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Part of Western Governors University

July 1, 2019

Business

4 skills of successful small-business owners.

Small business owner stands in front of her very own brick & mortar.

At a major company, a business executive is usually in charge of one specific area, such as operations, marketing, or human resources. But a small-business owner shoulders the responsibility for the success of the entire business. At least in the early stages of a startup, the owner tends to be a generalist and has a hand in every aspect of the business.

On the other hand, when it comes to choosing a market, small-business owners are more likely to concentrate on one or a few products or services. Successful entrepreneurs combine a broad knowledge of business operations and an in-depth understanding of their market.

Earning a business degree can help you develop the skills necessary to be a successful small-business owner. Here are four essential things you'll learn in a business program.

1. Leadership.

Small-business owners typically start out by doing a little bit of everything themselves to get their business off the ground, but they must eventually step back and assume a more distinct leadership role as the business grows. Doing so means becoming comfortable with the idea of delegating tasks and responsibilities. Delegation requires the ability to communicate a vision for the company and to inspire others to excel and contribute their talents to the company's success.

A business degree can teach you those skills through courses in human resource management, training and development, management communication, ethical leadership, and other subjects involving how business leaders relate to their employees. These courses train you to develop talent within your organization and lead others to help the organization stay successful.

2. Financial literacy.

Even when small-business owners begin hiring more people to take over various responsibilities, the business's finances will continue to demand their close attention.

Successful business leaders, Forbes says, are financially literate and can understand the details of their companies' management accounts and financial statements. They're also adept at realistically forecasting startup costs, sales and revenue growth, and ongoing business expenses.

A business program offers courses such as accounting, macroeconomics, global economics, and financial management to help build an aspiring entrepreneur's financial literacy.

3. Project management.

Before they take their products or services to the market, small-business owners usually manage several overlapping projects, such as assembling a startup team, creating a prototype, writing a business plan, and pitching the idea to potential investors. Once the business has officially launched, other projects—negotiating client deals, implementing new technologies, navigating expansions—come and go.

Successful project management requires an understanding of effective teamwork, organizational behavior, budgeting, and financial management. Some business management degree programs offer students a chance to show what they've learned in the classroom by completing a project that focuses on solving a real-world business challenge. This type of experiential learning helps students prepare for the project management tasks they encounter in their careers.

4. Strategic thinking.

Successful small-business owners are bold, innovative people—but they aren't impulsive. They use strategic thinking skills to guide their businesses at every stage. They're capable of pairing creativity with sober analysis. They know how to approach a business question with an open mind and gather diverse viewpoints to find the answer.

Strategic thinking is immensely valuable when entrepreneurs are determining who to hire, how best to allocate resources, and how to achieve their long-term business goals.

In business school, you'll have the opportunity to hone your strategic thinking skills in a variety of learning experiences, including those especially focused on competencies like quantitative analytics and data-based decision-making.

If you have dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, it's time to explore how a business degree can equip you with the skills you need to succeed. By teaching you the fundamentals of running a business and helping you develop the necessary management skills, a degree program can put you on the track to a long and prosperous career as a small-business owner.

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