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Learning The Ropes - Benefits Of The Master/Apprentice System
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We all want to be our own boss don't we? Isn't that the lure of working from home? No more boss, set hours, rushed lunches, commutes, etc. Well, sometimes taking a lesson from an experienced individual working in the same general area as your proposed business could be very beneficial and here are a few reasons why:

Learn what is currently working

Pay attention to the operations of the business. You are being given a great gift. The opportunity to look behind the curtain to see the inner workings of the venture. Learn how the business is run on a very intimate level so offering to help with inventory and bookkeeping can only help you on your mission. Your first mission is to see if this business is something you can do on your own or even want to after working it for a while. You will learn more rearranging shelves or helping with ordering than any amount of reading you can do on the internet. On the job training has always been the most effective tool for bringing employees up through the ranks.

Improve what is not working

While working in this business you will not only notice what is working but also some things that need to be changed. Now obviously you can't just go in and make all these changes. Owners of businesses like to think (right on not) that they know best how to run their business so don't be so quick to try to implement changes. Your best approach is to make subtle suggestions and then ramp them up as the situation allows. Once they see results from your suggestions, they will open up a bit especially if it improves their fiscal health. If your employers do not allow for any suggestions then you may want to seek out another employment opportunity.

During the interview process you can usually suss out just how open the owners will be to suggestions by making some generalized but objective statements about their business. If they are willing to discuss then this just might be your testing ground. If they become defensive, I would move on to another employment opportunity. Once they have allowed you to implement some of your suggestions then you can start evaluating how you would run things if you were in charge.

Low expectations regarding pay, benefits and advancement

Remember, you are trying to learn the tricks of the trade not establish a long term employment. For the most part they are giving you far more than you can give them so act accordingly. You might want to even consider volunteering at first just to get a feel for the business and how everything is set up. You will want to know who their suppliers are and if you can, what kind of markup they have on the merchandise or components if the business manufacturers. When you have an opportunity to take on more responsibility, do it. The more you take on the better you will know the business.

Do not be afraid to let them know you may want to strike out on your own at some point. Be honest and they will either show you the door or take you under their wing and give you the nitty gritty of how the business works. Mostly they will show you what they do but not always have a ready answer as to why they do it that way. Be patient and focus on learning not earning more. The pay will come but realize that this is secondary to your main mission of learning the business and any training it may afford.

Moving on to start on your own

After you have worked with this business for a while you will want to start working the business on your own. I would highly recommend above all else to be honest with your employers from the beginning. This will allow for a smooth transition and there is nothing worst than having to do business with the same suppliers after you burned a bridge with your employer. Because odds are the employers you just uncerimoniously left probably have a bit of pull with the suppliers and other businesses you will need to get your business up and running. Who do you think they are going to try to impress, the new kid on the block or the established mom and pop who brings thousands of dollars a month their way. This is a time to be smart about your business relationships.

Remember the generosity and share

Just as your employers took you under their wing, consider the same when you are approached by someone else who wants to the learn the business. The master/apprenticeship is still in use today in some industries, plumbers, electricians, etc. The system works as long as the sharing stays open. Some people would think you are creating your own competition but everyone goes their own way and does things a little differently. Just because you learned from an employer does not mean you repeat their business, you just take the best bits and add your own ideas.

Time to make your own way

Now that you have learned what you can, you can now be your own boss and hopefully you will understand the responsibilities and avoid the pitfalls your employers endured. You will also have the benefit of being able to work through some of your ideas to see what works and what will need some more thought. Best of all you will have the benefit of not having to risk your own money while under their employ.


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