Running a small business is never an easy task. There is always more to do, more to manage and more to learn. And unlike a large corporation where a typical executive will oversee one function of the enterprise, in a small business an owner is expected to be an expert in…everything.
In order to be successful under these conditions and while facing such a wide array of challenges, a small business owner needs a series of essential skills. Here are six of those key skills that will serve you well in your small business journey:
1. Understanding Your Brand
Being a brand ambassador is an essential function for every small business owner, and that begins with having an intuitive understanding of what constitutes the cornerstone of your personal brand and your company brand. What attracts customers to you? What makes your business different than others in the marketplace? What sets your business apart and makes doing business with you and your small business something that customers desire? Understanding and communicating this is foundational to the small business experience.
2. Organization, Delegation & Time Management
Despite the fact that you may be responsible for it all, you can’t actually *do* it all. That means you need to know how to make time work for you. This begins by being organized. Disorganization may be a suitable or acceptable operating state for a creative designer or an artist or musician, but it’s not a practical or workable framework for a small business owner. You need to know where things are, and what everyone is up to, at all times.
That means being organized. And then you have to delegate. A lot. Don’t make the classic mistake of hiring people to help reduce your work burden and then promptly taking the work back from them so you can ‘stay in control’. It’s a myth and it doesn’t work. Finally, manage your time carefully. Make sure to have specific blocks of time for business and management work; operations; financial reviews; and meetings with staff.
A successful small business owner also needs to be a very good communicator. That begins with the three C’s: clarity, consistency and channels. Be clear by always knowing exactly what needs to be shared and making sure that message is uncomplicated and not easily confused. Be consistent by making sure to communicate on a regular basis — daily meetings, weekly working sessions, regular walkthroughs, etc. monthly employee update emails — whatever it takes. Make sure your team knows that they will hear from you and it will be regular and predictable. And finally, use the right channels depending upon the type of message. Should you communicate through in-person updates; structured email updates; a regular blog column; a short video for the team; or other channels?
4. Financial Management & Discipline
Staying on top of the numbers means knowing what numbers to track, how frequently to track them, and what you need to do in order to keep them in a healthy place. Make sure to know your numbers and schedule weekly working sessions to review your financial picture. Nothing should be a ‘surprise’ when you reach a quarterly review with your CPA or an annual tax consult before making this year’s filings with the IRS. Don’t be surprised and instead, be disciplined. Establish budgets, set structures and create processes that will work for your financial operations.
5. Sales, Networking & Business Development
Being an introvert is not a problem for a small business owner per se, but being uncomfortable spending time with others could be a significant roadblock to long-term success. People need to see you, which means you have to be visible – and lots of great business opportunities begin with quality networking among peer and colleagues. Get out there, shake hands and meet new business people or prospects. Your business depends upon it.
Wrapping up this list is the all-important skill of visible leadership. Leadership skills are embedded in each of the other elements discussed here, but on its own leadership focuses on being present to your team and accountable to yourself. Many small business owners benefit from working with an executive coach to help them strengthen their leadership capacity and flex that muscle of setting the vision and making sure everyone on the team knows, believes and lives by that vision every day.
These six skills require some baseline aptitudes but, by and large, they can be learned and certainly enhanced with practice over time. Make a commitment today to strengthen your essential business owner skills and you’ll position yourself and your small business for long-term growth and success.