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Essential Skills for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

Research studies into the failure of small businesses in Australia, have identified that in over 90% of small business failures, a lack of appropriate management skills have been cited as the key cause of that failure. One way to offset a lack of management skills is to outsource them to experts. For most small businesses this is beyond the reach of their limited budgets. A more viable option is to develop the skills you need to manage your business operation. Let’s examine the key competencies you will need.

Strategy Development

You need to develop skills in undertaking appropriate business research, including how to identify and locate relevant business information, analyse the data in order to determine an appropriate strategy. You then need to develop skills to effectively communicate that strategy in both a formal way, such as a business planning document, or to informally articulate it to your staff or other stakeholders when required.

Sales and Marketing Management

Strong sales and marketing skills are vital in the promotion of your small business and its products and services. You need to be able to undertake market research which will help you to identify where your markets are, the total market size and the size of each of its key segments. You should also be able to profile your customers, identify their needs, wants, behaviours and ambitions and parlay the information into powerful and effective marketing campaigns and sales techniques which will help to drive sales revenue.

You need to be able to keep your finger on the pulse of your customers ever-changing demands and the business environment in which you operate and to identify the threats and opportunities that may impact on your small business. Inability to adjust to changes in the market place was identified by market research as one of the key skills lacking in small business operators.

Financial Management

Many entrepreneurs abdicate responsibility for the financial management of their business to their accountants.This is a rookie mistake. As the business owner you must take responsibility for the management of your finances.

The first core requirement is the ability to maintain an accounting system that is compliant with current taxation requirements, such as MYOB or Quickbooks. These systems provide a raft of automated processes including the delivery of key financial documents such as Balance Sheets, Income and Expense Statements and Cash Flow forecasts.

You need to develop the core skills that keep your business liquid as more businesses fail due to a lack of cash rather than a lack of profit. You also need to ensure that your business has sufficient capital to continue operating. Financial planning and management skills are also vital to your businesses survival and you need to develop working relationships with your accountant and your taxation specialists

Legal

It is essential that you develop an awareness of your legal rights and obligations. You need a thorough understanding of the Acts, Regulations, Codes of Practice and licensing requirements with which your business needs to comply. Taxation is just one of the complex legal elements you will need to come to grips with.

Which ownership structure you choose for your business will also carry with it further legal rights and responsibilities. Being able to fully understand and manage the impacts on your business is important.

Operational Management

You need to build operational management skills in order to develop the systems and processes by which you deliver your products and services. The more efficient and effective they are the more ‘productive’ your business will be. Core operational skills include planning, management, communication as well as effective systems design.

Resource Management

Your staff can be your most valuable business asset – or your most expensive, depending on your ability to hire right. Developing appropriate policies and procedures as well as the development of induction, coaching and mentoring programmes can assist in the development of a productive workforce.

Self-Management SKills

Your personal organisation skills may be the key to the success or failure of your small business. You need to be organised, productive, able to communicate and manage your time. You need to be able to negotiate effectively, motivate staff and be able to handle sustained levels of stress.

Technology Management

Technology is the great enabler. It can increase your capacity to deliver with less staff. It can also be a key competitive differentiator. You need to understand and manage technology and be able to identify and take advantage of the multitude of opportunities is offers to small business.

It is important to remember that each of the required skills are not discrete skill sets. To be truly effective as a small business manager, you need be able to integrate each of the core management skills.

You should set yourself the task of developing your abilities in these key management areas on a continuous basis as the skills and knowledge required is forever evolving. Master these core management skills and the chances of your small business being a huge success will improve dramatically.