What skills / attributes do you need to start your own business from scratch? I was asked this question today and it got me thinking, what skills have I developed? What skills did I actually need to use to start up my business? This is my list, although I could go on!
I don't classify myself as a natural solopreneur as such and have come from a deep rooted 'corporate' and 'employee' based background. I have been used to having a team around me, a regular pay check (excuse the Americanism), and the safety net of the employment contract. I’ve even had access to an Employee Assistance Programme if I should need it! Now, almost overnight, that band aid has been ripped off and I find myself completely exposed with only myself to rely on. Time to put my big girl pants on and pull out all the stops of what this girl can do!
Here is my (not exhaustive) list of skills and attributes which I have found myself paying attention to since I set up my business 8 months ago.
#1 - A level of Bravery
It isn't easy to rip off that band aid, but the healing of the wound can be more empowering than anything you have experienced. That's been my experience at least!
#2 - Clarity on WHAT you want to do and WHY and WITH WHOM
This can take some time, I think I was mulling over my decision set up my own HR consultancy business for several years, almost subconsciously. Thinking what could I offer? Am I good enough? Why would I do that? Would they want that service? Who would buy from me? All those questions need some serious delving into but once you get that light bulb moment, everything else comes into focus and you establish a level of determination, which brings me nicely onto the next point...
#3 - Steadfast Determination
You will encounter days where it’s particularly hard or you feel like no-one out there needs what you offer, or the pesky imposter syndrome creeps in. At times like this you may be tempted by to dip back into employment or taking an opportunity which potentially means losing your independence so you can partner up with an already established business. Stand strong! While these opportunities can be fruitful, you also need to keep a determination and focus on your end goal to keep you going. I don't know where mine comes from on some days, but it seems to magically show up when I need it to.
#4 - Confidence in your skills and what you offer
You need to be your own biggest champion. No-one else will believe more than you do about what it takes if you don't believe it yourself, and after all, you are the master of your profession (or working towards it). Again, this one can be hard when you feel so exposed and there is no one to big you up, but draw on your friends, family and the previous colleagues who love you for the fist bumps, high-fives, and big-up energy. They will happily tell you how great you are, and it’s your job to believe them. Finally, be helpful to people, it's amazing the feeling you get when you’ve helped someone, and what that can do for your confidence and self-belief.
#5 - A Networking Beast!
Networking is your new bff and the sooner you can get comfortable in that space, the better. Be consistent, show up to regular events where you will deepen connections with the same group of people, also throw in the odd curve ball event where you'll meet a whole new bunch. Be proud of your presence and the services / products you have to offer. This is your job now.
#6 - Build your Tribe
Use the networking and your existing gang to build a tribe of people you can lean on to help you achieve your goals - this also helps to ensure you don’t feel lonely! I wouldn't be able to do this without the feeling of having a 'network' around me.
#7 - Get Creative
Part of your job, along with the long list of other things, is Creative Director! You can use people to help here if it isn't your natural flare, I definitely did! Get inspired and ask yourself, what is it that you want to be known for and how can you build that into your business? For me, I was inspired by another small business whose brand stood for energy, positive vibes, vibrancy and feeling good - so I got help to build this into my brand and now I have a business identity I am proud of and that I feel represents me. This is especially key when your business is personal service related and you and your biz are intertwined.
#8 - The dreaded 'Sales' skills
Most people don't identify as a salesperson and 'sales' seems to have a bad rep, but as soon as you start your own business, you are constantly selling. Every time you show up, you are selling yourself / your service / your product in some way. It's important to get help here and get comfortable. I invested in a Sales Training course, and so far, it’s some of the best money I could have spent. I'm GETTING more comfy with it but it is a journey - excuse the cliché, I couldn't think of a better expression.
#9 - Resilience and rejection proof - persevere!
You won’t win work right away and you will have to experience rejection, but the key is not to take it personally, they aren't rejecting YOU, it may be that they don't see the value in what you have to offer RIGHT NOW. The timing may not be right for them at that point. OR maybe they aren't the right client for you - one of the best things I heard was, 'don't try and sell a Gucci handbag to someone who is happy with Primark' (no disrespect Primark I personally love ya), but you get the sentiment. There is a client (and several of them) for every price point.
#10 - Above all, BE KIND to yourself
This is the most important one, it takes guts to start your own business from scratch. Sure, there are moments of utter empowerment and exhilaration, liberation was a word I used a lot in the first months, but there were also difficult and lonely times, so be kind to yourself and treat yourself like you would a friend or family member in the same boat. You deserve it.
These are my reflections from starting Open HR, my vibrant and energetic, networked consultancy that I am proud to represent. No looking back for me. Not 'what if I fail', but rather 'what if I fly'? Be brave, everything you want is on the other side of fear. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Ok, enough with the buzz expressions now. If this sparks ambition and a sense of 'I can do this' in one person, then this post has been worthwhile:)