• Woman in yellow dress with businessmen.

There are four skills you need to develop as a small business owner. Your talents may lie in one or more of these areas, but it’s vital to bring them all up to the highest level, or have someone who can help you in the business.

Financial management and planning skills

A big reason small businesses fail is that they encounter serious financial problems. Most entrepreneurs go into business because they’re excited about their product or service, not because they’re thrilled to be dealing with finances. Yet the financial health of your business is key to its survival. So, learn how to effectively manage your finances. Know how to forecast cash flow and sales and to monitor profit and loss. Set up procedures to keep tabs on budgets, forecasts, profit and loss statements, and balance sheets.

When starting or expanding your business, explore all financing options, including borrowing from lenders, investing your own or stakeholders’ money, government grants, and assistance from the Small Business Administration. Shop carefully for a bank that offers the services you need and is eager to work with small businesses. Planning is also important. Put together a business plan based on your present financial resources and projections. Hone your planning skills to apply them to a range of projects, from launching a website to developing your business policies and procedures.

Communication and marketing skills

The ability to communicate clearly and convincingly is key to business success. You need to communicate and negotiate with customers, employees, suppliers, and potential investors. Your communications should always reflect the image and message you want to project. To build good relationships, work on both verbal and written skills and get professional help if you need it.

A big part of your communications involves marketing. To effectively promote your product or service and generate sales, you need a marketing strategy. Identify your target market, research your opportunities within it, and develop your core value proposition—the unique benefit you deliver to customers. Use this to create your brand, which embodies the special relationship you have with your customers. Then choose your marketing channels—mailing pieces and leave-behind brochures, as well as all the digital marketing tools, including a website, Google Business Profile, emails, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO).

Problem-solving skills

Running a business doesn’t always go as planned—you will inevitably encounter unexpected problems. Have a contingency plan you can put into place when there are surprise disruptions. Stay flexible, and always be ready to learn. Work on your ability to make good decisions under pressure. That involves understanding the things that make a good decision for your business, and then following those principles in stressful situations.

Part of being a good problem solver is having the resources you need at hand. Build good relationships with reputable service providers and referral partners who can support you and be a source of new business. Join a business association to grow your network.

Leadership skills

Whether you hire employees or outsource help, your leadership skills are key. To get the best work from people, you need to motivate them. Take time to mentor and coach workers, let them know the goals of the project, and remind them of what your company—your brand—means to its customers.

As a leader, you should be confident, which comes from knowing yourself and your abilities. You should be strongly focused, which comes from being passionate about what you do. You should also be willing to delegate. Good leaders set the standard for what needs to be done by another person, but they don’t try to control how that person does it. Never forget that the work you delegate frees up time for you to concentrate on the tasks that contribute the most to generating revenue.