So, you want to have your own business. That’s awesome! But, humor me for just one minute. Close your eyes and imagine just what that looks like. Now tell me — what did you see? Long but rewarding days spent doing work that sets your heart on fire?Happy customers and satisfied clients?The overwhelming sense of pride that comes from hustling to get things off the ground? It all sounds dreamy, right? And, hey, I’m not here to burst your bubble (at least not entirely). When it comes to running your own business, those visions really do have a lot of truth to them. But, there’s no denying the fact that there’s another side to entrepreneurship — and, it might not fit in seamlessly with your candy-coated fantasies about what doing your own thing is really like. Here’s the truth: Having your own business is hard work. It requires grit, determination, an incredibly thick skin, and plenty of skills that you may have never anticipated you’d actually need in the real world (honestly, if my high school math teacher could see me now). Like what, exactly? Here are eight skills you should start honing right now if you plan to own a business someday.
Some people absolutely love sales, and then there are others who cringe at the very thought. Regardless of which camp you fall into yourself, there’s no getting around this fact: Running your own business requires some serious sales skills. You’ll need to actively promote yourself, your products, or your services in order to gain some traction and get some money through the door. So, if that’s not something you have a lot of confidence in right now, then it’s time to get comfortable marketing yourself — in a way that makes you feel self-assured, not slimy.
How many eye rolls did this one inspire? Trust me — I’m right there with you. I’m all about words, not numbers. Being a business owner doesn’t require you to be a complete accounting whiz (fortunately, you can pay people to do that for you). However, this will be your business — which means it’s helpful to have at least a slight grasp on the finances so you can understand what your accountant is advising you on. Plus, even with an accountant in place, you’ll likely still be responsible for sending invoices, tracking your expenses, and other basic functions — at least while you’re just getting started. The more familiarity you can get with the nuts and bolts, the better off you’ll be as your business progresses.
Starting a business can feel sort of isolating. Money is tight, which means you don’t have a ton of help and resources to lean on in order to get your deliverables out the door. The responsibility of seeing projects through from start to finish is going to rest almost solely on your shoulders. And, while that very thing is what makes being a business owner so fulfilling and rewarding, it can also be overwhelming. Project management skills are ones that are easily overlooked. But, when it comes to doing quality work on time and under budget, project management is a critical skillset for ensuring the success of your own business.
In a similar vein, running a business means you don’t necessarily have the sense of accountability you’ve become accustomed to with a more traditional full-time job. You don’t have a boss breathing down your neck or co-workers checking in on the status of your piece of a shared project. You’re going to need to be the one to stay on top of your own commitments and workload, and for some people, that’s a real challenge. The better you can manage your time, the more efficient and effective your future business will be. With that in mind, challenge yourself to start improving your time management skills right now. They’ll pay dividends later.
Perhaps your idea of running your own business involves working totally alone in your home office (while in your favorite sweatpants all day). Hey, plenty of people do it. However, even so, this fact still remains true: Running a business is all about relationships. Even if you work solo most of the time, you’ll still need to forge beneficial relationships with your vendors, your clients or customers, other people in the same industry — the list goes on and on. Networking isn’t a second-nature skill for most of us. So, whether you join a group in your community, head out to some local events, or even participate in a discussion on LinkedIn, take some steps to begin gaining some comfort in the area of relationship building.
Here’s the good news about running a business: You’re the boss. But, here’s the bad news: Uhhh… you’re the boss. What could possibly be the downside to that? Well, you’re not going to be able to turn around and ask someone else to make the tough choices for you. Those imperative decisions and sticky situations will all fall on your plate — and, sometimes you won’t have a lot of time to choose the best way forward.
For that reason, solid decision-making skills are a must for business owners. If it’s an area where you struggle it’s a skill you’ll want to work on so that you will have practiced well by the time you get your own business up and running.
The legal side of running a business is enough to intimidate most future entrepreneurs. But, the reality of the situation is that you’re going to need to negotiate every now and then. Perhaps it’s a contract with a vendor. Or, maybe it’s an agreement with an unsatisfied client or customer. Negotiations are bound to crop up.
It’s smart to get some footing with that oftentimes awkward back-and-forth now. And, while you’re at it, taking steps to improve your interpersonal communication skills in general will be a huge asset when it’s time to get your own business off the ground.
This final skill is a little less tangible than the others. But, as a business owner, it’s crucial that you’ll be able to adapt to the various circumstances that get thrown your way. Even the best-laid plans fall apart. And, the most successful business owners not only know how to roll with those inevitable punches, but bounce back from them even better than before.
Running your own business takes a wide range of expertise. But, don’t get overwhelmed with thinking that you need to master each of these skills immediately.
Pick one area and start small. Take an online course or do some research and reading. Sit down with someone you consider particularly skilled in one of these areas and ask for some advice. Put yourself in a situation that makes you slightly uncomfortable to start gaining some confidence.
No business owner is perfect. But, it’s those who place a high priority on professional development and bettering themselves that not only run successful businesses — but enjoy doing so.