Following the path of entrepreneurship has never been an easy one. Forging a way forward for yourself and your business is fraught with challenges and obstacles, and there is no singular route to develop the skills you need to be successful.
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, however, you must strive to develop a broad array of skills, characteristics and abilities. Ultimately, the best way to achieve this is to focus on honing your proficiencies in three key areas: your core attributes, your leadership abilities and your business expertise.
The Skills Needed to Be an Entrepreneur
Guiding a company requires strong communication skills; after all, how you are able to influence people - both internally and externally - can have a significant impact on the success of your business. Strong interpersonal skills will define your status as a leader.
In the modern world, you won't become a successful entrepreneur through charisma and assertiveness alone, though; you need experience with real skills, too, which range from business acumen to tech proficiency.
While its no secret that not everyone is a natural entrepreneur, there are several characteristics that are vital to achieving success. Just because you may not have been born with these traits, though, it doesn't mean that you can't cultivate them; here are some of the top attributes you'll need.
1. Problem Solving Skills
Guiding a new business to success is going to mean facing some unexpected challenges. Therefore, you need to have the wherewithal to look at every aspect of a problem and find the best way to approach it.
Even in situations where a quick reaction is required, having the capability to see the issue from different perspectives will give you a better chance to find the best solution. Once you feel like you have assessed a situation to the degree it merits, you need to think through how to take steps to resolve it to your benefit.
No matter how much effort you put into a business plan, or finding solutions to problems that may arise, it's a reality of entrepreneurship that you will face failure and setback. The ability to manage such failures, and learn from these challenges is vital for an entrepreneur.
Remember, too, that you set the tone for your company. If you can respond with poise to a crisis, then your employees and managers will be able to as well. A steady team will have a much better chance to make it through difficult times unscathed.
3. Ability to Learn
Being a successful entrepreneur means that you rely on your abilities and ideas to make your business successful. While this may be an important part of the process, you should not let that confidence get in the way of your willingness to continue to learn and grow.
The business world - and the technologies supporting it - are advancing at a breakneck pace, and the quickest way to get your business in trouble is to refuse to adapt to these changes. You will find the most success if you surround yourself with people who encourage adding knowledge to the team, as well as committing yourself to accessing resources such as books, podcasts and blogs.
4. Ability to Listen
You'll always get more out of your interactions with customers and employees if you focus on your ability to listen, rather than speak. Therefore, one of the most important things to practice is empathetic listening.
When people think of empathetic listening, they think of the process of being responsive to a speaker, such as nodding along and offering affirmations. However, this is not being an empathetic listener.
To improve your listening habits, do not use phrases that begin with a personal pronoun to respond to what the other party says. For example, ask your employees how they feel and how particular problems are impacting their ability to work. This will provide a direct path to the most effective solution, enabling your people to achieve more and your company to do better.
Once you have identified how you can help a client, partner or investor, or, indeed, how they can help you - you need to sell them on your plan. This is particularly important if you are trying to secure funding, for instance, or negotiating with suppliers.
This is where self-confidence comes into play. Gather what you can from what the other party is giving you, then reassert control to sell your vision.
6. Ability to Build Relationships
The industry you are a part of didn't emerge out of anywhere. Therefore, strive to be a participant in the community that exists behind the industry. This will help you make connections that, in turn, will lead to better opportunities and open doors that you wouldn't have even known existed.
In today's connected world, being a part of the community has a wide-reaching effect. Having your company's material, products and brand accessible on social media builds an awareness that then generates leads. The more exposure that you can create for yourself and your company, the more extensive your influence as an entrepreneur will be.
7. Financial Management Skills
Without a basic knowledge of how to manage your revenue and expenditure, you will likely run into financial difficulties at some point. At every stage of expansion, you need to have a complete understanding of your finances.
Without this information, you will soon find yourself with a money problem that could be fatal to your company. Get in tune with the way money cycles through your industry, develop a clear understanding of your tax schedule and hire a good accountant. The value of having a seasoned industry professional to assess your business and offer advice cannot be understated.
8. Technological Literacy
You don't necessarily need to be a master programmer to be a successful entrepreneur. That's why you hire software engineers. You do, however, need to have a basic understanding of the technologies that are driving your business.
Make yourself aware of how information spreads on the internet, too. Some important things to learn about are:
- The value of A/B testing to see how subtle changes influence reactions in clients.
- How SEO will help you shift your marketing towards a strategy that will reach the highest number of potential clients.
- When and where to use social networking as a marketing opportunity.
- How new technologies, such as cryptocurrency, can affect your business model.
9. Business Acumen
Many start-ups move so quickly that they can make a business strategy seem unnecessary. However, you will soon learn that investors have no interest in that philosophy. It's essential to understand how a good business plan guides your company and to put one together as quickly as possible.
Creating a business plan not only proves this, but is an excellent opportunity to think big, too; look five years down the road and map out how you'll get there. Then, you can prepare yourself for success by learning the skills you need and employing them to your benefit.
While this may seem like a broad knowledge base to cover before you embark on your entrepreneurial journey, many of these skills complement one another. Start following a path to improvement in one, and you'll find an increase in your proficiency in another.
What other skills, characteristics and abilities are essential for an entrepreneur? Let us know in the comments below.