Coming up with a list of personal skills is a common question during job interviews. But suppose I were to ask you to evaluate yourself in that way. What would your answer look like? When people identify their skills, they usually begin with anything quantitative they have learned through education or a course they took. Often we forget that our qualitative skills are just as valuable.
This combination of your knowledge, talents, and abilities is typically referred to as “hard skills and soft skills.” Not only is understanding the difference between the two important in knowing yourself, but they are imperative in growing your business.
Understanding The Relationship Between Hard And Soft Skills
Have you ever known someone who always seems to burn the toast but can play any song by ear on the guitar? Or another person who does exceptionally well in school but could be described as “a little rough around the edges”? This is because, as individuals, we each have our own innate gifts and abilities, which turn into our skillset.
Since hard skills are almost always easy to spot, our culture tends to emphasize acquiring them more heavily. But to be truly successful, we need a balance. Honoring our soft skills will bring authenticity and value to everything we do while zeroing in on our hard skills gives us credibility and expertise. For business owners, to have one without the other would mean we could not fully live our vision. We would also struggle to provide a strategic plan for the future of the company we have built.
Some Hard Skills That Are The Drivers Of Success
No matter your business type, you will need the knowledge and expertise to operate in that industry. This is where your hard skills come in. Anything you learn that has a technical aspect, requires specific training, is teachable, or is measurable is considered a “hard skill.” This is the knowledge and experience gained through school, training classes, online courses, and other forms of hands-on experience. Some examples of hard skills include:
Levels of education vary widely for each person. For some, education lasts through primary and secondary school. For others, it may extend into college, all the way through a graduate program. No matter what level of education you have achieved, this hard skill lays the groundwork for every other skill you acquire.
Degrees you have earned
Some industries require higher education if you want to operate in that field. If you are a mental health professional, medical professional, or veterinarian, you would need a doctorate and other relevant credentials before starting your business. The education and training you received as part of your program would have helped you gain these hard skills.
Whether you manage your company’s books or have knowledge of personal finance, many small business owners gain some bookkeeping skills along their journey. Keeping accurate records takes time and effort, so to avoid error, you likely had to educate yourself on how to get it right the first time.
Computer skills you have mastered
I can’t imagine many businesses operating today that don’t rely on technology somehow. Even if you don’t consider yourself “tech-savvy,” you still have to know how to carry out business operations using whatever technology is relevant to your industry. Learning a new technology often involves reading articles, online tutorials, and training classes.
Foreign languages you learned
Learning a foreign language is incredibly valuable, especially if you do business with diverse populations or foreign markets. It allows your clients to communicate directly with you (rather than through a translator), making you more approachable. But to learn a new language means being dedicated to education. In time, you can learn to speak another language to support your clients and your business.
Certifications you have trained for
Very often, certifications establish credibility and specialization in your field. Certification programs are typically less rigorous than degree programs and take less time to complete. While certificates aren’t meant to replace a degree, they can enhance the education you have already received.
Soft Skills That Will Take You Far In Business
To get a business up and running, it’s easy to focus only on hard skills. While soft skills are the intangible things you can’t measure, they make you good at what you do. These are the interpersonal parts of you that you have picked up through experience and personal growth. And once you learn to recognize and leverage your soft skills, they will be just as important in growing your business.
Let’s face it. Some people are natural communicators. Great communicators seem to know what to say and when to say it. They not only listen, but they hear. And they respond to written communication in a timely manner. If this is you, embrace this soft skill. Clear communication is a great way to make others feel valued.
One of the best ways to grow your company is to build a network of other business people. This way, you can be supportive in watching each other grow in business and as professionals. Are you someone who naturally makes friends wherever you go? Use that same magnetism to build your network. You’ll be surprised at how much your company benefits from it.
“If you build it, they will come” may work for baseball fields, but it’s not the best rule to live by in business. You have to get your name out there to bring in new clients. Marketing takes a unique blend of creativity, empathy, and analysis. If you can target who your client is, what they need, and how you can provide for them better than anyone else, they will come.
How do you feel about public speaking? If you operate in a service-based industry, chances are you find yourself giving presentations quite often. The soft skill of presenting an idea, service, or offering to a client or investor isn’t just about closing the sale. You also must consider the time and effort you put into preparing for the presentation. Never forget that your time is just as valuable as you are.
Because we live in a chaotic world, sometimes things seem to fall apart. Our best thought-out plans go awry, people let us down, and our good intentions may fail us. When these things happen, we get to decide how to respond. If you choose to adapt to each situation and ask yourself how you can improve it, you will bring peace of mind while moving your business forward.
As the leader of your company, you hold big-picture decision-making responsibilities. Whether you do this on your own, with a partner, a board of directors, or under a mentor’s counsel, problem-solving takes courage and wisdom. While some people seem to naturally possess this soft skill, it is often sharpened over time with experience.
Ability to support your opinion
When talking with a friend, colleague, family member, or even a client, you may find yourself at a crossroads with differing opinions. This is only natural and part of interacting with other humans. But just because someone opposes you doesn’t mean you have to think, “I’m wrong, they’re right.” Learning to support your opinion while maintaining professional integrity and relationships is an invaluable soft skill. When ideas are discussed openly, it creates mutual respect and honest communication.
How Your Hard Skills And Soft Skills Influence Your Pricing
Why do I feel these differentiations are important? Once you have a clear picture of your entire skillset, you can use this information to make crucial decisions for the future of your business. When selecting a pricing model, it’s common for entrepreneurs to value their products and services based on hard skills alone (especially in service-based businesses). You are essentially selling yourself short unless you consider the soft skills involved in business growth.
Do you place importance on the amount of time you spend on your work? What about your experience or the things that make you uniquely you? All of these soft skills need to be monetized as well. So when you are sitting down to decide how much you will charge for your products and services, make sure you are adding in ALL your skills.
Valuing Yourself And The Work You Do
Standing strong in your skills is important for your confidence and future growth. It helps you explain your pricing model so you can articulate precisely what a client can expect when working with you. Combining hard skills and soft skills when setting your prices isn’t about charging as much as possible but communicating in business the value you bring to others.