Mind the gap: how business owners can bridge the divide between learning and doing

business coaching: bridging the gap between learning and doingDo you have a qualification related to running your business?

While plenty of business owners have certifications, qualifications and/or extensive experience in what their business offers (eg an apprenticeship in a trade), hardly any have any formal training in how to deliver it (eg a business degree).

Business owners are do-ers…

When they inevitably come up against a gap in their knowledge, most scrappy business owners will learn ‘just enough’ of the required skill (usually via The School of Life) to scrape across the divide and keep running.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.


There are limits to what you can achieve just by ‘doing’

When you’ve got your head down, busily working in your business, you end up in a position where you don’t know what you don’t know. Sooner or later, your head will start bumping up against the ceiling of your success.

If that sounds familiar, then you’re standing on the edge of…

The learning/doing gap

Traditionally, we’ve had a linear approach to education.

At age 5, we’re placed on a conveyor belt that propels us through thirteen years of formal education (give or take a university degree, TAFE course or apprenticeship).

In most classroom environments, there’s very little opportunity for kids to apply the truckloads of knowledge we attempt to download into their impressionable little minds. We’re flat out learning everything we need to pass the test.

Once we graduate, we’re expected as freshly minted adults to get to work.

Often, the doing required by our fledgling careers stops our learning in its tracks. Hence the learning/doing gap.


So… what’s the solution? Should you head back to school and run your business at the same time?

It’s one possible solution, but not necessarily the best one.

Most of my business coaching clients aren’t that keen to join the wave of professionals lining up to complete their Master of Business Administration (MBA). It’s easy to see why.

An MBA often comes at a high cost – and not just to your hip-pocket (but yes, they are expensive). These kinds of degrees require a significant time commitment, eating into the hours (and energy) you might otherwise have to invest in your business.

Bottom line: The very thing you are doing to level-up could send you sliding backwards.

So how can you bridge the learning/doing gap?

Business coaching and mentoring. Yeah, I know I would, say that. But I’m not alone.  Jeff Bezos (of Amazon fame) and Bill Gates had their own business coach, as did the late Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson has embedded coaching across his Virgin enterprises. Coaching offers a solution that gives you the best of both worlds:

You get to continue learning by doing
Running a business is an educational experience. You get to play in a lot of different sandpits – finance, marketing, management and leadership… all areas that would form a learning module in any good business course.


You benefit from others’ experience and knowledge.
A business coach doesn’t just strut into your business and ‘fix everything’ for you. Like Mr Myagi (that’s a Karate Kid reference for any younger Millennials out there), they put you through your paces, offering proven strategies, support and yes, maybe some education where necessary… but ultimately you carry out the work. Wax on, wax off.


Coaching is personalised. It helps you work out what and how to do things in your business that will achieve the goals you set. This path will look different for every business owner.

With a business degree, you may well get the information you need… along with a whole lot of extra stuff you don’t. If you’re running an IT company, do you really need to know how JIT (just-in-time) protocols work in a manufacturing business? No, didn’t think so. For most business owners, it’s overkill. Most of my coaching clients are in their business for the long haul. They have no immediate plans to climb the corporate ladder – that’s exactly what they wanted to avoid by starting their own business.


Doing + learning = a powerful formula for success

Business coaching is the most effective way to bridge the learning/doing gap, because it ‘skyscrapers’ upon what has already been working for you as a business owner – learning on the job.

Only, when you come across those gaps in your knowledge, you don’t have to spend hours trawling the Internet for guides, blogs or podcasts, only to discover that they over-promise and under-deliver.

Nor do you have to spend your finite time and financial resources on a degree that demands more of you than your business will benefit from.

With the right business coach on your side (note that there’s no one-size-fits-all), coaching and mentoring can be like an MMBA – a Master of MY Business Administration.