Career Advice / Getting Ahead / Starting your own business / Tools & Skills

Skills you need to learn before starting your own business

. 6 min read . Written by Nidhi Choksi Dhakan
Skills you need to learn before starting your own business

So, you have this idea that you want to put your heart and soul into. You think it might be your card to becoming one of the top hundred entrepreneurs to look out for. But ideas remain just that if you don’t start right. Setting up a new business can be challenging, so you want to make sure you have all the weapons in your armoury before you set foot on the battleground. Here’s what you need to learn before you begin a new venture:


Having an idea is great. It gets better if you reach out to the right people and introduce them to your idea. Who knows, you might find an investor, a mentor, an employee or just a support system. You will need to communicate and negotiate with your suppliers, potential investors, customers and employees. Having effective written and verbal communication skills will help you build good working relationships. All communication should reflect the image you are trying to project.

Building good relationships through networking will help you grow your business, and get you the support you’ll need. Go to the right parties, meets, and conventions. Surround yourself with the right people, and make an effort to build relationships. Social media isn’t just a teen’s time-pass anymore. Get on the right Facebook groups. It is an essential marketing tool that all burgeoning businesses must use to grow an audience. You don’t have to be a Facebook guru or Twitter ninja, but you should be competent on the major social networking sites, adding the right people to your list.

Financial management

Being able to effectively manage your finances is critical. You need to get your number game strong, so that you can forecast your cash flow and sales, as well as monitor your profit and loss. What is your plan to break even? How much of an investment do you plan to put in? Is there an upper limit? How do you plan to reach your profit goals? You need answers to these questions before starting.

Having sound financial management skills will help you to run your business profitably and protect your financial investment. Money is the lifeblood of any organisation, particularly a new one. If you don’t know how to manage money effectively, you’ll run out of it before your business finds its feet. To avoid that, you need to have a basic understanding of accounting and budgeting. It also means knowing how to raise money; something most entrepreneurs need to do, either through venture capitalists, through bank loans or crowdfunding even.

As your business grows, you might be able to outsource this to a degree. But still, you need to know enough to make sure your money is being handled correctly. If you know your business economics, it will help you make the right decisions.

Daily routine

Don’t assume you’ll be up all night, working for days in a row, eating Maggi and pizza, while binging on Netflix the other days. Your days need to be well planned and you need to have a daily schedule. Planning ahead is important. Make a list of the things you need to do, people you need to meet, meetings you need to go to and most importantly when to stop working. Nothing leads to efficiency and productivity faster than a steady, regular routine. It’s not just the routine itself that you should seek; it’s the mindset and attitude that results from adhering to it.

A daily routine cultivates work ethic. As an entrepreneur, you are your own boss and you need to be able to force yourself to work, even when you don’t feel like it. Sticking to a routine is a good reminder that you need to work, and the regularity of it helps stave off the temptation to waste time on YouTube or Facebook.

Email management

How do you communicate with your team, investors et al, without looking like you’re too desperate? You can’t bombard them with calls every now and then, neither can you send letters and posts. Sending texts is out of line and unprofessional. So, you need to be really good at writing, sending and communicating via email. Here’s where most of the interactions happen. So, you better embrace it.

Learn about email etiquette. Believe it or not, email has its own set of unspoken rules of courtesy and you would do well to learn them. Obviously, these rules can differ from person to person and company to company, but keep these guidelines for general email etiquette in mind. For instance, make sure there is a standard signing off an introductory line, without sounding too boring. Or, you cannot obviously begin your mail with a ‘Yo, what’s up’.

Fan mail, hate mail, requests for help, people pitching their own ideas to you — it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all of it. That’s why it’s crucial that you learn how to email efficiently, know which ones to respond to, which ones to ignore before you find yourself neck-deep in all of that.

Marketing and promotion

There’s no point in running a business if people don’t know about it. As an entrepreneur, your skill set must include a knack for marketing and promotion, otherwise, your business will crumble into obscurity and die a lonely death. The easiest path would be to start with the online promotion of your business. Think social media marketing, viral online videos, increasing website traffic.

You cannot be scared of putting yourself and your idea out there. Do everything within your power to get your name and your brand out there for people to find. If you aren’t going to market and promote yourself, then why should anyone else? It is important to be able to promote your products or services effectively. Having a marketing strategy in place will help you to generate sales.

To grow your business beyond a one-man shop, you’ll need the help of digital marketing. This, at the very least, means building an effective website. It’ll mean knowing the basics of SEO, social media and the know-how to run basic digital marketing campaigns, like Facebook ads.

Time management

Don’t brush this off as another sermon, the kind your mom would give. When you’re starting a new business, the temptation is to work all the time. But that’s not sustainable.

The best entrepreneurs manage their time effectively, which means two things: they spend most of their time on the highest priority tasks and they give themselves time to unplug. You need to know what deserves your attention and time, what can be delegated, and what’s unnecessary. More than anything else, your time is your small business’s greatest resource. How you use that time will go a long way to determining how successful your business will be.

Lawfully yours

It’s extremely important to understand what regulations, licensing rules and tax laws you will need to follow as the owner of a new business. After doing some initial research on your own, consult with a lawyer and accountant to negate any doubts, and to help structure your business to be in line with the law. Obtain all of the proper licenses needed to run your new business, at a minimum. Establishing a successful business is hard enough. The last thing you need is some technical legality or administrative detail to stand in the way of your success.

Your brand is everything, and it needs to be protected. If you don’t properly protect things– business name, product names, logos, marketing materials etc– you’ll have a tough time taking action when someone comes along and steals them from you. Once you get your name out there and start to become any sort of recognisable, someone will try to copy or steal your ideas. Protect yourself and your business.

Human resources 101

Like many entrepreneurs, you may tend to take things into your own hands and pick up most of the workload, because you think, “No one knows my business as I do”. Once things really start taking off, you need to learn that not only is this unsustainable, it’s also impossible.

It’s not just about hiring help, it’s about defining specific roles in your company and finding the right people to fill those roles. Not only do they have to be qualified to fill the position—or at least qualified enough to be trained quickly—but they also have to gel with the rest of the team in order to maintain a positive work environment. Don’t waste time with someone who isn’t working out either. Find the right set of people to elevate your business to the next level. You don’t want to waste time training the wrong ones.

After all the prep you’ve done, the real lessons come from actually being hands-on, learning about your business on the go, seeing what works for you and learning every bit you can. Take each day as it comes, and we’re sure you’ll be fine.

You can also check out our guide on How To Make A Successful Business Plan and get started right away.