I often meet business owners with an extreme focus on product development and marketing to the neglect of everything else. This makes perfect sense in the early stages of a company’s formation. Startup companies need to focus on product development and marketing to quickly commercialize their product, generate cash, attract investors, and prove their concept.
However, once you are through the startup phase and you have consistent cash flow, it is important to acquire essential skills for business growth. This requires a combination of hiring expertise and consistent self-development.
Here are 4 business areas that NRC frequently addresses to help small business owners get to the next level. Our frameworks of thought and tactics to conquer these challenges are original, practical and feasible for small business budgets.
Big Picture Thinking
No matter what kind of business you’re running, an overall vision for your company will help you make better decisions each day. Ideally, this vision should take the form of an 18-month plan with weekly, 30- and 90-day milestones. I am sure you’ve heard that if you don’t know where your business is headed, you will never get there. Additionally, if you don’t limit your plans to what you can achieve in a specific period, your resources and money will be spread too thin across too many activities. Planning is the only way to avoid distractions, wasted resources, and growth stagnation. Your board or advisors can sanity-check your plan.
By choosing the later consumer focused approach, I am telling the consumer that I understand some of the goals they might want to achieve when they are seeking a new workplace.
It’s hard to overstate how important both internal and external communication skills are for small business owners. While enterprise-level companies have entire departments that focus solely on communications, the onus falls to the small business owner to develop and utilize proper communication techniques.
Clear and consistent communication that goes beyond target customers to other stakeholders, such as staff, sourcing partners, industry leaders, and your community will provide a strong foundation for business growth. Often your team members and business partners wear many hats, so they must have clarity on the status of the business, your sphere of influence, your long- and short-term goals, topline financial metrics, and the challenges and opportunities you are facing regularly. This information will enable them to take ownership of their roles and manage their time and resources efficiently to reach their personal and company goals.
In addition, learning the best delivery methods, approaches, and styles of communication that are most effective for each external audience is important. Communicating with potential investors and partners will take a different form than communicating with your sphere and your target consumers. Take the time to understand the nuances and create a distinct communication plan for each group.
Project Management Skills
All business owners should know the basics of project management. First, you should understand what goes into project planning and how to identify and build relationships with each stakeholder. You’ll want to understand how to create a project plan, understand the critical path of a plan; be ready to hold team members accountable, and monitor the status of the project and the performance of your team. Getting proficient at these skills takes training and practice. Finally, at the end of a project, you should assess the execution of the project, organize what has been learned, and incorporate the lessons learned into future endeavors.
While there are many courses you can take to get certified in project management, you don’t necessarily have to take one to understand project management. You can learn more about project management online, by watching videos and reading articles about project management best practices.
No matter how good your products or services are, if you don’t have the financial acumen to understand the most useful financial reports, you’ll be hard-pressed to keep your business in the black.
Understanding fundamental financial concepts and how to apply them makes you a well-rounded business owner. Every business owner should know how to read a P&L statement, a cash flow statement, a balance sheet; and how to track and make sense of accounts payables and receivables each month. You should know your gross and net profit margins and fixed overhead cost per month and be aware of revenue on a daily or weekly basis compared to the prior year, month and quarter.
Whether or not you have a bookkeeper and accountant you should know how to run and read basic financial reports yourself. Taking courses, reading books, and talking to financial experts can help you expand your financial knowledge beyond the basics and give you a better understanding of concepts you need to know.
Putting it All Together
Running and growing a small business can feel overwhelming, as there are so many different aspects of business that you need to master. Even though marketing and product/service development tend to take center stage for most small business owners, our team will also help you excel in these often neglected areas that can set you apart from the competition and make you truly exceptional in your industry. If you have concerns about these areas, we’d be happy to discuss them and share our approach to working with you.