Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This 20-Minute Assessment Can Improve Business Success

In career makeover workshops, I talk with many people who are laid off and looking for their next opportunity. Although the economy is bad, I am always impressed with the number of people who want to start a business. Many think it is a good time to capitalize on deals for exisiting businesses for sale, suppliers willing to give good discounts, lower rents and scooping up good employees at negotiable rates.

The fundamentals of starting a business like finding professional services such Accounting, Legal and Marketing can be found on every quick-start business checklist out there on the internet. However, too many people seem unaware of or uncomfortable discussing the necessary personal traits and success behaviors. By no means does it guarantee success, but it does help people think positively about traits they need.

This quick assessment, I developed a few years ago, albeit non-scientific, is one way to take inventory of personal and professional abilities necessary for business success. It is based on the well accepted principle used successfully in job interviews - Past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.

Create a spreadsheet with five columns and label them as follows:

Column #1. Must-Have Traits.
List the following 20 traits in the column. Feel free to add others you think are important.
-Self discipline
-Good judgment
-Hard Worker
-Multitask effectively
-Networking ability
-Openness to new ideas
-Political Savvy
-Interpersonal skills
-Risk tolerance

Column #2. Rating:
On a scale of 1-10, rate yourself on each of these traits - with "1" meaning you have concerns about your strengths and "10" meaning you have confidence your skills are strong in this area.

Column #3. Example:
Identify the best example in your past that demonstrates your strength with regard to this trait or skill.

Column #4. Strategy
Define a plan of action to address your shortcomings in any trait where your self score is less than a 6 - especially if you consider it important to your business.

Column #5. Sensitivity
To help focus and prioritize efforts, rank the skills and traits based on their relative significance to your potential business.

Column 3 is quite possibly the most important. It forces entrepreneurs to not just say how good we are, but to actually identify specific examples to demonstrate how we have acted in the past. If we score ourselve with a high rating (6 or higher) BUT cannot identify great examples in your past to support that ranking - rethink your self ratings.

Once you have completed the exercise yourself, ask someone whose opinion you value or potential business partners to complete a similar chart with their observations about you and each other. Compare the results should give you a good idea of skills you have mastered and those which are potential weak areas you might need to address to improve you or your team's chance of success.

Brainstorm potential solutions and be open to the fact that it might come in many forms. One entrepreneur might choose to join business clusters to share ideas, while another could decide to create a board of advisors. If on a team, you might choose to defer someone's strength in one area while they defer to yours in another. No one path will fit everyone or every start-up business model.

Facing our fears head on will significantly improve our chances of success as entrepreneurs. The last thing we want as our businesses begin to grow is to find out that doing this personal inventory is long overdue and our skills bank is close to running on empty. Begin taking stock today!


Simon said...

great post, I like the list and approach to take stock of what you bring to the table and to be realistic about what/where you need help.

Having gone through the leap several years ago (VirtualJobCoach.com) it's also important to have advisers, you'll need a strong team to support you.

Marcia Robinson said...

Hi Simon,

Great point. A strong support team is important and necessary. Look for people willing to stay with you in the long haul.


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The RayeMartin Group said...

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Marianna said...

It would be valuable to repeat this task at regular intervals to mark your progress.

Thanks for sharing, Marcia.

Marcia Robinson said...

Good point about repeating Marianna. Practice does make perfect!..or better.


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