A few years ago you could elbow your way into business with a sharp pencil and a calculator. Technology has changed all that. Now it’s hard to imagine writing a business plan or running a business without a computer, email, and the Internet.
A few basic skills in the following areas will make it easier to start or grow a business.
1. Computer. A decade ago, just 10 percent of my business-planning students knew how to use a computer; today more than 90 percent are computer savvy and almost all own computers. If turning on a computer still causes beads of sweat to form on your brow, and if you’re planning to own a business, it’s time to bite the technology bullet and learn how to use a computer.
2. Email. Email has revolutionized business communications. Got a quick question for someone in a different part of the globe? Need an efficient way to communicate with your customers? Want to get a research document mailed to you, fast? Email makes these and many other tasks easy and inexpensive. If you can manage file attachments, you will save even more time and energy.
3. Internet. You have, at your fingertips, a vast global library. Search engines are now simple enough that you can practically teach your pet ferret to use them. At this writing the US Census population counter indicates there are more the 6.7 billion people in the world; one click later another favourite site reveals that more than 1.4 billion are now using the Internet. For business owners, the Internet is the ultimate source of information, whether for market research or to keep tabs on your competitors.
4. Word processor and Keyboard. You can probably get by without these skills in today’s environment, but it’s bound to be limiting and costly as you hire others to compensate for your lack of expertise. If you’re hunting and pecking your way into business, a tiny investment in learning how to keyboard will definitely help. If you simply wish to improve your typing speed or accuracy, you can download any of a number of free typing tutor applications from the web. It seems that most businesses use Microsoft Word™ for word processing, but there are other applications available. For example, Open Office offers a free downloadable option called Writer, available at www.openoffice.org.
5. Spreadsheet. When it comes to determining whether or not your business will make money, a spreadsheet will definitely reduce your stress level. You don’t have to know how to design complex worksheets in order to enjoy the benefits. All you really need are a few navigation skills and some reliable forecasting templates. Most businesses use Microsoft Excel™, but OpenOffice also has a great spreadsheet called Calc (Did I mention it’s free?).
If you’re planning to start or grow a business, or simply looking for ways to make yourself more employable in today’s job market, these skills are sure to benefit you, both immediately and over the long term.