You want to be successful in business, but aren’t sure which skills to hone to skyrocket your business in 2017. Well, you are in luck. Sit back, read up, and enjoy this blueprint to what could be the best year of your life.
Business success takes more than just intelligence and hard work. It takes a whole host of skills that can be learned, as well as a little bit of luck from time to time. Brainpower and a good work ethic are also required, but they aren’t the only things necessary. They are essentially the price of admission. Once you’re in, it’s time to compete with a whole group of people who also checked those two boxes.
How do you do that?
You develop yourself into a top talent in a few key areas where most people struggle.
Network Equals Net Worth
This is the old adage everyone in business loves to repeat but very few put into action. The saying, while cheesy, is spot on. We tend to move in the same direction as the people around us. Whether you call it herd mentality or a self-fulfilling prophesy, it’s true. “The majority of business opportunities come from connecting with the right people at the right time,” says Gwen Martin, director of research at the Center for Women’s Business Research, in an article at CNBC.com.
Connecting with the manager of a hedge fund isn’t possible (most of the time) while sitting in your parents’ basement. 2017 is the year to branch out, build some relationships, and start living out your business goals. Even with technology like Skype and FaceTime, face-to-face connections are still the most powerful. It’s still a game changer, in a business sense, when you meet someone in person. That isn’t going to be replaced anytime soon.
If you’re a networking pro, this is easy. If you’re like most of us and the thought of networking makes you queasy, don’t worry. Here are a few tips to help you feel more comfortable networking.
Arrive Early to Ease Tension
Get there well before the event starts. I’m talking about at least a half an hour early. If the doors aren’t open, wait in your car or take a walk around the area. Get the lay of the land. Getting more comfortable with the location, even if it’s one you know fairly well, will help smooth tensions later on.
Arriving early does a few critical things. First off, it starts the event with a low-stress entrance. Arriving just before or as the event starts will add stress to an already stressful situation. Instead, arrive with plenty of time to spare.
Additionally, there is a psychological advantage to being in the room and having others enter “your” space.
Use a Simple Conversation-Starter to Break the Ice
Starting conversations with people you don’t know is hard. I get it. But there are a few strategies that make it much easier. One of them is to use a simple conversation-starter that everyone can get on board with. Here are a few examples:
- “So, what do you do?” – simple yet effective. Everyone does something and most people can articulate it fairly well. Be ready to be asked this yourself, and prepare accordingly.
- “What brought you here today?” – another very simple yet effective starter. They came for some reason. Let them explain it. This is also a good way to find common ground; there can’t be too many reasons people come to one specific networking event.
There are literally hundreds of tips online for conversation starters. Here’s is a quick list of 30 ranging from the classic to the totally random.
That should be enough to get you started networking like a pro, but there is more information out there. Here’s a great article on networking tips at Entrepreneur.com.
Cash is Still King and Sits Mightily on its Throne
Everyone has an idea on how to become a millionaire with no money down. You can start a dog walking business with no money down. That’s great. But I highly doubt anyone researching how to improve their business in 2017 is going the dog-walking route. So let’s move on.
Many successful entrepreneurs have started from nothing and with very little investment besides their knowledge and time. You can do it – it’s possible. But it’s highly unlikely. Starting something and hoping for the best isn’t any more of a plan than trying to win the lottery. In order to create a successful business, an entrepreneur needs to understand finances and money – and have access to some.
Having access to money doesn’t mean having cash in the bank; there are other ways to get things done. However, the further you travel away from cash in the bank, the more risky it gets, as interest rates go up pretty quickly.
If you don’t have any money, here are a few ideas to get your hands on some.
Traditional Financing Options Like A Standard Bank Loan
This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s not the most entrepreneur-friendly way, as banks want all sorts of financials, business history, and the like. If you fall into the category of someone who can go to a bank and get a business loan, you’re probably doing pretty well already.
