What’s the best thing to learn to grow your business?

by Michele on August 25, 2011

Michele Christensen on solopreneur business growth

The best thing to learn to grow your business

This is an interesting question.  I was participating in a forum discussion on this topic and the answers were varied – marketing, time management, technical skills related to what you sell, sales and a few others popped up.  While I agree that all of these are important, my answer was “how to be a business owner.”  This is the single most important thing to learn to grow you business.  You can be the best at what you do but if you don’t know the skills required to run a business with those skills then it’s improbable you’ll have a business.  What does it mean to be a business owner?  What are the skills you need to run a business well?  How does this apply to solopreneurs?

Being a business owner encompasses everything that is not involved in delivering your product or service.  Imagine owning a restaurant – the main activity is serving food to customers.  The owner may or may not be involved in food service, but he or she has to do all sorts of things to make sure the staff can serve food.  The owner has to make sure all the supplies are in house, proper licenses and inspections are maintained, all applicable laws are followed, inventory is managed in a cost effective way, customers continue to come through the door, profits are adequate, staffing needs are handled and that the customer experience is consistent from visit to visit.

Normally in a restaurant, there are levels of staff such as owner, manager and supervisor to make sure all the tasks get done correctly.  As a solopreneur, the challenge becomes being good both at the product or service we sell and being a good business owner.  Business ownership actually encompasses many different skills, so aside from having a great product or service there’s a lot to learn.  I’ve worked with lots of people who were shocked to find out it wasn’t enough to simply have a great product or service and in fact I learned this myself after first launching my business with a slightly different focus than I have now.

So what should you do to get started on building your business skills?  Here’s a list to help you along.

  1. Make sure you have a great product or service and that you are continually adapting to what your market wants.  If you don’t have a great product, no amount of business skills will build you a viable business.
  2. Commit to serving people in the highest way you can.  Make it your goal that both you and your customer leave every transaction better off than you were before.
  3. Realize that building business skills is like keeping physically fit – you’re never done.  Like fitness, you’ll first need to develop a base level of competency and then keep up your efforts forever.
  4. Pick a handful (not too many!) of businesses who you love to purchase from and study what they do.  What makes you love them?
  5. Feed your brain a steady diet of information and learning on the topic of business skills.  Blogs, newsletters, forums, podcasts, books, etc are all good sources of information.

Teaching solopreneurs business skills is a huge part of my mission so I’d love to help you with this!

Comments

  1. Helen Semrau says:

    You write beautifully. I’m going to pass this along to our dog walker. He has big ideas but no plan. I suspect he doesn’t know where to start. If he just focuses on the little things he needs to do, the foundation blocks, he will accomplish his goals.

  2. Don Talbert says:

    Hi Michelle,
    I agree with all you said. Have you read Michael Gerber’s books? The E Myth Revisited, addresses many of the same issues. I remember being at a meeting several years ago, and the presenter said, “just because you can cook, doesn’t mean you can run a restaurant.” Gerber refers to some who become self employed as “buying a job.”
    I will add that most business owners, especially solopreneurs, MUST master the art of selling. So many fear it, however, it’s really very easy, if we open our minds to the possibilities.

    1. Michele says:

      Don, I love your perspectives on selling! One of my biggest shifts around sales is that not selling is a disservice to your customers. All of the brilliance and wonderfulness in a person’s head does no good for anyone until a sales is made. Serving others actually begins in the selling process.

      1. Don Talbert says:

        Thanks Michelle,
        I recently answered a question on Linkedin about follow up. One guy said it was a waste of time, and those who follow up just need to have more leads. His business is lead generation. The comments he submitted seemed a bit self serving.
        We absolutely have a responsibility to our prospects, to follow up and complete sales. It also keeps us in business.
        I tend to think of sales as part of my overall mission. In order to reach those who need me, I must be proactive. I wish all business owners thought that way.

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