Business Skills to Run Your Own Business
There are many business skills required to run your own business apart from the knowledge of the marketplace.
If you're starting up on your own, you'll need to run everything from serving customers to preparing your accounts, and this is often a tough requirement for anyone. Below are listed the core skills required for running a business and how you might develop your core skill set further.
From our early childhood, we followed leaders from our parents to inspirational figures that provided a structure in our life and a sense of belonging. The best run businesses are not only marketing led but have influential leaders at the helm that know what's required to attain set goals.
They will motivate their team to perform well to meet the overall company objectives. These leaders will not procrastinate in their decision making and will lead the company forward in the right direction. There are several leadership styles that work well in different environments, including autocratic, laissez-faire and participative.
Some people are born leaders and know precisely what's required to run a successful business, but most of us are not in that space. Therefore, training programmes have been developed to improve leadership skills to lead strategy, lead teams of people, lead change management programmes and adjust and manage the company politics that organisational change may disrupt.
Strategic Business Planning Skills
Every business follows a plan even if it's not written down in a document. But developing and implementing strategic change is a skill all business owners need. Undertaking a strategic audit and writing a business plan is the first step in this discipline.
Thinking strategically in your outlook is a rare skill amongst business owners and managers as most people are focused on the daily operations and dealing with customer issues to be able to sit back and think about the future. And before they know it another year has passed and they've made little real progress.
Applying strategy in your business will help you step clear longer-term goals that will meet longer-term objectives (rather than just survival or a 1% increase in profits).
Perhaps at the heart of every successful business is a real marketing person who understands that customers pay the bills and grow the business. Completely and utterly running your business for your customers' needs is where successful businesses develop. Anyone can run a business during boom times, but it's those businesses that thrive during a recession are the ones that clearly understand what their customers want and provide products and services accurately matching those needs.
Marketing is a fundamental skill to have and by delivering what people want to buy is an obvious requirement for running a business. However, not many people truly understand how to market a business correctly. Marketing led organisations always buck the trend and tend to produce more revenues and profits than their competitors.
There are many excellent introductions to marketing books that are worth a read or training courses run by the Institute of Marketing.
Sales and Customer Relationships
Selling is almost an art form, and everyone has probably sold something in their lives already. Whether you have an interview for a job (where you have to sell yourself), or you've sold a house in the past, you may already have the basic skills required.
The negotiation skills required in sales are really to understand the selling process; from initial contact to completing the transaction. It's worth having a look at successful websites to see how the selling process works. Many sites fail because they forget to "ask for the order". Good salespeople rarely leave a meeting without an order or at least a commitment to continue negotiations. Just dropping a few leaflets off at a prospective client without any follow-up activity will not get you that sale.
The sales process has six basic steps as follows:
- Prospecting the market for new leads.
- Initial contact with the prospect.
- Present the sales materials to motivate the buyer.
- Objection handling.
- Close the sale with your new customer.
- Follow up/ after sales service.
As mentioned above, the objection handling and closing the sale are probably the most important areas to perfect. These are the most difficult areas to overcome for those people without a sales background.
Communicating effectively with others is a skill that successful business owners possess whether it be with their staff, directors or customers. Most people write on a daily basis even if it's a short email, but often the written word is misinterpreted because there is reduced emphasis on phrases that the spoken word has. Using the right words in the appropriate context is essential but perhaps writing is the last resort because conversing directly with people increases the chances of the recipient of your discussion understanding the points raised.
You can find great examples of written communications in advertising messages and magazine headlines. If this is new to you, it's best to employ a good copywriter rather than try and do this in-house. Many people believe they are great copywriters, but this is rarely the case. Using the right words can boost response rates by 2 or 3 times and copy skills are critical for an improved call to action response.
Selling Yourself Effectively
How you present yourself dictates how the other person acts upon what you're saying. You'll need not only to be confident but show you know your subject matter. Not everyone needs real public speaking skills, but remember that if you need to present to a broader audience, they want to learn from you. It's unlikely you'll get banter from those listening to you or heckled and if you know your subject matter why should you?
There are plenty of courses to develop your communication skills but just immersing yourself with other people on a daily basis will improve your confidence.
People Management and HR
If you have or are thinking of hiring staff, you'll need to be able to set them goals, motivate them to perform to your standards and also follow all the associated employment laws and regulations.
People management is part of the leadership skills set and staff need to be aware of where the company is heading, their role within the company and their personal key objectives.
Finance and Accounting Skills
Perhaps the most significant headache in running a business is the ability to manage your cash flow. Cash is the lifeblood of any business. Profitable businesses fail and go bust if they run out of money and can't pay their suppliers or their employees. Supplies soon dry up, they have nothing to sell, and the employees leave to find alternative employment.
You should also be aware of some of the details in your business such as the selling price of each product, the cost of each product and, therefore, the margin. If you believe cash is running dry, then you should speak with your bank or accountant in an attempt to get some help before it's too late.
Taking time away from the business to plan ahead, even if it's only a couple of weeks, is critical, so you don't get any nasty surprises along the way.
You should also be aware of some of the details in your business such as the selling price of each product, the cost of each product and therefore the margin. If you believe cash is running dry then you should speak with your bank or accountant in an attempt to get some help before it's too late.
Getting some basic grounding in accounting skills is another essential for running a successful business.
What Next? Developing Business Skills
So what's next to develop your business skills? Use the following sites to plan and improve your business:
- Business skills quiz - see how you rate
- Rate yourself as an entrepreneur
- Improve your skills through training
Best of luck developing your business skills to run your own business!