4 Small-Business Skills Worth Sharpening
Whether you believe that entrepreneurs are born or made, small-business ownership requires you to perform diverse duties, some of which you may know very little about. The more skills and knowledge you possess, of course, the less paid assistance you’ll need. So, why not educate yourself?
Many community colleges and online universities offer basic business courses to adult learners, which can be completed at home, or in a classroom setting. The financial investment — often a couple thousand dollars per course — is bound to pay off in spades over the long term, especially in these four areas.
- Business accounting. Money and taxes are a part of life, but the more you know about them, the more empowered (and potentially profitable), you’ll be. Completing a basic business-accounting course won’t necessarily enable you to forgo an accountant, but it will school you on invaluable information, such as the four major types of financial statements and what each includes, the impact of common transactions, and how to determine the profitably, solvency, and liquidity of your business. All of these factors are fundamental to a businesses’ financials, and you’ll need to understand them when seeking loans, partners, or expansion.
- Website design. Thanks to web-editing programs, you can create a sophisticated website without much knowledge of back-end code (such as HTML). However, adhering to certain design axioms about logo placement, color selection, and navigation will boost your site’s impact. Understanding best web design practices will not only make your site more effective, it will also empower you to handle “production” changes, such as new product announcements, promotional messages, and content updates.
- Public relations and public speaking. Online resources like Help a Reporter Out and PR Newswire have afforded small businesses access to the news media without the help of a public relations expert. But, there are professional rules of engagement when it comes to working with journalists, and when you understand them, you’ll build valuable media relationships that lead to more press opportunities down the road. A public relations course can teach you the fundamentals of writing and distributing a press release, providing quotes and phone interviews, and speaking to people on camera. You may also learn new ways to generate buzz for your business and handle simple “maintenance”-related PR tasks that you would otherwise pay an agency or consultant to perform.
- Human resources. If you don’t have a human resources professional on staff, it’s imperative to know the basics of human resources protocol and laws. A basic course will address need-to-know information, such as: what you can and cannot ask a candidate during a job interview; how to check references, conduct background checks, and negotiate salaries, benefits, and promotions; how to handle sensitive workplace issues like substance abuse, harassment, or medical leave; and which legal procedures may apply to your business (such as documenting employee warnings and termination).
Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer who brings more than a decade of experience in marketing and writing to her career as a full-time freelance writer and small business owner.