In the first part of this series of articles, on managing your online business at home, I wrote about the many management responsibilities and functions you have rolled into one if you have your own sole proprietor business, with no staff. Your management task is perhaps the most difficult of all. You have to manage yourself, in all those different areas of your business such as finance, marketing, purchasing and computing.
I believe that if you think of your new home business as having different areas of management for you to concentrate on, you are more likely to succeed long term. If you can adopt some of the techniques of good management, you will end up with a more sound business that will stand the test of time. You will be a better decision maker, and it is decisions that dictate the progress or downfall of any business. Decision making needs to be unemotional and as scientific as possible, but as much as anything needs to be based on common sense. Good management is often a matter of common sense, and that is why I believe you, whatever your background, can run a successful business limited only by your ambitions.
The other virtue you will need in abundance is patience, and this an area where you definitely need to manage yourself. Impatience brings emotion into your decision making. It also brings self criticism, or criticism of others, when none is either deserved or necessary. Patience, realism and common sense combined will contribute greatly to making you a good business manager. With those three attributes, you will be well placed to learn the skills of management in the context of your own small business. You will be able to learn how the different functions of a business relate to each other and interact.
That is not easy, but over time, if you apply yourself, it will all fall into place. This is where patience is vital. Your age or background do not necessarily matter. I know that in my late 20’s I did not really understand business and how it all fitted together. At 30, I knew I needed some sort of professional qualification, and I decided on management accountancy. The syllabus was tough, with 18 exams over 2 and a half to 5 years. What surprised me was the variety of subjects to cover. There were exams in company law, business law, economics, corporate planning, marketing, production, decision making, cost accounting, management accounting, mathematics and statistics. Each subject was very different. Then, at the end, I suddenly realized that all of them knitted together. The ones I hated (law) and loved (marketing) all had a place in the scheme of things.
You, of course, have no need to study or be an expert in all of those things. But it does help to at least be aware that some of them are, in their own way, critical to your success. If you are taking a long term view of things, which you should be if you are serious about having your own home business, you have plenty of time to learn about those subjects that are most critical for your business:
Whatever your business, this is a very critical function for you to understand and manage, so when it comes to learning all you can, financial management is a priority. Much of this is again common sense, and realism, and there are many tools around to help you keep good financial records. But as I mentioned before, it is decisions that dictate the progress or downfall of any business. All decisions you make will have a financial impact on your business. However, good financial records alone will not bring the reward of better decision making. If you want to maximize the profits of your home business, you may find it helps to have other, non-financial records to aid your decisions. I will discuss this more in part 3 of this series of articles.
Marketing is what I love most about business, and it is equally important to finance in all free enterprises. With an online business, the marketing side is an ever moving area of expertise. Offline, marketing has long since stabilised. Online, it has not stabilised at all; it is still developing and evolving. You need to be aware of what’s happening in the world of internet marketing, what has happened, and what is likely to happen. Always remember, though, there will always be a financial impact of your marketing decisions. You are obviously prepared to take risks, as you have started or are starting an online business at home. As the manager of your business you will need to balance the financial and marketing conflicts as they arise. You have to strike the right balance. If the finance director in you is too risk averse, you may stifle the growth of your business. If the marketing director in you is too cavalier, and unrealistic about sales prospects, you may ruin your business in one or two rash decisions. More on this in part 4.
If you are working online full time, or even part time, you will always need to be looking out for developments in the arenas of software and the internet itself, and maybe at times hardware. You may come across software that either improves your efficiency, makes life much easier or takes you into a new and better way of working. This is another area where knowledge is power. You need to be competitive, and sometimes you will come across new software that will make you more competitive. Try to keep abreast of things in the software marketplace, as it affects your business.
While not a function like finance or marketing, when you work at home alone you will find that time management becomes key to your success and enjoyment of working from home. It is a subject you should always be aware of and make conscious decisions about. I will write more on this topic in part 5.
The above are just the key areas where you need to view your business from a management viewpoint, and the list of course is not exhaustive. However, pay attention to these from a manager’s perspective, and you should benefit in the long run. You will take the leap from being “employee” to “boss”, even if you are the only one you can be “boss” to.