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15 Essential IT Skills for Successful Small Business Ownership

7 Mins read

In the dynamic world of small business, mastering IT skills is pivotal for success. We’ve gathered insights from COOs and directors, among other experts, to pinpoint the most valuable IT capabilities. From mastering data analysis to effectively utilizing accounting software, explore the fifteen essential skills that can empower small business owners in the digital age.

Master Data Analysis and Interpretation

In my opinion, the most valuable IT skill for small-business owners is data analysis and interpretation. This is far more useful and important than web development or IT security, for example, since it allows you to forecast and make informed business decisions based on data and trends.

It is crucial that small-business owners become familiar with data analysis tools like Microsoft Excel, Google Analytics, or more advanced data visualization and analytics platforms. For example, for my business, data visualization software has helped me identify opportunities for growth and expansion. 

Our team will be launching a product in the language-learning space this year that is almost entirely based off what we learned using data visualization software in our year-end review meeting.

Mathias Johansen, Co-Founder and COO, Guide2Fluency

Acquire Software Procurement Knowledge

Small-business owners do not have to know everything about IT. Some may even find it quite bewildering. There are good people available to help on a part-time or full-time basis. 

The one thing an owner should not outsource is great software procurement. Knowing how to buy and compare software and systems will be one of the true difference-makers for 21st-century business people of all sizes.

Trevor Ewen, COO, QBench

Enhance Digital Communication Skills

One of the most important aspects of running a business is your ability to communicate with others. And, in the modern world where technology is at the core of most businesses, this means that you will need to be able to handle digital communications. 

What this means for business owners is that they need to know how to communicate effectively with their employees and their customers in a digital setting. Of course, eventually, you may hire a team to handle customer-focused communications, but the reality of running a startup is that you’ll be involved in pretty much every aspect of the business and will therefore need to understand how everything works.

Your communication will define the success of your business. Good communication with customers will help you build rapport, and good communication with employees will ensure everything runs more effectively. So, if you want to learn which digital skill you need to focus on for running a business, a great place to start is with your digital communication skills.

Lauren Carlstrom, COO, Oxygen Plus

Develop Cybersecurity Management Proficiency

One of the most valuable IT skills for small-business ownership is proficiency in cybersecurity management. In the ever-evolving digital landscape, where data breaches and cyber threats are prevalent, safeguarding sensitive information has become paramount. As a small-business owner, being well-versed in cybersecurity not only protects your own data but also instills trust among customers and partners. 

Understanding how to implement robust security measures, such as encryption protocols, regular software updates, and employee training on cybersecurity best practices, is crucial. It’s not just about safeguarding data; it’s about safeguarding the trust that customers place in your business. Embracing this IT skill empowers small-business owners to navigate the digital realm with confidence, ensuring the resilience and integrity of their operations in an increasingly interconnected business environment.

Jaskaran Deu, Director, DEU Estates

Understand Cloud Computing Essentials

If a small business operating digitally wants to succeed in a remote environment, I bet the business owner would definitely have some knowledge related to cloud computing. If not, they should definitely acquire it! Cloud computing is like accessing computing services from anywhere and everywhere in the world. It connects you with your remote team, brings loads of data under one or two apps, and overall streamlines work capabilities.

Cloud computing helps small business owners upload their confidential documents, SOPs, procedures, and other documents to a cloud-based network, from where they can be accessed by authorized personnel through credentials. The number one hassle that small businesses face—retaining information, storing data, and processing results into a simpler form—can be handed over to cloud networks, and business owners with a strong grasp of this IT skill stand much ahead.

Imagine a business with no physical storage of files or graphs and working together on projects through cloud systems. Where the submitted tasks are uploaded to the cloud, work is completed on the cloud, and even reviewed by managers on the cloud. The scope of working with cloud computing and gaining more knowledge about it will yield fruitful results in the future!

Bobby Lawson, Technology Editor/Publisher, Earth Web

Leverage API Integration Capabilities

In my role, I’ve found that API integration is an invaluable IT skill for small-business ownership. This realization came sharply into focus during a project where we needed to synchronize our training schedules with various health organizations. The challenge was to seamlessly share real-time availability and updates. 

By leveraging my knowledge in API integration, I created a system that linked our scheduling software with our partners’ platforms. This streamlined our operations and enhanced our service reliability, proving to be a game-changer in how efficiently we managed our training sessions. This experience highlighted the power and necessity of mastering API integration in today’s interconnected business world.

Haya Subhan, General Manager, CPR Training

Excel in Remote Team Leadership

One of the most invaluable IT skills I’ve honed as a small-business owner is remote team leadership excellence. Managing an outdoor gym equipment business, I often coordinate with teams across different locations. 

For instance, when we were launching a new line of eco-friendly equipment, I led virtual strategy sessions and problem-solving discussions online. This required not just technical know-how, but also the ability to foster collaboration and maintain team morale remotely. Navigating time zones and leveraging digital tools, I ensured smooth communication and project alignment. 

This experience taught me that effective remote leadership is key to driving a small business forward in today’s digital landscape.

