five basic skills you really must have to run any kind of business.
These five skills are:
1. Sales and marketing skills. Sales and marketing are the two most important skills you must have when you plan to start your own business. A business is nothing if it has no customers. You may have the fanciest computer with the latest graphics software, but if no one is knocking at your door to hire you as a graphic designer, then you better rethink why you are in business in the first place. Maybe you are better off employed by a firm. To have revenues and profits, you first need to have customers. To get customers, you must be able to market your business and possess the skills to close the sale.
As you plan your business, you must begin to think how to reach your target audience and the people who may need your products or service. This entails understanding the concept of marketing, and using the tools that your budget permits. You must have a knack for understanding what people wants, listening to their needs, and interact well with other people.
It would be extremely helpful if you possess excellent written and oral communication skills to help you sell your products and services (more so if you are a solo entrepreneur who will be doing everything by yourself). You need to create a buzz about your business by talking to people and presenting to them your business. You need to write ads, press releases and story ideas about your business. Starting a business is a time to get out of your timid self and begin to aggressively market your venture. That’s the only way you can succeed.
2. Financial know-how. You are in business to make money. Therefore, the most important skill you must have is the ability to handle money well. This includes knowing how to stretch the limited start-up capital that you have, spending only when needed and making do with the equipment and supplies that you currently have. You also need to identify the best pricing structure for your business in order to get the best kind of return for your products or services.
Success in business is not limited to those who have tons of capital in the beginning. Look at the failed dot-coms with funding of as much as $100 million. Even if they are awash with cash, they still ended up as a failure because they were not able to manage their money well. They lavished themselves with high-tech office furniture and gave their CEOs fancy jets to fly, only to have their cash flow depleted in less than a year.
If you are able to manage your cash flow well when the business starts to run, you will be able to survive the ups and downs of self employment. The important thing is to always focus on the bottomline. For every spending, always ask yourself: “How much will this contribute to my bottom line?” If it will not give your business anything in return financially, better think twice before opening your wallet.
3. Self-motivation skills. As an entrepreneur, you do not have the luxury of bosses and bureaucracy to tell you what needs to be done. Everything rests on your shoulder from thinking where to get the money to fund the business, to developing the product, to determining how to reach the customer, and so on. Only you will create the plans, and change them should the situation shifts. You need to be smart enough to know when you need to go ahead, and when to stop.
To succeed in business, you must be a self-starter with a clear desired goal in mind. You must have the confidence in yourself, and in your ideas (how can you sell your ideas to others if you yourself do not believe in them?). More importantly, you must be willing to focus your energy and work hard towards each and every step that will make your enterprise a success. Especially if you work at home, it is doubly hard to get into the work mindset: sometimes, the television is just too tempting that it is hard to get out of your pajamas and begin typing in your computer. You therefore must have that extra drive and commitment to make sure that you are taking the necessary steps to make your dream of a successful business a reality.
4. Time management skills. The ability to plan your day and manage time is particularly important for a home business. When you wake up in the morning, you must have a clear idea of the things you must do for the day. Especially if you are running a one-person operation, you must have the ability to multi-task be the secretary at the start of the day typing all correspondences and emails, become the marketing man writing press releases before noon, make sales call in the afternoon, and become a bookkeeper before your closing hours. Imagine if you are selling products and you still have to create the products, deliver and fulfill the orders, rush to the bank to cash the checks. Lots of job for a simple home-based business! No, you don’t have to be a superman (or superwoman). You simply have to know how to manage time and prioritize your tasks.
One difficulty of working from home is that you can never seem to stop. There are simply too many things to do, as if work never stops (and it doesn’t!). Part of having good time management skills is knowing when to stop and when to leave work, and begin doing your other roles in your family as the husband, wife, mother or father. You must be able to know how to keep your home life separate from your work life, and ensure that there exists a balance between the two.
5. Administration skills. If you can afford to hire an assistant who will organize your office space and file your papers and mails, lucky you! However, most start-up entrepreneurs cannot afford such luxuries. Over and above the tasks of managing, marketing and planning your business, you also need to possess a great deal of administration skills. You need to file your receipts so tax time will not be a trip to Hades. You need to do all the work in terms of billing, printing invoices, collecting payments, and managing your receivables.
Starting a business is never easy, even if you have the perfect background and possess all the above skills. Having all the needed skills and qualities will not even ensure your success. But having these basic skills will, at least, lessen the pain of the start-up process, giving you greater chance in seeing your business grow and prosper.
What is your realistic assessment of your strengths and weaknesses in these categories?
it’s imperative to take a moment and articulate: “Wait, why am I doing this? And why is it important?” Brilliant and hilarious keynote speaker Jeff Rudell said that he kept his mission statement stuck on the bulletin board above his computer, and here it is: “To make beautiful, strange, ephemeral things out of unexpected materials.” He found it through “a diagnosis” of what he was already doing, rather than something that was outside of himself. Artist Lisa Congdon suggested making a list of all things that you are already doing to find your mission (rather than having to invent it out of thin air).
Inspired and energized at the end of the day, I took myself out to a latte at Tartine Bakery around the block, and started trying to articulate my creative mission to myself. I highly recommend it! Here’s what I have so far: “To be a professional collaborator and creator—cultivating, harvesting, and bringing ideas to fruition in the forms of clever, surprising, and lovely gift books and products.”
The human brain tends to think along pre-determined linear thought pathways. Such linear thinking can inhibit true innovation and creative exploration. Project M will encourage, and provide techniques for, “thinking wrong” to generate new ideas and design directions to challenge the status-quo.