Many small business owners are very good at what they do – from HVAC and automotive repairs to graphic design, IT or accounting services. They honed these skills while working for others – and at some point decided “I can do this on my own, make more money and have more time”. And yes, they can. But it takes more than technical know-how to build and sustain a successful business.
As a business owner, you need to wear a lot of hats. If you truly want to build a better business – one that works for you, here are some business skills you need to develop.
It’s no surprise that the biggest complaint of business owners is a lack of time. While organizing can certainly help, the best way to get back time comes from improvements in planning.
Planning and goal setting helps you prioritize and stay on track – a key to time management. Without it, everything looks important and little gets accomplished. Planning starts with a clear vision for your business. Next, incorporate your goals – what do you want to accomplish? Then, identify what you need to do to reach those goals. Whether you call them strategies, tactics or tasks, these are the actions you must take to accomplish your goals. Finally, schedule time to work on the ‘strategic’ parts of your business.
Keep in mind that planning is a cycle and ongoing process. Monitor your results and make adjustments as needed. Make planning and goal-setting a priority. Be the visionary and strategist your company needs.
You can’t do it all yourself. Whether you hire employees, sub-contract work or outsource projects and routine tasks, your small business needs others to grow and prosper. Most owners recognize the importance of getting quality people to support them and their business. But too often, they ignore the need to develop and manage them – especially when outsourcing or subcontracting work. Clear expectations, shared goals, ongoing feedback and open communication lead to high performance ‘teams’ – and a willingness to delegate to others! Be the manager and leader your company needs.
You don’t need to be a numbers guru to be successful. Whether you love them or hate them, the numbers are your friend – and a great tool for making sound business decisions and prioritizing where you put your resources. While your accountant and bookkeeper can help with planning and day-to-day record keeping, YOU own your financial performance.
Take the time to learn and understand the key financial drivers that impact profitability, cash flow, and your personal income. While key drivers may vary by business, some common ones include sales, margins, profit, accounts receivables/payables, labor, inventory management and operating efficiency. Look at your financial reports monthly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good accountant will gladly explain — it’s how we learn. If something doesn’t look or feel right – it probably isn’t. Don’t ignore the red flags – ask questions or ask for help. Work with your accountant and be the chief financial officer your company needs.
When you worked for someone else, keeping sales flowing was often someone else’s job. But as the owner, getting customers and repeat business is now up to you. Regardless of whether you do it yourself or get others to do it for you, generating sales is the lifeblood of your business. Have methods in place to consistently generate new sales (not just leads) and get current customers to spend more and purchase again and again. There are a lot of ways to grow and sustain revenue. You don’t need hundreds – but you do need three things:
First, a few proven methods to generate new leads. Second, a reliable sales system to convert those leads to paying customers. Finally, a dependable method to stay connected with current customers to generate repeat business. The key to success in marketing and sales is consistency. Avoid the stopping and starting or when time allows approach. Be the chief marketing and sales officer your company needs
A business is a combination of people and systems that evolve over time as the business grows. When you are doing all the work, the quality and service are probably to your standards – even if they are inefficient. But as you bring in others to save time and money, those same standards may decline – unless you have written systems and procedures in place to guide them.
Systems aren’t complicated, but they are the key to efficiency, effectiveness, and repeatability in all areas of your business. They make hiring, training, and outsourcing easier. They make your business more efficient – which translates into more profit. And most of all, they ensure you consistently deliver what you promise to customers, employees, suppliers and others who depend on YOU.
Owning your own business can be rewarding. With a commitment to learning and developing new skills, your business can provide you with the income, lifestyle, and freedom you want. As Ben Franklin said, “An investment in learning pays the best dividends”.
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