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On Small Business
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Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 08/15/2012

Should every entrepreneur learn how to code?

Every other week, On Small Business reaches out to a panel of young entrepreneurs for answers to some of the most pressing social media questions facing small business owners. The following responses are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of young entrepreneurs.

Q: Should every entrepreneur learn how to code? Which business owners will find those skills most useful?


Hire a programmer or learn the skills yourself? Our panel comes down on both sides of the argument. (Jeffrey MacMillan - JEFFREY MACMILLAN)

Amanda Congdon, co-founder and director of operations of Vegan Mario’s in Oak View, Calif.:

Knowing how to code means that you’re better equipped to take charge of your destiny, because you can give a digital presence to any idea in your head. It’s a skill that lets you work with more freedom and independence. If you are an entrepreneur, code will get you to where you want to go faster, and in a way completely authentic to your vision.

Confession: I don’t know how to code! Honestly, it’s been a hindrance. So far, my solution has been to collaborate with a coder via Elance, but that’s an imperfect system; even a coder who is great at her job cannot exactly replicate what it is that’s in your head. And when you need to make arrangements with another person, you can’t take advantage of the momentum that comes at a moment of inspiration.

Artists, innovators and entrepreneurs are three groups who I think could most benefit from knowing how to code. Time to take a trip over to Codecademy. For the less creatively inclined, a website like Weebly might do if you just need a nice looking blog.

Anthony Saladino, co-founder and chief executive of Kitchen Cabinet Kings in Staten Island, N.Y.:

Coding is certainly a useful skill, especially for anyone who operates an online business. I first learned how to code at 12 years old in Visual Basic 3.0 Pro, and primarily built applications for AOL 2.5 and AOL 3.0. At the same time, I learned basic HTML which enabled me to create simple websites. I don’t actively code anymore, but my programming experience proved to be valuable -- the overall computing/software knowledge gained during that period eventually led to the creation of the custom e-commerce platform that my company runs on today.

However, I don’t believe everyone should learn how to code. Though it is certainly advantageous to have coding as a skill set, obtaining that knowledge requires a lot of time and training. Look at the opportunity cost before deciding to take up the craft. If you are young or in school, coding is a great skill to learn and will open up many job opportunities for you in the future. If you are older and not specifically computer savvy, then your time would be better spent hiring a programmer or developing a partnership with a technical Co-Founder.

Nina Rodecker, founder and chief executive of Tasty Clouds Cotton Candy Company in Los Angeles, Calif.:

There is no need for everyone to learn how to code. You have to decide what you want to focus your time on, and some things are better left to the experts.

At this point, it’s much more important that everyone be familiar (and keep up to date) with technology as it relates to their business. Usually, for most business at this point in time, that would at least include email, instant messaging, and being comfortable with a range of software applications, both installed and web-based. Knowing how to code those applications is not necessarily a vital skill for any other profession, other than software developer.

Focus on your inclinations and know when to bring in help. Considering the time you’ll put into learning, you may not get the most value out of doing it yourself.

Follow the YEC and On Small Business on Twitter.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.

Do you have questions you would like to see answered by these young entrepreneurs? Share them with us in the comments below or via email and we’ll pass them along to the YEC for future series.

By  |  08:00 AM ET, 08/15/2012

Tags:  small business, advice

 
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