In the beginning stages of starting a business, you need to learn many aspects of management, accounting, marketing, and of course sales.
I started my business and worked 4 years before earning a bachelor's degree in entrepreneurship and I can tell you those 4 years prepared me more for college than college prepared me for being an entrepreneur.
Management is an all encompassing term for many aspects of a business. You need to manage your finances, your schedule, and even your workers or employees. I started out using spreadsheets and forms I created on my own and this worked great for me. I'm not a big math person, but I'm organized and that helped me keep everything in order. About 2 years ago, I started using Quickbooks online. Quickbooks has a major learning curve, but is extremely helpful in freeing up your time, which leads me to managing your schedule. Google calendar has my whole life in it. I keep everything there and color code each type of event. I currently have teams that I keep track of and the best part is I have it with me at all times. Managing employees or general contractors takes a great deal of patience and is the most time consuming of all my job duties. I have to be available for my crews anytime they need me, mainly because I enjoy having an open communication policy.
Accounting requires a great deal of your time if you chose to do it yourself. In the beginning it is the best to keep costs down. If you don't enjoy this aspect of the job, work on being able to afford someone as soon as possible. I have always done my accounting and taxes on my own partly because I'm a perfectionist and don't want to hand off that much of the business to someone else. I do however use an accounting system from Quickbooks which is great for automating invoices and allowing customers an option to pay by credit card quickly. I can say credit card fees take a large portion from the profit lines, so if you can find a cheaper way right from the start go with it.
Starting out the best method of marketing I found was passing out flyers in neighborhoods I wanted customers in. I still have loyal customers from 7 years ago I gained this way. My next marketing strategy was to perfect my website, again all on my own. You can begin by filling out all of the free pages that are offered through websites like Facebook, Mapquest, Yelp, YP pages, etc. I will run ads mainly on Yelp when I'm looking for a boost in customers, but be sure that you gain more than you spend. Keep track of all leads to determine what works best for your type of business. One of our best marketing strategies are referrals from current customers. I give all new customers a flyer outlining our referral program when they sign with us. I offer $40 off their rate for any lead that turns into a customer.
You don't have to be an amazing sales person to build your business. It doesn't hurt though! The most advice I can give about sales is to be compassionate and kind to people. This leads to gaining more customers in the long run, because people just don't want to do business with rude people. I can have many things happening around me, but when I am talking to a potential customer, I never let it show. I also make myself available to my customers and possible new customers by always having my phone on me and answering as much as possible.
Learning these aspects of business like management, accounting, marketing, and sales is an ongoing process. You can change each thing to adapt to you and your business needs.