By Shannon Hughes
There was a time not long ago when succeeding as a small business owner required a few key strengths: hard work, grit, the ability to hire quality employees and of course, an expertise in the company’s focus industry. The one major requirement of setting up a plumbing business, for example, was a running knowledge of the ins and outs of faucets, toilets and water heaters. Times have changed, and although those major skills are still necessary to small business owners, there are a number of additional challenges to overcome to remain competitive in the current business climate.
Today’s small business owner must master the latest technology in rapidly evolving fields like marketing and finances to stay relevant. The reality is this: you must change with the times and adopt new skills or risk being left behind. Here are five skillsets necessary to be a successful small business owner in today’s world:
Five Skills New Business Owners Must Have
1. “Bank” on it.
It’s not easy to manage your cash flow, but the degree to which you keep an eye on the books can make the difference between finding room to hire someone new and having to lay someone off. Set aside time to develop a business plan that includes a detailed financial forecast, complete with a rainy day fund. Thanks to today’s technology, there are hundreds of options available to business owners to help streamline this process and stay comfortably in the black. All it takes is a bit of research to find the technology solution that is right for your organization.
2. Find the need to lead.
Simply starting a business in the first place demonstrates that motivation and passion are in your DNA. It’s up to you, then, to ensure that your employees are motivated and passionate ambassadors of your brand. It’s important to realize that your job as “boss” does not end once you finish hiring and training them – in fact, it is only just beginning. Champion their successes, treat failures as learning opportunities and always provide feedback with total transparency. Your employees will thank you for it, and your enthusiasm will rub off.
3. Speak up.
If the phrase “I’m just not good at public speaking” has ever crossed your mind, it’s time for a reality check: sure, addressing an audience (no matter the size) can be intimidating, but it is a necessary evil in most business environments. Whether addressing clients or employees, begin each speech with a thoughtful assessment of what you intend to communicate before you begin – this will keep you on track and help prevent rambling. Employ voice inflection to keep the audience at attention and engaged. The good news? Public speaking is a skill that can be taught, and you don’t have to break the bank to improve your ability. Begin practicing with family and friends, and consider hiring a coach if you’re still struggling.
4. Sell your business by selling yourself.
Most industries require some sort of presentation in the new business acquisition setting. Be sure as the business owner that you know the ins and outs of your company beyond the high level “what we do”-type questions. Acquaint yourself thoroughly with what your services cost and be crystal clear in your answers. The ability to explain costs – and why you’re worth it – with certainty will serve you well, particularly if your competition offers similar services at a slightly lower cost. This is your moment to establish yourself as someone of good character, someone with whom the client can be confident about entering a business partnership.
5. Up your digital and social marketing game.
Your company’s customers are vital to the success of your business – for one thing, they pay the bills. It’s important to focus on retaining the customers you already have before fixing your eyes on expanding your customer base; consider surveying your customers about your performance to fill in any service gaps that you don’t know about, and don’t be shy about requesting that they serve as new business references on your behalf. Once you’ve stabilized your existing client base, make a priority of brushing up on your digital and social marketing skills to reach as wide an audience as possible. Boosting your online presence gives yourself every opportunity to grow.
Although the business climate of today is not as clear-cut as it once was, the opportunities for growth and development are limitless. Small business owners who take the time to sharpen a wider set of skills position themselves and their employees for company success for years to come.
About the Author
Shannon Hughes is Senior Director of Marketing at Udemy, the global marketplace for learning and teaching online. With an ever-growing offering of 18,000+ courses, millions of students are transforming their lives by learning any subject they choose—at their own pace, on their own time, on any device. Visit www.udemy.com for more info.