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8 Essential Skills Every Business Owner Needs to Learn

As an entrepreneur, I make sure to educate other ladypreneurs about the importance of investing in themselves. While investing in yourself and business might cost you a lot of money, it gives you long-term benefits such as the advantage of building valuable skills that would benefit your business and improving your strengths over time. Let’s face the truth- the business world has changed from the way it was operated 20 years ago. Running a business on just sheer instinct isn’t enough anymore. You have to stay on top of growing trends if you want your business to survive and succeed. And that’s why I have put together this list of business skills and resources that every business owner needs to boost their business. 1. Relationship Building Building great relationships especially with customers/clients is one of the ways to differentiate your business from competitors. As a business owner, your relationships will take various forms, as you’ll meet different people; and need to wear different hats to maintain a good relationship. I’d advise that the major categories of relationships you need to build are with: Customers/Clients; Business connections/ fellow entrepreneurs who can grow and support your business; and Mentors 2.  Storytelling Let’s face it! Everyone loves stories, no matter the age or economic status. Incorporating storytelling into your business infuses a human touch customers can’t resist. It helps customers establish a human connection with your business. Some of the advantages of using storytelling for your business include: It captivates your customers; It makes your business relatable and approachable; and It makes your business credible and trust-worthy. 3. Content Creation Content is king! Yes, that might sound cliché, but it’s true. Please note that content doesn’t have to be restricted to words alone. It could come in other forms such as videos, infographics, pictures, podcasts, whitepapers, case studies, etc. Don’t just display the products or services you’re offering. Go a step ahead by also offering value to your customers. For example, do you sell fashion items? Spice up your brand by posting style inspirations, care of the items you sell, how to rock that item for different occasions, etc. By providing good content, you not only let your customers know that you have their best interests at heart but also assert that buying from your business is the best decision they could ever make. 4. Customer Service How many of you never returned to buy from a brand just because of poor customer experience? Lots of you, right? The same principle applies to your customers too. As business owners, you have to realize that your customers are king, and so, must be treated like royalty. Providing excellent customer experience is one of the easiest ways to make your business stand out from other businesses. It’s also one of the easiest ways to retain customers and get referrals.  Therefore, ensure you develop your customer skills and treat your customers with respect. 5. Financial Literacy/Management This means having an understanding of how much you can spend and how you should spend it. Every cent you spend and generate must be accounted for. If you don’t know how to calculate your expenditure and revenue, it’s definitely time to become financially literate. 6. Management When your business begins to grow, it will require expansion. And expansion translates to hiring more people to support you. Once you do this, you need to ensure that the people on your team are doing what they are supposed to do and that they’re are doing it efficiently. Therefore, don’t be just a business owner. 7. Leadership A good business owner needs to have good leadership skills to run a team of other people. When you are a good leader, it becomes easy to motivate and inspire greatness in your employees. With proper leadership, employees, contractors, and even customers will respect you. Please note that to be a leader isn’t to be bossy to inspire fear. Rather, a good leader brings the best out of people, listens to other people, shows them respect and showing them that you’re capable of leading them to achieve victory. 8. Hiring I see a lot of business owners make the mistake of hiring the first person that shows an interest in working with/for them or has the qualifications they are looking for. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough. While hiring a person with an exemplary portfolio and good work history is good, you have to consider other variables such as their personality, beliefs and whether they are a perfect fit for your business’ culture. Running a business is very demanding. Identify your weaknesses and invest in skills that that will provide your business with solid foundations.

