My experience in dealing with small business owners (or aspiring ones) is of two extremes: there are those who believe that they can't own and run a business because they don't understand the VAT rules and can't imagine building a website (i.e. the ones who believe that they need a PhD in Business before they'll embark on a money making project). Then there are those who don't really understand how to price their products (I've discussed this before here) and appear to know the bare minimum and at least for the time being, manage to scrape by (i.e. those who operate in ignorant bliss)!
The answer of course, is somewhere in between. To have a sustainable and profitable business, a bit of business acumen is helpful but most of it can be learnt as you go along. It can be both time-consuming and expensive to gain this knowledge through experience and often through learning what doesn't work, so you should really understand your strengths to begin with so that you can fill in your knowledge gaps with hired help. I often see small business owners resisting outsourcing tasks because of the cost involved and they try to do everything themselves and there is a certain logic to that. However, professional contractors can help you get your business up and running and turning a profit much quicker than you can on your own and therefore pay for themselves (if you invest wisely). It's always advisable to understand the process and what you want before you pass it on to a 3rd party so that you still remain in control.
Even if you do get professional help, no-one will care about the success of your business as much as you do so you need to equip yourself with as much knowledge as you can. The more you want your business to grow, the more knowledge you'll need to accumulate; either formally through training, courses and workshops and informally through experience acquired knowledge. Learning as you go works for a while in the beginning when the risks are low and you have time to work things out but often it's a case of "you don't know what you don't know" and the input of other seasoned professionals can elevate your business by escalating your learning. It's worth investing in yourself and your business and I have seen entrepreneurs literally run out of steam when they neglect this part of their development.
The objection I hear often is "I don't know what training I should invest in". It's a great point because business is a wide topic - marketing, finance, social media, outsourcing, copy writing etc. - it's a minefield! Here are a few tips to help you decide:
- Where are you at right now? What is the one thing keeping you up at night? What do you find the most difficult or stressful? Training programs will not only give you the skills but anyone worth investing in will have tried and tested templates that you can simply copy and use in your own business, saving you time and potential errors. 2.
- Ensure that your are investing in training that can be used for your business. Marketing techniques employed by an accountant will be quite different to what you'll need in your handmade business.
- Does the training suit how you learn? If it's a self-study course, do you have the discipline to go through the exercises? Would you be better off at a workshop with no distractions? Workshops had the added advantage of building a network of people who can offer support and advice log after the event.
- Would 1:1 mentoring/coaching suit you better? It's a larger investment but the return on that investment is often invaluable as it's tailor made to suit you; your experience, your skills and your current situation.
- Can you fill in your knowledge gaps with free information (by joining FB groups or newsletters). Again, this depends on your current knowledge and future business plans but it can often offer great insight and shared experiences from others in your position.
However you chose to improve your knowledge, make sure you make it part of your 2016 plan and see how far you can take your business next year.
Until next time, keep creating,
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