10 Essential Business Skills to Learn Before You StartUp

This column is authored by professional writer & author, John Marshall

startup entrepreneur

There are a fundamental set of business skills which every entrepreneur needs in order to increase their chances of running a successful startup. The sad truth is it is the inability of the proprietor to be able to translate their passion into everyday business skills which accounts for so many new businesses failing. That is a shame because many of these skills can be learned.

You need more than a strong work ethic and expertise in your subject in order to be successful. You need to master the fundamentals of running a new business. It’s no good just doing what you are great at doing. You have to do all those other jobs that need attending to. You need to know what those tasks are, what skills are needed and whether you are capable and willing to do them yourself or if you are going to delegate some or all of them to other people.

Your choice is to learn any of the skills which you lack, hire a professional business advisor to do them for you or employ someone who has those skills. Your successful startup needs to have the following skills alongside those technical ones that you already possess:

The Ability to Manage Cash Flow

If there is one area that I have witnessed causes more businesses to fail than any other it’s cash flow.  So many businesses are doing a roaring trade yet they go bust. Why?  Simply because they could not pay what they owed when they owed it.

They had the work, they had money coming in and the profits looked great, but they didn’t actual match what cash was due out and made sure that they got the cash in that they were owed at the right time.

Remember this – cash is king.

It’s literally the lifeblood of your company and you must make sure that you have enough in the bank at all times. You need to have systems of control and management over your cash flow.  You may, at times, need to drop what you are doing and make sure that your cash flow is correct, even if that is at an inconvenient moment for you.

The Ability to Delegate

Ideally, you want the mundane and routine tasks that any business needs doing to be completed by your staff leaving you free to carry out the essential, skilled work that is unique to you. There is a balance between satisfactory control and the freedom of the staff member to get on with the job. That’s not always easy to get right.  Too little control and you will not know what is going on, too little freedom and the employee will become frustrated, possibly meaning they will become unhappy and leave you.

The Ability to Communicate

We take this for granted but it is different in a business environment.  Your instructions should be clear and concise but you need to check the employee’s understanding of what you have asked them to do and be able to listen effectively.  Employees may have a way of communicating back to you that may be non-verbal. You need to look out for those messages.

The communication to and from your business’s various stakeholders also needs to be concise and two-way. Ensure that you portray your passion and vision for your business at all times.  Other people may not get it first time.

The Ability to Negotiate

We very often negotiate every day of our lives yet we don’t always realise that we are doing it. You learn business negotiation through study, as well as in practice.

Experienced negotiators are much more able to know when to concede, how to set out their offer and what to say and when. You obviously want to arrive at the best deal for yourself but you will only do so if you always remember to aim for a win-win result. Otherwise, the other party will walk away and you will end up with nothing.

The Ability to Plan Strategically

This is the process of deciding how best to use the money and the people for the future direction of the business. You will need a well written business plan that looks ahead to the next three to five years before you can make such strategic decisions.

The Ability to Lead

This is the way in which we get people to get the job done. Those people will need to work as team in order to be most effective. Leadership also means being able to motivate people to do things that they may not really want to do, and to do so willingly. You need to have great relationships with all the stakeholders in your business in order to do so.

The Ability To Analyse

Technology is advancing and one effect upon business is that its entrepreneurs need to be much more analytical.  What is the rate of return of your online social media campaign?  What are the conversion rates for your sales pages?  How does it all compare to traditional marketing techniques?  You get the idea.

But it also goes much deeper than that because you need to be able to gather together data from various sources both from within and outside your start-up and then be able to interpret what it means for the future growth and health of your business.

Sales and Marketing Skills

You need to be able to understand your industry’s trends, what is happening in the marketplace and analyse the competition. You need to understand how to communicate with the correct audience and the sales messages must be attractive and compelling.

The Ability to Run Budgets

These are general financial management skills such as understanding your own accounts and spot what is good and what is costing you too much.

The Ability to Manage Your Time

 There is always too much to be done and not enough time.  Technology has a lot to answer for in this regard.  We have screens available to us at all times and they all have an array of distractions on them, from social networks to the latest news.

Email is one of the worst offenders. James Dyson, a highly successful business person, recently stated that he has a system where he reads just 6 emails a day. Imagine how much time he saves.

The other skill is to know how to best use your time once you have made it available to you.  You should be a powerhouse of activity making sure that your time yields rich rewards.  You need to understand what a good day’s works consists of and what the end result looks like so that you can check your personal progress.  Keep yourself focused on those daily jobs that add real value to your company.

Treat your time like it is as precious as the gold in Fort Knox

Get your business skills up to speed and you will maximise your startup’s chances of success.

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