2015 is here, and now is the perfect time to reflect on how the last 12 months have been for us, and how we can prepare ourselves for the year ahead. 2014 was undoubtedly a great year for the profession; not only as it was the International Year of the Secretary and Administrative Assistant (IYOTSA), but through the networking, partnerships, industry events and exhibitions I have attended, it’s clear to see there is a positive and passionate up-rise in the profession. PAs want to, and are taking control and pushing their careers to new heights.

With knowledge comes leadership, and therefore it is only natural that sometimes you can feel as though you have reached your limit, and are in need of direction when it comes to the next steps. Whilst there is an incredible breadth for career development and alternate directions in the PA or Assistants’ fields, it must be noted that the experience, knowledge and leadership skills which have underpinned your role, could be put to alternate use in setting up your own business. This could give you the new challenge you crave, greater opportunities to earn more, or just greater flexibility in your working life.

There are various opportunities out there which will utilise the fundamental knowledge and skills you have amassed throughout your career, not only as a PA, but also in other fields which you can expand in. Whilst the prospect of setting up and running your own business can seem extremely daunting at first, upon closer inspection it’s clear to see you already have the business insight and acumen to underpin and run a business, and the credibility and skills to continue assisting others/clients with underpinning and running theirs.

Key points to consider if you are thinking of going it alone are:

  • Understanding business structures and law
  • Understanding business accounts
  • Marketing

Taking a look at these areas of expertise in more detail, it soon becomes clear how you can enhance your existing skills, and take your career to the next level.

Understanding business structures and law

The structure of a business and the legal requirements for business owners are crucial in the successful running of any business. You will already have a good grounding of different business processes, but in order to run your own thriving business it is essential to build on this knowledge and also have a good understanding of the legalities of starting up and running a business. Becoming familiar with what type of business structures there are, and which would work best for you, will allow you to gain a great insight into other crucial areas of your business set-up such as business reporting, accounts audits, finance and business contracts, which will all need your attention.

Some of the questions you will need to answer include: will you be a sole trader or will your business be a partnership? If so will it be a limited liability partnership? There are advantages and disadvantages to each business structure, and it’s important to understand what the associated implications are for each before you set up shop. It may be that you prefer working alone and for yourself, but what about when illness strikes or the beautiful beaches of Barbados are calling for a family vacation – what contingencies will you have in place for your business to continue making money?

It may be that a partnership would be a great way to set up your business, finding someone who can complement your skillset, and make it so your business appeals to a wider clientele. But partnerships mean you take a smaller chunk of the profit pie, and racking up more debts and expenses is more commonplace in this type of business structure, as are drawing up legally binding, costly agreements for each party.

As we all know, the world of business is tough and complex, and it’s extremely important to be well versed in what type of business you would like to run, and the legalities surrounding this, from the very start.

Understanding business accounts

For a business, nothing is more important than its finances, so understanding business accounts is absolutely essential. Getting to grips with the principles of business accountancy will put you in great stead, enabling you to understand balance sheets, profit and loss (P&L) accounts, depreciation, capital and revenue expenditure.

We’ve all cringed at the cases on Dragon’s Den where entrepreneurs were completely unaware of the profits and losses of their own businesses, when questioned, so seeking training and guidance to acquire the knowledge and understanding of how your business accounts and profit margins work will enable you to steer your business in the right and profitable direction, and be more informed to make sound and astute business decisions going forward.

Being able to understand profit margins over accounting periods enables a business owner to see if the business is being managed in a stable way and also identify how well the cost of sales and its overheads are being controlled. Training in the areas of finance which underpin a business is an absolute must for you if you are considering setting up your own business. Whereas you may have already had a good insight in to business accounts in your role as a PA, in order to make your business as successful and profitable as possible, you must know how the accounts and finances which are at the heart of it work.

 

Marketing

In today’s market, driving a business forward is a tough and highly competitive game. Beating competitors and increasing profit must be at the forefront of your business development plan, and pushing marketing forward is a fundamental sales channel. In many cases, the importance of marketing in business is often overlooked, but understanding the marketing concepts and processes involved in how to effectively place your business and the services you offer in the marketplace is integral to its overall visibility and success. What is the point of setting up a great business which offers a fantastic service, which a prospective client needs and is willing to pay for, if they don’t even know you exist?

The marketing communications you select to communicate and promote your business may vary, depending on your agenda. Advertising, PR, SEO, Social Media and promotional materials such as flyers, are very popular areas of focus in marketing a business, but in order to ensure your chosen method of marketing communication is as effective as possible, it is important to carry out market research. Qualitative and quantitative research, questionnaires and consumer profiling are great ways to understand your target audience, and allow you to make informed decisions about how to market your business, and really get your message to hit home, and in turn attract loyal clients who trust and believe in your business as much as you do.

Facing a New Year can be both an exciting and scary time for any professional in their career. There are usually tough decisions to be made, as to how you can move your career forward and by what means. As exciting as the prospect of starting up a business may seem, jumping out of your comfort zone and taking the next step can often feel like a huge leap. Now is the perfect time to take a step back, and really think about where you want your career to go in 2015.

Grasping what’s involved in setting up a business is extremely important for anyone looking in to starting a new business venture. It is essential to consider the skills needed to really underpin and drive a business forward from conception to execution. Of course, it’s a huge undertaking, but if you really feel this is the next step in your career, seek the advice, training or guidance that will allow you to make informed decisions, and consider whether this is the right move for you. By gaining practical, hands-on experience in some of the key areas of business, you’ll have a renewed focus to ensure your new career succeeds, no matter where you decide to take it in the New Year.

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Claire Lister is the Owner/MD of Pitman Training Group (www.pitman-training.com). Pitman is a market leader in the PA and secretarial training industry, delivering exceptional results for tens of thousands of students each year. Pitman also provide ... (Read More)

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