and once they get educated in this area they understand budgeting, cost management, balance sheets, income statements and statements of cash flow — and they become more effective in their positions. Many continuing-education companies offer this course, but the one that I think is the best is offered by the American Management Association. LinkedIn Learning also has a very cost-effective course on this subject.
Another reason to send people to continuing-education courses is that they tend to stay in their jobs longer, especially millennials and Gen Z employees. It has been proven that younger people are more loyal to their profession than they are to their employer, so when you send them to courses that add to the knowledge they have of their profession, they tend to stay longer and do a better job.
Aside from one- or two-week seminars, many universities offer executive-education programs. Some of the best are from the Wharton School, Harvard Business School, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Another way to increase the effectiveness of your executives is to pay at least a part of a master’s degree. Most companies, in return for paying for all or part of the degree, require the employee stay for a certain period after getting the advanced degree. In this way, not only do you benefit from what they learn during the master’s program but your chances of retaining them in the long term are much better.
Yes, continuing education can be expensive, but it has been my experience that ignorance is a lot more expensive. You choose.
Jim Sobeck is a Greenville-based serial entrepreneur. He most recently was CEO of New South Construction Supply, a distributor of building products he grew from four locations to 11 locations before selling it in February 2023. He is also the author of “The Real Business 101: Lessons From the Trenches,” available on Amazon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.