Wednesday, 8 April 2015

My Top 5 Skills Required To Run Your Own Business

Nail polish manicure in nail salon

Entering the world of work is a massive change for anyone when leaving school, college or university.

My main working life so far has all been employed work however I come from a family of those who own their own businesses and are self employed so I've seen first hand the differences between the two as well as the pros and the cons. What remains the same between the two are the skills that you need and develop as time goes on however the difference, in my opinion, is that there are some skills that you need from the word go if you're going to run your own business as these can really make or break a company. Its not just about having good intentions and the finances available to set up and run a successful company, as managing a business is hard work.

Getting off to a good start and becoming well established is so important as many businesses fail, especially in the current financial climate so possessing different skills will enable you to start off and continue on the right foot, overcome challenges and become the entrepreneur you've always wanted to be!

Today I thought that I would share with you my top 5 skills that I think you need in order to run a successful business and be your own boss, from the knowledge that I have acquired from the working world. Of course these skills are incredibly useful for those who are employed as well however if you are self employed or a limited company, particularly if you are a small business like a beauty salon, then the chances are you'll need to have all of these skills to begin with as generally you will be taking on each role. In comparison, in a larger business there are generally different departments with different people taking on roles within their skill set, for example; PR and marketing, HR, accounting, etc.

Top Tip 1: Communication Skills
Effective communication skills are of the utmost importance to be successful in any line of business as well as in life itself. Communicating well is not only about using the right words but in the correct context too in order avoid customers and employees from misinterpreting the meaning. Essentially, its not only what you say but how you say it too.

Communication can take on so many forms from written communication like advertisements, emails and letters to spoken communication; either way, the message must be delivered clearly, exactly as you intended.

For written messages, make sure that you use correct grammar, employ copy writing skills, i.e. make the message you are delivering clear and concise, avoiding any ambiguous language. Generally it is best to avoid using too much jargon, or at least match it to the profile of customers you are targeting. If you're writing a letter or advertisement for beginners then using complex jargon that they may not be familiar with has a good chance of putting them off and could effect the response rate from those potential customers.

For face to face or oral presentations then I would suggest displaying a thorough understanding of the subject at hand, being confident in what you're talking about so that those you are communicating with are confident in you and adapt your style of delivery to suit those you are communicating with. Stance is important as generally if you're standing up when delivering a piece of information then it draws attention to you and indicates that what you are delivering is serious information whereas sitting down or leaning onto a table invites discussion from those you are communicating with. I did a course on training others and delivering presentations once and found that a combination of the two tend to work really well.

Either way, with the correct communication skills, you will find that you are able to deliver your message more effectively and hopefully, get a favourable response each time.

Top Tip 2: Accounting and Finance Management Skills
When starting your own business, one of the greatest challenges that you will face as a new business owner is managing cash flow. Without adequate cash flow, you'll find it very difficult to pay your employees and/or suppliers on time and without good book keeping skills, you'll dread the end of the tax year. Keeping on top of things is an absolute essential and whether or not you decide to get an accountant or do your own books, you'll need to set up a filing system and keep EVERYTHING.

I have a friend who is an accountant who I have asked for advice in the past but many people don't have that luxury. There are plenty of courses out there to teach you basic financial management and accounting skills and these are so important to have.

Such skills include but are not limited to:
  • Budgeting and forecasting
  • Pricing of goods and services
  • Financial planning
  • Accounting for profit/loss
  • Handling stock
  • Bookkeeping
Top Tip 3: Customer Relationships and Sales
I have worked in sales for many years and one thing that I have learnt is that there is an art to selling, starting from the first point of contact with a customer right through until the sale is complete.

Generally speaking, there are six main steps involved in selling, these are:
  1. Prospect for new leads
  2. Meet the prospect- this is the initial contact
  3. Presentation of sales materials- this should always include finding out your customers needs and matching the benefits of the product with those needs. The use of open questions that direct your customer are so important here.
  4. Handling and overcoming objections- this is where you discover more about the concerns that your potential customer has and you over come them using the benefits of the product or service you're selling
  5. Closing the sale- this is where you gain the commitment from a customer and place an order!
  6. After sales service- this is the follow up to the sale that ensures your customer is happy with the product or service provided to them and can help to secure future business from them.
If you ever want me to write more posts on effective sales techniques then do let me know as I'd be happy to.

Top Tip 4: Leadership Skills
Owning a business requires you to lead and manage others on a daily basis. In my experience, the most effective managers are actually leaders and offer guidance and direction to their employees with regards to the day-to-day running of the business and their own personal development within the company. When I have been a manager in the past, I would like to think of myself as a leader and a good steward as I like to inspire and motivate others and leave things in a better place than when I started.

Being able to motivate a team can enable you to steer your business in the direction that you want it to go in and perhaps more importantly, it can help to get your business back on the right track when things go wrong. Your communication skills are super important here so as to ensure that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet but you'll require some critical leadership skills too which include:
  • Ideas and vision- creating the bigger picture for your employees
  • Decision making
  • Managing people/teams
  • Delegation skills- seeing the potential and strengths in different employees and utilising these is so important
  • Strategy
  • Change management
  • Managing workplace politics
Top Tip 5: Marketing Skills
When setting up a new business, having a clear plan of how you are going to market your company is very important. For example, if you were setting up a new beauty salon, the chances are that there will be so many other salons in the area as they do tend to be popular all over the country. Therefore you need to establish what makes your beauty salon different from others and why should customers want to come to yours rather the competitors in the area.

This is where marketing comes in. It is all about offering your customers value that they cannot resist. By having the right marketing skills, you will be able to understand the unique needs of your customers or potential customers and find the best way to meet their needs.

To succeed in business, some of the marketing skills that you need to learn how to do are as follows:
  • Identifying customer needs
  • Developing new products/services to match customer needs
  • Customising existing products/services to better suit customer needs
  • Branding
Being able to suss out the competition, undertake market research, hold focus groups and design questionnaires will be particularly useful and of course this isn't limited to when you're just starting out. Gaining constant feedback is your biggest source of learning and putting it into practice to improve your business can ensure you're running your own business in the long term!

You may already have some of these skills, having acquired them through previous employment and there may be some that you are yet to develop. When you're working for a large company, they will generally give you the training that you need to do your job however for those who are running their own business, it can often be quite lonely and difficult to gain these skills as you are effectively your own boss and identifying your areas for improvement and development as far as training is concerned, often comes down to you. Fortunately there are a wide variety of training programmes available from NCC Home Learning to enable you to acquire the essential skills that you need to run your own business. Simply click on the tabs at the top of the screen to be directed to the courses that are most relevant to you!

If there's one thing that I have learnt and observed its that investing your time now will save you lots of money, time and stress in the future!

I really hope that you've enjoyed this post as it is something that's quite different for me but I really want to share more sides of me with you all and its great to be able to learn from one another's experiences in life.

I'd love to know, what skills are essential to you in your line of work?


*I have written this post using my own knowledge and experience and in collaboration with NCC Home Learning

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1 comment

  1. I really loved this post Laura, and I think you're so right on communication skills. Being a good communicator opens so many doors and I really think this has been my best asset so far in school (I haven't actually entered the professional market yet). I'd say another important facet is being flexible, which I am still trying to work on. I'm too fixed on doing what I think is best, sometimes driving people to do things the Filipa-way (which has proven to be very effective) but I think I could be more open to other people's suggestions.

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