You know the saying, Jack-of-All-Trades, master of none? Well, as a business owner especially at the onset for a small enterprise like this, you’re much better off being a Jack-of-All-Trades. There are a ton of basic skills / knowledge areas that it’s worthwhile getting a familiarity with; if not mastery. Here’s a list of a few:
Carpentry / Plumbing / Painting / etc. DIY
If you’re running a retail store, I bet it’s even more important, but understanding the basics of all the above could save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Here’s just a few things we’ve had to deal with already : unstopping a sink, dealing with leaking tap and our own shelves.
Bookkeeping / Accounting
Understanding the basics of these and how it relates to your business will save you a ton of trouble in the future. In fact, learning to do basic bookkeeping is quite useful – no one else will understand your business as well as you do, and that is often the difference between inputting the right information into your accounts. Whether you outsource this or not, make sure to have someone professional at least set-up your accounts in the beginning and walk you through it if you don’t understand the various capital / inventory / expense / revenue lines in your P&L and Balance Sheet.
Btw – I don’t suggest doing your taxes yourself. At least in Canada, the corporate tax filing system is quite thick and complex.
Yeah, marketing is important. Simply defined, marketing is anything you do to get & keep a customer. It’s an art and science and unless you specialize in it, you won’t be as good. Still, understanding the basics of marketing in your area is important – if nothing more than to ensure you aren’t taken for a ride when you do hire someone. So, pick up an introductory textbook to understand at least the basic strategies and if you’re in retail, ‘Why We Buy’ is a must-read. So’s Guerilla Marketing, though realise it’s written for a US audience.
I don’t expect you to know the intricacies of the law, but understanding the differences in business types (private vs public companies, limited or self-owned businesses and partnerships) as well as the various intricacies of owning a corporation like shareholder agreements, articles of incorporation, the various shares in your company will hold you in good stead. In addition, it also means you’ll be able to file the routine paperwork necessary.
Purchasing / Logistics
Purchasing is the mainstay of any retail business. Get this one wrong and you’ll destroy your own business. Get it right and you have a chance of surviving. Here’s a few things you might need to learn : What are turn rates? How many copies of a game should you get? What are the delivery times between distributors and costs? What is an acceptable stock-out rate for your business? And how do you pack a box properly – the sizing requirements, the amount of fill and packing tape among others.
Human resources covers both the soft skills of managing employees and the hard skills of the legal requirements. There are a ton of legal work in hiring, some of them in BC include WorkSafe BC, EI, CPP, Taxes, payment remittance and the T4 forms. It can also include looking into things like company wide benefits and hiring.
Sales & Customer Service
Do I even have to explain why? Sales does require practice, so if you can do it on someone else’s dime, that’s always good. Learning the basic skills in querying customers, upsell’s & conflict management goes a long way in keeping your bottom line healthy. My general go-to when selling in-person is to ask what the customer what they are looking for, then check off questions on theme, game group size, complexity and length of time. Any previous games they have played and enjoyed are another great resource for narrowing down choices.
These days, a minimum business requirement is a website. You can of course get someone to design & code and update your website for you, and if you don’t have the basic skills here it might make sense. Still, knowing at least how to update your site for current news like events, new games & important announcements will make the site much more effective.
However, basic IT skills also includes things like setting up your Internet connection, wireless router & payment center. Being able to trouble-shoot the basic problems with your internet access & printer will save you a ton of trouble.
Those are all the main skills I can think off right now, I’m sure others will chime-in. While money fixes a lot of problems, if you’re a small business, money is always tight. I’ll discuss cashflow & the P&L sheet later on to help you understand why.