Most entrepreneurs and motivated professionals know the importance of investing in themselves—building valuable skills and improving their strengths over time. By now, many business owners have made their business-related plans for what they want to accomplish in 2018.
Their new roadmaps include growth targets to achieve, products to launch, new markets to enter, events to participate in and relationships to build. If you have these types of clear targets and milestones built into your plan for the year, that’s a great start.
However, it’s equally important to set skill-building goals that’ll ultimately help you become more successful in your business. Whether it’s setting aside time to improve on your weaknesses, or hire a coach to help you push into a new playing field with one of your strengths—investing in your skills is never a bad move.
As the US economy continues to grow and unemployment levels start tapering off, the business landscape is not only becoming more competitive, but increasingly unpredictable as well.
Your business can quickly go from good to bad when communication lacks purpose, clarity and impact. In fact, effective communication can revolutionize an idea, breathe new life into a product or brand. Steve Jobs wasn’t only a design and creative genius, he was also a powerful communicator. Take a moment to revisit his keynote speeches and marketing tag lines—you’ll understand very quickly how he turned Apple into one of the world’s most valuable companies. Many experts and psychologist even believe that communication is the most important skill an entrepreneur can learn.
The ability to genuinely connect, understand and empathize with your customers is critical to establishing and growing your audience. In the beginning, empathy will help you assess your audience’s challenges, identify their pain points and gauge whether or not they will willingly pay for your solutions. This is critical because according to research, lack of market empathy is the leading factor that causes startups to fail. Your customers know whether or not you truly care about them. When you choose to show empathy with their difficulties, challenges, and unique situations, you unlock a completely different context within your relationship with them—one that’s based around helping them solve their problems rather than making sure you get paid.
3. Personal Branding
Everything’s moving towards the gig economy where entrepreneurs, freelancers and even career professionals now jump between ideas, startups and employers faster and more frequently than ever before. That means tenure hardly matters, and the new currency is your personal brand—the overarching message about yourself, as gleaned from your online presence, professional reputation, circle of influence and the trust you command from peers, followers, customers, employers and general public. You wouldn’t want to enter the market without a strong personal brand, and you definitely can’t afford to have a negative online reputation.
4. Strategy Formulation
Gone are the days when you can fly by the seat of your pants without a plan of action for your business. With countless commitments and distractions wanting to monopolize our ever-shortening attention spans, the knack for planning—from simple daily checklists to long-term strategic decision-making—has become indispensable to career and business survival. In 2018, you must learn the ability to strategize for achieving long-term goals. Start by breaking down big goals into small, incremental wins that lead to major successes over time.
While technically not a hard skill and more of a soft skill, authenticity has become a minimum requisite for providing value and achieving excellence in today’s world of business, especially among millennials and across social media channels. Being labeled disingenuous isn’t something you’ll be able to recover from anytime soon. An inauthentic label easily becomes a showstopper if you’re in business for yourself. Take every opportunity you can to connect with your audience and show that you’re genuinely in the game to help.
6. Financial Management
Knowing how to manage and grow your finances is key to success both in your business and in your personal life. Lack of the ability to manage finances exposes you to the risk of becoming unsustainable, which often leads to bankruptcy, regret and going back to a full-time job. Develop discipline and prudence, especially when it comes to purchases for personal and business purposes. Learn both technical and practical techniques that’ll help you increase your income and re-invest in the right strategies to keep your business pushing forward into the future.
7. Persuasive Writing
While visual content like images, infographics and hi-resolution videos are becoming the staple content medium for most social media channels, written communication still reigns king when it comes to highlighting your thought leadership, crafting compelling copy for sales pages and inspiring people to take action. Without persuasive writing skills, you won’t stand out from other skillful and media-savvy professionals. Moreover, you’ll need excellent writing skills for email marketing, blog posts, on-page copy, business proposals and more.
After all is said and done, the one skill that keeps the lights on in your business is sales. A company that can’t sell its products or services is quickly going out of business. Regardless of your craft, even artists, software developers, writers and just about everyone needs selling skills to get by in the business world. If you need funding, you have to sell your idea to investors. If you want to be a successful painter, you must compel people to buy the aesthetics of your craft. Whether you’re a job applicant or hoping to close a new freelance client, you simply have to sell yourself.
9. Relationship Building
In our highly connected world, lone wolves are the top candidates for extinction. In the new economy where social currency is the standard by which your value is assessed, you need people to make progress. From offering up referrals, to giving endorsements, recommendations, inspiration and moral support, your network of people is your most valuable resource—your network is your net worth. So, make friends and build mutually beneficial relationships that will give you the potential for big new opportunities in the future.
10. Stress Management
Nothing worth pursuing in life is easy. So, expect episodes of disappointment, struggles and stress. The key to staying afloat and winning your game is to manage stress and re-channel it towards a positive outcome. Whether you do that by being more organized, changing your mindset, or through prayer and meditation, stress management will keep both your business and your health in excellent condition.
11. Testing and Experimentation
You won’t know if you never try. That’s the rule of thumb when it comes to product launches, market research and pivoting to new business models. Conducting regular small experiments and insightful tests can lead to huge new breakthroughs for your business. One of my own personal experiments to validate a business idea in just 30 days, has led to a deal for me to co-produce an online course with a very well-known brand. The best part is that the course is being promoted to the brand’s audience of more than 300,000 people.
Testing and validation has not only opened up new revenue streams for me, but also laid the groundwork for new strategic partnerships.
12. Hiring and Talent Sourcing
Because you can’t do it alone, you’ll eventually need people to help you achieve your goals. For that, you’ll need the ability to identify the right new hires. Not just anyone should make the cut and you shouldn’t settle for less than what your business needs. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a new hire that drains your energy and budget without generating enough value in return. Be selective, smart and methodical when searching for talent to bring into your business.
13. Failure Management
Stress can be… well, stressful. But failure can be devastating. Major failures can obliterate your motivation and affect your mentality for weeks, months or even years. Just like marriages and Hollywood careers, businesses fail all the time. The secret to success as an entrepreneur is to get back on your feet again, pick up the pieces and apply what you’ve painfully learned so that you’ll get different results the next time.
14. Sharing and Collaboration
The willingness, commitment, and skill to both regularly and effectively share your work will get you closer to achieving your goals. It’s no accident that information sharing, crowdfunding and open source are key terms describing pillars of the new economy. Android, Wikipedia and Kickstarter are just a few examples of how sharing and collaboration have created industry-changing products and services. As an entrepreneur, sharing your goals, progress and challenges on different channels can lead to surprising solutions, strong relationships and groundbreaking business.
15. Design Thinking
You don’t need to be a graphic designer to have design thinking skills. In business, design thinking refers to a framework for assessing problems and creating solutions that squarely and uniquely addresses the problems you’re facing. For entrepreneurs, design thinking can lead to ingenious products and significant improvements in many areas of the business like marketing, production, branding and more.
Every new year, entrepreneurs look back on their accomplishments and plot a new course with the goal of exceeding the previous year’s performance.
There are many ways to plan for future business success, but investing in yourself by building new skills or improving existing ones, remains one of the smartest decisions you can make as an entrepreneur.
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