Most of us small business owners started our careers working 9 to 5 jobs. While working for someone else, we developed important skills that we apply to our own businesses.
For years, I was a staff writer within companies. I worked under editors, alongside designers, and with the direction of marketing professionals. Without this experience, I couldn’t have started my own freelance writing business.
If you just left a 9 to 5 to start your own business — good for you! You’re about to start the adventure of a lifetime. But don’t forget your roots. There are a ton of skills you developed at your job that can help your company excel. Here’s how to transfer those skills to your new business venture.
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Write down your skills.
Whether you’re doing the same line of work or not, many of your previous skills are transferable. Write them down. Do you have any of the following skills that are needed across industries and roles?
Consider how these skills apply to your new business.
No matter what business you’re in, communication skills are critical. Your communication skills help you acquire and retain customers. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it, and how well you listen. And, even if you’re not a professional writer, it’s also important to write clear, succinct emails and other written communication.
Customer service skills
Think about your favorite stores. Chances are, they offer great customer service. Similarly, your business will grow if you can be patient, attentive, clear, and understanding with customers, even under the most difficult of circumstances. Be knowledgeable of your product, and stay positive and calm. Remember, your customers are your most important assets.
The more you know, the better off you are. Take time to dig deep into customer, competitive, and product research. Try conducting focus groups to discuss your product or service, sending out a customer survey, and reading case studies from your industry. Then organize your research and make a plan to build on it every year.
Were you a manager at your last 9 to 5 job? Or did you manage projects, not people? Either way, management skills are critical when starting a new business. Consider how well you plan, delegate, problem-solve, and lead. Even if you’re now a team of one, you need to manage your own workload well.
When you’re starting a new business, there’s a lot to do — and quickly. It’s easy to get buried under the workload if you’re not organized. Now is a good time to bring organizational skills and methods to your new business. For example, I learned to rely on Trello, a project management tool, when I worked at a technology startup. Now I use it to organize projects at my own business.
Remember how you used to prioritize work, manage your time, and be detail-oriented. These organization skills are more important now than ever before.
Business strategy skills
If you’re starting a business, you need to hone in your business strategy. Think about the business model at your 9 to 5 job. What worked? What didn’t? What did you learn from that experience?
Next, define your industry’s problem, and your company’s solution and value proposition. Consider conducting a SWOT analysis — defining your product’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, and threats. Finally, follow best practices in securing revenue, tracking expenses, and forecasting profit.
At my company, I’m the VP of Finance, Marketing, Sales, and Product. That’s right, I’m a one-woman show. That’s why I’m so thankful for the business skills I developed at previous jobs. They’ve helped me not only survive, but thrive.
Okay, so I cheated a little on this one. I’m married to someone who works in IT. If I need technical support, all I have to do is nudge my in-house IT professional (he’s the best around).
But, even so, I try not to bother him with too many questions. Thankfully, I’ve developed technology skills over the years. For example, I learned the ins and outs of using HubSpot marketing software to generate and nurture business leads. Today, HubSpot is one of the main tools I use for marketing and sales. I’m even exploring its customer service features.
Critical thinking skills
Starting a business involves problem-solving. Whether you’re trying to improve your product, handle the unique needs of a customer, or serve people in a more efficient way — you need to be a critical thinker.
Analyze the facts. Document them. Then take time to be creative and reason through problems. Remember not to pass judgment on a person or situation too quickly. Chances are, there’s more than what meets the eye. A good critical thinker takes a step back and reflects on all angles in order to develop a conclusion.
Don’t forget a positive attitude — that’s a skill too.
What was your favorite part of your 9 to 5 job? For me, it was the people. I worked with a fantastic team who I still miss today. They were positive, smart, and encouraging.
Even though I work solo now, I bring that positivity to my own business. When I work with customers, I try to be encouraging and kind. I go the extra mile because, to me, my customers are my teammates. Whether your last company had a positive environment or not, you can always start your business on the right foot.
Trust me, having a positive attitude is an invaluable skill that will take you far!
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I earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (go Bucky). After realizing my first job might involve carrying a police scanner at 2 am in pursuit of “newsworthy” crimes, I decided I was better suited for freelance blogging and marketing writing. Since 2010, I’ve owned my freelance writing business, EST Creative. When I’m not penning, doodling ideas, or chatting with clients, you’ll find me hiking with my husband, baby boy, and 2 mischievous mutts.
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