The Autodidact’s Route to Becoming a Business Leader: Here is a roadmap and a compass

The Autodidact’s Route to Becoming a Business Leader: Here is a roadmap and a compass

Becoming a well-rounded business leader and manager takes:

· Being able to apply a varied toolkit and skill sets,

· The ability to know when to apply what,

· How to assemble the mosaic of skill sets to accomplish a specific task or goal,

· A facility with the language, terminology and buzzwords of all the different disciplines.

The purpose of this article is to set the stage and lay out the context for achieving those goals.

Being an effective leader and manager means being able to communicate and be decisive. You need communication, both written and verbal, and decision-making skills.

In order to be effective you need this knowledge and a bias towards action.

I have attempted to prioritize the subject matter in order to address the issues first to last by relative importance, frequency of use, or their foundational quality. Some of the material builds on the previous, more foundational stuff, but for the most part the disciplines stand-alone and can be studied out of sequence as your interest dictates.

The end goal is to shore up a knowledge base, set the stage for lifelong learning, and form the basis of being a well rounded C-level general manager and leader. This is also subject matter for entrepreneurs in the midst of developing and growing a startup. With this in mind, you should decide to eventually study all these subjects.

Ready, Fire, Aim

Don’t wait to start actualizing your ideas. Take action, see what happens, and course-correct as you go along. This outline will help you steer the course and get it right the first time. Never underestimate the value of getting it right the first time.


The following can be though of as an Accelerated Program that covers the spectrum of business disciplines in an MBA program. These are the skillsets that will make you more valuable at your job, help you start something on the side, or let you quit your job and start your own business.

We cover entrepreneurship and startups, accounting, understanding financial statements, corporate finance, decision making tools, becoming a better negotiator, management and leadership, digital marketing and growth hacking, intellectual property, human resource management, operations and supply chain management, and statistics, among other subjects.

Focus on giving you what you need to get to work now and overcome any fear and intimidation of diving into subject matter that is usually embedded with arcane buzzwords and sophisticated concepts. Apply the concepts of accelerated learning and break down business subjects and disciplines to get the core 20% knowledge that gives you 80% of the practical skills and knowledge ASAP.

Seeing the Forest Through the Trees

Fundamentals and scenarios and situations that you will encounter most of the time are emphasized. We won’t spend a lot of time going over lots of contingent information about things you will rarely, if ever, encounter.

Business skills can be applied in a very wide variety of scenarios to pursue and actualize goals and dreams. This is an alternative where people who don’t choose to currently pursue a traditional MBA, whether for cost, time, geography or luck of the admission process, can pick up the business skills that will advance their careers and open opportunities.

These materials are also great for refreshing business knowledge or complementary to other curriculum you pursue. It can also function as a preparation curriculum for a traditional MBA or business undergraduate degree, so you can crush it and perform at your highest level by already being familiar with the core material.

Prepare for greatness

Here is a summary of the various disciplines in a sequence from foundational to more specialized:

Entrepreneurship and Startups

Many of us aspire to create something new; do original work; make an impact and help people solve their pressing needs. We have all heard of the entrepreneurial heroes like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zukerberg and Elon Musk and their achievements. We use the tools, products and services that they created.

If you harbor hopes of doing something similar, making your own dent in the universe, here is were you can get a quick handle on the latest thinking and processes for turning your dreams into reality and creating sustainable profitable businesses.

I'm starting this overview of business administration with a study of entrepreneurship because entrepreneurs are searching for product/market fit and a Startup is a temporary organization in search of a sustainable business model.

That is the essence of every business enterprise: a business model that works and a fit between your product and customers.

And in this rapidly changing and evolving business landscape, driven by technology and customer expectations, every company needs to be constantly re-evaluating their position and offerings and thinking entrepreneurially.

For these reasons, the tools and techniques of entrepreneurship are a sensible launching platform for gaining context and intuition into all business activities.

The major areas you should look at are:

· Entrepreneurial Thinking and Mindset

· Business Model Canvas

· Lean Startup Methodology

· Design Thinking

For a deeper dive check out my book on Entrepreneurship and Startups

Financial Literacy: Understanding Financial Statements

Financial Statements are the end product of Accounting and the gateway to Corporate Finance. Understanding and being able to read them is a critical business skill. We will explore:

· Balance Sheet

· Income Statement

· Cash Flow Statement

· Financial Statement Flow

For more on this check out my book on Understanding Financial Statements

Marketing in the Digital Age

Every aspect of business has a marketing and sales aspect to it. Besides convincing customers of the value proposition of your products and services, you must convince employees and investors of the value of your vision and strategy.

