ADVISORY COLUMN: SMALL BUSINESS
QUESTION: Hi Yaneek, 2019 was a hard year for my accessories business. Condensing it all, more people are shopping online and with the dollar being up and down so much the prices kept fluctuating so my customers spent less frequently. I work full-time but build my business selling accessories for women and men. I have been hoping and trying for my side hustle to replace my full-time income but it’s just not happening as planned. I came to the verge of giving up at least three times in the past.
Right now I’m feeling motivated about 2020 but then again I check my bank account and the reality hits. I know I need to sell more because I can’t be starting the year going into overdraft to pay bills. You said leadership skills makes all the difference. What leadership skills programme would you suggest?
– Part-time Entrepreneur
BUSINESSWISE: Thanks so much for the kind sentiments and I truly hope 2020 will be your best year business yet. There’s quite a bit to unpack from your message as it seems you have several competing issues, some related to leadership and others to various business areas.
Based on the information you provided your challenges are: building High performance teams; people management; strategic planning; e-commerce; sales; marketing; procurement/purchasing; and distribution.
There are several local and global programs you can consider ranging in price from a few US dollars to tens of thousands of US dollars. Most of our local colleges and universities offer short courses, some accredited and others are not.
There’s no single course that can cover all these areas, therefore, expect to do multiple courses over an extended period. This is typical, and frankly, the nature of continuing learning required to compete in this age. You also shouldn’t expect to be an expert in each area either.
However, as the leader of the company you need the knowledge and skills, especially in building and managing effective teams to accomplish the vision and goals. In an ideal world your starting point would be a comprehensive leadership assessment to test all skills, for example technical, people management and soft skills.
Unfortunately, there’s none I could recommend at this time. However, there are some leadership methodologies, such as ‘strengths-based leadership’, which have useful diagnostic elements. The most effective programmes usually have pre and post intervention diagnostics, that is, pre-tests and post training assessment to evaluate your learning and skills development when compared with your starting point.
This therefore is one of the most important tips I can share when comparing training options – those that include diagnostics and constant measurement of your progress usually have the edge. This is critical for your own assessment of return on investment. You should establish clear objectives and measurable expected returns on every training dollar spent. You can set targets for sales, profits, productivity, and so on.
Having completed leadership and management diagnostics you’ll be in a position to understand your strengths and weaknesses or gaps, which are opportunities to improve.
Vital Voices Global Partnership has several programmes for women entrepreneurs and women’s leadership. Some attract a small fee, others are fully sponsored. Their courses tend to be effective because of their unmatched expertise in this space for over 20 years, focusing on women’s unique challenges. Also, they are comprehensive, and usually include training, coaching, mentorship, constant monitoring and measurement and even follow-up extending up to 3 years after.
You can also explore purely online courses offered by entities such as Udemy, Allison, and Coursera. These sites are reputable, affordable, on demand and have supporting mobile apps for your convenience. You can also explore other reputable global programmes, such as those offered by famed American leadership guru John Maxwell.
My final point has to do with being a part-time entrepreneur. If you have followed me over the years you know I’m not a fan of part-time entrepreneurship or enterprise.
A business cannot function effectively nor realise its growth and potential without a leader driving it every, single day. If you’re not doing that, you have to have a partner or hire someone who can.
Businesses need attention and strategy and constant focus to understand and satisfy customers, cement a place in the market, manage the gale force winds of change which can bring risk and opportunities.
No matter how much you invest in leadership training and development, if the recipient isn’t 100 per cent focused on the business, the investment won’t be maximised.
Yaneek Page is the program lead for Market Entry USA, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship, and creator and executive producer of The Innovators and Let’s Make Peace TV series.