The 21st century entrepreneur must have a wholesome appreciation of computer skills (also known as soft skills). We are living in a tech-driven age where the computer is the centre of virtually all business processes. It starts from doing research before you set up a business – you most likely use search engines like Google to acquire information. When putting together a business plan you get to create the document using a computer. Digital marketing which is now the anchor of business marketing entails the use of computers. These are just quick references to show you that the need for an entrepreneur to have computer skills is nolonger optional but imperative. It is apparent the world of computers is colossal but herein I shall be discussing some essential computer skills every entrepreneur must have.
Basic Computer Literacy
This is something every entrepreneur must study up or get taught on. Good computer literacy courses can actually cover a significant portion of the other essentials I shall be discussing further on. Computer literacy builds a framework upon which other related areas can be learnt going forward. We are talking about having an elementary appreciation of what a computer is i.e. the hardware and software element. Getting to understand the architecture of the keyboard and the functions of each key amongst other things are some of the key areas in basic computer literacy. This is can be learnt through courses or just by under-studying someone who is already well-versed with computers. You will be amazed at entrepreneurs who do not even know how to turn on and shutdown a computer. It probably sounds funny but many people shy away or disregard computers as too hard or a reserve for certain people. All of that is not true; it is just a perception issue – computers are not too hard and are for everyone.
Operating System (OS)
Every computer runs on particular operating systems (OS). You could liken an OS to what blood is to the human body if you will. There are several well-known operating systems e.g. Windows, Mac OS and Ubuntu amongst others. In Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole, Windows operating systems are the most used. As an entrepreneur you must learn the user interface of an operating system so that you know how to navigate your way around and use it. Every OS is designed to symbiotically co-exist with you so acquaint yourself with its features to get the best out of it.
Emails are important especially in formal business communications. You must acquire the necessary skills on how to use email platforms (e.g. Gmail), email clients (e.g. Microsoft Outlook), how to compose emails, understanding the different email platforms interfaces and so on. When you know these things they seem obvious but most people do not even know this. I remember many years ago when I sent my first email I did not even know about subject lines, attachments, automating messages and the like. So emailing is an area where an entrepreneur must actually devote some time to understand how it all works.
You would not want a scenario where you spend hours typing a short document. Typing on a keyboard and the basic understanding of what key strokes do along with shortcut keys are learnt skills. For instance, the art of effective typing on its own is something you can take time to learn on. Knowing how to use shortcut keys (e.g. Ctrl + P to print) is very important because it enhances your productivity. This area is often neglected yet vital – imagine if your mouse or mouse pad malfunctions what will you do? If you would have acquired the necessary skills on how to use the keyboard you can use your computer without needing to use the mouse pointer.
This is obviously one of the most active areas in the use of computers. The creation, editing, storing, retrieving and printing of documents are some of the common activities here. You must know how to use word processors such as Microsoft Word. You must learn on how to do basic things like sentence construction, making font bold, italic or underlining it. You must know things like text alignment, character spacing, page numbering and so on. You only have to see some documents to realize how many people have not polished up their computer word processing skills.
For Windows users Microsoft Excel is something you must ensure you study. Microsoft Excel which is spreadsheet-based software is vital for financial documents in business owing to its analytical tools. I have often joked about how funny it is to find someone creating sales table in Microsoft Word whilst doing calculations using a physical calculator. That is an example of how most people do not know how to use Microsoft Excel. Graphs, pie charts and other diagrammatic options of representing data are available in Excel. Most people only know just a tip of what Microsoft Excel can do – it is power-packed with remarkable mathematical and data analysis features. As an entrepreneur it is vital that you acquire soft skills in this regard.
Computer Aided Presentations
In business you will at some point have to do presentations to staff, management or other businesses. That is where Microsoft PowerPoint comes in – you must know how to use it. Creating slideshows is more than just entering data on different pages. You have to learn on how to animate, automate and time your presentation slides so that you come up with compelling presentations.
There is way more to learn and know about computers but for the entrepreneur you must at least have these 7 skills. Do not assume that you do not need them or you know it all. Computer hardware and software are ever-evolving so you must regularly update your knowledge to stay equipped. Someone might feel too proud or shy to reveal they do not know certain things – please do not be!