Wednesday May 20, 2015
If you’re starting your own business, first of all: Congratulations! You’re entering a world of great potential, where your success is only limited by your tenacity, ability, and belief.
But there are some big challenges ahead of you as well. The decisions you make now, right at the beginning, can decide how well-equipped you’ll be to meet them.
I’ve started, grown, and sold many successful small businesses in my career. In fact, I’ve never been an employee. I built my first job myself, and I’ve never regretted it.
In my experience, being a successful small business owner means knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. It means finding ways to capitalize on your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses. It means making smart choices about when and how to lean on tools and other people so those weaknesses don’t hold you back.
Here’s what I’ve found it takes to start a new business. If you already have some of these qualities, good for you! You’ll need them. If you’re missing a few, don’t worry! I offer some smart ways you can compensate for each trait.
The ability to find the tools and people you need to succeed is crucial for a small business owner. You have to constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities, new tools, and new connections that can propel you to the next level. You must see the possibility in everything.
If it’s not your strong suit: Try taking a careful inventory of all your connections, team members, and skills. You might find that you have more resources than you think! Simply finding clarity about what you have can help you see new possibilities. If you’re visual, try making a resource map on a whiteboard or big piece of paper, and draw connections and complements as lines between them.
Decisiveness means that you’re able to get the information you need and make tough decisions quickly. This allows you to act on problems or setbacks before they get worse. It’s especially important for customer service.
If it’s not your strong suit: Find ways to empower yourself with more information. I’m able to make decisions quickly in my business because I use software that lets me have all the important information at my fingertips.
Being willing to ask for what you need and want from other people is crucial for a small business owner. People simply won’t help you if you don’t ask. This applies to your team, your customers, potential partners or affiliates, and much more. Assertiveness doesn’t mean being rude, it just means placing yourself in opportunity’s way and seizing it.
If it’s not your strong suit: You can build up your assertiveness by making "small asks" to boost your confidence. Believe it or not, it’s a skill you can learn. It can also help to plan carefully what you’re going to ask for and what you have to offer in return. Using CRM software can really help with this.
Wearing too many hats is probably the biggest problem small business owners face. It’s amazing how much time you have to spend doing things you don’t like when you run a small business. An adaptable person is always willing to do what’s needed and rise to any challenge.
If it’s not your strong suit: Find software that takes some of those hats off. Software that automates any part of your business will make growth—and the added responsibilities that go with it—much easier. Look for a scalable business solution that takes as many hats off you as possible.
Managing staff is the most obvious application of leadership skills for a small business owner, but you can use leadership skills to influence your prospects and customers as well. Leadership skills are broad and diverse, but in general, someone with leadership skills is able to clearly and effectively communicate in such a way that people follow them.
If it’s not your strong suit: Lack of leadership skills often comes down to communication problems. If you’re having trouble communicating priorities and expectations to your team, try implementing a tasking system, where you can set deadlines, define priority levels, and keep tabs on progress.
The hardest thing about being your own boss is, well, being your own boss. You’re now responsible for your own time management, organization, and accountability. Part of discipline means setting good boundaries to keep work and life separate. This is especially important for small business owners, who have a tendency to blur that line.
If it’s not your strong suit: Try time-tracking. Even if no one’s getting paid by the hour, tracking your own time and your employees' time is crucial for establishing good discipline and accountability.
If you’re going to have much luck finding new customers and retaining existing ones, you’re going to need some relationship skills. That means making time to follow up, going out of your way to offer assistance, and remembering personal details about your customers and connections.
If it’s not your strong suit: Lean heavily on CRM tools. Ideally, you want one that lets you take notes about each interaction that you can access later. AllProWebTools, which I use every day, keeps all those notes in a chronological timeline that I can easily scroll through. It also lets me set follow-up reminders and automated emails.
This is probably the area where I see the most weakness in small business owners in general. Financial organization and record-keeping is critical, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. You have to be organized about everything new you try, carefully tracking the results. You don’t have the resources to spend on things that aren’t working.
If it’s not your strong suit: Try to cultivate an attitude of controlled experimentation. Think scientific method when you try new marketing campaigns or start any new growth endeavor. This means you’ll need software that lets you easily and accurately track your results. Make marketing attribution and tracking a priority when you’re looking for a business dashboard.
You might have noticed a theme in all my suggestions: software and technology. I’ll admit that I lean pretty heavily on the business dashboard I’ve built, AllProWebTools, to manage my business. I’ve dedicated my life to developing tools that make small business owner’s lives easier.
No one is a perfect entrepreneur. But a successful entrepreneur knows his or her weaknesses and takes the steps needed to compensate.