P2P is the new rage in money lending. This type of lending basically cuts out the middle man. It allows borrowers, you, and lenders, other people, to connect directly via an online platform. Many of these platforms do require a decent credit score, but they also take other factors into consideration.
Sofi, for example, looks at your level of education, employment history, and several other “soft” factors to help make its decision. I have personally used it and I highly recommend it. It’s easy, fast, and has great terms for unsecured loans.
There are several companies that facilitate this unique style of lending. Here’s a great list put together by Investopedia.com.
Managing Cash Flow with Credit Cards: The Hail Mary Option
One of the most important aspects of understanding cash is knowing how to effectively manage your cash flow. There are many resources out there to help businesses manage cash flow, including some neat sites. If you need to use credit cards, one trick is to keep moving the money from card to card, taking advantage of introductory 0% finance offers you can find in a lot of places.
Understand Who You Are and Accept It
No entrepreneurs is perfect. Most are really good at one or two things. That’s tough when you have a business that has 200 different needs every day. Figure out what you are good at and focus on that. Hire out what you are not good at, including, if it’s not your strong point, managing cash flow. It’s much easier to scale and grow a business when you hire out jobs you are not good or efficient at. It’s very hard to become good enough at everything for it to work out.
Ask Friends or Coworkers For Feedback
This is the easiest and the hardest option on the list. Asking people for feedback can be painful. But for an entrepreneur, it needs to be a priority. Honest, direct feedback can be one of the most effective ways to figure out what you are good at. Use it.
Figure Out What You Are Doing That Has a Low ROI
Go download the Chrome browser extension Toggl. Use it to track what you are doing and spending your time on. Toggl actually has the ability to add cost and revenue data into your activities, so you can quickly figure out where you are wasting the most time.
Then take an honest inventory of your skills. Sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil (or a whiteboard if you’re like me) and write out what you are good at and what you are not so good at. Stop doing the things you are not great at and find someone else to do them.
You most likely don’t have all of the skills you will need to grow your business. Find people who have the ones you don’t. There are many resources online to help with this, Upwork being my favorite.
Finding the Right People
Closely tied to the previous point, finding the right people is key. Finding someone to do anything is fairly easy these days. A simple ad in a paper or on a site like Upwork will definitely get you a lot of applicants. Finding the right person, however, is a bit more difficult. In fact, figuring out the secret that spells out exactly how to do that would render the rest of this article useless. You will be the next Mark Zuckerberg.
This is going to be a question of trial and error for you personally, but here are a few things to consider when looking for that perfect person.
Your business has a culture, whether you know it or not. Hopefully, you’ve been intentional about creating it. Business culture is an important thing and often overlooked. There are companies that exist only because they are very intentional about their culture. Think about culture when looking at potential employees or contract workers. What are their personalities like? How will they fit with the team? Do they bring something to the table that is unique or different?
What experience do you need? It isn’t all just about functional experience. Yes, they know how to do graphic design, but have they worked on large projects before? Does she understand how to meet deadlines? Does he have experience with high-end products or does he pump out $25 infograhpics all day long?
Experience matters, but the type and quality of experience is even more important. Someone can have 20 years of experience doing something wrong. That isn’t someone you want on your team.
Attitude is closely tied to culture, but it’s so important I broke it out. A good attitude can make or break a business hire. There are three categories of people that are commonly referenced: the go-getter, the fence sitter, and the bad apple. Go-getters want to achieve, make improvements, and do a good job. Fence sitters just want to do a quality job and survive. Bad apples want to bring everyone else down with them.
Find a go-getter.
Execution is perhaps the most important part of the story. Figure out what works and who is the best person to do it. Be intentional, be specific.
Once there is a blueprint, it’s time to execute. Execute, get results, and repeat. That’s the cycle. If you continue to do that long enough while tweaking things to keep it relevant, you will wake up on December 31, 2017 a lot further along than you thought possible.Powered by Sidelines