Why first-time entrepreneurs need to be a jack-of-all-trades

Sam McKeith

Kicking off a start-up means acquiring a lot of skills, fast.

Whether it’s accounting, customer service, marketing, or human resource management, there’s heaps to get your head around when diving into business, and it can at times seem overwhelming.

But Nick Bell, founder of WME and Hosting Australia, said there was nothing to be afraid of, urging budding entrepreneurs to view this phase as an opportunity. 

Bell, who started out solo around a decade ago, said in the early days he scrambled to get the skills needed to stay afloat.

“I didn’t have any budget or any backing,” he said.

“I had to do everything from creating and designing invoices, creating proposals, jumping on the phone, doing account management; basically all areas of the business.

“I didn’t even know how to create or send out an invoice, and I didn’t know how to use MYOB.”

“I had to do everything from creating and designing invoices, creating proposals, jumping on the phone, doing account management; basically all areas of the business."

One of Bell’s big tips was for entrepreneurs to learn the finance side of the business as soon as possible.

He said this didn’t mean having to become an accounting expert, but was more about avoiding “a mess” down the track.

“Learn the finance area of the business, you need to watch your cash flow,” he advised.

“Just learn the basics, understand a balance sheet and manage your cash well, it’s very very important.”

Getting web design skills is another plus, Bell says, because it allows you to produce professional-grade presentations and save cash on freelancers.

“Just learn the basics, understand a balance sheet and manage your cash well, it’s very very important.”

Customer service was the other big-ticket item to get up to speed at, Bell says.

“Make sure the customers are always happy. If you don’t have customers you don’t have a business,” he said.

“I would start emailing my customers at 7am I would start calling them at 9am and I would keep following up with emails and calls until 9pm at night.

“You’ve just got to do the hours in the early days.”

Given the many roles you have to play early on, Bell said a good idea was to split your day up into clearly defined segments.

He says he used to spend a couple of hours on customer service in the morning, mostly cold-calling business leads, then manage the core of the business in the middle of day, followed by the admin in the afternoon.

“In the early days, learn all parts of your business,” Bell said. “But once you’ve got enough capital, don’t be afraid to invest in people.”

“At some point you need to let go and hand over some control to people who can help you grow the company.”

Sam McKeith

Sam McKeith is Sydney-based media professional. He has contributed to many leading publications including The Huffington Post, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and BRW Magazine. He was previously a senior reporter at the Australian Associated Press where he covered national affairs. 

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