There are timeless aspects of marketing and there is the recent emerging world of digital marketing. The Internet and Web 2.0 have transformed marketing. You need to understand traditional marketing principles and get familiar with the new landscape.

There was a time when television and magazines ruled, and marketing meant advertising campaigns. This was the Mad Men era. Now marketing means an entire suite of activities based on product/market fit, customer engagement and awareness. It’s no longer about manufacturing desire for a fait accompli product. Customer needs and feedback are baked into the product and the customer experience is integrated into every aspect of the company. Marketing activities pervade the enterprise.

Customers are segmented and micro targeted, results are measured with Analytics, and campaigns are designed to go viral through growth hacking. Growth Hacking is about customer participation in the marketing process and turbocharging awareness campaigns by creating viral products and content.

Growth Hacking resides at the intersection of Marketing, Engineering, and Programming. It takes advantage of all the new tools of websites, mobile, analytics, email and social media available to us that help us reach and communicate with customers and measure their behavior in order to provide the best user experience possible. It has gone from one-way advertising to two-way engagement

Welcome to your new world.


Accounting is the most fundamental part of any business. You need to have a grasp of its concepts and workings. This course provides that knowledge quickly, clearly, and directly.

With the inexpensive and accessible accounting software now available, you can keep your own business accounting records. Or if you hire an accountant you need to be able to effectively communicate with them.

Accounting knowledge is critical for interacting with investors, bankers, and taxing authorities.

Get familiar with the concepts of financial projections and budgets, actuals and variances. Also become acquainted with the accounting process and how financial statements are prepared for reporting purposes. Understand who the users of accounting information are both inside an enterprise and external.

If your dream is to start a business, take this practical step and draw it closer. If you are running a business, you need to understand accounting.
There are also lots of careers in accounting. Once you have a basic knowledge, you can apply for bookkeeping and accounting related jobs.

Check out my book Learn Accounting Fast!

Management & Leadership

Now we have covered enough of the basic components of business and we can move into how to conduct the orchestra.

· Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.

· The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

· The manager operates within the status quo; the leader challenges it.

· The manager has his eye on the bottom line; the leader has his eye on the horizon.

These sayings describe the symbiotic relationship between management and leadership. A healthy organization needs both. Leadership is Vision. Management is Implementation. They are the yin and yang of business.

"Vision without execution is just hallucination." Thomas Edison

Learn both. Become a student of the possible

Check out my book on Management and Leadership

Become a Better Negotiator

Negotiation is a learn-able skill that you can develop and hone to resolve conflicts, build agreements, and get deals done.

Being a capable negotiator is a key management skill.

In this new world where direct lines of authority have transformed into networks of collaboration, negotiation has become the primary form of decision-making and a key to management and leadership.

Gain the skills and confidence you need to negotiate well and achieve better outcomes

Check out my book on Negotiation and Communication

Also my online course on Negotiation

Operations and Supply Chain Management

How do you make and deliver things in the most cost effective and efficient ways and also maintain the highest quality? There are always tradeoffs between quality and cost. Operations management is about how you optimize and balance those tradeoffs to make the best product at the best price for your customers. Sometimes the highest quality product is what people need, sometimes “good enough” and cheap is what is required. Market Research helps understand customer needs, operations has to make it and deliver it.

Operations and Supply Chain Management (OSCM) is defined as the design, operation and improvement of the systems that create and deliver the products and services of an enterprise. OSCM involves a series of steps and processes where inputs are transformed into finished goods.

Operations refers to the process steps used to transform the resources employed by the company such as raw materials, labor, machines and scheduling, into products that are desired by customers.

It can be a physical or digital product, or a service, or some combination of both.

Supply Chain Management refers to the processes that move information and material to and from manufacturing or services and then on to customers. It also includes dealing with follow on customer support and returns.

Corporate Finance

Corporate Finance is how companies make decisions about what projects to pursue, how to value those projects and how to fund them. This is how financial professionals make decisions about how, when, and where to invest money.

Corporate Finance comprises a set of skills that interact with all the aspects of running a business. It is also extremely helpful in our personal lives when making decisions about buying or leasing, borrowing money, and making big purchases. It provides analytic tools to think about getting, spending, and saving.

