There are many college degrees that are helpful to small business owners. Legal or financial expertise are both extremely useful in navigating the tricky contract and tax language businesses must face. A degree in business helps you chart a big-picture course and understand day-to-day operations. HR experience serves you well if you have employees. Even if you don’t have a connected degree to your enterprise, developing a set of soft skills can become extremely important to the success of your business.
Not everyone is a natural-born leader, but leadership skills can be developed. If you live in a large enough town, there might be a city-wide leadership organization that you could join. Rotary Clubs often have leadership camps as well. There are many different definitions of a good leader and most of them include words like communication, empathy, integrity and courage. Depending on the type of business you own, creativity and visionary may also make the list. If you feel like you are lacking any of these skills, be proactive in filling in the gaps.
2. Conflict Resolution
As the owner of a company, you will encounter conflict. The buck stops with you whether it is dealing with an unhappy client or trying to find a compromise in employee contracts. If you are the type who regularly avoids conflict, investigate how to get conflict resolution training. Just like any skill, conflict and negotiation training can be learned, so that you feel more in control the next time you are interacting across the table with a vendor or across the counter with a disgruntled customer.
3. Problem Solving
When you were young and faced a problem, you probably cried and waited for an adult to fix it for you. As an adult business owner however, you must be able to fix your own problems. Sometimes this involves an investigation that results in an easy solution and sometimes it involves hiring someone outside your company. Either way, you must keep an open mind and focus on being solution oriented.
Even if you are the only person employed by your company, you will still have to engage in teamwork, at some point, to build your company. Teamwork means listening to everyone’s ideas with an open mind and sharing the rewards fully. Assume that other people working with you bring something to the table that you do not. Even naivete can be positive as those team members often have the freshest most unguarded ideas whereas the old hands tend to focus on all the things that won’t work. It’s never a mistake to build others up, but you’ll likely regret tearing others down.
Rule #1: Nothing goes as planned. Flexibility in a business environment is particularly important. Businesses that survive the pandemic are often ones that quickly regrouped during the shutdown and changed their business model to accommodate the current situation rather than wringing their hands over what they wished the situation were.
6. Time Management
When you’re in charge of everything, it becomes almost impossible to get anything done unless you have very good time management. The first step may very well be keeping a log of how you actually use your time. You may discover that you lose hours in the day looking at and responding to texts or emails. Setting aside two hours every afternoon to do just that might save you an hour of work time in the morning. Another option is to set a timer three times a day to check email but otherwise keep it turned off.
As difficult as it is, learn to say no. Schedule a time once a week to go over all the non-critical requests you get (like donating a gift basket to a local charity or speaking at the high school’s career day) and make decisions about each one at the same time.
Honing your soft skills may turn out to be just as useful (if not more so) than a business degree. When you own your own business, you really must be a jack of all trades – emotionally and mentally prepared to take on whatever gets thrown at you.