If you want to be an entrepreneur to pursue work your desire and be your own boss, oftentimes you have all the goods to be successful, except for the business knowledge that will enable you to create a profitable entity from which to grow and prosper.
So many professions (think dentistry and wine sommelier) require intense training in their field. Once trained, these men and women are unleashed into the world of entrepreneurship, ready to do great things, and lacking the business skills that would create a smooth ride.
There seems to be an underlying assumption that the business acumen will just naturally appear with the decision to begin working. Prevailing assumptions are that these new business owners will easily figure it out, or that it is simple compared to the training to be a doctor, architect, or other professional, so it doesn’t require formal training.
I actually have no idea what the thinking is, it baffles me. I find it upsetting, as a person who encourages people to pursue their dreams, that after working hard to develop certain skills, a lack of preparation for business can destroy their confidence, frustrate their efforts, and undermine their success.
There is no question, that if you have a business, you will learn over time and from mistakes. You and your business will continue to evolve, so there is no magic level of business knowledge that gives you everything you need. There are however, fundamentals that will help tremendously and allow you to persist when you might otherwise want to quit.
1. Understand your Boss
You are now your own boss. You will be dealing with yourself in a whole new way, and you should be prepared to learn as much about that person as you can. An awareness of self, including knowledge of strengths, skills and habits are key. Go outside of yourself or your inner circle to get a clear picture. You need an objective perspective.
You will be bringing yourself into the leadership role. How do you operate as a leader? Find the most admirable qualities of a good leader who you would like to work with and evaluate how you would do stepping into that role.
This is also where you evaluate your inner game, your mindset as a business owner. You can work on this yourself, but there are strong advantages to getting coaching help in this area, so that someone else can see the possibilities and the perceived limitations. This is a game changer and the area most difficult to master on your own.
It should be fun and enlightening to see yourself in this way and to evaluate what works and who you need to become. Make it a valuable growth opportunity and not an exercise in destructive self-criticism.
2. Try on All the Hats
Whatever your business, and whether it is you alone (solopreneur) or you and a team, determine all the roles that need to be played to make the business operate at its best. Some are very apparent and some less obvious (for example, visionary and strategist-that’s you).
Assess all the tasks necessary and who will be doing them. While you may be performing the main function of the business for which you were trained, what roles support you? Write these down in some detail. Will you be doing these jobs or someone else? Are you the best candidate?
Many of these roles will be delegated to others who will be better suited to take on those tasks. However, you will be more successful in managing others if you know the details of what their jobs entail and how the various roles fit together and communicate with one another.
It is so tempting to hire someone and just let them take over an area. It creates frustrating management issues of all kinds when you manage someone who has a job you know nothing about. As the layers of your company build, this will change. Early on, you are everyone’s manager. You don’t need to be the expert in each role, but you must know enough to manage effectively.
3. Create as Many Systems as Possible
Compensating for the number of important roles you play as a business owner, good systems will save your sanity and create structure, stability and a sense of freedom. For every one of the jobs you outlined above, evaluate what tasks can be systematized, from answering the phone to providing client contracts.
Identify your systems and document how they should work. Give them names so they become identifiable by everyone. Review them regularly to make adjustments for a changing business and world. Systems will help you manage both your time and your team.
Developing systems is ongoing, so be on the lookout for opportunities to create systems. They can be complex, such as manufacturing systems, to relatively simple, but they are all important. This is another area where you may benefit from bringing in an outside person to see areas where systems could be developed.
Functions like accounting have well established systems that can be put in place. Where there is no need to reinvent, use existing models and keep an eye on how they work in your particular situation.
One of the major hurdles for business owners with technical expertise is separating themselves from their business and focusing on their skill while hoping the business will come together either on its own, or as a result of other people’s efforts.
Thinking of the business as a creative expression of who you are and spending the time necessary to lead, manage and systematize the operations will build a successful business around your expertise.