How to become an entrepreneur by career-morphing
What skills and experience should you try to gain before starting your own business? This article details the business areas in which it’s worth trying to spend time, and the skills you should focus on developing.
Last week’s article detailed three of the most common routes that people take towards entrepreneurship and, in particular, focused on “entrepreneurship by career-morphing”. This involves building experience and developing skills while working in other organisations, with the purpose of being optimally prepared for starting your own business.
Since then, a number of budding entrepreneurs have asked for more detail on the type of experience and range of skills they should aim to acquire.
I reckon there are four core business areas in which you should aim to work, develop specialist knowledge and skills, and have quality experience:
Sales. This is where it’s all at when it comes to business. The ability to sell effectively will probably make the difference between success and failure. Great sales skills will allow you to convert 1 in 2 or 3 sales meetings rather than 1 in 10 or 20 (or none). And remember that you don’t need to be a stereotypical sales person to sell effectively – if fact most of selling is about listening and responding appropriately rather than talking.
Marketing. You can spend £000s on promoting your business with little result, and sometimes a few £s with great results. Marketing is about understanding your customers, making sure the product or service you offer meets their needs, working out how best to communicate with your target market, and pricing correctly. Some people trudge along with little marketing activity and regard it as an extravagant expense. Great companies market highly effectively.
HR or at least people management and recruitment. If your business doesn’t consist of only you, then people management experience is high on the agenda. Few of us are ‘born naturals’ and this is definitely an area where training, coaching and experience make a big difference. Your goal is to know how to recruit, retain and motivate exceptional people.
Finance. You don’t have to be up to the level of a qualified accountant, but you do need to have a proper appreciation of all the basics – how to put together a cashflow forecast, a proper understanding of profit and loss, and an ability to get into the detail and to manage your business financially.
Behavioural skills and characteristics
Some of these you may think you already have but, even so, hone and develop them so that they’re really good. Here are six behavioural skills and characteristics that will stand you in good stead for any job and especially the job of setting up, running and growing your own business. Use every opportunity you get to develop and hone these skills:
- Focus & determination. The ability to see goals clearly, to focus efforts on their achievement, to overcome all obstacles, and to do whatever it takes to achieve.
- Judgement. Part of this is being innately street-wise, part of it is learning fully from experience, and part of this is a clear understanding of what you can do and what your limitations are (but don’t set those too low).
- Tenacity. Never giving in, a determination to find a solution, a willingness to work 24 hours a day 7 days a week until you achieve your desired result.
- Work standards. Never be satisfied with satisfactory. Always aim to exceed the norm and achieve the very best.
- Listening & humility. Recognise your own weaknesses; learn from others by listening and role modelling.
- Communication skills. Whether writing an email shot or making a presentation, it can always be better. Honed to perfection, their value is immense.
As an embryonic entrepreneur, you are likely to have a tendency to get bored while working for someone else. This usually happens because you’re not being adequately challenged intellectually. So see boredom as a positive indicator, a motivator. It means it’s time to focus your energy onto a new challenge.
But be careful. It’s ok to allow yourself to be bored by those things that aren’t relevant to your goals e.g. you are allowed to be bored by endless meetings where little is achieved. But it’s not ok to be bored when handling detail or doing the same task many times over if that detail or task is important to the achievement of your goal – so get a grip, and set yourself a challenge within the detail or the task such as to do it better than it’s ever been done before.
Anyone who thinks that running your own business is 100% exciting had better think again. With any job – even the most exciting in the world – there’s always a proportion of routine, repetitive work to be done. But if that work means improved business success, then routine suddenly becomes exciting!
Take an unconventional approach
It’s called thinking outside the box, but no-one likes using that term nowadays. To become an entrepreneur it’s important to not be like everyone else. Challenge things (constructively of course), and embrace and love change. The majority of people seem to think conventionally, and stick to the norms of society. Instead, widen your field of vision. Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to be limited by people who think small.
And when you’ve learnt and achieved all you can in your current job, and there’s an opportunity in front of you that excites and challenges you, simply go for it. One of those steps will be starting your own business.
_____________________________________________________________________________Find out more about WallaceBurch at www.wallaceburch.com
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