Jess Harris

Jess Harris, head of social media and content marketing at Kabbage, Inc., has been helping small brands and startups expand their brand presence online for the last eight years. Jess particularly loves helping small businesses start from scratch, using actionable insights to build a solid digital media strategy.

Latest posts by Jess Harris (see all)

Many business owners realize their skills deficit after launching their startup, then quickly scrambled to bridge the gap. Whether you’re preparing to start a new company or you want to become a better leader, here are six ways you can develop your business skills.

Noting that startups have a high failure rate, entrepreneur Neil Patel lays out a list of what startups that succeed did right. Number two on that list, second only to having a product buyers actually want is this: the founder didn’t ignore anything.

In other words, successful entrepreneurs make it their business to pursue mastery in every area of their business. What they don’t know, they discover. What they can’t do, they learn (or hire). Perhaps it is this determination to learn and do what is needed (instead of only what is easy) that sets successful business owners apart from the rest. Knowing this, the next step is knowing where to turn to develop the business skills you need to become part of the 10 percent that make it.

Know your super powers

It’s not a completely new idea, but technology makes it easier than ever for you to discover your areas of strength and weakness as a business owner. Two tools to check out are the Gallup Strengths Center where you can take both the Clifton Strengthsfinder® and the Entrepreneurial Profile™ assessments.

Drawing on more than five decades of research, these tools can help you uncover areas of business leadership which you need to develop or would be wise to delegate to someone else. (Worth noting: delegation itself may be a skill that you need to develop). The tools, books and courses available to you through the Gallup Strengths Center can then take you from discover through development.

You can also avail yourself of free online assessment tools, such as the five-minute quiz at mindtools.com. You’ll have to register to see your results, but can do so easily by creating an account or logging in with your Facebook or Linkedin profile. Once you calculate your results, you’ll be given details about your abilities in personal mastery, time management, communication skills, problem solving, decision making, leadership and management, as well as recommendations for additional resources.


Also on StartupNation.com: Lessons for Aspiring Entrepreneurs


Hire to your deficits, but don’t check out

When the best choice is not to learn new skills, but to find someone who has them, you might be tempted to “set it and forget it.” However, you will be able to develop skills and gain knowledge in your areas of weakness if you take advantage of opportunities to learn from the expert you hire. Going back to the idea that successful entrepreneurs don’t ignore any area of their business, it’s important to remember that delegation of responsibilities doesn’t negate the value of oversight.

Hit up your network for help

There is no teacher like experience, but you don’t have to experience something yourself. From your virtual social media network to the business and civic organizations you belong to, you don’t have to go it alone. Asking questions on social media and networking groups is a great way to tap the collective knowledge of other business professionals and find those people who can help you add to your knowledge and skills base.

Find a mentor

Six of the twenty factors failed startup owners cited as the reason they failed can be summed up in three words: lack of expertise. Eight percent specifically said that they needed a mentor. Mentorship done well is about much more than having someone you can go to for advice. Entrepreneur.com offers five keys to finding and working with a mentor that can help you develop your business skills before or after you’ve started your business. The more honestly and strategically you approach the process, the more you are likely to gain.

Devour resources like these

There is no shortage of online resources for business owners that want to develop their skills. From videos to white papers to statistics and self-education courses, there is almost nothing you can’t teach yourself. For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com offers more than 1,000 courses on business, leadership, marketing and project management, as well as nearly 4,000 specialty courses. If you’re an entrepreneur who is willing to put in the personal time, there’s nothing you can’t learn.

You can also research and follow blogs that devote themselves to the topics small business owners face every day or which emerge as a result of changing market place, political or regulatory conditions. From online business periodical to news sites and business blogs, chances are that if you’re facing a specific challenge, an expert has already provided the information and resources you need to overcome it.

Go back to school

Many entrepreneurs continue their formal training while simultaneously running their businesses. Combining the real world application of running a business with classroom teaching can be incredibly energizing to both endeavors. It also provides you with another forum where you can pose questions and present the challenges you’re facing in your professional life to a group of people who may have insight that helps you (and your business) grow exponentially faster.

No business owner has all the knowledge and skills needed to take their company from startup to successful business, but the ones that ultimately succeed find a way to make it happen. Figure out what you don’t know how to do (or can’t do well) and map out your plan for action – and give your business the leader it deserves.

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