For many women, starting a new business can be a daunting task that does not always work out as planned. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, one-third of new businesses fail within the first two years and 50% fail during the first five years. Taking time to learn a few essential skills can increase your chances of success and help prevent common mistakes.
Preparing for the journey ahead can be both exciting and overwhelming, particularly if you’re a first-time entrepreneur, but the rewards can be well worth the effort. Here are three essential skills you need to learn before starting your new venture:
Most entrepreneurs fail at setting goals even though goal setting is one of the most important skills necessary for business success. One of the most challenging aspects of running a business is learning to stay motivated and committed to your goal. Having a clear, achievable, and realistic goal will give you a long-term focus and enable you to keep moving in the right direction. An example of an unclear goal is “I want to increase sales revenue.” A more clear, realistic goal would be “I want to increase sales revenue by 25% within six months.” Without a goal, there is nothing to strive for or no real sense of purpose.
Not only should you set goals for your business, you should also map out a plan for how you will achieve each goal and set deadlines. Goals should be in writing and tracked over time to ensure you are reaching your targets. Spend time visualizing a long-term goal for your business, and find an image or symbolic item that reminds you of where you want to be. Your goals should set the tone for your business and help guide you toward reaching your stated objectives. Setting goals can also help keep employees engaged and motivated, and drive performance within your organization.
Time management is a concept many entrepreneurs struggle with. This is especially true for women trying to maintain work-life balance. Developing your time management skills will help to maximize productivity and increase the effectiveness of your work. Good time management skills are essential, particularly in the early stages of a new business, so it is imperative that you make the most of your time.
Keeping an activity log of appointments, meetings, tasks, telephone calls, and other important events will enable you to analyze your current working style and plan improvement strategies. Learn to prioritize tasks by level of importance and urgency, for example low, medium, and high. Avoid wasting time on unimportant tasks such as unsolicited phone calls and checking email. Less important tasks can be delegated so that you can focus on the more important ones. Also try to manage distractions, especially if you run a home-based business. Here’s how one female entrepreneur says she deals with time management:
“You have to discover and develop what’s most comfortable for you and make it a priority. I have a set agenda for the day and make the best attempt to accomplish all goals by the end of the day. Having a schedule or agenda is key. If I neglect to organize my day at least the night before, I’m fumbling knowing there is plenty to do but not exactly sure what to tackle first.” – Tina Swain, Founder & Director, Swain Therapy & Counseling, LLC
Learning to use your time more effectively can help reduce stress, increase efficiency, and improve quality of life.
Research shows that women are less likely to negotiate than men, and men initiate negotiations about four times as often as women (Women at Work). To be successful in business, women must learn how to deal like the so called “big boys.” Negotiation skills are extremely important and can be useful when negotiating with vendors and customers or negotiating business contracts and securing investment capital.
First, it’s important to develop a certain comfort level when it comes to negotiating so choose a negotiation style that makes you feel comfortable. For example, are you more comfortable being the aggressor, or being submissive? Or, are you comfortable being more cooperative and wanting to reach a win-win solution or assertive in sticking to your bottom line?
It’s also important to set your expectations prior to the negotiation phase and don’t be reluctant to ask for what you want. Most importantly be willing to say “No” and don’t be afraid to walk away. According to an article written by Charles B. Craver entitled “The Impact of Gender on Bargaining Interactions,” men are believed to be rational and logical while women are thought to be emotional and intuitive. So when going into negotiations remember to leave your emotions at the door. Don’t take it personally. And finally, practice, practice, practice! Learning solid negotiation skills can mean the difference between success and failure.