Top skills to conquer before launching your business

If you’re running a small business, there’s no doubt you’re expected to wear many hats. Marketing specialist? That’s you. Accountant? You too.

A study by Universities Australia has shown that the top skills many small business owners focus on are software development and business, while marketing and legal are generally under-represented.

But it’s impossible for one person to have specialist skills in every area of business, and if you’re just starting out, how can you tackle your knowledge gap?

Here are five fundamental areas where investing in specialists or upskilling yourself could set you on a path to business success.

Web development

One of the best things a business can do is create a website. This not only helps your customers find your business, it also makes scaling your business a much easier task. A well-built website will help you communicate what your business is, how people can access your products and services, and enable your customers to sign up to your newsletters or subscribe to your social media accounts.

When Jake Smith was looking to launch his new men’s swimwear brand, Smithers, he knew his website needed to be top-notch. Despite a tight budget, Smith opted to use Shopify, because it offered customisable options that meant his website was true representation of his brand.

“It’s swimwear, it has to be visually appealing. It takes a lot of patience [to create something unique], but I’m like I dog with a bone. Once I get started on something, I want to do it perfectly before I’m satisfied.”

Most business owners have so much on their plate, that the nitty gritty details of web development are beyond them. Seeking out a freelancer or web development consultancy is essential if you want your website to stand out and be a useful business resource for years to come.

Digital marketing, social media and SEO

Digital marketing is not just a buzz word. If you want your business to be successful, you need to be able to communicate your point of difference and sell your story. You also need to be able to get that story out in a highly competitive and saturated market.

This is where the power of digital marketing comes into its own. Using digital and social media to drive interest in your brand and bring customers to your website is key.

For Russell McIntosh, who’s spent 20 years working in trade shows, social media was something new – he didn’t have a Facebook account of his own, and the idea of marketing his new business Trade Show Training online was daunting.

“I’ve always been in the face-to-face world, that was what I intended to do, but I’ve come to realise a lot of the world is on social media and you can’t ignore it,’ McIntosh explains. “I needed to get up to speed.”

McIntosh started with desktop research and attending a local how-to session. He also started his own social media accounts so he could understand this new world of marketing.

However, if you’re not tech savvy, it’s a great idea to get some help. There are plenty of small businesses that specialise in social media marketing and social media training that can help you nail Facebook, Instagram , Google and more.

Finance and accounting

Numbers aren’t everyone’s forte but keeping up with your accounts and making sure you have positive cash flow is essential for business health.

Nutritionist Cinzia Cozzolino knew next to nothing about book-keeping before she launched her hugely successful and award-winning Smoothie Bombs business.

The single mum decided that understanding her accounts was essential, so she upskilled by taking a three month short course at university and has never looked back.

“What I learned through that course was priceless. As a business owner, you’ve got to know your numbers. Otherwise, you’re at a disadvantage.”

There are plenty of programs to help keep you in the black. You can invest in accounting software such as MYOB or Reckon or take a course like Cozzolino to make sure you understand the ins and outs of your figures.

But if numbers really aren’t you’re thing, the smartest way to success is by finding an accountant to help keep you on track.

Sales

Are you ready to do the hard sell? If not, then investing in an experienced sales person or brushing up on your sales techniques could be the key to growing your business.

Michelle Bourke never considered herself a salesperson, but when she launched her digital agency Foresight Digital four years ago, she quickly learned to shift her thinking.

After hiring someone into a sales position, and then having to let them go, she was forced to reconsider how important the sales function was for her business.

“In hindsight, I didn’t really understand where we sat in the market. I didn’t know where the benchmark was, or what I should expect from that person.”

Bourke went on a journey of self-development, reading business management books and blogs and trying out her sales pitch on anyone who would listen. Now, with a better understanding of the sales process and how to pitch her company, Bourke says business is booming.

How to get specialist expertise without breaking the bank

If you need specialist skills but you don’t have the budget for it, don’t worry. There are ways you can leverage specialist skills without it costing the earth.

• Find a mentor who is skilled in the field you need and ask for advice. They might have tips or resources you can use to upskill yourself.
• Sometimes it’s more cost effective to bring on a specialist part or full time. Work with a HR or recruitment specialist to help you hire the right people with the best skill mix for your business.
• Get reading. There are a wealth of business books, blogs and online resources that provide practical, actionable strategies and advice. If cost is an issue, see what books or subscriptions you can access for free through your local library.
• Get help from up-and-comers. University students are often looking for practical experience to add to their CV. Consider offering an internship or work experience to someone who is studying the field you need help in. Just ensure you understand the labour rules or university requirements associated with internships and work experience.
• Consider quid pro quo. If you’re an accountant that needs social media expertise, there’s likely a social media specialist out there that needs accounting support. Team up with other local business through a local business network and offer your services!

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