Starting a small business can be psychotherapy meets MBA. It is challenging on practically every front, including having to make tough decisions and have tough interactions. Reprimanding an employee, getting very specific about money and dealing with setbacks will all be part of your existence as a small businessperson.
Looking back at my own entrepreneurial career, I know the challenges I struggled with in the early days would amount to a minor blip in my day now. I learned the hard way how to enforce my boundaries, demand clients pay me what I’m worth (instead of trying to negotiate a better deal) and navigate the countless icky conversations you encounter as an entrepreneur. Here is my list of lessons and advice about what you'll need to do to survive and thrive in small business.
1. Feel comfortable talking about money. Obviously, the topic of money comes up a lot. You need to be able to talk frankly about money with your advisors, potential clients and most important, with the people who owe you money.
2. How to say “No” and mean it. Often we get ourselves in trouble when we say “Yes” or "Maybe" when we really want to say “No.” Good boundaries make good business and saying “No” is how you maintain those boundaries.
3. Take (and filter) criticism. Everyone has an opinion, and sometimes criticism is helpful. You need to be able to not take feedback personally and learn from it. Other times it’s not helpful, and that’s when you need to filter it and forget it.
4. Talk angry customers down from the crazy tree. Stuff happens, and that often leads to angry customers. This is why all entrepreneurs should take lessons in diplomacy, because an angry customer is an opportunity to turn a tirade into a positive interaction if you handle it right.
5. How to sell anything. When it comes right down to it, business is all about selling. Whether you are selling an idea to investors, a product to your customers or a vision to your employees and shareholders, you are selling. Learn how to do it and do it well.
6. Swallow your pride and ask for help. Chances are you will need to reach out to your network for help. This is a tough one for many entrepreneurs who feel as if they have to do everything themselves. Don't be shy about asking for what you need.
7. Speak on camera, on stage or on cue. Public speaking is one of the most dreaded phobias, but for an entrepreneur, it’s one of the most valuable assets. From networking meetings to television interviews, you need to be able to present your business with style and ease.
8. Manage your most valuable resource: your time. As your business grows, you time shrinks. You need to master time management and learn how to control and protect your time.
9. How to make the really tough decisions. It all comes back to you as the business leader and that means making the really hard decisions whether that’s firing an employee or closing down an entire division of the business. You need to be able step back and make the decisions that are best for the long-term sustainability of the business.
10. Learn new skills quickly. The business environment changes fast, which means your entrepreneurial skill set must change with equal speed. Even if you don’t plan on doing it yourself, you need to master it enough to manage it. Trust me, blindly outsourcing what you barely understand leads to more problems down the road!
What skills have you found essential when dealing with uncomfortable or difficult situations in business?
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