by Elaine Slatter | Featured Contributor
More than ever, women are deciding to strike out on their own and create their own future by starting their own enterprise. There are only 7 skills women need to start a business, let’s examine what they are.
7 Skills Women Need To Start A Business
- Are you determined?
- Are you organized?
- Do you have a passion?
- Are you a leader?
- Are you savvy with your finances?
- Are you a decision maker?
- Do you like people?
Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart because the road can be long with a series of bumps along the way. The average business does not last five years and staying in for the long haul can be intimidating. Always taking steps to improve your business or pivot it in a different direction if it isn’t gaining traction are good signs that you have the determination to keep going when the going gets rough.
Do you have the grit to keep going even when roadblocks are put in your way and when only YOU believe in yourself? Then you have that important ingredient called “determination”.
Chances are you have a busy life, so organization is key to starting and running a successful business. Organization starts with making sure you have a business plan before you go into business. The plan, while probably out of date after the first few months in business, will help you find out, on paper, whether your business has a chance of success. Without a business plan, you will not be able to get outside financing.
If you are organized and have done your homework you will be able to decide on the right business structure and proper business and tax registrations before you start out. Most businesses start out as sole proprietors and incorporate once their business has gained momentum. Check with an accountant to see which is the best business set up for you.
We are great believers of “the list”. Make it last thing at night for your next day’s activities. Tackle the hardest items when you have the most energy. Prioritize the list by importance to your business and separate the ‘Must Do’s’ from the “Like to Do”. Do the same for your personal life. At the end of each week, look at your “list” and decide which items move on to your calendar for the following week. Only move the items that you are going to take action on to your action list. This is organization 101. Don’t overextend yourself, if you do, you will get nothing done!
Passion for your business is very important, because passion is what will fuel you to continue when you hit speed bumps. Look at different ways to re-ignite your passion when your energy for your projects has deserted you. Share your passion with others. Your supporters will help you along when your passion is wavering and the going gets tough.
As you grow your business, others will look at you for leadership. There is a difference between being a ‘leader’ and being a bossy ‘boss’. Strong leadership skills will enable you to build the right team for advancing your business and make your business a place where others will want to join you in your journey. If you don’t have any leadership experience, you can either take a course or find a mentor who has leadership experience who can help guide you in developing leadership skills.
It’s important to find your own leadership style. How do you do this? Observe other leaders and learn from their good traits and leave the bad ones behind. Be authentic, you can’t mimic other leaders you must find your own voice. You are unique.
It’s tempting to skip this part because it isn’t the glamorous side of running a business. Financial responsibility is important both in our personal and business lives. When starting out your business, it’s wise to get your finances in order and to have sufficient cash flow for the first year.
An accountant is the first step to getting your books set up properly for your business structure. There are many easy accounting packages to help you get organized, Fresh Books and Quick Books by Intuit are two of the popular ones. For more structured businesses, Sage Accounting is a good choice.
If you hate bookkeeping yourself, consider outsourcing. It isn’t an expensive monthly expenditure and can save you many valuable hours of work that can be spent growing your business.
Just as important as getting your bookkeeping done on a monthly basis, is reviewing your financials as quickly as possible every month, because the story of your business is in these results. If you review on a regular basis, you will know from the numbers what is going on in your business. Do you need more sales, or perhaps your expenses are too high? If you don’t understand your profit and loss statement, get your accountant to explain all the line items. The more confident you are understanding the financial aspect of your business the better equipped you will be to make financial decisions.
A Decision Maker
One of the biggest barriers to decision making is fear. Fear of making a mistake, fear of taking a risk, fear not everyone will like your decision. Our take on this is that every decision you make can be changed one way or another if it turns out to be the wrong decision.
The best way to mitigate the risk of making a wrong decision is to do your homework. Weigh up all the pros and cons of the issue. Seek out a second opinion on the course of action you are considering and then go with your own gut. Some of the hardest decisions are around people. Should you hire a relative, when should you release a non-performing employee? Taking the emotion out of the decision should help you make the right choice and remember it’s not personal, it’s business. If you have to release an employee the caveat is to be professional, offer assistance in the transition and ensure the person understands they are a great person but not the right fit for your business.
Why is this important? Because people buy from people they like and trust, no matter what your business. You may have all the technical skills in the world but unless people connect with you and your Company, you can easily fail. Building the trust factor takes time, there is not “instant” way to speed this up. If you are authentic in building your business relationships, the recommendations and trust factor will follow.
Be relentless in your follow up. Make it a rule to follow up on emails and phone calls within 24 hours. Do not disappoint your customers by dragging your feet. Even if the news you are about to deliver isn’t good, think about how you can mitigate the bad news by offering something that will make them forget what has happened. It’s how you recover that’s important, both for repeat business and for referrals. Your customers want to know that you really care.
Building a network of people who you trust and who trust you will help you grow your business for the long term. Some of these people may be willing to become your mentor and propel you to the next level. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If some of these skills are missing, it isn’t too hard to acquire these by practicing them in whatever job you are currently doing. If you really need help, there are all kinds of ways of to fill in your knowledge gaps. A simple Google search will uncover all kinds of training on whatever aspect you consider to be your weakness. Two great places to start are YouTube videos and Udemy.
For more formal training, try taking a MOOC. (Massive Open Online Course).Most of these are completely free and are university level courses. There are a few platforms for taking MOOC’s, one of the popular ones is Coursera. For example if you want to explore the whole idea of entrepreneurship, try some of these courses from the University of Maryland.
And The Last Word….overcoming FEAR
Perhaps because women are more cautious by nature, there is a certain amount and anxiety and fear of starting a business. But the truth is if you have mastered the seven skills it takes to start a business, then take that leap. If you have recently opened a business, why not share your thoughts with us?
Elaine Slatter is a Small Business Expert, founder of XL Consulting Group and author of the popular book, “Fabulous Fempreneurship”, a complete business guide for women. XL Consulting Group helps entrepreneurs with market planning, strategy, branding, web design and social media. She has over 30 years of executive business and marketing experience and is ready to help you rocket your business to success. Elaine is passionate about mentoring women to become successful women entrepreneurs. To find out more, visit XL Consulting Group or join the Fabulous Fempreneurship mastermind.