Identifying your skills gap when starting up

As a business advisor with over 10 years experience in assisting both pre-start and existing businesses, there aren’t many start-up issues I haven’t been presented with.

Having set up multiple businesses such as Training Providers and Business Consultancy’s both with partners and on my own, I understand how challenging but also how rewarding it can be running your own business.

One of the main issues when starting up is deciding where to start.

When setting up, it is best to seek professional advice from experienced people and organisations such as Business Northumberland who can understand, help and guide you through the process to develop your idea into a thriving business.  Support initiatives, often free, can also help with guiding you to sources of finance which can be a major benefit.

One thing I am passionate about is that anyone who is considering setting up a business should develop their skills in planning and running the business. Many people start their business because they have specific skill sets such as being a plumber, a car mechanic, a beautician etc. To run a business you need to know about planning, marketing, recording income, outgoings and putting systems in place to help you run the business to ensure your customer has the best customer care you can give.


Here are a few tips for identifying skills gaps:

  • Write a list of skills needed to run your business.
  • Ask a friend/family member to review the list.
  • Score yourself against the list 5 being excellent to 1 very poor, be honest with yourself.
  • Identify which one or more of the skills you will need to develop first.
  • How will you gain the knowledge/training, will it be classroom based, online or1-1 training.
  • Conduct training and rescore yourself.
  • Use your new skills to embed your new knowledge.


"Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow." — Ronald Osborn


Market research is also a subject that should never be underestimated and should be the first task you conduct.  A successful business researches, listens to and understands their customers’ wants and needs. 

Social media can be used as a low cost way of conducting your market research as well as marketing your products or services.  Think about what you want to find out and how to ask questions to get the information you need.  Speak to friends, family and potential customers, use Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram to reach as many people as possible to give you feedback.  Remember to listen to your market and be prepared to change or not go ahead with a business idea if it is not viable business proposition.


“The customer isn’t always right. But if you don’t listen to them, your product won’t be either.”  - Oli Gardener,  co-founder of Unbounce


Believe in yourself, you can do it as long as you research, plan and gain the skills you need. Then you  will be successful.


Gillian Middleton is as a Business Adviser for the free business support initiative, Business Northumberland.  This project offers free, impartial advice to those people who are either considering setting up in business or have recently set up their business within the Northumberland area. 

Business Northumberland offer free workshops to develop skills in business planning, marketing, finance and using ICT for business. They also offer one-to-one intensive support with their Business Advisers.