Essential Skills you Need to Start and Run a Business

Running a business is pretty different to most other career paths that you could embark upon. It requires you to have a broad range of skills across a number of different areas.

While you don’t have to be an expert in every aspect of business, having at least a basic grounding in some key functions will have a huge impact on how well you fare. This is particularly true in the early days before you have enough sales to support the hiring of staff. You will often need to become a bit of a “jack of all trades” while you get things off the ground.

In this article I’m going to outline 5 essential skills that will help you to get the most from your business.

The Ability to Sell

Whenever someone asks me the number one skill required in starting a business, I always tell them the same thing; the ability to sell. You can have the best product or service in the world, but if no one knows you exist and you aren’t making sales, then you don’t have a business.

Sales is often the one area that business owners from non-sales backgrounds find the most daunting, as it really plays on our in-built human fear of rejection. However you need to persevere and push through that fear. In most cases sales is very much a numbers game; i.e. the more people you contact, the more people you will ultimately convert to paying customers. Being rejected is a normal part of the sales process, so don’t take it personally or let it get you down.

Strong Communication Skills

When it comes down to it, most of your time as a business owner is spent communicating. So having great communication skills is crucial. Business is all about people, and how you connect with them will have a big impact on your level of success.

This may sound like a very obvious thing to some of you, but you’d be surprised at how often poor communication skills cause problems for people. You don’t need to be some kind of super charismatic social genius; but you do need to have a good telephone manner, be able to write a well-constructed email or letter, and be able to conduct a face to face meeting with confidence. Being polite and showing good manners will get you far.

Being a Fast learner

As a business owner you need to be able to learn and adapt at a fast pace. If you can’t learn and adapt quickly, then you run the risk of being left behind by more agile competitors. You need to have the ability to hit the ground running in new areas, and with new ideas.

Always remember that learning never stops. You should always be seeking out and learning new things that can help you to develop and grow your business. Getting complacent and thinking that you know it all is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

Time management

One of life’s valuable commodities is time, and the same holds true in business. We all have a finite amount of it to spend on whatever it is we choose. So when it comes to running your business, it’s very important that you spend the limited time that you have wisely.

Don’t make the classic mistake of thinking that working hard for lots of hours automatically results in a payoff. There are plenty of people out there working very, very hard and achieving next to nothing. Working smart is what’s really important. It’s about understanding exactly what you need to work hard at in order to achieve results; not just filling your time with “busy work”.

I’m a big believer in the 80/20 principle. This states that in most undertakings 20% of your efforts elicit 80% of your results. Always try to understand which activities generate you the highest return, and then focus your attention there.

Understanding Your Business finances

Ultimately, business is about the bottom line. Most of us run our businesses in order to earn a living, and hopefully make a nice profit on top. Without a basic knowledge of how your business finances work, you’re always going to be at a disadvantage.

Relying solely on an accountant, or any other party to understand what’s happening with your finances is a bad idea. You should be able to understand things like cash-flow forecasts, balance sheets, and profit & loss reports. At the very least you should know how they are put together and be able to understand what they are telling you.

If there’s one thing that’s an absolute must, it’s having a solid grasp of your cash flow. They say that cash is king, and for good reason. Losing control of cash flow is one of the biggest causes of business failure. So make sure that you understand how yours works, and keep it under tight control in your business.

Originally posted on UK Business Forums