Business Skills – Do You Have What It Takes?
Are you one of the many people in the world who are on the fence of starting their own business?
Maybe you’ve been considering entrepreneurship for years – you’ve done quite a bit of research, you have an incredible idea for an amazing product or service. But you keep going back and forth on when to take that leap of faith. You want to have all the right skills and tools in your tool box, so to speak. Or, maybe you’re brand new to the world of entrepreneurship. You’ve just launched your business, but you’re already feeling like a hamster running on its wheel, going nowhere fast.
There are so many things that can go right when starting (and maintaining!) your business and unfortunately, there are so many things that can go wrong as well. So today let’s talk about a few essential business skills I believe all business owners should be working on or at least have some competence in.
Now, I don’t think every entrepreneur needs to be a master at these, you certainly don’t need to be perfect to be successful. However, improving in these areas will benefit both your day-to-day operations along with helping you reach your long-term goals as well.
#1. A Plan.
Time management is possibly the most fundamental and important business skill you can use to your advantage in all areas of your business.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself: Do you struggle with staying on task, are easily distracted or feel as if you’re pulled in many different directions? This is where having a plan and sticking to it will come in handy.
I know many folks who plan out their days, weeks, months and even their entire year! But if you’re new to day-to-day planning, I recommend starting with a daily 5 plan. Or you can make it a daily 4, daily 6…you get my point. These can be your usual (but imperative) tasks that keep your business trucking along. If you’re a pen and paper person, then write it down. Or if you do best with an online calendar, then go that route. Another important aspect of this is to keep your plan visible.
I also recommend figuring out the time of day you’re most productive. Jena McGregor writes in her Washington Post article on The best time of day – and year – to work most effectively that many of of us have a time of day where we’re more apt to get into a zone of prime productivity. Whenever this period of time is, block it off of your calendar and make the most of it. Check off as many of your to-do list items as possible during this time.
Maybe you already plan out your day, but things always seem to come up and then your plan goes flying out the window. It happens, right? We’re managing a business here, many of us have partners and kids, we have clients to manage, products to work on, and then on top of all of that, technology doesn’t always work like it’s supposed to. So, when you’re having one of “those days”, drill down and focus on the one or two things that you absolutely need to get done. This will allow you to keep control of your day, even if it was starting to feel like a disaster.
Consider making a plan for your day either the night before or first thing in the morning before you check your email or check-in on social media. That way you’re planning your day on your own terms and not allowing others and technology to influence your day from the get-go.
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. ~ Benjamin Franklin, Inventor and Scientist
#2. Goal Setting and Determination.
You’re not always going to feel motivated and determined every day. Life happens…. You catch a bad cold. You’re not sleeping well. You have a few “off” days where things just don’t seem to be going well and you start wondering if your business is going to succeed. Or maybe it’s just the dead of winter and you’re feeling blah.
First, avoid procrastination. Outline your goals; take action, even if it’s small, every single day. If you’re having a tough time with getting started in general, taking action or making decisions, then consider reading self-development books or blogs, or listening to a motivational podcast. You also can consider investing in a business coach. Sometimes hearing from others on what helped them be more productive and successful, especially if you can relate to their stories, is very encouraging.
Consider having a plan for those days where you’re feeling less than determined. You can have a vision board. Or have a motivational quotation always in view.
Also, always remember and hold onto why you started your business in the first place.
My biggest motivation? Just to keep challenging myself. I see life almost like one long University education that I never had -- everyday I’m learning something new. ~ Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group
#3. Passion and Forever Being Curious.
If you’ve just started your business or you’ve been thinking about jumping in for awhile now, make sure you’re truly passionate about what you’re offering. Also, you want to be curious, have the drive to test and improve. Be aware of how your business performs compared to others in your industry. Don’t be afraid of researching and reading about your field as much as possible because figuring out ways to improve your business will keep you motivated to succeed. This will also help you maintain the reputation of being an expert in your field.
If you’re genuinely passionate about your products/services, and your industry is known for ups and downs, you also won’t begin to resent your business regardless if you’re at a peak or in a valley.
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer, Philosopher and Nobel Prize Recipient
#4. Communication and Client Care.
Great communication skills do not require that you’re an extrovert. You can be an introvert and also be one heck of a communicator.
