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Should entrepreneurs learn to program? Should everybody learn to program?

This has been a debate going on for quite a number of years now, and the answer isn’t entirely clear. On one end of the argument, most entrepreneurs don’t write code, and get by just fine. On the opposite end, many people believe that not knowing how to program will one day be akin to not knowing how to read or write.

One thing is clear – the world is being increasingly ran by computers, and as entrepreneurs – creators, we can benefit immensely by knowing how to create our own software for these machines.

In fact, even a very basic understanding of programming can be transformative for some businesses, even those not working in the tech sector.

I must warn you, however. While I’m going to be sharing with you a lot of benefits that will sound very enticing, please keep this in mind – learning to code is not a prerequisite for entrepreneurial success. It is definitely possible to build a massive company without writing a single line of code (just ask Steve Jobs!) In fact, learning something just for the sake of learning it never is particularly useful. You must have a practical plan to implement it in order for a skill like this to become valuable.

Let this article serve as an eye-opener, exposing you to the benefits that learning to program has to offer, and helping you decide for yourself whether it’s worth spending further time on.

1. Tasks You’re Already Doing Can Be Automated With Software – And You’ll Become Conscious Of Them

If you’re already doing repetitive, manual work on your computer, there’s a chance that this can be automated with software. This can immediately lead to massive time and money savings.

In fact, I was able to transition two full-time employees to different roles, very early on into my programming journey.

Of course, I could have had software built to handle this task – it didn’t have to come from me. However, before I knew programming, it didn’t even occur to me that something like this was possible to outsource with software.

Now, I’m able to instantly recognize when some task can quickly have software built to take care of it, and have an accurate judgement on how much that software will cost to develop – either in time or money.

And by the way, I am not in any sort of tech field where software is integral to pulling in revenue. These major shifts happened inside of a baby product company.

To show case a few examples, we’ve since built software to…

  • List large number of products for sale using spreadsheets, populating the spreadsheets with the necessary data in only a few clicks.
  • Generate millions of keywords to bid on with PPC advertising, across all of our products.
  • Automate bid adjustments on these keywords.
  • Develop a deeper analytics platform to help us manage the important data for tens of thousands of products

Analyze areas of your business that you’d benefit from being automated. Calculate how much money or time this would save you each month if it could be replaced with software. In some businesses, this number will be higher than others.

2. It Will Allow You To Hire Better Programmers In The Future

Even if you don’t intend to code yourself, you may eventually get to a point where you need to hire somebody else to do it for you.

The problem is, there is a huge difference between novice programmers and true masters, and these differences may not always be obvious.

A novice may be able to get a piece of software to work, but that doesn’t mean you won’t run into problems in the future. It may be difficult to extend the software, it could break with seemingly no reason why, and a more experienced programmer may have to come back in and re-write the whole thing anyway.

When you have programming experience yourself, it is much easier to hire great programmers. Not only will you be able to tell the difference between somebody who writes good code and somebody who doesn’t, but you’ll also have a better idea on what type of programmer is best suited for each task, and you’ll be able to negotiate rates that are fair to the both of you.

This can save you from very expensive mistakes in the future – especially if you would be the only other programmer at your company.

3. Programming Betters Your Logic And Creativity Skills

Unfortunately, learning to program isn’t easy, which is partly why the demand for good programmers is so high in the first place.

It can push the limits of your mind and your patience. Of course, that is part of the reason why it can be so appealing to some people.

The reward of overcoming a challenge and improving your skill feels good, and it can even make programming fun.

Complex problems in programming require heavy use of both sides of your brain. Solutions aren’t always straightforward, and require creative, unique implementation to surpass hurdles. At the same time, you’ve got to be able to break these ideas into a logical series of steps, and use logic to identify areas that went wrong when your code does not work as intended.

This improved way of thinking leaks into other areas of your life and overall, I feel makes us better entrepreneurs, capable of coming up with better solutions and developing steps to implement them effectively.

4. It’s A Future-Proof, High-Income Skill To Fall Back On

There’s a reason that some of the highest-earning freelancers are programmers. Paying programmers to do work is quite expensive, and it’s one of the most expensive tasks to outsource.

This means that not only would you be saving a ton of money by learning how to code, but you also have a high-income skill to fall back on if you’re ever in the need of supplemental income.

While we all like to believe that our companies will achieve massive success quickly, the reality is that it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, businesses just fail, even when we do everything right. Additionally, sometimes as entrepreneurs we need to do extra work to bring additional money in, to fuel our business further.

Learning to program covers both of these bases. You will never have a problem with money again – as your skills develop, finding jobs that pay more than $100 an hour will not be challenging.

Having a back-up plan doesn’t mean that you don’t believe in your business. It means that you’re wise, and can move forth without the added of stress of having nothing to fall back on.

