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3 business skills you need to succeed

If you’re thinking about branching out and starting your own HR consultancy, these business skills will help you on this journey.

Many small businesses may start from a person being a technical expert or genius practitioner, but they also need to know how to run a business. The good news is that running a business is a skill – and skills can be learned. All you need is some devotion and time. If you were thinking of starting your own HR consultancy, here are some business skills you will need in order to go out on your own.

Take the step from practitioner to business owner

Plumbers, electricians and builders go to trade school and undertake both practical and theoretical lessons as part of their training. HR professionals, software developers, chefs, lawyers, hairdressers and doctors – they all learn the skills to do their job both capably and competently.

However, running a business is a separate job and a skill too. It therefore requires time to learn and develop the necessary skills to become capable and competent enough to do that job well.

What can you do?

If you don’t have the business skills, then you will be unable to successfully fulfil a “director” role. So, you either need to acquire those skills by training yourself, or you need to employ someone with those skills within your business. Here are three skills you can learn that will help you succeed in business:

1. Know your numbers

Most people in business are great at what they do, but when you talk to them about financial figures they run for the hills. There are some basic numbers and ratios every business owner just needs to know – and luckily, they are easy and quick. While you may have an accountant, you can never forget as a business owner that responsibility for the financial health of your company ultimately rests with you, and you alone, and therefore knowing the numbers is critical.

The numbers, ratios and margins are important because they tell us whether your business is making an adequate return and utilising its resources efficiently. An “adequate” return is subjective – what is adequate to one person, one investor, one owner, one banker, or one industry may be different to what others consider adequate.

2. Make a plan and use it

Plans help you stay organised and coordinate your efforts, but developing them is not easy. For most small-business owners, their preference is to look at the detail and not the big picture and they like to undertake the role of a practitioner rather than an owner in the business.

One of the main reasons that business owners don’t develop and follow a plan is because they are afraid of failure.

When working with business owners, I assure them that the goals of their business are their goals, and no one else cares if they achieve their goals or not. Have you ever had a customer or client ask you what your goals are? I suspect the answer is no and I don’t expect you ever will – they just don’t care about your goals.

Not setting a goal or plan is like turning up at the airport without a ticket and not knowing your destination. Think about a trip – What will you do? How will you do it, and with whom? And what do you want out of the trip? People spend more time planning their holidays than they spend on planning for their business.

You are more likely to get close to your goal if you set one first. Remember when you were saving up for a car or a house deposit?  I bet you had regular savings goals and stuck to a budget. By knowing how much you needed to put away each week or each month, you were more likely to achieve your goal than if you had no goal or plan at all.

3. Know what skills you don’t have and when to ask for help

People hate asking for help, yet people like being asked to help. Running a small business can be lonely at times, where you don’t know who to turn to, and you don’t have the support that you may have in a bigger business. Asking for help broadens your network – be it peers, competitors or s a mentor. Not only are others a good reference point, the interaction can also re-energise you.  But don’t just ask anyone, rather think of who can be beneficial to your business, who you can learn from, and who has walked in a small business owner’s shoes.

Stephen Barnes is the principal of management consultancy Byronvale Advisors.

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