I promised in my last post to list for you the key business functions for solopreneurs. It's understandable that people who work “alone” think they are all there is to their business. Understandable, but wrong – to have the reach you need for financial success, you must be a manager as well as a visionary. Take a look at this list and you'll see the point I'm making!
Key Function: Visionary – you are the creator, the one who imagines, who sees the “need in the niche.” But unless you gain publicity for who you are and what you do, the most wonderful vision the world has to offer won't ever be shared, and the people who need that vision won't benefit. So……
Key Functions: Marketing. Whether you are Internet-based or not, you need copywriting so that you can tell about your business in presentations, speeches, and brochures (in the simplest forms of marketing). To make your copy interesting and available to those whose English isn't strong, you need graphics, too. Are you counting? That's 3 key functions in addition to your visionary function.
Key Functions: Web design. If you have a website (and who doesn't these days?) you need copywriting and design for your site. You'll also need to use the graphics you developed for your print media, perhaps slightly tweaked for web use. Your site is of no use, however, if no one can find it. So, as part of the web design you'll also need keyword research and search engine optimization. These take time and experience to master, and few solopreneurs have the skills right off the bat. Your business is at stake, so you don't want to fool around and experiment on your own success, do you? Count them up – that's three more key functions!
Key Functions: Content writing. Along with copywriting (sales copy) you will need write what it is you offer. If you are a coach and you work from a particular system, you'll need content that explains your system and how you use it for the benefit of a client. If you are selling a “how to” skill (how to negotiate, for instance) you'll need content. Content writing is often what a solopreneur wants to do for herself, because, after all, she is the expert and holds the vision of what she wants to say. During or after the content writing, however, you will improve the content by having a copy editor review and help you revise and strengthen your message. We rarely can do a great job of editing our own copy. So, two more key functions identified here.
Key Functions: Sales. If you sell only in person, you are likely, at least at first, to be the sales person. This means that you are now wearing the visionary hat, the content writing hat, and the sales hat. And, since you are smart and know you need a team, don't forget the manager hat. Surely by now you are realizing you cannot do this all by your lonesome self. You need a personal assistant at the very least, someone who can help you coordinate these key functions. She can help you find and install the merchant account system you need in order to support your sales. Your merchant account system will require telecommunications, your bank, and maybe a clearinghouse that acts between your bank and the merchant account.
If you are selling through the Internet, you will also need a shopping cart. Your shopping cart will integrate with your merchant account system and bank, and you'll also need to set up a clearinghouse if you don't already have one. Shopping carts require some technical expertise to set up, so at least at first, you will probably need to have someone handle this for you. If your personal assistant can't do this, another team member can do this for you. You'll also need copywriting for the autoresponders in your shopping cart (the e-mails that thank people for their order, give them shipping information, and so forth.)
Social media is an integral part of marketing, public relations, and sales in today's world, whether you are an Internet-based business or not. Using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn (to name just a few) can be effective, but it's also a place where you can waste a lot of time. As you grow and get more demands on your time, you will need to use your personal assistant or another team member to handle your social media campaigns. I count 8 key functions here.
Key Functions: Accounting. Your bookkeeping system is vital, because it lets you know exactly where you stand in your business at any given time. I recommend reviewing a cash flow report weekly, usually at the end of the week. To be financially successful, a solopreneur has to be profitable, sure. But you also want to be aware of cash flow, accounts receivable, your operating costs (your overhead), and the return on investment for advertising and other costs. This is one area that I often see solopreneurs struggle with, because they frequently want to “do it themselves.” But you're not in business to sit at your computer and do bookkeeping, are you? And when you get busy (a sales opportunity) the first thing that falls behind is keeping up the bookkeeping. Before you know it, you've lost your handle on the money. I strongly recommend that you let go of the bookkeeping, AND get yourself an accountant who specializes in small businesses. Getting these two key functions in place is vital. Your bookkeeper can provide you with a weekly cash flow statement by e-mail. Do this and you'll always have a good pulse on your money.
Key functions: Strategic alliances. As your business grows, you will want to form collaborations (often called joint ventures) with other business owners. In fact, you may decide to let other businesses affiliate with you and sell your products or services. It helps to have other business owners to think about these strategies with, so over time you'll probably want to work with a coach or coaches. You might also want to be in a Mastermind group. These can be invaluable to you, so be clear about exactly what you want, and choose carefully. But DO choose – refusing to invest in your own growth is a sure path to keeping your business small.
You could also end up needing a business manager who handles customer service, designs customer appreciation campaigns, and special events. Sometimes a partner ends up fulfilling these functions. The key is to remember that these are important to your success, so if you don't get around to them, it's time to get help. I count 4 key functions here.
Key Functions: Home. My position is that having help at home is key to a solopreneur's business success. If you decide to keep handling housekeeping, yard maintenance, and errands for yourself, keep in mind that there is an opportunity cost. One of two things will likely happen. You'll make the excuse to stay home and take care of all home maintenance, missing opportunities to connect and market. Or, your home will get messier and less maintained because you are so focused on business. Both have costs to you and your business. It's well worth it to have support in keeping your home a wonderful place for respite and work. I count 3 key functions here.
You can count these up for yourself, and get the point that it takes a team to grow a business. Thinking small keeps you small. Thinking you can do it all yourself is both grandiose and unwise. Remember that you've got four major hats to wear no matter what – you are the visionary, the sales person, the manager, and the content writer, at the least. You dilute your focus when you decide to take responsibility for much more than these core functions, and fuzzy focus leads to failure. Take some time to set up your key functions and who is going to handle them now – and watch your business flourish!
(c) Sue Painter