Oluwatoyin Egedi: From Stay at Home Mom to Piloting Women Empowerment

Oluwatoyin Egedi is a Civil Engineer by training but an entrepreneur by decision. She currently sits as the CEO of Rullion Capacity Builders Foundation – a social enterprise that seeks to empower women with skills to start profitable businesses right from home. The vision for her is to use the vehicle of skill acquisition to ameliorate women’s capacity and enhance their chances for economic enrichment.  Why did you start a women empowerment center?   I started Rullion Capacity in 2014 – a women empowerment center from a personal encounter and insight into the need for women to be skilled and have the capacity to generate income as stay at home moms.   This center was born at a time when I also needed to be empowered – I had just had my third baby and the few job interviews I attended didn’t expressly say, but once they learned I was married and had children, the odds tilted away from me. Later, I realized that in an employers’ eyes, a married woman with children meant more off days, more sick leaves, the bottom line, fewer work hours. Without getting any offers, I decided that rather than just sit at home idle, I would learn a skill. I settled for small chops and cocktails.   The program was very affordable as it was subsidized by the church and I was amazed at the number of women who attended the skill empowerment. With the knowledge, I garnered from working in the advertising industry before being a stay at home mum, in no time I was selling my finger foods at events and was making some income even though I was working from home.   Soon, I discovered that a lot of the other women who attended that program with me were not grounded in basic business skills and were waiting to get funds to rent a space before they start a business. Instantly, I knew this was an error, and thought about how I could change this.   I gathered a group of friends and with further discussions, we saw there was a need to change the mindset of so many women who think being a stay at home moms meant being without avenues to generate income.   We launched a skill acquisition program laced with business skills in financial literacy, customer service, brand management, legal aspects of business, marketing and sales.   Our first program was a flop as we were still quite unknown but we persisted and created more awareness. Using social media as a very strong marketing tool, we had more attendees.   So far, we have trained over 400 women who have largely gone on to start their small businesses and some who do not have the financial capacity to start, are currently employed until they can.   [bctt tweet=”Our first skill acquisition program was a flop as we were still quite unknown but we persisted and created more awareness using Social Media ” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”] There are quite a number of women empowerment organizations, what makes yours stand out? In striving for excellence in a sector where there are so many mushroom operators, in 2016, we became an accredited vocational center for Trade Test 1, 2 and 3 and NABTEB (National Business and Technical Examinations Board) exams which further qualifies our trainees to work anywhere in the world. Last year, we observed that a critical challenge our trainees had was having access to capital to purchase equipment. This led us to seek and partner with MISS – Micro Investment Support Services (an equipment leasing company led by Mrs. Elizabeth Ehigiamusoe). With this, our trainees can purchase equipment on loan of up to N500,000 over a tenor of 12 months with a very affordable interest rate. Furthermore, we observed that though our students now had the equipment and technical know-how for business and already had products, a bigger challenge was getting ready buyers. The answer to this was The Women’s Entrepreneurship Fair (WEF) with the vision to connect our women to customers, investors and the government.   We had 2 editions last year with women-focused brands such as Access Bank Women banking, Molfix Diapers, Guardian Life, Nobel Carpet and rugs (Lush Hair), Cake World, Orijin Zero, Bella Naija, Fero Mobile, De-united Foods Limited, Cadbury, United Capital Limited, LSETF, among others throwing their weight behind the massively successful event. A lot of our women are still reaping the dividends of those shopping exhibitions and we are looking forward to having more in the near future [bctt tweet=”Without getting any offers, I decided that rather than just sit at home idle, I would learn a skill – Oluwatoyin Egedi” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”] What Challenges have you encountered on this journey?   Remember I mentioned I was thrown into this journey not of my own will but because of circumstances around me at the time. So it has not been a smooth journey but I’ve been determined as I currently enjoy what I do. Below are some challenges I faced: 1. Wrong Structure:  We are a registered social enterprise with the CAC but without any formal educational background in the team, we struggled with the structure a bit before we found our footing. Working with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity’s trade test modules and syllabus likewise NABTEB’s has helped us put a proper structure in place 2. Getting skilled workers:  This was difficult for the courses we offer at Rullion but we had to overcome. Courses such as Cosmetology ( hairdressing, nail fixing, makeup and gele tying, Fashion design and accessories, catering and hotel works, and so forth) but as trainers, we have embraced the importance of training and re-training.   Some people are of the opinion that if you train your staff, they’ll leave you and become competition. But what if you don’t train them and they stay? It comes back to hurt your brand and what you aim to achieve. Besides, collaboration is a new competition.   We can’t do all the work,

Negotiation 101 for dummies

[bctt tweet=”You’ll be winning at negotiations even if you’re no good it with these tips” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”] You have been in negotiations for quite some time already. No matter how hard you try, you are confronted by a silent wall every time you attempt to find anything about the other party. Communication is not passing through and you only know your position. Worse, the tension is building up and your opponent is becoming more aggressive by the minute. What do you do? You might be tempted to give up, to stay on your position, or to concede to their requests. However, none of these options will give you what you need. This article will present you with tools to ease into negotiations and achieve a satisfactory agreement. Never state, always ask Asking questions is a way to educate and seek information. By asking questions, you show a willingness to take the other party’s opinion into consideration. You also communicate your desire to understand their situation. Questions are also a wonderful tool to make them understand your own position. Ask them what they would do in your place. Ask them hypothetical questions like, “What if I did exactly what you asked, what would be the consequences that I will face?”. It will help put their demands in perspective and show how realistic their proposal is. The power of silence Silence, when used right, is a very powerful tool it shows that you are listening and paying attention to what is being said. When silent, do not try to think about what you are going to say next or how to counter their current argument. Focus on what is being said and on making sure you have a proper understanding of the situation. When you ask a question, make sure you refrain from commenting or saying anything at all until you receive a full answer. By staying silent, you are pushing them to elaborate on what was said. This is an effective way to gather as many details as possible on an issue. Silence makes people nervous and compelled to fill in the absence of noise. The more comfortable you are with being silent the better negotiation ninja you will become. Forget about bottom lines The purpose of setting a bottom line is to protect your interest by making sure that the outcome of a negotiation will never go above what you are willing to concede. By setting a bottom line you will consider only one scenario as the least acceptable one. However, the costs of considering a unique outcome greatly outweigh the benefits of a bottom line. A bottom line cannot be changed and therefore lacks in flexibility. It will keep you away from bad deals as well as wise deals. It will also limit the influx of creative input and the making of imaginative solutions. A bottom line will cut short discussions without solving anything. Developing your best alternative Negotiating power is gained when the option of not reaching an agreement is as or more appealing than the option of reaching it. Before entering any discussion, you must think about the possibility of not reaching an agreement. What will you do if negotiations are not conclusive? What is your best alternative to negotiations? Thinking about the possible failure of discussions will help make the most out of your situation. It is, therefore, important to prepare yourself. Take a moment to brainstorm all possible alternatives to the negotiations. Out of all the ideas generated, choose a few to develop into concrete plans. Then assess which out of the developed plans is the best for your situation and select your best alternative. The more attractive the alternative, the more power you will have during the negotiations. A powerful best alternative should make you want to call off negotiations before they even started. Dismantling the other side’s best alternative Part of your preparation will involve understanding the other party. You need to gain as much information as possible on their motivations, interest, and above all, you will need to know what their best alternative is. Sometimes, if not readily available, the information will have to be obtained during the discussion process. Once you have acquired all the knowledge you need, you have to ask yourself: “Is their best alternative attractive? Is it easily attainable? Is it realistic?” If the answer to all three questions is no, then you have all negotiating powers on your side. If the answer to all three questions is yes, you will have to consider taking actions that will decrease the attractiveness of their best alternative. Most frequently, the answers are a combination of yes and no. If it is your case, you will not only have to show that your alternative is more attractive to you than theirs is to them, but also explain why their best alternative might not be the best solution. Always keep in mind that the easier it is to walk away from the discussion, the more negotiating power you hold.