by Tim Knox
Copyright © 2005
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Q: I am interested in starting my own business. I have a business degree and lots of experience in my chosen field, but I don't know if I have the necessary skills to really make it on my own. Any advice?
A: You've hit the nail on the head, Marie, because when you're an entrepreneur it's truly up to you to make it on your own. Sure, you may have investors and advisors and employees and friends and family helping you climb the ladder, but in the end you're the one who walks the high wire alone.
There are a variety of skills you'll need to succeed as an entrepreneur and chances are do not possess them all. One of the great things about being an entrepreneur is that if you lack certain skills you can always hire people with those skills to help round out your company skill set.
Here are a few of the skills you'll need starting out and others you can build upon later. Different stages of business require different skills.
Every budding entrepreneur should have good people skills. The ability to walk into a room and befriend everyone there is often more important to your business than an investor with deep pockets. The more you can make people like you, the more they will want to do business with you.
Networking is one of the best ways to build partnerships and find new clients. Networking simply means that you go to functions that attract the people you need to know. A successful entrepreneur is also a successful schmoozer. It's the entrepreneurial equivalent of "kissing babies and shaking hands." Whether it's the weekly Rotary luncheon or a Chamber function, show up with a pocketful of business cards and meet as many people as you can.
To be an entrepreneur is to be a leader. Even if you are a company of one, you must have the skills to take charge and to lead. It's much easier to learn leadership skills when you only have yourself to manage. These skills will come in very handy as you add employees and your business grows.
Management skills encompass a wide variety of tasks, including managing the daily operation, growth, employees, customer relations, investor relations, and so on. Poor managers make for poor entrepreneurs.
Employee Relation Skills
Your employees are one of the most important assets your business has and it is important that as the boss, you develop a professional relationship with your employees. It is important that your employees feel appreciated and you show it financially and professionally.
Team Building Skills
As your organization grows you must have the ability to build a team that can take your business to the next level. Your team not only includes employees, but also partners, your accountant, your attorney, and investors. Anyone who has the ability to impact your bottom line and growth should be part of your team.
Marketing and Sales Skills
Until you grow your business to the point that you can justify adding a marketing person, it will be up to you to think up ways to market your business. As I've said before, marketing is one of the most critical areas of business as getting the word out to customers is the first step in generating revenue.
Like marketing, selling is vital to the success of your business. Starting out you will probably be the one making sales calls and closing deals for your business. You must have the ability to sit in front of a prospective client and sell them on your service or product. Many entrepreneurs find this difficult to do as sales is more art than skill. This is also why one of your first hires when able should be a good sales person.
Time Management Skills
Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day and for entrepreneurs that means we must manage our time well or inevitably some things won't get done. I find that it helps to plan your day the night before. I know before I ever get to the office what I have to do that day. I know the order I will do things in. Of course, something always comes up to throw a monkey wrench in my plan. When the unexpected happens I try to add it to the next day's schedule. If that's not possible, I deal with it and then try to get back on track. That's not always possible, but having a plan certainly helps.
Do you currently have all these skills? Probably not. Very few people possess them all even after years in business. Does a lack of these skills mean that you shouldn't start your own business? Of course not. Entrepreneurial skills can be learned and improved over time.
Here's to your success!
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