New year, new me. If only it were so simple. The prospect of a new year brings with it ideas of renewal and it’s as good a time as any to get started on the goal of self-improvement. As always the environment changes and you are required to change along with it. In general, change happens incrementally, in Zimbabwe change is more akin to huge transformation overnight. Here are some important skills to pick up and work on through the year to improve your business.
Selling is still the most important skill in business. Without selling there is no customer and without a customer, there is no business. While common tropes liken sales to pushing customers to say yes in reality sales is much more about unearthing the needs of clients to match them with our products. Sales also help entrepreneurs in other areas. Related areas such as marketing and advertising benefit from a good understanding of sales. Even areas that do not seem directly related to sales such as product design, website design, customer service and inventory also benefit from an understanding of sales. Find a course, read some books, get some practice and learn the skill.
Not enough can be said about how poor customer service has become in Zimbabwe. We saw one man go as far as to pay to promote a tweet in which he had no nice words for a Nandos branch he visited. Many businesses blame their lack of customer sensitivity on being small businesses who cant afford additional customer care staff and have the function performed by technical staff. The customer doesn’t care. If you cant buy good customer care practices then learn them and teach them while you’re at it. Train your employees in how to deal with customers. Even in the best of economies product problems arise, the difference is how the problems are dealt with.
Learn to count your money
We get it. You hated mathematics in school and gravitated more towards other disciplines. And while the business or career you ended up in never required Pythagoras theorem or logarithmic laws counting your money does require you to reconsider your disdain for figures. It’s more accounting than mathematics at this point but you will be required to know things such as product costing, margin calculations and cash flow. These are not complex but are sufficient to always keep you on top of your game when it comes to getting your businesses right.
Forget the Instagram pictures networking is not just cocktails and laughs. It is an entire skill. We work in an environment that makes doing things easier but the systems behind those things become more complex. People with large and varied networks fair best in this world and it’s not going to get any easier for those without the skills. Many entrepreneurs will count the experts in certain fields they can have conversations with to get help or perspective on an idea. That value is irreplaceable and networking right gives you that value. So learn to network both in your industry and outside of it.
Critical thinking also weighs bug on the list because it is really where great ideas come from. Strive Masiyiwa betting on prepaid at the birth of Econet is the best relatable Zimbabwean example of this. Strive Masiyiwa attributed this quality to reading and reading widely. Reading will open up your mind to schools of thought, insights and lessons from others. Exposure to content that gives insight such as websites, magazines, podcasts and videos is another great method of opening up your mind.
For as long we still need to perform tasks time management will continue to be a valuable skill. If you’re good at this you can always aim to get better. There are many brilliant time management techniques out there such as Dr Stephen Coveys quadrant 2 management, the Pomodoro technique (which I’m currently adopting) and many more. Learn one. Learn many. Learn them all.
Communication is a two-way street that consists of clear output as well as clear input. Communication is more art than science as it is about your ability to appeal to various individuals and their idiosyncrasies. The good communicator knows how to interpret and broadcast to and from the various types of people out there. Some people work better visually than with words and vice versa. Some people are introverted and some extroverted. Some communication practices are informed by culture. Learn more about communication and how it is a useful tool in business.
If these are skills you already have then improve them. Those who lack any of these skills should stay with us for 2020 as we will take a deep dive into each skill and practical ways of building it.