The five skillsets for lifelong business success
I normally stay away from writing “five things” articles. They can seem fluffy and measly. “Five ways to get world peace”, “Twelve ways to buy a winning lottery ticket”, “Seven ways to fall off a cliff” …
You get the idea.
However I think these five skills really are the key to succeeding in business over the long run. I mean skills in the truest sense: taking practise to acquire and improve.
I can’t hold myself up as any kind of good example, but merely as an observer of the patterns of high-performance. These five skills come from my observations of exemplar business owners across a variety of industries.
SKILLSET #1. Creating Stuff People Actually Want to Buy
Everything starts with finding out what people actually want. There’s little point in having a service or product that no one is looking for, or advertising a service on benefits that no one wants.
You have to study the market. Find out what people want to buy, find out how they want to buy it and match it up.
There is a huge market for weight loss, for example, but i’ve seen people flounder in that industry because they don’t understand the driving motivations of their market.
Make the market research simple by asking the people already in that market what they want. Go and eavesdrop on online forums. See what books people are buying in that niche and read the reviews. You need to be able to find markets with passionate buyers and be able to articulate their desires, and appeal to their pains. This is not magic, just a practical skill set.
SKILLSET #2. Affordably Attracting and Converting Customers
You need to be able to reach your target market with a compelling offer and message that moves them to engagement and then action.
There are three sides to the marketing triangle: market, message, medium.
You’ve utilised skillset #.1 to find a passionate market and you understand their motivations.
You’ve articulated their buying motivations into a compelling message.
Then (and only then) you find the most appropriate mediums to place that message in front of that market.
This sounds simple but a lot of people will fail to do two and very well and will skip to trying to find the ‘magic’ new medium such as social media or direct mail.
The keyword here is: “affordably.” You need to be tracking your marketing ROI to ensure that your marketing spend is not being wasted on the wrong channels.
SKILLSET #3. Managing the Business for Maximum Profit
Once you have a compelling offer and an affordable way of getting customers you need to turn to operations.
Remember the creaky old adage: “cash is king”? Well, it’s true. You need to keep your cash flow positive and ensure that you keep a beady eye on the bottom line.
First: cull your expenses. They can creep up when you’re not paying attention, and often the quickest way to get more profit is to slash all unnecessary outgoings. Go down your expenses sheet and interrogate each item. Every outgoing must earn its place.
Are you paying the lowest phone bill possible? Have you checked? Have you negotiated with your suppliers?
The majority of business owners put all their focus on pushing for growth through growing the business rather than controlling the cash flow.
SKILLSET #4. Retaining Customers and Maximising Business Value
Business mentor Keith Cunningham asks a very empowering question:
“How big would your business be if you retained every client that you ever had?”
Often in the quest for growth business owners overlook the importance of retaining their current clients. You could can have the greatest marketing in the world but once they buy the product or service… what happens?
Do your staff engage with your customers well? Are they helpful? Are they able to solve any issues quickly and efficiently? Is there a process of continual improvement such that any complaint or problem generates a new process to stop it happening again? Have you trained your staff so they can offer assistance? How can you go the extra mile?
The key question is: can you operate your business in such a way that you generate positive word of mouth?
All of the above are empowering questions well worth spending the time to answer, and even more time turning each “no” into a “yes”.
SKILLSET #5. Supporting Your Life Goals
The last skillset is often the most overlooked. Ask yourself: why are you in business at all? Most people have some vague notion that it will enrich their life is some way. More time with loved ones, more freedom to enjoy themselves, more holidays, more security etc.
Be very clear on your ‘Big Why’ and make that the deciding factor rather than the individual business. You don’t want to create the world’s most profitable family-destroyer or time-shredder or emotional-well-being-mincer… unless all you’re after is cold, hard cash.
Build the business to the point where it can be ran by others, where the systems are smooth and the right team are in place to allow it.
Why not give yourself a score out of 10 in each of the 5 areas and develop a plan over the next quarter to develop each one?