By Tommy Mello, owner A1 Garage Doors, a $100M+ home service business. Sharing what I’ve learned to help other entrepreneurs scale.
I started from zero. No skills. No connections. Hardly any knowledge of my industry.
But I chose to learn and grow—frankly, I didn’t have much of a choice! It was “learn or die” for my one-man business. I was $50K in debt, after all.
Between jobs, I read books on business and entrepreneurship. I also went for my MBA, squeezing in classes and studying until midnight. Thankfully, the intensive learning paid off. Armed with my new knowledge, I got the business out of debt.
Fast-forward to today, and while my business is more successful than ever, I’ve never stopped learning. I’m still so hungry for knowledge because I know it’s how I get the edge over my competitors, and it’s how I deliver even more value for my team and customers.
The most successful entrepreneurs and investors learn like sharks, too. Here’s what good old Warren Buffett had to say: When asked how to best prepare for a career in investing, Buffett reached for a stack of manuals, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.”
Alright, so what are the best ways to learn, especially if you’re a busy entrepreneur or leader like me? Here’s my list.
If You’re A Reader
1. Don’t read a book cover to cover. In school, we’re often taught to read a book from start to end. Well, that isn’t efficient. I read at least one book a week, and here’s what I recommend you do instead: Skim through books, and focus on whatever catches your eye. You just need a few insights to get the full value of any book.
2. Listen to the audiobook version while reading the book. Some people find this weird or distracting, but it has helped me go through any book faster and absorb what I learn. This is called immersion reading, and it has worked for many learners including myself. Give it a try!
3. Scribble in the book. Don’t do this to books you borrow… but you want to remember what you read, right? I take notes at the back of the book so that I can immediately reference back to my favorite points. I also put checkmarks beside these points. (And, of course, you can also take notes in a separate journal or device.)
If You’re Not A Reader
1. Talk with experts. I’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and spent hundreds of hours with experts all over the country and gotten them to share their knowledge with me. On top of that, I’ve visited a lot of companies to see what they’re doing right. Having the right person point you in the right direction or give you proven shortcuts can be life-changing.
2. Start a podcast. Now, you don’t always need to pay in order to talk with the pros. How? Just create your own podcast and interview them! On my Home Service Expert podcast, I’ve interviewed Gino Wickman, Michael Gerber and other world-class entrepreneurs and experts.
Whether You’re A Reader Or Not
1. Turn your learning into action. If you do nothing about your knowledge, you won’t get anywhere in business and life. You need to apply what you learn. You need to experiment. Yes, there’s the risk of failure, but it will be worth it. Just ask Jeff Bezos: “Given a ten percent chance of a 100 times payoff, you should take that bet every time. But you’re still going to be wrong nine times out of ten. We all know that if you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out a lot, but you’re also going to hit some home runs… Big winners pay for so many experiments.”
2. “Scale” your learning by delegating or hiring. Learning is valuable, but you only have so much time in the day and you can’t learn every single skill in your career. How can you accelerate your learning curve still? For my fellow entrepreneurs, here’s what I say: If you want to own a business versus just make a good income, you need to hire or outsource. I recently hired a COO for my companies, and it’s so powerful to see him finding things that we could be more efficient at. Delegate to your team, so that you can focus on learning and mastering what you’re best at.
What else would you add to this list? Comment below.