Core talents: What are they and are you maximizing their value to your business?

(Note: This is the first in a series of three postings dealing with core elements that contribute to your business success. Be sure to come back for the second posting on values and the third on contacts.)

Very few careers go exactly as planned. We get pushed this way and that by economic ups and downs, by bosses (both well-intentioned and not), by office politics, and by rapid changes in technology that suddenly make our skills obsolete. All of these forces are beyond our control, which is what finally drives many of us to start our own businesses; we’re seeking a little control over our destiny.

There is one thing, however, that no bad economy, lousy boss, toxic workplace or technology shift can affect: your core talents. And it is these talents that will determine your success as a small business owner or solopreneur. Alas, many people haven’t even taken the time to analyze what their core talents are and, as a result, aren’t leveraging their value in their businesses.

Of course, some of us know one or more of our core talents from an early age. For example, I knew from grade school that I could write. I always excelled at essay tests and never saw anything other than an A in English until 11th grade, when the boy I sat beside got more of my attention than the teacher did. (The teacher was my Mother, but that’s a whole different story!) Anyway, I am certain that it came as no shock to anyone who knew me as a kid that I ended up as a writer.

If you think back, I’m sure you’ll acknowledge that at least one of your core talents was apparent very early on. What was it? And are you using that talent today in your business? Is it, like my writing, at the very heart of your business? If not, why isn’t it?

Other core talents take more time to emerge. I was 40 before circumstances prompted me to realize that I wasn’t just good at networking, I was darn good at it! Last week when I wrote “Relocating? 3 ways to fast-track your networking in your new home,” I should have mentioned that my fearlessness in moving into a new community where I knew no one was in part due to my firm faith that I had the networking chops needed to make a successful transition.

What core talents have you discovered as your career has progressed? And are you leveraging those to move your business forward?

Here’s the thing about core talents: No matter what ups and downs you face in your work life, your core talents don’t go away or become less valuable. While the world I work in shifted mightily with the advent of the Internet, my writing talent is no less valuable now than it was back when I was writing marketing brochures instead of Web site copy. If anything, it has become more valuable because the number of uses clients can have for this talent has actually increased.

Sure, some of your skills or knowledge may become outdated due to technological advances and you have to gain new knowledge and skills. But your core talents–those things that really and truly make you valuable to your customers or clients–don’t change. Is one of your core talents problem solving? Or relationship building? Or maybe you have an innate ability to bring together disparate pieces of knowledge and ideas to create something totally new, in other words, to innovate.

Whatever your core talents are, they should be the centerpiece of your business. If they aren’t, I believe you will find yourself frustrated, just as I was frustrated when I was working in a position where I was spending more time managing people and meeting with clients than I was writing. In that job–what I refer to as “my last 9 to 5 gig”–I was out of balance. Days would go by when I barely turned on my computer, let alone wrote anything more exciting than a memo. “Boring!!!!,” my mind cried out to me, “You need to write!”

I’m not suggesting that if you’re running a business or a solo practice that you do not have to do things that are boring. We all do. No line of work is an endless series of joyous experiences day in and day out.

But if you haven’t identified your core talents and aren’t focusing on them as you choose the type of business you want to have and then as you work hard every day to make that business a success, I don’t believe you actually will be successful. So gain control over your destiny; assess your core talents and make them work for you.

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