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Many successful people start businesses because they have a skill to create something for which there is a market. Unfortunately, they may or may not have the other skills it takes to be an outstanding businessperson.

A great chef produces fantastic food and he may even be outstanding at getting the team to deliver peak performance in the kitchen. However, once he opens a restaurant, he is taking on a completely new set of responsibilities.

As the owner of a small business, the employees are counting on him. They know he can cook; being a great chef is not enough to give the enterprise a good chance of success.

To make the new restaurant, or any other type of enterprise, a success, the fledgling entrepreneur needs to learn how to hire and fire, how to deal with clients, how to do the marketing to attract patrons, how to handle the legal stuff, and how to keep track of the money.

Until you’ve learned these skills, you are going to be frustrated as a business owner. Your team will be frustrated, and you won’t be an effective leader.

Once you open the doors, you do not have the luxury of a lot of time to learn a new skill. It may have taken years to learn to cook, but you won’t have years to master these business skills.

You may not have time to go back to school and take a semester long course in marketing, management, human resources or finance, but you can go to a one day seminar. You can read articles on those topics in trade publications for your industry.

If you have mastered the technical part of your business, but are struggling with some of the business skills, I recommend reading The E-Myth Revised: Why Most Small Business Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber. No time to read? Get the audiobook and listen on the way to work.

Think about the skills that you need to improve. Be truthful with yourself. What skills should you work on now to be a more effective leader? Can you find ways to delegate some of those tasks to people who can do them better with the right direction? Delegating effectively is the topic of another article in this series.

One of the most effective ways to move ahead quickly is to find a mentor. I mentor some promising entrepreneurs. They’re good mentees because they are ambitious, they want to make a lot of money, they are competitive, they have thick skins, and they listen. If you have not yet found your mentor, what should you do in the meantime?

My main recommendation – read. Find a list of the best business books over the last decade, and dedicate yourself to reading one per month. Read or use your commuting time to listen to quality business audiobooks on marketing, leadership, finance, communications and leadership. Follow this self-improvement program and apply its insights, and you will be a more successful businessperson.

Of a hundred of your competitors, how many recognize the need for change? To improve their sales or reduce their expenses? It’s easy to say that half might. Therefore, if you recognize the need to change, you’ve just beat 50 percent, or 50 of your 100 competitors.

Now, of those remaining 50, how many are capable of working through all the issues and understanding what change is needed? Growth in sales? Reduction in expenses? How many can really work through all that and arrive at the right answers? I would say half is optimistic, so only 25 recognize the need for change and can identify what to do about it.

Now, of those left, how many can actually prepare a sound written plan, based in metrics and finance, to address those issues? A bridge plan (discussed in another article in this series or Google it) on delivering the goal? Half? That’s a charitable estimate. If you can do these steps, or get help to do them, you’ve just surpassed half of the 25 left. At this point, you’re already ahead of 87 of 100 competitors.

Executing the plan is not easy. To do it, you will need to hold people accountable, measure, meet, and modify the plan on the fly. Executing well is hard. Half of those left might be able to do it. So, execute well, and you only have 6 of the original 100 competitors in front of you. Not bad! If you need expert help, don’t be afraid to ask. Surround yourself with people smarter than you are (a topic of another article in this series).

Published in the April 2017 Edition of American Recycler News