How To Get Started With Computer Programming

If you feel that knowing how to program can benefit you in your personal or professional life, you may be wondering where to start from here.

The first thing you’ll want to do is analyze specifically what you’re hoping to achieve with your programming efforts. What kind of software you’re looking to build, for what use-cases, on what platforms.

This is because programming is very broad, with different programming languages aimed towards creating different types of programs.

While learning a second language is typically easy after learning your first (the fundamental principals are all the same across all languages), you will want to stick with one language until you truly have a grasp on it.

To showcase some examples…

  • Windows applications are often written in a language called C#.
  • Android applications are typically written in Java.
  • iOS and Macintosh applications are typically written in Swift.
  • Data science work is typically done in either Python or R.
  • Javascript can make websites interactive, and plays a large role in web development.

I could go on and on, but hopefully this illustrates how important it is to select a specific language, rather than just “learning to program”

What Programming Language Should An Entrepreneur Learn First?

I strongly recommend learning more about the different programming languages, and what they’re best suited for prior to going forward.

However, if you aren’t entirely sure, I’d like to make the case for a programming language called Python.

Python has two enormous benefits that make it a great first-choice for learning programming, especially for entrepreneurs:

  1. It’s one of the easiest languages to learn, and it’s quick to write in. There aren’t as many strict rules, and developing projects quickly makes it easy to test things out before committing a lot of time to them. As a busy entrepreneur, this is vital.
  2. Python has very broad use cases. It’s one of the top languages for any sort of data scraping / mining /  science work, but it’s also capable of making full desktop software across any major operating systems, web apps, websites, games, and so much more. It is not simply a ‘beginner’s language’ – it may be easier to pick up, but it’s extremely powerful at the same time.

As far as learning the language, I’d like to recommend a few resources that I’ve benefited from myself:

  1. Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming
  2. Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners

…Honestly, some of the best money I’ve ever spent. I almost feel guilty for paying so little for these resources.

Conclusion

While learning to program has a lot of valuable and useful for benefits for entrepreneurs and business people, you shouldn’t jump into it blindly.

Analyze whether any of these benefits can be applied to your business, because some entrepreneurs will benefit more from programming than others.

If you’re the type of entrepreneur that can benefit from any of these things, don’t put off learning to program any longer. Identify what problems you want to solve in your business, narrow down what language you want to learn, and pick up a book or course straight away.

Finally, be sure to subscribe to my mailing list, as I share valuable business and marketing tips every week that will help you to make the most of your newfound knowledge.

I look forward to hearing about your decision, and how you intend to use programming to benefit your business.

To your success,

James McAllister

Summary:

Review the main points of this article in the SlideShare below. Feel free to embed this on your site, use it in your organization, and share it with others! All I ask is that you give credit! (Download links are available from SlideShare’s website, which you can access by clicking the LinkedIn icon)

About the author 

James McAllister

James is the owner of JamesMcAllisterOnline.com. He started his first blog at the age of 11, and has since gone on to start several successful businesses. In total, these businesses have sold hundreds of thousands of units and have touched millions of lives. Here on JamesMcAllisterOnline.com, he shares his knowledge that brought him to where he is today. If you want to connect with James, follow him on your favorite social networks!

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  1. Hi James,

    You said it right that your post is an eye-opener for entrepreneurs. I can speak for others; however, I have always wanted to learn to program, but I wasn’t able to make it through due to time and other matters that eat on me. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful thing o do since it can also supplement or even replace one’s income pipeline.
    Thanks for sharing!

      (Quote)

    1. Hey Moss!

      I completely understand, I actually tried to learn I believe 4 or 5 different times before it actually ended up sticking.

      One of the things that helped with me was actually having real problems I needed to solve with my business. Programming became a lot easier when I began creating things that I was actually interested in, rather than just a bunch of test exercises.

      If your company can utilize it and you don’t want to outsource, I truly believe it’s worth the time and money for most people. You don’t need to become an expert to benefit immensely – just enough to solve the problems you’re currently facing.

      I’m treating it as a backup income source for now, in case I decide I no longer want to run businesses for whatever reason. I know that in the future I’ll always be able to do this for money, so I continue practicing whenever I have the opportunity to do so. I feel it’s given me the confidence to take more risks, knowing that regardless of what happens, I will still have a way to make good money.

      If there is ever anything I can help with or answer for you if you ever decide to pursue it, feel free to reach out to me. It’s always good talking with you!

        (Quote)
      James McAllister recently posted…5 Ways To Simplify Your Business Strategy, To Focus On ExecutionMy Profile

  2. Hello James,
    There is some really helpful programming motivation info in here, so I have saved it to my favourites along with some other posts. Thank you, James, for sharing your experiences and advice. I am like Moss, and your reply is perfect.

    Java is very popular I think it should fit perfectly to what I need.

      (Quote)

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