6 Geeky Skills Every Entrepreneur Should Have
In business, I’ve always found that a broad, diverse range of skills is a leading indicator of success. In small businesses and startups, doubly so. An entrepreneur or business owner who can edit his own website, take his own photos, manage his own network, and fix his own light switch is going to save money, allowing him to invest more and grow faster. I should know; I’ve done it for over 7 years, and doubled in sales 4 times over.
This isn’t to say that you should try to be a one-man-show. On the contrary, I’m a firm believer of delegating and outsourcing tasks that simply are not worth your time. However, there are a number of skills that will give you an edge. Things that you may spend 5 or 10 minutes doing, which are too small to outsource in little bits, but make a big difference when you can do them at your every whim. Here is a list of a few of those skills, specifically with regards to technology.
No entrepreneur goes into business to slog through
tags and CSS Stylesheets.
But having this valuable skill can save you lots of time and money. Small tweaks to your website don't merit hiring someone, but are often crucial. I have seen far too many business owners pay someone hundreds of dollars to change a few images and the colors of fonts for Christmas Sales, Black Friday Sales, and various other occasions. Learn how to work with basic HTML (Come on, it's so easy, and there are tons of tutorials on the web) and gain at least a rudimentary understanding of what CSS is. It will help you in the long run, and you'll use it much more than you think. Don't worry about becoming a master, as you can always look things up as you go along
I know what you're thinking, with the high quality of many WYSIWYG ("What You See Is What You Get") visual editors today, who needs HTML? While these are indeed great tools, they aren't available to edit a lot of pages, and furthermore, they often generate junky HTML, which search engines hate!
2. Photography & Image Editing
You will always need a photographer for high quality press images and head shots. But with the number of GREAT DSLR Cameras out there and the availability of great image editing software for next to nothing, there is no excuse for having junky photos on your website. When a client asks for a photo of a specific angle of your product, or you need a photo of your new facility for your website, you should be able to handle that in-house and save paying a photographer to come out.
Me? I can highly recommend the Nikon D5000, as it’s a great entry-level DSLR for the “rest” of us, with 720p high def video. For image editing, I love photoshop, but can also generally get by with just iPhoto for tweaks.
3. Smart Phone Power-Use
This probably doesn’t seem like a geeky skill, but I’m not talking about being able to send an email or forward contact info on your phone. Business owners need to be able to react to things that come up, good or bad, wherever they are. Unless you plan to be tethered to your desk, you need to be able to edit documents, view proposals, and update your web site – all from your phone. You should also figure out how to multi-task, work while you are on a call, etc. Not to plug AT&T, but being able to search and reference the web while on a conference call has saved me dozens of times.
3. Incremental Backups
If you think that backing up your system is optional, you are tempting fate. Hard drives fail. Laptops get dropped. People delete files – only to realize they need to reference them months later. This is why an incremental backup system is so key. Instead of carte-blanche restoring your entire system or relying on the last time you manually backed up, an incremental backup such as Apple’s Time Machine or Acronis True Image lets you browse through history. Say you were working on a file but became distracted, and the quality of your work suffered. You could restore back to 3 hours ago, before that Biggest Loser Marathon threw you off your A-game. There are also a number of online backup services, such as Mozythat can do this in the cloud, which should assuage fears about fire or theft.
4. Social Media
Whether your organization has 1 or 100 employees, you need to understand and use social media. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, taught us that even in an organization with thousands of employees, the CEO’s presence on Twitter (or Facebook) really excites and engages people. If you don’t know how to tweet or post a Facebook update on behalf of your company, you had better learn, quick. You are missing out on a valuable opportunity to relate to your customers. Furthermore, you need a well-thought-out Social Media Strategy, which may require a little coaching at first, but is something you and your staff can easily manage. To get started, make sure you have those log-ins, and check out this article about which medium is appropriate for each type of message.
If your business intends to rely on credit cards and checks alone, you are in for a rude awakening. Many service providers (especially outsourced ones in India, Pakistan, and Vietnam) do not accept these methods of payment. Additionally, PayPal is not available in a number of countries, such as Russia. Familiarize yourself with alternative payment methods such as Western Union, PayPal or Payoneer, and perhaps set up some accounts. This will help you effortlessly pay for and purchase the goods and services your business needs – online.
6. RSS Readers
We’ve already established that knowledge and information are power. However, time is money. A faster way to glean and obtain valuable information, then, will save money and provide real benefit to you and your business. For this reason, familiarize yourself with your RSS reader of choice. Suggested uses include downloading RSS feeds for:
- Forums where you market and advertise your products
- Blogs you enjoy reading (hint, hint…)
- Your company website, if other employees are posting content
- Your competitors’ web sites or blogs
- News sites
Downloading RSS feeds will allow you to quickly, efficiently, and effortlessly skim the headlines, without scrolling through, downloading images, etc. This can give you a real competitive edge, as you can process and respond to information (such as a new product announced by one of your suppliers…) faster than the “other guy”.
RSS Readers are built into Mozilla Thunderbird, and OS X Mail.app, though you can also try out Google’s RSS Reader or any number of free RSS Reader programs for iPhone, Windows, OS X, and Android.
Hope this post has been informative. What other geeky skills help you run your business? I’d love to hear more.
As the New Boyz say – Stay Geeked Up.