Starting a business is an impressive achievement that’s guaranteed to make you proud, but the real victory lies in your ability to grow and sustain the venture. A Solopreneur business owner must be both leader and manager, competencies that seldom co-exist within the same person.
Leadership skills support your ability to formulate a guiding vision for your enterprise, recognize business opportunities, devise strategies, find new customers and develop marketing plans, as well as inspire potential investors, collaborators and employees.
Management skills direct your focus to administrative functions, as well as business operations, financial management, risk management, quality control and customer service.
While it’s recommended that Solopreneurs cultivate both skill sets, it’s probably inevitable that the average person will favor one competency over the other. Nevertheless, it is important to hone both leadership and managerial capabilities so that you are better prepared to position the venture to overcome the challenges that visit every business, regardless of industry, annual sales revenue, or number of employees. Discussed below are two of the five common business challenges that we’ll examine.
How many active clients are on your roster? How many do you bill at least $1000/ month, on average? I completely understand that for a Solopreneur, every client counts and that it’s so comfortable to provide services to just one or two clients who are generous with billable hours.
However, succeeding in business means pushing beyond comfort level and actively discouraging one’s tendency to become complacent. Furthermore, depending on one or two big clients for the lion’s share of annual revenue places the business in a vulnerable position.
What will happen to your billable hours if your contact at that company moves on? There can be no guarantee that the next person will continue to send projects your way. Be advised that the new person has Solopreneur friends with whom s/he has previously worked and it’s reasonable to believe that it will be game over for someone who’s thought to have ridden the gravy train for a number of years.
Demonstrate your leadership skills and protect your venture as you pursue potential prospects to nurture your sales pipeline. A diversified active client list is an insurance policy. Furthermore, growing your list of viable prospects encourages you to operate as a real Solopreneur and not just a sub-contractor for a larger entity.
Early in the life cycle of a business, the most important money matter is simply to earn enough to pay the bills, for the business and your personal life. On the next rung, you’ll begin to consider the amount of investment capital needed to finance upgrades that will make you and the company appear more competent and trustworthy to clients, prospects and referring colleagues and friends.
The company website must have a professional look and download quickly. Printed marketing materials must reinforce the superior quality of your brand and communicate your expertise. Even the look of your invoice matters. You’ll also need enough revenue to occasionally attend conferences to upgrade your skills and expand your networking options.
BTW, to promote a predictable cash flow, it is not uncommon for Soloprenuers to take a job, whether it’s an under the radar gig such as bartending or waitressing, or a more typical opportunity such as teaching, where one’s professional skills are parlayed into an arena other than the usual client work.
Unless you have a background in finance, consulting with a good accountant and/ or bookkeeper is the best way to ensure that your venture has astute financial management. Meet quarterly with a bookkeeper and semi-annually with the accountant to learn how to take the necessary steps to strengthen your business finances.
I’ll return to discuss more common business challenges.
Merry Christmas and thanks for reading,
Photograph: Members of the Acorda Capoeira perform on a roof top in Rio de Janeiro (July 2016)