Over the last few years I have helped many businesses over come challenges that have threatened it’s continued existence, almost always these challenges arise, not because the business is not viable but because the business owner(s) lack the skills and/or the experience necessary to over come these challenges.
Why is it then in New Zealand where the culture of owning your own business is greater per head of capita then anywhere else in the word, do we still continue to jump in there, boots and all, with that famous Kiwi saying “..she’ll be alright mate”? I would be interested to hear back from all you readers not living in New Zealand, is this attitude similar in your country or do you generally adopt business with a different mind set?
To me, at the risk of repeating myself from blogs previously written, buying into a business (or starting a business from scratch) can be compared to going out and buying an Austin Martin V12 Vantage worth a cool $250,000 without knowing how to drive it!! Yes some people may well be able to sit behind the wheel of one of these delightful beasts and be able to figure out how to drive it, most of us however would cause significant mayhem and carnage getting the car from the showroom to our home, some of us would not make it at all. So why is it then that we feel we can spent the same amount of money and by a business, having never run a business, managed someone else’s business or even know anyone who has had their own business?
To have your own business means that you need to be a book keeper, a human resources manager (if you have staff), a marketing manager, a sales manager, an operations manager, a project manager as well as whatever your trade is e.g. mechanic, hairdresser, printer, etc. How many of us who are in business can say they have experience in all these areas? What skills and experience should someone have to better enable them to make a success of any business they buy or create? In my opinion (please feel free to comment if you have different ideas!) every business owner should have the following skills and experience:
- In the words of my own personal coach, Tony Burns from i2i, your brain needs to be wired for success and for that to happen you need 1) clear goals- know where you are going; 2) Desire – understand why your are doing what you are doing; 3) Belief – understand how you are going to do what you want to do.
- You need to have a basic understanding of marketing so that you are very clear about the following:
- Fully understand your product and how it can provide a solution to your customer’s needs. The needs of your customer also need to be understood.
- Price your product confidently, this will need to reflect how you are intending to gain market share.
- Know where your target market is, ensure you understand who makes up that target market and what issues they have that your product(s) can provide solutions to.
- Understand how you are going to promote your product(s) to that target market in the most cost effective (not necessarily the cheapest) way to encourage returns as quickly as possible.
- Understand the people required to get your product to the customer, how many staff do you need, what positions need to be created, do you require suppliers, and who are the decision makers that ultimately buy your products
- You need to have a basic understanding of management principals, whether you have staff or not, there are principals that can help EVERY business owner:
- Time Management – understand how to prioritise your day to get the most out of it; how to put structure into what you do in a week again to ensure you have time to work on your business as well as in it; understand what can waste time so that you can then identify these things in your business and avoid them or manage them more effectively.
- Problem Solving – the same problems come up time and time again, get an understanding of how to deal with problems by getting down to the real reason they appear, there are ways of doing this that can save you lots of time and frustration.
- People Management – there are good ways and not so good ways of keeping your team happy, you owe it to your business to understand what you can do to keep your team motivated. A motivated team will do more for your business growth than one that isn’t.
- Management Styles – there are times when orders need to be given and no questions asked, but there are times when input from your team to address a particular problem would be beneficial, there are also times when you should just leave your team to do what they are experts at doing.
- You need to have a good understanding of the selling process. Why would someone buy anything from your business? What does it mean to “look after” your customers? How can you ensure your customer’s keep coming back to you? Why is it important to capture as much of your customer’s details as possible?
- You should absolutely have a good understanding of the industry you are in, what are the challenges facing the industry in general? Are there specific challenges facing the industry at a local level (too much competition, poor public infrastructure, local property costs too high), is there sufficient skill base in the labour market to meet the needs of your business. I could go on and on, but it is the responsibility of every business owner to understand their industry and keep up to date with what is going on.
- Surround yourself with professional help, find a bank that has a proactive bank manager or business banker. Find an accountant that understands all the financial implications of doing business in your industry. Get yourself a good lawyer, again one that maybe understands the legal requirements of your industry. Find yourself a business mentor, one with your industries experience would be ideal or one that has a good cross section of business skills that can keep you on the right track, but more importantly, know where to find someone with specific skills and experiences to help your business as and when it needs it.
Owning a business, like everything else in life, you never stop learning, as a business owner you need to keep yourself up skilled in advances in best practices, technology, etc specific to your industry. You should also keep yourself up skilled in techniques and skills to improve your management capabilities to ensure you are always working as efficiently as you can, allowing yourself time to work on your business as well as in it.