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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pick a handful (not too many!) of businesses who you love to purchase from and study what they do. What makes you love them?
- 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!