Many small business owners want to advance their education, but question whether they can find time to return to school. Weighing these factors is quite challenging. The entrepreneurs have countless personal and business responsibilities.

Despite this fact, they are aware that devoting time to an advanced degree can give them a competitive edge in a marketplace that’s growing increasingly competitive and complex.

An advanced education is a way to level the playing field and compete with larger corporations that seek profits by taking a share of the markets historically dominated by small business owners. A degree provides knowledge and skills that small business owners can use to compete against their larger peers in the marketplace. By understanding how big firms conduct business, entrepreneurs can better understand how to leverage opportunities in the business environment.

Fortunately, with flexible online distance learning, going back to school is not as hard as it may appear for busy entrepreneurs. By attending online classes, the owners of small enterprises can improve their industry knowledge and business acumen. The following passages highlight 5 ways that business owners can benefit by going back to school.

Benefit 1: Gain Insight on Future Technologies

In the modern classroom, entrepreneurs can learn about the latest developments in the world of business, such as how take advantage of marketing automation or market intelligence (MI), which some firms have used to outmaneuver their competitors. Small business owners can use MI to learn how to enter new markets and maximize the potential of existing markets.

As an example, the United States health care system has effectively implemented big data technology, resulting in an 8-percent decrease in expenses and savings of approximately $300 billion annually. In another vertical, the transportation industry has saved 20 billion man hours and $150 billion in fuel costs by using big data analyses to optimize logistics.

Benefit 2: Gain Authority

Business leaders who have detailed knowledge about a specific industry are considered authorities in their field. By pursuing advanced training, such as a Master’s degree in business (MBA), enterprises leaders can acquire the knowledge and skill needed to gain authority in their respective industries.

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They can then approach prospective clients from a position of authority and build their brand while earning new business. These are the experts that consumers and clients turn to for relief from their business pain points. The positive exposure generated by serving as an industry leader creates opportunities to make connections, and ultimately deals.

Benefit 3: Master Essential Traits & Skills

No one person can know everything. Even leading authorities have some areas for which they lack knowledge and understanding. Most small business owners who make an honest assessment of their skills will recognize opportunities for improvement. By going back to school, entrepreneurs can gain a better understanding of how to conduct business.

For example, by learning the latest developments in business practices, owners can learn to identify inefficiencies like redundant operational processes.

Benefit 4: Network with Peers & Industry Leaders

By going back to school, small business owners can make powerful alumni connections. Networking with industry peers is an important practice for building business partnerships that can open the door for new opportunities. Entrepreneurs who take advantage of networking prospects increase the value of their firms. For this reason, networking is an important part of sustaining growth in a constantly evolving business atmosphere. Small business owners that enter the classroom with a networking mindset can set the stage for numerous opportunities for professional and financial growth.

Benefit 5: Learn Updated Best Practices

Effective small business owners consistently search for ways to accomplish more work with fewer resources. Entrepreneurs need to stay informed about the latest business best practices to remain engaged with a marketplace that continually grows and changes.

Experience and intelligence cannot outperform a consensus arrived at with combined input from countless industry leaders about what works in a given field. Going back to school is an excellent way for industry veterans to learn about changing market practices and keep up with newer firms and large corporations who continually recruit the best and brightest talent that’s available.

Contemporary business owners can continue to operate their firms and go back to school by enrolling in flexible, convenient online classes. Some colleges and universities offer advanced degree programs that learners can complete in just 18-months. When weighing the sacrifice of time against the acquisition of knowledge, it’s clear to see that advanced training pays off handsomely in the long run.

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Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and is currently writing a book about scaling up business. Twitter @AndrewDeen14.

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