Lucas Riphagen, Co-Owner, TriActiveUSA

Know When to Outsource IT Work

The single most important IT skill you can have as a small business owner is the skill of knowing when to outsource your IT work. 

It’s true that professional IT services can be expensive, but they’re not nearly as expensive as having shoddy website hosting, lax security against cyberattacks, or a lack of resources for your team. Do what you know how to do, and pay for what you don’t know or can’t learn. Most importantly—know the difference.

Nick Valentino, VP of Market Operations, Bellhop

Gain Digital Marketing Expertise

For small-business owners, a key skill is digital marketing. This involves not just posting content online but also a deeper understanding of social media management, SEO, and data analytics. 

These skills are essential for effectively promoting a business online, reaching a wider audience, and understanding customer preferences. In today’s digital-focused market, proficiency in digital marketing is crucial for attracting and retaining customers and building a strong brand presence.

Kimberley Tyler-Smith, VP of Strategy and Growth, Resume Worded

Prioritize Exceptional Customer Service

Providing excellent customer service is essential for any business to succeed. Even if your business attracts many customers, those clients will only stick around if you offer exceptional customer service. 

Gaining new clients is far more expensive than retaining current ones. Small-business owners must possess strong customer service skills. This entails learning to handle angry clients and unfavorable reviews appropriately and listening and reacting quickly. You can go above and beyond for your devoted clients if you can take criticism and turn it into improvement.

Axel Hernborg, Founder and CEO, Tripplo

Learn Fundamental Database Administration

As a small-business leader, having fundamental database administration skills can optimize critical operations. 

Understanding how to model data, ensure input integrity, structure queries, set user permissions, implement backups, administer security patches, and monitor health metrics allows one to handle these foundational needs without costly database administrator consultants. 

While outsourcing database management is an option, hands-on competency here separates strategic owners from mere ideators.

Eric Lam, Head of Business Strategy, Energy Credit Transfer

Become Skilled in Payment Processing

In our digital age, especially with the rise of mobile payments, small-business owners need to be technically skilled in payment processing. Gone are the days when cash was the only way to buy things. 

Now, there are many ways to pay, like wire transfers, checks, and credit cards. Knowing how payment processing works is crucial for giving your customers a smooth experience every time they shop at your store or online. You should at least understand the steps involved in making a sale, so you can sort out any issues that come up. This means knowing the process from the customer to your store, through the software gateway, to the merchant processor, and then to the bank. 

Payment processors usually have tools for checking your sales and money in real time. It’s useful to learn how to use these tools. This way, you can monitor how payments are going, spot what could be improved, and help customers with their questions about how they’re paying when they’re ready to buy.

Thomas Franklin, CEO and Co-Founder, Bitinvestor

Combine Web Coding and Troubleshooting

As someone who’s spent a significant part of their career in a digital marketing agency, I can say that web coding and troubleshooting are some of the most valuable IT skills for small business ownership. They allow businesses to create and manage their websites, making changes and updates as needed without needing external IT support. 

When your business website is down, it’s like having your storefront shuttered. Customers can’t find you, and you can’t deliver your services or products. It’s a nightmare scenario for any startup. But if you know some basic troubleshooting techniques, you can potentially identify and address the issue yourself without losing precious time waiting for external IT support. 

For instance, knowing how to check your domain name system (DNS) settings or understanding the basics of your content management system (CMS) can often get you back online quickly. It’s certainly saved me a few times when I’ve experienced website issues. 

Moreover, web coding skills enable small business owners to add new features or functionalities to their websites as they grow. This could range from adding an e-commerce store to integrating a customer support chatbot. With this skill set, you can take your website to the next level without incurring additional costs for hiring external developers.

Tristan Harris, Demand Generation Senior Marketing Manager, Thrive Digital Marketing Agency

Optimize Cloud-Cost Management

I’ve found that one of the most invaluable IT skills for small-business ownership is cloud-cost optimization expertise. This became evident to me during a critical phase of our operations. We were expanding our online training modules, and our cloud expenses started skyrocketing. It was then I realized the significance of efficiently managing cloud resources.

By learning and applying cloud-cost optimization strategies, I was able to significantly reduce our operational costs while still maintaining the high quality of our training programs. This experience taught me that understanding the nuances of cloud expenditure is not just beneficial; it’s essential for sustaining a small business in today’s digital world.

Hafsa Unnar, Manager, Basic Life Support Training

Utilize Accounting Software Effectively

Accounting software proficiency is a valuable IT skill for small-business ownership. Managing finances and keeping track of expenses, revenue, and taxes are crucial aspects of running a successful business. 

Small-business owners who are skilled in using accounting software can efficiently handle financial tasks such as bookkeeping, invoicing, budgeting, and generating financial reports. By leveraging accounting software, owners can streamline their financial processes, make informed financial decisions, and ensure compliance with tax regulations.

Danielle Roberts, Co Founder, Boomer Benefits

Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Featured, a Q&A platform that connects brands with expert insights.

IT skills stock image by metamorworks/Shutterstock

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