Monday, March 7, 2011

Starting Your Own Business, The Seven Skills for Success

If you want to get on to business field, especially home-based one, you should have a better indication of some of the skills necessary for entrepreneurial success. You should also have some idea of your strengths and weaknesses and know where you need to focus your efforts to improve.

The main skills you need can be broken down into seven areas, as explained in the following list. Read this section carefully, then complete all the checklists in this article to identify your strengths and weaknesses, remember, read carefully and analyze each point in this article and the related articles because you will deal with "money".

1. Interpersonal skills

Owning a business is all about dealing with people, so your number one priority is to determine whether you like people or not. There are many people operating businesses who make it painfully obvious that they are not people persons. Everyone has a story to tell of being treated rudely at a business they are running. Remember four important words: "YOU are your business". The way you deal with people will determine much of your success. How many times have you decided not to return to a store because the cashier, clerk, or manager was rude to you? How many times have you been impressed by a businessperson going out of his or her way to help you?

With the competitiveness of the big-box stores - who don't always have a reputation for good service - your ace in the hole will be wonderful customer service. You will need to develop patience, as some people are more difficult to please, or even understand, than others. You may be dealing with senior citizens, new immigrants to the country, unsatisfied consumers, tradespeople, or even the mayor of your community. Part of developing your customer service skills is learning to listen to - and not just hear - your customers' needs. Listening is an art, and coupled with great service, is a winning combination.

A good sense of humor is also an important tool, as is a smile. A smile or a little joke in a tense situation can do wonders in turning a problem around to you side. Keeping a positive outlook will maintain your motivation and your customers returns. And remember, no one wants to talk to a negative person. If you maintain the positive outlook, you will "transmit" that to your customers. They will want to be associated with and do business with you.

2. Self-confidence

If you suffer from a lack of confidence or self-esteem, entrepreneurship can become a difficult challenge. You are the only person who can blow your own horn. Confidence does grow as you establish yourself as an expert and build on the other vital skills. Yet there are many who never make it past first base because they don't have that all-important confidence and self-esteem.

You will spend a great deal of time working alone and do not need negative thoughts to distract you. Sometimes it is difficult to stay motivated. There are many tools, counselors, and courses to help you overcome these stumbling blocks. Hypnotherapy can help remove negative thoughts and allow you to stay on track and keep positive. Remember, you are selling yourself first to your clients - your business follows.

3. Financial skills

Business is all about dollars and cents. Although you are doing something that you love, the underlying reason is to generate an income. You have to understand financial figures and the business end of business. Most people hate this area and mistakenly avoid it. You don't want to learn the hard way by making serious mistakes. Your knowledge should include basic accounting, organizational,and administrative skills, an understanding of all tax laws, federal and state requirements, and an in-depth knowledge of the business that you are about to undertake. Sounds like a lot to learn, and it is. But take heart - you can learn everything you need to know. No one was born a business hotshot, and there are many courses available offering business management training, most of which can be tailored to fit your schedule.

4. Technical skills

Anyone can hang out their business shingle, but without sound technical knowledge of your trade or profession, it isn't fair to you or your customers. As a businessperson, you have a responsibility to perform the best service in an expert manner, so please don't start or purchase a business until you have the necessary skills. Start in an area where you can best utilize your talents. Your skills may need to be expanded through evening courses or additional reading. Never cease to keep up with the changing technology within your chosen field. Attend seminars, workshops, trade shows, and conferences to add to your knowledge and keep an edge on your competitors. Don't become so engrossed in working at your business that you forget to work on your business.

Your customers will look to you as the expert, and that is what you have to be. For example, when you look in the Yellow Pages for a plumber or an electrician, you assume the companies advertised there are run by professional and skilled people. As a consumer, you put your trust in them. Your customers put the same trust in your skills, and you should never let them down. Be the expert, or don't be in business. With the stiff competition out there, your expertise is one of the few advantages that allows you to compete with similar businesses, and consumers are becoming picky about where they spend their money.

5. Communication skills

The secret to both a successful business and an enriching life is learning to effectively communicate. Everything you do is about communicating something to someone in some manner. How you communicate verbally to potential clients will make the difference in whether they choose to do business with you, both now and in the future.

In this electronic era, we communicate using voice mail, faxes, answering machines and email. Therefore, every form of communication that transpires through your office should be polite, professional, and positive. Your telephone should always be answered quickly and pleasantly, and all correspondence written without grammatical errors. "Leave a message after the beep" doesn't cut it in business. Voice mail and answering machine greetings should convey a feeling of "we care" and should imply that messages will be promptly returned, not within a few hours. These days, people are stressed and impatient. They want to talk to you now, so always be available either by pager or cell phone.

You may need to communicate with lawyers, accountants, bank managers, loan companies, or venture capitalists. You may have to negotiate leases or contracts and work with building inspectors, county officers, government and various tax officials, suppliers, advertising agencies, and employees. Some may be difficult to deal with, so good verbal and written communication skills will reduce the chances of being misunderstood.

The ability to communicate effectively at a variety of levels in a variety of ways to a variety of people is a skill few people naturally possess, and this is where Toastmasters International can help. Many prominent businesspeople owe a good part of their success to this highly effective organization.

6. Marketing skills

You may have the best business in town, but how are you going to get your message across to potential customers? Marketing is not just putting an advertisement in the local paper or flyers in the mail. In a nutshell, marketing refers to the various strategies you use to reach potential customers, informing them of your products or services. Effective marketing encompasses using communication skills, knowing how to define and target your market, and then use the right marketing mixture to reach potential customers. It's easy to spend valuable dollars on ineffectual methods. Study your competitors and decide if their marketing techniques will work for you. You will have to read books, talk to others in a similar field, and observe how other businesses successfully market. No one has the magical marketing answer - usually, effective marketing is a combination of many techniques that can change from time to time. Your job will be to define which works best for you.

7. Technological skills

Today's businesses must be online and technologically terrific. Because time is today's most valuable commodity, most businesses need to use email. Many people now prefer to communicate using email rather than the telephone. I was surprised recently when I used the services of a small business that relies heavily on computers for production purposes, yet
which did not use email. Having to save a graphic file on a disk and deliver it is not an acceptable option for today's busy clients. Consumers like to surf and shop in the evenings on their home computers, so a well-designed website can be an important marketing tool. You don't have to sell over the Internet, but your site can describe your service or products and give the consumers what they want - information.

Word processing and publishing programs allow you to prepare professional letters and marketing information. Accounting and spread sheet programs allow you to keep your costing, forecasting, and book keeping up-to-date at the click of a mouse. A database or contact management system streamlines administrative functions and is a wonderful marketing tool. Research which technology will help your business save time and keep current with the business world.

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