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Hierarchy of Competence: Are You Ready to Start a Business?

By Thomas Scott

If you've been thinking about opening your own business, there's probably some reason why you haven't done it already. Maybe it's fear, or money. Whatever the reason, you can become a successful business owner!

To give yourself the best chance for success from the start, it's important to evaluate the hierarchy of competence. The higher up in the hierarchy you are, the lower your risk and higher your chance for ultimate success. Let's take a look at each stage of the hierarchy of competence.

What Is the Hierarchy of Competence?

The hierarchy of competence refers to a general framework used in psychology for development skill progression. There are generally 4 stages: Unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence. You can progress from relatively incompetent to highly competent as you learn more.

If you start a business in a field that you are familiar with, you would be in the competent stages, thus, increasing your chances for success. However, many people start businesses in areas that they don't know a lot about due to the opportunities that they see. They would be starting in the incompetent stages and may have a riskier road ahead of them.

Learn more about each of the stages of competence below and discover how you can develop in each stage.

Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence

Everyone begins learning a new skill at the first stage: Unconscious Incompetence. In this stage, you have no idea that you don't have the skills you need to complete the task at hand.

Rick Bisio in The Educated Franchisee uses swimming as an example. In the unconscious incompetent stage, a child on their first trip to the beach would not be able to swim. They are overjoyed to be in the sand, soaking in all the new scenery, but they have no idea that they need to be able to swim to survive in the ocean water. This child may walk directly into the water without any fear or understanding, much to the horror of their parents.

The inexperienced, unsupported first-time business owner, like a small child, might not fully understand what they are getting into. They might have an idea for products or services and not have any clue how to turn that into a viable business. They may make decisions that seem foolish to those who are more experienced and, ultimately, sink their business.

Luckily, it doesn't take much to get out of this stage.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence

The next stage is Conscious Incompetence. In this stage, you realize that you don't know everything you need to, and you might feel fearful about the future.

Back to the swimming example, the child may quickly realize that the ocean is powerful after they charge into the water. They might get scared of the water and retreat to shore.

As an entrepreneur, you realize that there's a lot you need to learn about business ownership. In recognizing your deficit, you might feel uncertain about the future. This uncertainty can paralyze you, or it can fuel you to learn more.

In the conscious incompetence stage, you should actively learn more about businesses that would be a good fit for you. Compare different business models and types of franchise models. It may still be too early to make any commitments, but you can do a lot of research and formulate a plan. The learning you do in this stage will give you the confidence you need to move forward.

Many of the individuals we talk to who are exploring franchise ownership are in this stage. But because it is filled with the most fear, a lot of people give up here. If you were to start your business in this stage, you would take on quite a bit of risk still. However, you would be more aware of the risk and willing to put in the necessary time to learn how to be successful.

RELATED CONTENT: 5 Qualities of Every Successful Senior Home Care Owner

Stage 3: Consciously Competent

With enough practice, you become Consciously Competent. At this point, you have acquired skills and knowledge through learning and practice. While you are competent, your new skills are not yet second nature and still require focused effort and concentration.

A child might take swimming lessons after their trip to the ocean. They go to lessons regularly and actively put their swimming skills to the test as they practice.

As an entrepreneur, you can take the knowledge and skills you've gained and put them into practice. By now, you have a very clear vision of what you need to do each day to support your business. You know how to execute these tasks and understand how they impact your overall goals.

But don't stop learning once you reach the consciously competent stage! You will want a strong support system in place and even a mentor to help coach and guide you through the obstacles you will face.

If you could start your business in this stage, you would significantly lessen your risk of business failure. But that type of thorough research and learning could take years of dedicated work to achieve on your own. Then, when you do open a business, you might discover areas where you are still back in stage 1.

Remember that you don't have to know everything to run a business; in fact, you'll never know everything! But as long as you are willing to continue learning, you will never give up on your chance to succeed.

Stage 4: Unconsciously Competent

In the final stage of learning, you become Unconsciously Competent. Your skills and abilities naturally lead to continued success without you having to think much about it.

When it comes to swimming, the child knows that the water has some risks. But they can relax and go for a nice swim at the beach without having to worry too much. They know how to swim, and they just do it.

As a business owner, you become very comfortable with the risks involved in owning a business because you know that you have the skills to move forward. You can make sound business decisions without having to think too hard. You have learned your business inside and out, and it has become part of something you do naturally.

While it would be ideal for every new business owner to start in this stage, it just isn't realistic. Even entrepreneurs who have run multiple businesses will have things to learn when they open up a new type of business.

But it is completely realistic to expect that you will get to this point when you start your small business. The speed and ease with which people get here may vary depending on innate talent, practice, dedication, and complexity of the skill. You might move back and forth between stages as you continue to develop your skills. But attaining this level of competence is completely possible!

How Franchising Gives You a Leg Up

When starting your own business, it can be extremely daunting. You might struggle with registering your business, hiring employees, getting licenses and permits, etc. It can be hard to know exactly where to start. But that's where franchising can help.

Joining a franchise organization can help you quickly move into conscious competence because of their proven business model and well-defined processes. A franchise can teach you everything that you need to know from the beginning so you can start your business off right. You don't have to spend much time in the incompetent stages, trying to figure out how to create a business.

At Caring Senior Service, our initial training includes over 80 hours of virtual and in-person training. Plus, we offer ongoing training and support to coach you to where you need to be. Our time-tested business model can guide you and show you skills you need to develop. And our marketing support can help you learn exactly how to reach potential customers.

Don't let fear of the unknown stop you from pursuing your dreams. Our team is here to talk about navigating the risks of business ownership in the home care industry. Reach out today.

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Tags: Taking Risks