Just as any good business takes regular inventory of its physical assets, it’s equally important to assess your company’s more intangible assets and liabilities. This is true whether you’re a startup or a full-fledged, profitable business.
If you’re in the startup stage—and likely your company’s only employee—then taking inventory of your company essentially means taking inventory of yourself. While it can be difficult to look inward and clearly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, this step will allow you to make better business decisions as you move forward and grow.
Here’s an example: It’s a year into your business, and it’s time to begin selling on a larger scale. You’re also in dire need of a website. With all your other responsibilities, you only have time to take on one of these tasks immediately. If you’ve evaluated your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll already know which you should take on yourself and which you should outsource. If you’re fearless about tech but weak in sales, you’ll take on the website. If anything computer-related makes you break out in a rash, you’ll take on the sales segment and hire a web designer. Of course, this is just one example. By taking a complete inventory of all your assets and challenges, you’ll have guidance for all kinds of decisions.
Getting started is as easy as taking a piece of paper and drawing a line down the center. On the left, write down your assets: What strengths do you bring to the company, including skills, capital, knowledge, and contacts? This is no time for modesty, so don’t downplay your abilities. On the right side, write down your challenges: What weaknesses do you need to acknowledge and address?
This exercise is essentially what one successful entrepreneur I know did. She was completely tapped out with too many tasks to manage, and she was spreading herself too thin to do them all well. So she evaluated her strengths and pinpointed her weaknesses. She realized that the stress involved in running her apparel-manufacturing facility was taking its toll; her strengths were designing the clothing, sales, and publicity, not necessarily running a factory. She recognized that she didn’t have to do it all, so she sold the facility and began outsourcing the manufacturing end. She never looked back.
As your company grows, you will inevitably be pulled in more and more directions—away from the core strengths that led you to begin the company in the first place. If your strength is sales and networking, for instance, you may find yourself bogged down with internal management issues that take time away from what you do best. If you’re great at designing or developing products, you may lack the time to devote to it. At some point—especially when resources and profits begin to grow—you may find it’s critical to focus more on core competencies again and to oversee consultants or employees who handle other areas of your business.
Don’t forget to ask for help from friends and family members with skill sets you may not have: your niece who’s organized, your best friend who’s a great writer or your husband who’s a whiz with numbers. All can help you build your business. Chances are they’ll be excited to contribute.