Great communication skills show in the customer service and client care you provide. The image and reputation of your business depends on fantastic customer service and client care. Going the extra mile whenever possible and feasible will keep customers returning. Your customers and clients want to feel heard, respected and trustworthy of you. They definitely don’t want to feel like you’re wasting their time either.
You are there to solve a problem of theirs. And how you communicate, carry out and follow up with your customers and clients is vital. For example, if you send out a monthly newsletter, be mindful of the content and value. Always focus on providing value and not just communicating for the sake of communicating.
You’ve probably heard of this before and ain’t it the truth: You take care of your customers and they’ll take care of you. Sending thank you cards, birthday cards and small tokens of appreciation is a wonderful way to show that you value your customers and clients. For returning and repeat customers, consider offering a discount or loyalty incentive.
#5. Establishing Your Network.
Again, you do not need to be an extrovert to be a good networker. First, you want to see the benefits of networking: networking facilitates growth because it allows you to build relationships with other businesses and potential customers. Networking also provides you with additional perspective, support and a sense of community.
There are quite a few options for networking. You can join a local networking group or association, or you have the option of joining online networking groups as well. Consider being part of a couple of different groups or associations. But make sure these groups are a good fit for you and your niche…you don’t want to be wasting your time.
“Instead of better glasses, your network gives you better eyes.” – Ronald Burt, Professor
#6. Expanding Your Reach and Impact.
A successful marketing strategy always begins with understanding your ideal audience, their problems, and the solutions. This is what your business offers. Market to your ideal audience and be sure to address their problems and sell the pants off *the* solution. Having a sound and successful marketing strategy involves doing your research. Definitely research your current and potential customers, along with your competitors. If possible, evaluate your competitors’ marketing strategy and their engagement with their customers.
Expanding your reach and impact involves crafting an amazing message (one that your audience wants and needs to hear!). Be sure that whether you’re advertising online, via radio, TV, print or in person, that your message is actually reaching your ideal target audience.
Focus on the core problem your business solves and put out lots of content and enthusiasm and ideas about how to solve that problem. ~ Laura Fitton, Founder of Oneforty
#7. Managing Your Finances.
I recommend that you create and utilize a budget. Taking into account what you need to bring in in order to cover your expenses and also for you and your business to survive. Yes, a budget can feel restrictive, but sticking to a budget also provides you with peace of mind as well.
Evaluating and analyzing your budget (ahem, giving enough attention to your books) will also help guide you in the direction of business growth. Analyzing allows you to see what’s working and what’s not, and also encourages you to cut costs where possible and where it makes sense. Also, consider consulting with an advisor, an accountant or a CPA. If possible, have more than just that once a year meeting around tax return time. A professional can give you expert advice and help you apply a money saving strategy.
“If you don’t take care of your money, your money won’t take care of you.” – Mac Duke, Business and Financial Literacy Coach
#8. Giving Yourself Breaks and Grace.
Mistakes and errors happen. However, what matters most is the action you take afterwards. You want to address it, fix it and move onward and upward. Learning what you need to do to prevent the same mistakes (or related ones) from happening again is important as well. Avoiding mistakes and errors will save you time, energy and money. You also want to give yourself some grace. Much like life in general, running your business is not going to be “perfect” every single day.
Also, going along with avoiding unnecessary mistakes, do not be afraid to take a break! Step away from your desk or workplace. Consider eating meals away from your desk. And when you do take a break, absolutely use this time for your benefit and take the break that you deserve. Your mind could use this time to refresh and be ready for whatever the rest of the day entails.
The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake - you can’t learn anything from being perfect.
~ Adam Osborne, Author and Computer Designer
Developing and improving upon these skills are worth your time and energy. But don’t be intimidated, either. We all have our strong suits and our not-so strong suits, right? Again, I don’t believe you have to be perfect in all of these areas to start your business. The important thing is you should at least strive to improve in the areas that you’re struggling in, especially the area’s most likely to hurt your opportunities for success.
Regardless if you feel like you’re struggling or not, don’t shy away from taking courses and learning from those around you. Follow influential and empowering entrepreneurs: follow them on social media, listen to their podcasts, and read their books and blogs. More importantly, you must keep feeding the fire of why you wanted to start your business in the first place.
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