Learn to analyze financial statements using Ratio Analysis, explore the time value of money and develop a set of tools for making good financial decisions, like Net Present Value and Internal Rate of Return.

Understand the trade off between risk and return, how to create financial projections, and how to value income producing assets.

Check out my book Understanding Corporate Finance

And my online course on Corporate Finance


Micro, Macro and Managerial economics

Economics is the big picture.

Economics can be thought of as the study and understanding of the contexts in which an enterprise operates. A stable, safe and predictable environment where we are able to confidently forecast a future is critical for companies to flourish. This is the realm of economic policy.

The study of economics provides an analytical sense so we can explain what is going on in the world. It also aids in making rational predictions about the future. Economics can be separated into three fields: Macro, Micro and managerial, each with different emphasis and focus. Explore all three.

Financial Markets

If you have studied the Time Value of Money and Economics, you are ready to examine Financial Markets such as the Stock and Bond Markets. Check out Value Investing using the text The Intelligent Investor by Graham and Dodd. This is the way Warren Buffet does it!

Business Law

Here is a list of business law subjects you should familiarize yourself with:

Entity: LLC or Corporation

Corporate Law and board governance


Intellectual Property Law

Liability protection

Securities Law and Fundraising: Reg D, SEC, Prospectus, accredited investors.

Regulatory: SEC, FDA, FCC

Legal counsel



Human Resource Management

Human Resource Management (HRM) refers to the functions in an organization that designs the jobs, recruits, hires, creates and administers the rules of employee conduct and the relationship between employer and employee, and manages termination through firing, severance, or retirement.

HRM has become very sophisticated in the last several decades as a greater appreciation of the strategic importance of leveraging an organization’s talent pools has developed.

Statistics for Business

Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation and presentation of data. It deals with all aspects of data, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments.

Business statistics is the science of good decision making in the face of uncertainty and is used in many disciplines such as financial analysis, econometrics, auditing, production and operations including six sigma, and marketing research

More and more data is collected as a by-product of doing business and by government agencies. This course provides knowledge and skills to interpret and use statistical techniques in a variety of business applications.

This business statistics course covers descriptive statistics (collection, description, analysis, and summary of data), probability, and the binomial and normal distributions, test of hypotheses and confidence intervals, linear regression, and correlation.

Statistics is used in marketing in helping understand customers and purchasing behavior. It is also used in operations in manufacturing processes and eliminating defects with programs like Six Sigma.

Statistics is a set of power analytical tools for gathering and analyzing data for decision making.

Intellectual Property

Patents, Trademarks, Copyright

Learn how to

File you own patent.

Protect and monetize your inventions and ideas
Create value for your startup
Attract Investors
Create a multi-million dollar IP portfolio

In the past decade the patent research, drafting, and filing process has evolved and the tools are now in place that make it feasible for you to perform all the steps and file your own patent.

The process hasn’t gotten easier but the tools of word processing and the database on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website create an environment that empowers all of us to protect and commercialize our ideas and creativity.

In most cases, you can file your patent for under $500 and the average value of an issued patent is $1 million. This is lucrative work and well worth your time to learn.

Drafting a patent application is a surprisingly straightforward process. The hard part is having the idea of an invention. If you have ideas of things you think could be patented you owe it to yourself to draft an application. Even if you decide not to file it, this knowledge will come in handy for the next big idea you have. Then you will be ready to draft the application and won’t be intimidated because you have already familiar with it.

Check out my book Patent It Yourself!: Turn Your Ideas and Inventions into Valuable Intellectual Property

Strategic Planning and Implementation

Put it all together

Strategy is about synthesizing the various disciplines we have studied into a conceptual picture of how they work together in a functioning enterprise. This will give you insight into the thinking that takes place in the C level suite among the CEO, CFO, COO and the Board of Directors of a corporation.

Orchestrating all these elements into a plan is the realm of Strategy. Strategic thinking can be broken into long term planning (5 year plan), short term tactical planning and budgeting for the coming year.

Strategic thinking and planning covers issues like: How are you planning to grow your business and deal with competitors and alternative products? The challenges arise in how to keep planning as part of an organic, continual process and how to implement strategy and manage strategic momentum.

It is so easy to get complacent and start to drift or lose focus and become diluted in your efforts by chasing too many goals. Emphasize focus, discipline and mindset as you bring it all together.

Learn how to write a Business Plan


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